In this episode of The Physical Product Movement, we’re joined by Devin Killpack, CEO of Gathre to discuss testing physical products in retail before going online, the difference between partnering with and outsourcing to manufacturers and the importance of niche focus.
Don: There’s never been a better time for physical products than now. My name is Don Andrew Bay, and I want to learn from the best minds in the industry. This is the golden age for consumer products. This is a time where anyone can go from zero to financially independent. This is the physical products movement.
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Devin: My name is Devin kill pack, and I am an owner and partner in gather. And, um, it was started about five years ago, a little more than that. Um, but five years ago we kind of formed a partnership together with our current partners in gather right now, three partners. And we started, yeah, we started making maths and, um, th the idea kind of came up because my wife was.
Um, feeling frustrated about making messes on grandma’s old blanket that we used to eat on every night outside, we had, we lived in a small apartment with no AC and cooking in the home, just made it unbearable to eat inside. So we ended up in the summer outside eating on the frat grass and on grandma’s old blanket.
And, um, with two young children spilling. At almost every occasion was the reality, you know? So, um, got tired of doing laundry every day in a small apartment. And so the idea was kind of born to do something wipeable that you didn’t have. I have to put in the washing machine and, um, I was in China. For a sourcing trip for another startup that I was working on and visited a raw material supplier that provides goods and material for shoe manufacturers and other companies, and came home with.
Several books of swatches, of colors, of this material, uh, Pau leather. And when I came home with those and I, she loves color. So I think that was probably part of the turn on there as well. But she, you know, she had this realization, this is the material for our wipeable blankets. Huh? So we purchased, um, some material from the LA fabric district and kind of made some prototypes of a Pew leather or bonded leather blanket wipeable blanket and kind of got on the way.
So, uh, we did a Kickstarter too. You know, enter and see what kind of interest there was. And the broad marketplace. We had done a few small product tests in the local market here in Provo, just a few blocks away, actually in a little small shop, round up kind of a Saturday shopping event for small business.
And. We had, we sold about a thousand dollars worth of product that first day on a Saturday. And it felt like, Oh, that’s, that’s a good start. It was about a third of the amount of inventory we had and we thought, yeah, maybe there’s something here. And we had a, we had started a website and an Instagram account prior to that, along with that little event.
And this was probably, um, it would be six years ago this summer that we did that. Little event and it went well enough that we thought, Hey, we’ll just keep this going post on our Instagram account and pushed it along. And we’re selling, you know, a few mats here and there off our site and decided let’s, let’s really try and push this thing.
So we that’s when we decided to do a Kickstarter. Um, and at that time the company brand was let’s play ground. Hmm. And that’s kind of how we started the concept was under that name. And, um, anyway, that’s kind of a bit of the founding story of how it came to be and, and so forth.
Don: That’s so fascinating. I, this is the thing. This is why I love products because you have all these stories of, we have this problem. That we observed and we went out to fix it. So what I’m trying to understand you were, you guys were in a small apartment. If you said three kids,
Devin: two kids, two
Don: small kids, you’ve got, you know, you’re out side eating.
How did you go from there to going to China, to looking at material? You know what I mean?
Devin: Yeah. And that’s, that’s I think where. As an early aspiring entrepreneur, I always got hung up on because I always thought it was just like this, you know, big surprise, like this big revelation. And then all of a sudden, like just where it became an entrepreneur and it just started working really well.
And the more I’ve learned and. More businesses I’ve started in and failed a number of those. I’ve realized that there’s, there’s a story behind everything and it, it’s also a logical. It’s not usually just some big surprise revelation. Um, so the backstory for us and how did that China thing just come to be was that I graduated, um, in biology was my degree planning to go to medical school. Um, but I got a job in business because ultimately I decided not to go to medical school. Right. Um, and so my journey in the workplace started kind of in the science side of business, um, as a quality manager, ultimately a few years after I graduated that led to a job.
I’m here in Utah working for a medical device and cable connector manufacturer. Cool. And I was a quality manager and they had operations in China where they were manufacturing all their goods. So that was my first introduction to working in China was through. My job at that company, as the quality manager, I was responsible for managing the quality controls and the processes and the corrective actions at our facility in China, which was owned by the company and had about 400 employees over there.
So that’s where I got my start in China. And that was, you know, a couple of years, I’m trying to think exactly three years before we even started. The business awesome. This business. So that’s the story, you know, it, wasn’t just some surprise opportunity, but I, I traveled to China a couple of times for that business.
And, um, gather is the 10th company I’ve been a part of as a founder or owner. So I’ve tried a lot of things. So for one of those other businesses that I was starting and working on with an, uh, another partner was the reason for this particular trip to China. We were heading over for a sourcing trip to visit some of my contacts that I had made in China and visit some factories and so forth.
So we kind of just stumbled upon these swatches and didn’t intend to use them for that business, but I was more excited about. The color palette that was shown. And so I, I brought him home, um, semi unrelated to that other business, but, um, yeah, that’s, that’s w that’s the answer to that history, and I think it’s important for any aspiring entrepreneur to just recognize that you need to look at your strengths and your background, because that’s oftentimes where.
There can be some opportunities. Yeah. Yeah.
Don: It is. It’s funny because you hear the stories. And generally when we tell these stories, it’s, here’s the highlights and now we’re here, but it’s been kind of the same process for me, entrepreneurially. It’s like, it’s not, it is not like a clear path one day, make this decision, you just go, it it’s a process and it’s a long process sometimes, you know?
Yeah. And that’s cool. And I, I think it’s important, you know, for us to help people understand that and, and, and understand that, you know, it’s not just, it, wasn’t just, you bought a ticket, flew out there, knocked on the door and you know, it’s processed and that’s great. And it’s inspiring to help you understand that.
Got to keep going. Can’t give up. That’s right. Can’t give up. Awesome. So I like the name, I love the name. How the name come about? That’s that I’m interested in.
Devin: Yeah. So after we formed our new partnership with the company around February of 2015, uh, five years ago, um, we got thinking about the name and felt like we wanted to make a change to represent.
The market opportunity that we saw. So the name was a little bit limited in that regard. And so we started thinking about that. And later that year in October, we changed our name to gather and we, we thought a lot about names and naming and what we wanted to associate our brand with. Yeah. And. Um, and I, I think a name it’s very important for branding purposes and we had to end up spelling gather wrong because of a URL conflict.
Um, which is why it’s spelled G a T H R E. But we had a number of names and it, you know, we thought about them and it, it was a several week process, but gathered to us meant. You know, it really embodied the mission of both the product and the culture of the company that we wanted to, to put out there. Um, gather as a product meant to us, we’re going to go gather people onto this, right.
Wipeable blanket, you know, gather loved ones, gather friends, gather memories, gather. Experiences and, um, gather adventure. Like there’s all these things we were trying to bring and keep close with the use of this product as almost like a portable foundation for your life to go experience the world on. Um, and as a, as a company and a product.
Mission, it kind of meant to us, like we’re going to go, we’re going to continue to add products to the mix over time. Um, and thereby gathering other goods, other items that we find missing in our lives that we want to have. And, um, our focus on product has always been very. Selfish, you know, we, we like things that are, we wanted to make things that we could use so that we had a use for.
Yeah. But our filter and our mindset on those is that we want it to be aesthetically beautiful and pleasing and also functional. So gather for us meant that we were going to marry function and beauty together. As we continue to add other new products to the company. Um, and then for the brand, I think we wanted it just to continue to embody, um, welcoming people of all different types and welcoming, um, you know, experiences to, to gather and to put yourself outside of your comfort zone to go.
Up in the mountains and try something new, you know, and, and take a product with you that is a safe, clean foundation that you can, um, kind of have be part of your home, you know, take home with you. So that’s kind of what gathered ended up meaning to us, and really the reason why we settled on that. And it also then opened the door for us with product development and with branding, as we continue to expand, who was this for?
Don: That’s awesome. I love that idea because now you have like a core philosophy for bringing on new. Skews the new new products because I was looking at, and your products are gorgeous. I was looking at them and it’s multifunctional. It was very smart to go, okay, we’ve made this first idea, but now let’s, what can we do with this material?
Right. And what was your first new product and kind of, how did you start going down that path to make new products out of your original idea?
Devin: Yeah, that’s a great question. When we first launched, we launched with. Five sizes. Okay. So it was all using the same material and you cut the material into a different size and it has kind of a different core function.
Right? So for us, that opening lineup was, you know, like a diaper changing mat, a high chair mat that would kind of go into a high chair during meal time smart, or like for tummy time. Um, and then a medium and a large all-purpose mat. So a medium size that could fit. Two to four people, depending on the age and then a larger size that was for the entire family.
Um, and there were two shapes on that one. So those were our five items we opened up with. And, um, it, from there, it was more just an evolution of listening to customers and listening to our own. You know, interests and, and needs. Um, we, I think venture next into a larger size for the changing mat and then a bib made out of the same material.
And from there, I, and I probably couldn’t even call off right off the hip shooting from the hip here, just the next, you know, the next sequence of events. But today we have. I think 26 different product categories, um, starting from like the initial, maybe four. Four or five categories now. And it includes all sorts of things and it was just more a evolutionary process as we listened to customers and to our own needs.
Don: So you guys, okay. This is interesting to me because that means you you’ve had experience that thoroughly understand products that work and don’t right. So for someone that’s looking to expand into multiple products from where they first started, any advice for them as they’re starting to expand out.
Devin: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m going to draw on one example where we launched into a product, it was very disconnected from our original core and talk through that and then maybe talk through one that was much more related just to keep the scope a little more narrow. And in the instance where we launched a product that was outside of the core scope, um, it was a vegan leather yoga mat.
So it was a rubber yoga mat topped with our. Signature bonded leather or a signature vegan leather surface. And we did a Kickstarter for that one as well. So that was our second Kickstarter that we’ve done. And we primarily did the Kickstarter for marketing purposes to reach a new audience. Sure.
Thinking originally it was going to be a really great product for the hardcore yogis of the world. And that was a really. Big bridge. To, or a really big gap to try and cross bridge. Um, and we leaned on influencers a lot for that and the Kickstarter a lot to really bridge that. And without doing those things, I think it would have flopped for sure.
Um, because it was so far outside of our core. Right. Um, so it’s almost like starting another new business. In that regard where you really have to gear up and for, from a marketing standpoint and like an effort level of effort standpoint, to make sure that it’s going to catch some traction, um, not to say that you can’t have success once, once you’ve launched.
And it was, you didn’t catch traction because you can always try and go relaunch that thing. But, um, it’s definitely more. Mentally appealing and, and it’s definitely more, um, sustainable from like just a mental output standpoint, if you do launch and there’s some measure of success, right? Because it gives you encouragement to keep going.
Um, so that’s the experience we had with something that was pretty far outside of our core niche. And then another item that was within our same niche was that we. We’re we started doing, um, we had, we had printed designs on our mats, right? When we first started, had some quality problems had to stop because of the quality problems.
And then a couple of years later, after lots of testing, we finally relaunched it and it was a big hit, but the category that was different. But very close to what we were doing is like a tapestry category, uh, where, you know, we had been printing on our maths before as like a blanket, like, as the people could use for different purposes, but we hadn’t printed something on our mats that was specifically intended to be used as a tapestry, but that could alternatively be used as a playmat.
And for us, it was. You know, we’ve had numerous products that kind of fit the same category of being close to our, our core, but different. And it’s so much easier to chart a path toward a future product that you want to do and kind of inch your way closer to. That product market through product launches that are, that are stepping you closer to that than it is to just take a big, giant leap over to that other product category.
So for us, that’s our product strategy. I mean, we have a five-year plan of all the products we want to launch. And if I listed out some of the items on our plan that are five years out from now, you’d be like what? That doesn’t even fit. There’s no way, you know, it would just seem really. Out of context. Um, but through this, you know, step-wise process, our plan is to just continue expanding into product that we love and that we, that we want to have for ourselves, but either isn’t the right price point.
Isn’t the right, you know, Look and feel aesthetic, um, or maybe the right material set. So, and in those cases, when we’re launching something, that’s very close to our core, like with the tapestries, it totally blew us away. Um, in terms of the level of success. And it was because we put a lot of effort into the launch.
And that effort went a really long way because we were, it was already resonating with our core audience.
Don: Sure. So when you began printing, is your manufacturer doing the printing as well now? Or do you have that setup?
Devin: Yeah, we used to do it with. Uh, a small little printing shop, um, overseas near our manufacturer.
And once we got to a certain volume, we, and our factory together kind of decided we were going to bring it in house. So we bought some equipment, did some training and kind of brought that process in-house, which has allowed us to be a little more nimble with manufacturing and, and our lead times.
Don: Cool. So you’re producing enough then you’re not outsourcing your manufacturing. Is it? If I’m understanding correctly,
Devin: we are outsourcing it, but it’s very much a partnership that we have. We have one primary manufacturer for most of our goods. Um, and it’s. In, in most ways, it’s like a partnership. We have a very, very close relationship with them. Um, so much so that we have discussed starting businesses with them, separate from what we’re already doing together.
Don: That’s awesome. How did you, and you know, I’m digging here, but how did you guys get connected in the first place? Just fascinating to me, you know, you found the perfect partner, you guys are working perfectly together.
How’d you even get connected to stuff.
Devin: Yeah, it’s a good question. Um, we first got started. I’ve always been really curious and, and wanted to just dig and find where something was made. Just curiosity that I have and. We it’s a funny story. We actually had this sofa, we were saving all our pennies to buy this little sofa for our small apartment that I was talking about.
And, um, I think it costs just over $300, this little sofa. It’s like leather sofa, white, very modern and very simple. Yeah. Well-made and I was so curious about where it was made because I was impressed with the workmanship and the quality. And I was, so I started digging. I talked to the retail outlet that we purchased it from, and I just started digging and digging and digging.
And I found ultimately after several steps, the name of the company in China that had made it and. So I, you know, I thought, well, sewing, his sofa with this full leather is going to be the same concept, same principle as selling on our Pew leather for these mats. So a fan, a furniture manufacturer seems to make.
Lots of sense. So that’s where we opened the door and said, Hey, are you guys willing to make some prototypes for us is our own design product. It’s not furniture. How do you feel? And they were totally up for it. And. That is the company that has become this big partner for us. And they’ve grown a lot over the last, uh, four years.
We first started manufacturing our stuff locally here in Utah, by the way. So it was probably not until about a year and a half in that we opened the door with this manufacturer.
Don: Gotcha. And do you feel like using that first local manufacturer allowed you to have. What are the resources you needed to, to be able to go into that overseas manufacturer?
Devin: No, but I didn’t have the, I didn’t have the contact when we first started in China and I didn’t feel as comfortable. Working with suppliers in China when we first started. So it was out of my reach when we first started or have considered making it with a cut and sew factory in China. Um, but from a volume standpoint, I think it would’ve worked out.
Their MOQ were not so high that we couldn’t have started something. And it would have been maybe, you know, Our, our order quantity would have been far lower, far less frequent. Sure. If we started with them from the beginning, but, um, yeah, it was just out of my reach and out of context. So we started with what we knew and started and did the best we could.
And as we ran into problems and hurdles, that kind of forced us to look elsewhere and to explore other options.
Don: That sentence summarizes what I imagined were sleepless nights and a lot of stress. Did we get all that figured out? Yeah, definitely. Awesome. Okay. So the other thing I want to talk to you about is looking at your site, looking at the prints and everything, getting the whole manufacturing side is one thing, but actually creating this trendy, modern, beautiful looking product.
How do you, how’d you go about doing that? Do you have some designers you’ve worked with, has it all been with your partnerships? I mean, what, what have you guys done to, to pull that off?
Devin: Well, we’ve always had a very keen focus on design. Um, I think, you know, painting a picture of our back background briefly.
We’ll, we’ll maybe help with some understanding there, but my wife, um, My wife’s mother, my mother-in-law is a graphic designer. Um, and yeah, by training and she’s, she has this really, really great eye for color and aesthetics. And so I think that was, you know, infused into my wife, into Lee growing up. And she also spent a lot of time in New York city dancing.
So she had great exposure to. Good design in big cities and trends. So that always pushed her, I guess that grew her interest a lot in fashion and design. And I served a two year volunteer mission for the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints and Sweden. Oh. So I spent two years there amongst some of the most trendy people in the world.
One of the most trendy countries. Um, and fell in love with the European design and the simplicity and the white modern look from Scandinavia. And so that was influencing me and that had pushed me to want to create some of my own logos and designs. And some of these previous businesses I had tried. So I was kind of working on this.
Side hustle as a, you know, improving my graphic design skills. And, um, our other partner, Jessica had also had experience from some previous experiences, uh, dabbling with graphic design. So from the start we were doing our own graphic design. Yeah. Um, between Jessica and I with Maryles. Final taste touch, and she’s got the final touch and that really has influenced our design focus for everything we do.
It’s very modern. It’s very simple. It’s very functional. Um, And that has, has been a core focus of everything we do. So every bit of marketing we put out there, any assets we create design assets or anything, color ways, everything kind of has this influence of like a modern. Simple white elegant design. Um, so we’ve been pushing that for a long time, and this is one of the key recommendations I have actually for anybody who’s really trying to Excel or trying to grow a product company.
And that is. You really need to focus on what is unique to you and what your core strengths are and lean on those. You don’t need to try and mold yourself to become what you see in others to be successful, because it’s not about what’s unique about them that has made them successful from. A design standpoint or from, you know, a product niche standpoint, timing is always a factor in success.
Um, but so is also using your own resources and leaning on your own personal identity and what strengths you have. But in building a brand, I would say. Going niche. And we started so niche, you know, we were, we were looking to target moms who had like one or two kids, maybe three kids who, you know, was looking for something that was functional, but beautiful.
And it was compact that they could take with them to the park. So there was this really, really niche focus when he first started and we started putting content out. That was. Our design goal. It was, it was white and it was beautiful and it was functional. And that was, we tried to wrap everything we put out there in that kind of a, an envelope, you know, just these, these core things.
And over time you find that you’ll start attracting people who are like-minded, who ha who. Who jive with that concept, right? Jive with the look and feel who it just makes sense to, and that grows and grows. And so that’s one key recommendation. I really have to any aspiring product entrepreneur is stay focused on your niche and keep putting out there your niche and that key focus.
And it just takes time to build an audience.
Don: Authenticity. I think a lot of people try to manufacture authenticity. Doesn’t work. We see right through that.
Devin: Right. You gotta be real. And especially today, you know, I think things were different five years ago, or you could kind of gloss things over and. And maybe be a little bit inauthentic, inauthentic about your approach and it worked.
Um, but today, as there’s more pressure from young folks, young people, you know, the new generation to be real. Because social media allows us all to just hide the real us very easily, right. By just posting this super happy selfie or happy family photo. When you know, you’ve got a super rough or unhappy life behind the scenes, I think the push is more authenticity and more personal, getting personal, getting real.
And that’s. Really a key area. That’s helped us grow our audience and resonate with our customers is just trying to be real and authentic and not, um, yeah, just fabricate this reality that doesn’t exist or can’t exist really for anybody. And it helps
Don: that you guys use the product, you build the product you wanted. Yeah, right. And so now talking about it, sharing it, it’s not difficult. You’re not sitting down with your wife and going, okay, how can we present this in a way? It’s like, no, you, you enjoy yourself. It’s easy to go from there. Yeah. Smart. So I think focusing on something that’s niche is. It’s essential to this whole thing, because we can all get caught up in trying to go after every fad or everything, but sticking to your, you know, your zone is important.
Um, do you use any tools? Do you have any apps or any tech stack that you’ve, you couldn’t live without?
Devin: Yeah, the couldn’t have done it without Instagram. Awesome. For Instagram. Um, Social media in general has, has been huge for us. From a marketing standpoint, we, we actually got to seven figures as a business without doing any paid marketing or advertising.
Wow. So it was something that was very key for our growth. Um,
Don: We just sorry to interrupt you. Is that just organic content? Well, I mean,
Devin: organic content
Don: that you just put out on your own Instagram
Don: that is incredible
Devin: Working with influencers, doing giveaways. Wow. You know, lots of, you know, um, kind of guerrilla marketing tactics, but all just, I mean, there was, there is occasions where we gave product.
Yeah, in exchange for something like a post, but we didn’t spend a dollar on advertising or marketing efforts. Um, up until we had grown, you know, when we hit seven figures in revenue using social media, I would say is, is key for us. Um, and we’ve been on a few different shopping platforms. Uh, I think we.
Maybe two, we first started on Squarespace, um, years ago when we didn’t really know exactly the best platform to be on. And it quickly became evident to us that we needed to change from Squarespace because it didn’t have the functionality and some things we needed. And at the time we were looking at and comparing whether we go Shopify or do we go WordPress and do our own thing and help self host and, and.
After some deliberation, we decided to go with a hosted platform like Shopify and for anyone starting today, Shopify is the ultimate ultimate place to be. It’s kind of the standard. So today we couldn’t really do it without Shopify, um, other tech stack tools that we use. Um, we use Slack. For team communication.
We use a sauna for project management and kind of task keeping, um, we’re on Google apps for work, which is great for storing documents in the cloud and, you know, shared documents we can edit and use and of course email. Um, and aside from that, We don’t really have any homegrown software that we’ve worked on or used.
Um, we have apps that are tied to our Shopify site that are awesome and they really help us accomplish things. Is that a sales side, right?
Don: Managing inventory and purchase orders and that type of stuff.
Devin: No, we manage purchase orders on Excel. Cool. Um, primarily, I mean, our, our manufacturer has their own.
System, but we’ve created documents and an entire supplier and vendor operations manual with our version of the PO to bill of lading, the packing list and our production schedule. All of those are just formatted on Excel that we use and it’s worked really great. Um, In that regard, just using Excel for that.
So that’s been an important, I guess, tech stack for us. Um, other than that, though, yeah. The apps on Shopify are mostly, um, geared towards sales and selling. So it’s an app, that’s a pop-up to help gather emails or, you know, it’s like email software, I guess we have email software. We’re using Klaviyo for email software.
Yeah, that’s kind of the tech stack that we’re currently on.
Don: It’s awesome. It’s good hearing those specific details and recommendations are very, they’re good to hear that. Right. But if you’re looking to do your own thing, it’s like, okay. Yeah, but what are, you know, give me some ideas, give me some ideas. So it’s always good to get ideas like that.
Um, before we hit the, the last question that I had and this wasn’t on here. So it’s okay. If it takes a second to think about what are your thoughts and feelings about this industry in specific, how it looks from your perspective, even locally in Utah or whatever, what you know, is this a good time for, for consumer products?
Is it a hard time for consumer products? Where do you think. The industry sets,
Devin: I think based on our experience and the evolution that we’ve seen with our social media and social media marketing, that’s kind of guides me to form the opinion I have about it. Um, social media marketing has really drastically changed over the last five years where.
Five years ago, four years ago, maybe even three years ago, it was much easier to grow organically. I think had gathered started five, six years ago without Instagram being where it was. If today’s Instagram. Existed five or six years ago when we were just starting, it would have been a lot harder for us to get going in.
It’s not completely pay to play today, but it’s much more pay to play today than it was. It’s much more crowded and it’s a lot more difficult to gain followers to gain traction on social media. So that. That kind of pushes me to form the opinion I have, that it’s not too late to start a product company.
Definitely not, but it just takes a different strategy today than it took us five or six years ago. And it’s. Influencer driven. It’s giveaway driven. Those are really the only ways that we found real organic, well, not organic, but real growth on Instagram and on social media is through those means aside from paid advertising.
Sure. Um, so I don’t think it’s too late, but. I think it’s going to be a lot more difficult on at least the Instagram platform. Sure. Um, I think in a few years from now, but I think it’s a really great time for a product company right now. Uh, in general.
Don: It’s funny because so many people are focused on tech and I think we’re missing the fact that this is the golden age for, for product really is you don’t have to go through big box retailers or it’s used to be impossible to even get in.
But I guess it’s a great time.
Devin: Yeah. And there’s a lot of key players in Utah who have mid hits, like have hit something special and become kind of a big deal. And I think when you reach a certain size too, it’s like all of a sudden you become super sexy to investors and. Um, you know, like your Harold is as like a, like a star company, star CEO, you know, freshly picked Susan Peterson kind of hit that, hit that level.
And, um, rags, Rachel Nelson of rags to riches kind of hit that level. Uh, she’s like been on a few panels and like, I think she was on a panel at this last, um, Silicon slopes summit or something. Um, and then Jeremy Andrus, of course, he’s like the big star and at least consumer product space in Utah with Trager.
And it’s like, once you hit that level, they really become like really attractive to investors. And it’s like seen as seen almost in the same lens as like a. Really cool tech company really
Don: well, the thing it’s so bizarre for me with like, so I’ve, I’ve obviously been involved with tech companies as well, and it’s like, that whole process is so different.
It’s this new thing of it can’t function without investment. Like if you just, if you start a tech company, it is so rare to be able to have it be your sole source of income or. Whatever until you have an investor and that’s kind of the play build a software investment. Hopefully when we hit a certain point, we’ll be profitable again.
We’re still not profitable. And, and you come and look at kind of these niche products and you go, this is a better investment. A lot of investors right now are so packed with tech that they’re realizing, wait a minute, I need, like, I need something. That’s. Turning over right now.
Devin: Yeah, exactly. It has been definitely a big shift in the last few years amongst investors that I’m aware of and read about is that they’re their shifts.
You like profitability, you know, for a tech companies. And I think we’ve seen some major. Tech companies kind of fail and fall who the market was looking at as this big, huge success. And then all of a sudden, you look at their books and you dig into their finances when they go to do an IPO. And it’s like, Whoa, this is like a really bad business.
Um, and so I think that shift toward profitability and like growth. Growth, but with profitability now has been really key. Um, Corey at Taft kind of like, you know, yeah, he’s, he’s the kind of company that investors are interested in and because it’s a company that’s profitable has been from day one and is growing quickly.
And, um, so it’s. There’s just, it’s definitely a space to be in. And I it’s, I don’t want to say it’s expired to like, go start a product company and still do well because it’s not, but it’s definitely becoming harder and harder to do as social media has kind of like filtered out, you know, it’s like pay to play now, you know, it’s like filtered out most of the opportunities for young brand new companies to get social organic traction, but. Um, anyway.
Don: Yeah, it is interesting, but it always feels like there’s still, there’s always these new things that happen. Yeah. And, and if you can kind of exempt. So like, I look at Instagram, right? It went from being like, that’s the, that’s the space you play in. You’ve got to go in there, hit the influencers, you know, and doing stuff.
It’s getting so crowded now. And you look around and go, so where, you know, where do new. People enter in. And my brain goes to some weird places because people thought Instagram was weird to go into. At first, I think the place now, like Tik TOK, right? I don’t understand how that plays words doesn’t make any sense, but that’s, what’s up and coming and I guarantee you give it, you know, three years or so everyone will be talking about Tik TOK, marketing.
No. I mean, it’s a weird, it’s weird how it’s like constantly shifting around.
Devin: Yeah, it is crazy. Yeah. We, haven’t gone to tick tock mostly because our customers aren’t there, but we’ll see.
Don: Well, that’s the thing is I think it’s not, you know, the up and comers, I don’t know if our generation, you know, it’s, uh, I’m thinking about, I’m thinking about these younger kids coming up to, they’re going to start doing this teenagers right now.
They’ll go through some of those weird. Channels that I’m not used to, but anyway,
Devin: consumer goods and consumer brands can start something today and reach the end consumer without the middleman or the middlemen. Yeah. It used to be lots of people in the middle between consumer goods and in many product niches and with many companies and retail outlets at still the same way.
There’s still a lot of middlemen in there, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Um, because, um, uh, consumer minded brand can both manufacture and sell. Manufacture the goods and sell to the end consumer. And it doesn’t need, we don’t need a retail outlet anymore. We don’t need, um, you know, a. Product development group, per se.
[00:46:06] Obviously those can be great and we have used some and we will continue to use some of those going forward, but it can be done solo. Hmm. And that’s one of the beauties of the consumer of the product, the product modern product company today, the direct to consumer brand or D DTC brand. Yeah. Referred to these.
Um, and I think it’s. Almost the heyday. I feel like it’s kind of a heyday for product brands who have been in business for a number of years. Um, have a lot of friends that are in a very, very similar boat to gather right now. Started within a couple of years of us and who are all in a similar place from a revenue standpoint and an audience size standpoint today.
And it’s, it’s actually kind of mind boggling just to recognize how many companies have such a similar story to gathers. And we were, we had no connection to most of these companies when we were first starting, but we’ve become acquainted with them. As we’ve attended different events and things for product companies over the last several years, and just kind of rubbed shoulders with people who we see coming up, you know, in our feed that we reach out to recognize other in Utah as well.
And we’ve. Kind of formed a informal Alliance, you know, and group with, with these people where we chat and we talk about our challenges and things. And I think we all would probably agree and say, this is like, this is a golden time. It’s like heyday time to be in product. And I think it will continue to be that way for a long time.
Obviously the tactics will change and maybe it won’t be on Instagram and a few years. Right. Maybe it’s going to be on Tik TOK or some other. Sure platform or they’re going to see a lot of rapid growth, but just need to be where your customer is. Really?
Don: Yeah. So if you were doing it from scratch today, what do you think?
How would you know, this is all theoretical, right? What would your approach be with this changing climate?
Devin: I would make sure that materials were using. Whatever niche it’s in are, um, organic or, you know, in line with trends of today’s consumers wanting organic or healthy, or, you know, non-toxic. Goods. So I make sure my raw materials were in line with, uh, I wouldn’t say the extreme view, but like the more eco-friendly ecological view.
Um, and I would make sure that our brand is very focused on. Whatever, you know, it’s very focused and refined and that we’re going to be consistent with our brand and the visuals and who are our get is who are we trying to sell to? And then I would proceed and set up manufacturing in with a great partner who I could rely on and it might.
It might need to be someone smaller from the start. Sure. Maybe it needs to be local or maybe it needs to be a mix of, um, you know, some stay at home moms or some, some people who could, depending on what the product is, if it can be sewn, it’s easier to find a cut and sew shop or use using network of people who have a sewing machine at home.
Um, but finding yes, small runs and getting going, but I would still. Launch and have my key strategy. Be Instagram for social media and influencers for. Featured posts and giveaways would be a big thing. And I think all the same things we’re doing today would probably still be done. I just think it would have a different level of success or a different pace of growth.
Um, so it might require funding. You know, if we were finding that traction was slow, being more open to that, we personally haven’t taken any funding or we’ve been profitable since our first month in business. Awesome. Um, And we’ve been able to self grow the business, but that’s maybe one thing that would change today versus the future is I may find that I would have to come out of pocket to sell fund this new venture or find an angel investor or something to help get us there and prove out the concept and put a little more money behind reaching the consumer on social media.
Don: Hmm. Awesome stuff. So that might be wrapped up in the final question. That is. Advice that you’d give current current product developers. And that’s a great enough answer for that question, if you don’t have another thing to submit.
Devin: Yeah. And I, I think I touched on it earlier too, but I would strongly encourage staying focused on you and your niche and why you started it and get really creative about where you’re finding those people, blogs, you know, um, Instagram groups or Facebook groups, you know, hashtags on Instagram, where there’s like, like minded people who are, you know, let’s say it’s like biking, BMX, biking, or something, a product for that space.
You just got to really dive into and someone starting a product in a space like that ideally has that need for themselves. So they, they get the mindset, right. And they, they know the platforms and the places where they can reach those kinds of people. Um, And you just got to get creative, be open to doing like, if it was a BMX thing, you know, sponsoring somebody and maybe it’s like a really small somebody and maybe they’re not going to ask for money.
They’re just going to have product, but get super creative about it. And then don’t be afraid to. Work with companies that are trying to do that. They’re young also, you kind of band together with people that are your same size up and coming, trying to do something and kind of band together a little bit to do, you know, giveaways, promote each other and just work, work with people.
That’s been a big factor for our growth is we’ve done a lot of co-branded product launches or we’ll do a collaboration with another brand. Another company and maybe use some of their designs that they’re printing and they’re doing clothing. Yeah. But use that design on our mat and kind of make this co-branded launch of a product, which really allows both brands to benefit from that and grow.
We, we did a collaboration with studio McGee. Um, Three almost three years ago. And it was really great. It gave us exposure to the new audience. And, um, so I think making meaningful connections with people that aren’t necessarily competitive to you. Um, but that are kind of trying to do the same thing can really go a long way.
] So getting creative about how you’re going to approach things and, and being diligent, you know, you’re going to experience. Setbacks and disappointments and you just need to pivot and keep trying, because there is a market. I, I I’m, I’m a huge proponent for entrepreneurship and new business creation. And I would encourage almost anybody, not everybody, but almost everybody to try their own business.
And I think. Especially, as you get into a really broad product category where there’s a lot of big players today, you can carve out a market for yourself, for your own company. Yeah. Just stay niche and stay focused and you will carve out a meaningful business for yourself. If you stay at it and you get advice from mentors and you’re willing to pivot and keep trying, because, um, you know, let’s say you can go.
And, you know, reach a million dollars in sales at some point in your first three or four years of business. Sure. That million dollars in sales, if it’s in an, in an industry where there is like, let’s say a $10 billion market opportunity that you’re not going to get on the radar of any of those big companies out there.
And you can find a way to carve out your own million dollar, little business out of a $10 billion company. Yep. Absolutely. There’s people out there who will come to you instead of that big brand. And so that’s my main incurred ma major encouragement for hopeful entrepreneurs are people that are to start a product business is you can carve it out, just stay focused and, and don’t try and go mainstream when you’re so small.
Cause you have to stay in niche to be able to get traction.
Don: Awesome advice. Awesome advice. Thank you for spending the time here with me this afternoon. Where could our listeners find your product and find you?
Devin: They can find gather on Instagram at. G a T H R E spelled wrong. It’s spelled Galler gather, um, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Great. And, um, yeah, I, I hide in the back scenes, so you’re not ever going to really see me on social media. Um, I leave that to my business partners.
Don: hat’s smart. I would do the same thing. Yeah. Well, thanks for coming on today.
Yeah. Thank you so much.