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Daniel Kane explains how a rubber band gave him the idea to launch his accessories company The Ridge.
8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Searching for the next business idea? The opportunity may be much more obvious — and closer — than you imagine. Fed up with having having a bulky wallet in his back pocket, Daniel Kane, CEO and co-founder of The Ridge, turned that frustration into a multi-million dollar brand. What started with The Ridge Wallet — which is now sitting in the front pocket of over a million people worldwide — has turned into a full suite of everyday essentials including phone cases, bags, Power Banks and charging cables.
Daniel was able to accomplish all of this by breaking one of the cardinal rules of entrepreneurship: working with family. His first hires included his father and sister. During our interview, Daniel discusses what it’s like to manage your dad and shares insight on how you can start a brand without taking on debt.
An entrepreneur from the start
“I grew up just north of Los Angeles in Agoura Hills and had a number of odd jobs through high school. I would charge my tennis teammates and their friends to restring their rackets and did a lot of math tutoring. Really I would take any quick job that could help make enough money to hang out with friends. Once I turned 17, my main source of income was always some e-commerce business. I started selling retrofit Rock Band drumkits through Reddit and other online forums with a few of my childhood friends. This was pre-Shopify and before I knew anything about digital advertising, so the entire business was pretty shoddy, but it was exciting to run after tennis practice and an interesting way to generate some cash.”
Related: 5 Priorities for Young Entrepreneurs
Turning frustration into opportunity
“I always hated carrying around a big, leather wallet in my back pocket. I just have never liked the way they make jean pockets bulge, and the annoyance of having to take it in and out of my pocket every time I would get in and out of my car. It got to the point that when I was in college, I began using a rubber band to carry around only the most essential cards and cash I needed for that day.
However, a rubber band, of course, looks pretty bad and doesn’t make the sharpest impression, so I started shopping around for a solution that would be more minimal than the traditional leather bi-fold while offering more style than a rubber band. When I couldn’t find anything on the market, I realized that there was an opportunity and that there were many other people looking for the same kind of product. That’s when the idea for the Ridge Wallet was born.”
Related: 9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation
Scaling his business with the help of Family and Friends
“By the time I launched The Ridge on Kickstarter in 2013, I had been running e-commerce operations for years. However, we’re a bootstrapped brand, so the first year really required us to have our hands in every phase of the product from design to packing boxes to customer service. I was really fortunate that my family and friends were able to jump in and take on what I couldn’t, and many of them are actually still on the team today. My father in particular really helped me bring the brand to life. Being in college at the time of launch, I relied on him heavily to be able to attend meetings I couldn’t, and his expertise and background as an entrepreneur have always been invaluable.
I didn’t completely grasp the potential market size for The Ridge until we began experimenting with performance marketing in 2014. Between 2014 and 2015, we grew 10x with Facebook ads, going from $30k/mo to $350k+/mo in revenue, which was insane. A year later we had our first million-dollar month, and it’s only continued growing from there.”
Would you like to hear Daniel speak about starting a company with no VC and developing innovative products? Attend his free Entrepreneur Insider fireside chat How to Build Products People Actually Care About. He’ll provide more great tips and answer your questions live.
Building an 8-figure brand with no venture capital
“Despite having started a number of my own companies, I’d consider myself strategically risk-averse. With The Ridge, I was able to de-risk a lot of the scenarios that startups raise money to avoid.
Rather than going straight to production, I was able to prove demand for the product on Kickstarter and pre-sell over 7,000 wallets. The campaign gave us plenty of capital to iterate on the product and do our first run of production and gave us the confidence that we were onto something really special.
Operationally, we’ve also kept everything deliberately lean. Until 2016 when our annual run rate was over 8-figures, we still only had 5 employees, and everything else was outsourced. Managing cash flow to reinvest in products and inventory allowed us to prove out a lot of growth opportunities before we started building out our team internally, and that foundation has been key to our success.”
Image Credit: The Ridge
Related: Beyond Kickstarter: 10 Niche Crowdfunding Platforms for Startups
Working with family and friends without making it awkward
“People say don’t work with your friends and family, but I started a company with my Dad and our first hire was my best friend. Our third hire was my older sister. There are times where managing personal and work relationship can be tricky, but for 99% of our time together we work wonderfully. We know each other so well and are really lucky because we have some of the deepest levels of trust possible, and are all really dedicated to the success of the brand.
We’re a small team and everyone has specific, dedicated roles, so ‘managing’ my friends and family is easier because we can stay in our lanes. As long as we’re clear about our overall goals and the steps to get there, we’re able to be really effective in our tasks.”
Creating everything you need and nothing you don’t
“Over the years, we’ve considered a ton of items, but part of our mission is to intentionally not offer everything. We want to take the streamlined-nature and durability found in our Ridge Wallet, and apply it across our product line to streamline and simplify how people carry their everyday items.
Our brand motto is ‘everything you need and nothing you don’t,’ and in order to uphold that idea, we have to deliberately grow our product catalog with items that provide utility and reliability, and be able to stand behind each of those new offerings.
A lot of our inspiration comes from our own lives and observing how people are using our current items, and what we can design to complement certain behaviors. For instance, the card slots built into our leather and shockproof cases were added as a non-RFID blocking alternative to the wallet; for people constantly buzzing in and out of office buildings, it quickly streamlines how you go about your day.”
Related: 22 Successful Entrepreneurs Share What Inspires Them to Keep Going
Applying lessons learned from Tim Ferriss
“The future of entrepreneurship is simply allocating resources to high-yield opportunities. I was reading Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Work Week recently and he cited that simple concept as being one of the original definitions of entrepreneurship, which really resonated with me.
I don’t believe you need to be starting companies or raising capital to be an ‘entrepreneur’. Being thoughtful about how and where you’re spending your time and what you’re yielding is textbook entrepreneurship – whether you’re launching a new brand or working within an existing one.
I started The Ridge because I wanted to solve what seemed like a very personal problem of hating my wallet, and in doing so found over a million other people who were seeking the same solution. As we scale, we continue to find new areas where we can solve everyday issues people have with their accessories, and it’s exciting to offer new ideas.”
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The Haspel family’s namesake clothing company, founded in 1909, continues to evolve while maintaining tradition.
6 min read
Summer is seersucker season, and this particular summer is especially meaningful to Haspel — the brand that first put the striped-and-puckered cotton fabric on the map. Joseph Haspel Sr. founded the New Orleans-based clothing company in 1910, and, 110 years later, it’s safely in the hands of his great-granddaughter Laurie Haspel, current president and CEO.
A visionary of his time — both in terms of product and marketing — Haspel Sr.’s goal was to create stylish clothes that could stand up to Louisiana heat. He knew that the British wore seersucker in India, and realized the light fabric could translate from a laborer’s outfit to a hot-weather-ready suit. Customers agreed, and the look soon became synonymous with Southern style. (His for penchant for PR stunts didn’t hurt either.) The look quickly spread, and, through the ages, presidents (Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, JFK, George W. Bush) and actors (Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd) alike have been spotted in the brand.
Related: 5 Keys to Successfully Leading a Family Business
The business’ journey has not always been smooth, however. Haspel’s son sold the company in 1977, as there wan’t a single member of the family’s third generation available to run it. When the brand went up for sale again, however, the Haspels bought it back. They licensed the name out for several years, and it wasn’t until 2014 that Laurie re-launched the brand. Which brings us to today.
Image credit: Haspel
As Haspel celebrates its anniversary, we spoke with Laurie about what it means to be the steward of a more-than-a-century-old family business — and how she’s taking it into the future while maintaining its most important traditions.
Your great-grandfather, Joseph Haspel, Sr., actually invented the seersucker suit?
He didn’t invent seersucker, but he originated and popularized the seersucker suit. I always say he was the originator, not the imitator. He was the fabric innovator who put seersucker — and Haspel — on the map. He was also the first to put technical fabrics into clothing: think stretch and resistance.
Word is he was quite a showman.
He once pulled a stunt that was surely the greatest of its time, without any social media. In the 1940s, he innovated the “wash ’n’ wear” suit. To demonstrate its introduction into the marketplace, he wore his new suit and jumped into the Atlantic Ocean during a trade show in Florida. As he exited the waters, he stripped down to his suspenders and boxers, hung his suit up to dry, and then wore it out that evening to the market’s nighttime event.
Related: The Secret to Being a Successful Fashion Entrepreneur
At some point your family licensed out the name, but then you took it back. What’s the story there?
My grandfather, Haspel, Jr., sold the company in 1977, and then our immediate family purchased the name back in the early 1990s. While we licensed the name out for several years, it wasn’t until 2014 that I re-launched the brand. During that process, I learned that our brand needed the TLC and sex appeal it had in its heyday. We needed to resume control over the branding and messaging. Today, the company lives online at www.haspel.com. I’ve always wanted our consumers to be able to find exactly what they wanted all in one place.
Were there naysayers who thought re-launching was a mistake?
Of course there were! But we’ve kept it to what we do best, our classics. It’s what our consumers expect to see from Haspel. If they want seersucker, we’ve got it. Poplin, linen and pincord? We’ve got that too.
How important is it for you and your family to live up to your great-grandfather’s legacy?
I want everyone to know what made our family’s brand popular, and more importantly what made it relevant. Haspel is cool, no matter the season, no matter the occasion. Our clothes are meant for a good time. That’s what we do. My grandparents and great-grandparents loved to entertain, and we built our collection around that idea. What would they wear to the cocktail party or a night out in NYC? How would they dress at a neighbor’s BBQ or pool party?
Image credit: Haspel
Related: How Compelling Storytelling Can Help You Build a Heritage Brand
What’s the most challenging aspect of running a family business?
We must remain relevant in the marketplace, so that the brand continues for generations to come. I’m always asking myself: What’s the next big thing? What can we do to make a difference? It’s a legacy that I want to continue.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about leading a heritage brand?
Not to lose the core essentials of the brand; you need to incorporate your heritage into everything that you do. You want every man to be comfortable wearing Haspel, in terms of style, attitude and comfort. We haven’t lost sight of who our customers were, and who they are. Our biggest opportunity lies with those who did not know the brand all of those years ago. We want everyone to recognize that we’ve brought it back, better than ever, and it’s now a lifestyle brand that covers many generations and occasions.
Will Haspel continue to evolve over the next 110 years?
Damn right! We’ll definitely continue to add new categories to our product mix — fragrance, women’s, home, boys. Our popularity will continue to increase as consumers understand that our brand is built on the idea of “clothing meant for a good time.” You shouldn’t always wear your work suit to a dinner party or social occasion — and that’s where we come in. We have expert stylists on-hand to help you with your next occasion, whether it be a pool party, dinner at the club, cocktails with friends, or attending a destination wedding. We’re sophisticated without being pretentious.
Related: If You Want Customers to Be Passionate About Your Brand, Follow These 10 Commandments
If he were around today, do you think your great grandfather would Instagram himself walking into the ocean in a seersucker suit?
My great-grandfather would own social media and Instagram! @haspelclothing would be full of his creative stunts and brand messaging. I wish I could show him what we’ve done to further the brand from the days of tailored clothing to today’s additional categories of sportswear and accessories. This big anniversary would certainly make him proud; I would love to be sipping a cocktail with him at my side as we talk about history and our next 110 years.
Post Malone, singer and founder of hemp and cannabis brand Shaboink, announced a new product: American-grown hemp pre-rolls.
3 min read
This story originally appeared on MJObserver
Global superstar Post Malone, founder of hemp and cannabis brand Shaboink, announced today the launch of American-grown hemp pre-rolls by Shaboink through a strategic partnership with Icon Farms and world-renowned cultivator Mario Guzman, founder of designer cannabis brand Sherbinskis.
“I’m proud to bring natural hemp pre-rolls by Shaboink to market — it’s a product I personally love and know my fans will too,” said Malone. “Our partners are best in class, and so is this product. The terpene flavors are great, and you can’t beat an all-natural pre-roll.”
Shaboink’s new line of hemp pre-rolls are enhanced with a proprietary terpene flavor profile — “Posty OG,” custom-made for Malone by Guzman — and are manufactured using only American-grown hemp, plant-derived terpenes and water.
This first-of-its-kind launch and new category is the result of a strategic partnership and manufacturing agreement with Icon Farms, a company focused on combining best manufacturing practices from high-volume tobacco production and clean, American-grown hemp cultivation. Icon Farms brings decades of specialized industry knowledge from its founders’ family-owned, multi-generational tobacco production operations.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Shaboink
“The combination of our inventive product development, operations management, and solid market presence, paired with the loyal fanbase both Shaboink and Sherbinskis command, has created an unprecedented national platform for a new era in American Grown Hemp,” explained Jordan Gielchinsky, president of Icon Farms. “We are proud to play a hand in pioneering this ground-breaking opportunity.”
In addition to partnering with Shaboink, Icon Farms also worked with Guzman to launch American-grown hemp pre-rolls by Sherbinskis, infused with the cannabis icon’s world-famous “Gelato” terpene blend. Shaboink and Sherbinskis hemp pre-rolls will be sold in individual and dual-branded packs and cartons.
“This is another historic moment for Sherbinskis,” said Guzman. “It’s my honor to pioneer the hemp category with Post Malone, Shaboink and Icon Farms. I’ll never forget the moment we all watched Icon’s tobacco machines replaced with hemp and saw the first batch of pre-rolls come off the production line. It was unforgettable and a sign of what’s to come.”
Each brand’s respective hemp pre-rolls are available for immediate distribution and retail sales in the United States, sold individually and in co-branded collaboration packs, available through Greenlane, a leading distributor of premium vaporization products and consumption accessories. Greenlane’s customers include over 7,000 independent smoke shops and regional retail chain stores, which collectively operate approximately 11,000 retail locations.
The products are tobacco- and nicotine-free, made with less than 0.3 percent THC and laboratory-tested. They’re also free of pesticides, mold, microbiological agents, residual solvents and heavy metals. In an industry category that often uses chemicals and other synthetic additives, Icon Farms’s goal to provide natural, plant-based products is echoed in its tagline: “American-Grown Hemp. Plant-Derived Terpenes. Water. Nothing Else.”
Many wholesale growers are focusing on cannabis quality, though market forces tend to favor those who reliably supply low-cost cannabis.
2 min read
This story originally appeared on MJBizDaily
Many wholesale cannabis growers choose to compete on quality, even while market forces favor growers who can reliably supply low-cost cannabis.
Nearly half of U.S. cultivators are attempting to make high-quality flower their key differentiator, according to the recently released 2019 Marijuana Business Factbook. But with flower sales on the decline, the market likely will prove unable to sustain that proportion of growers competing on those grounds alone.
In the extract market, consumers have shown a preference for high-potency, low-cost concentrates, creating high demand for inexpensive flower. Demand for high-quality concentrates may increase as cannabis use continues to become more mainstream, though it’s unlikely to supplant low-cost, value-oriented concentrates in the near future.
While there may be an immediate opportunity for growers to specialize in and provide low-cost product if and when marijuana is legalized at the federal level, all but the largest and most efficient cultivators ultimately may be squeezed out of the market for value cannabis.
If large-scale retailers, such as big-box and grocery stores, eventually are able to sell cannabis, these outlets likely will offer prices that small-scale producers cannot match. However, experienced marijuana business owners caution that as cannabis becomes a commodity, the value of a company is more dependent upon brand reputation and products lineup than price.
Value-added cultivation — such as sustainable and organic production — could emerge as a key segment similar to the food industry. That creates a proverbial tightrope for cultivators to walk: They need to understand that meeting the current needs of the market for low-cost cannabis could come at a huge price if a major shake-up — such as federal legalization — occurs.
Over half of consumers, one study revealed, have used voice search to find local business information within the last year. Doesn’t that tell you where “search” is headed?
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Every day, millions of Americans rely on voice-activated devices to tell them the weather, wake them up in the morning and answer a plethora of random questions they’re curious about. While the average voice assistant user may not worry about where those answers come from, digital marketers are working hard to ensure that voice devices rely on information from their sites to inform the answers people receive.
Related: 3 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Position Their Brand to Dominate Voice Search
And for good reason. Over half of consumers, according to a data roundup by Bradley Shaw, have used voice search to find local business information within the last year, and a quarter (27 percent) actually went on to visit the company’s website after conducting a voice search.
Voice is an increasingly common avenue for engagement between brands and consumers, and marketers must fight hard to rank high as a source of information within the voice realm. Here is what they need to know:
Five key ranking factors
Because voice-activated technologies are relatively new, marketing strategies designed to make use of voice devices are often undefined.
However, certain ranking factors (i.e., the factors that determine how high a web page ranks on Google’s search engine results page) do guide voice searches the most.
According to research by my own company, SEMRush, nearly 80 percent of the answers voice assistants provided for our searches ranked among the top three organic results, and 97 percent of the answers provided by Google Assistant ranked among the top 10 organic results.
Therefore, marketers seem to be prioritizing a first-page ranking before even considering a ranking for voice search queries.
Here are additional factors marketers should consider, which affect the ranking factors behind voice searches:
Featured snippets: The pictures and blurbs that help illustrate answers to search queries are essential when companies rank for voice searches. In fact, nearly 70 percent of all voice answers come from featured snippets, according to our study. To rank high for voice search queries, marketers should optimize pages to take advantage of this increasing phenomenon.
Related: Why Do Businesses Need to Optimize For Voice Search
Average word count: The average length of a voice search answer is 41.4 words. For example, Google Home has an average word count of 41.4, and, with the Mini version, 42 words. So, keep the answers on your search-page results at around 40 words or you’ll risk being outranked by competitors that do.
Readability: Search engines look for well-structured, well-written content that ultimately matches the intent of the query. This means that the readability of a page’s content is a key factor for ranking high on the results page. In general, the results from voice searches are understandable to the average 15-year-old, according to the Flesch Kincaid reading level test.
Page speed: The faster that results load, the better. For the majority of questions asked via voice, Google chooses an answer that loads faster than the average page on the search engine results page. In some cases, answers for Google Home voice searches have a page speed 10 times faster than the rest of the options found on the first page, making page speed one of the biggest factors in ranking for voice search.
Backlinks: Backlink anchors matching users’ search queries are found in 50 percent of answers for Google Home and Mini. Likewise, keywords in the title of the result are found in over a third of voice answers, a fact that offers increased opportunities for marketers to put their page results in front of target audiences. However, backlinks play a less significant role in voice searches conducted via smartphone devices, so marketers interested in mobile should be sure to blend backlinks with the other strategies listed above.
Search engine optimization (SEO) tactics are always evolving, and marketers must proactively learn new skills to stay ahead of their competitors and earn valuable web traffic from voice searches.
While the world has not completely transitioned to voice search, there’s no denying that consumers are quickly moving in that direction. In fact, by 2020, eConsultantcy has predicted, 50 percent of all searches will be conducted using voice.
Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Take Advantage of Voice Search Marketing
To stay ahead of search trends, start by using SEO tools to determine how a website ranks. Then, layer on upgrades in key areas like page speed, ranking in the top three results and occupying a featured snippet position. SEO strategies can take several months to yield results, so it’s important to get started now and prepare for a future where voice searches will be the norm.