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In this episode, Brennan Agranoff, CEO of Hoopswagg, discussed how to take advantage of your talents and abilities to achieve success. He also pointed out the importance of innovating to create a successful business by finding ways to differentiate from competitors, which will make your product more appealing to the market.  (An excerpt from our LIVE Only 4 Days Event)

—Brennan Agranoff

Raw and Real Entrepreneurship with Brennan Agranoff

Topics covered in the interview

Singles and Homeruns
Fundamental concepts
Understanding what you’re good at
Playing to your strengths
Innovate

Brenna Agranoff’s Bio

Brennan Agranoff has been founding companies since the age of seven but officially launched his first business, Hoopswagg, in 2013. He has since grown the business into seven-figure sales in only four years. Brennan was named the 2017 Baylor Teen Entrepreneur of the year for his work.  Brennan has been quoted and published in several national and international media outlets including CNN, The New York Times, and US News for his entrepreneurial advocacy.

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Show Notes

Read Full Transcript

00:06
Welcome to Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, a show that dares to bring the no nonsense insight to those who have the courage to start, grow, and scale a business. Here's your host, entrepreneur, investor, and best selling author Susan Sly.

Susan Sly 00:21
Our amazing speaker is now 19 years old. He's an entrepreneur who founded his company Hoopswagg, which is the leader in the athletic sock industry when he was only 13. Since founding hoop swag four years ago, he has grown his company to nearly $2 million in annual sales. Let's make some noise for that. And he employs more than 70 people. So he's creating jobs. Let's give that a huge round of applause. He has also created numerous other successful brands ranging from pet socks, to pillows and oven mitts, and this morning, he's going to talk about his new company LitMitts. But he brought me a very, Susan Sly oven mitt. So check this out. So I'm envisioning driving down the freeway, and if someone cuts me off, I'm gonna be like, anyway, so he's absolutely incredible. So I would just encourage you to take notes, take videos, he's actually going to spend the day with us. He's so generous with his time. So on your feet for the one and only Brennan Agranoff.

Brennan Agranoff 01:36
Awesome. Well, thanks for coming out. It's awesome. Glad to be here. Yeah. So thanks for that wonderful intro. So let's see if this is gonna work for me. So. But as you mentioned, there's a lot of stuff that's happened in the past few years. And so I'm 19 years old now. And I started this whole company when I was 13 years old. And so by the time I was 16, we had done about a million dollars in revenue, which is a really cool number to hit. But there's like so much more that goes into that and everything behind it. And so I'm pretty excited to actually jump in to how that actually all happened. So who am I? My name is Brennan Agranoff, I'm 19 years old. I am based up in Portland, Oregon. And right there. Yeah. So this is the other thing I spent a lot of quality time doing is making fun Instagram pictures. But what we do is, we spend most of our time running three brands, mainly, which are ones called the sock game. One's called PetParty and one's called Hoopswagg. So Hoopswagg is like the company that I started when I was 13 years old. It's what got me into everything. And like Susan mentioned, we did about $2 million in revenue this year, or last year, and we're about to do 4 million this year is the goal, which has been super cool to do. And it's crazy how it's grown. But like I said, there's so much more that goes into it. And like to me, that's the interesting part versus like the flashy stuff that you can go look at. Again, I have fun on Instagram, but like so I'm excited to dive into that. And when I really started to think about like, how, because you throw these numbers out. And there's these news articles and all this stuff, like how do you actually get there, I really broke everything down into like two big phases of my life and my company. So phase one, within each of these phases, there is like three fundamental concepts that I kind of live on every day. And like I honestly think about these as I'm doing stuff every day. And it's almost at this point subconscious for me. So number one, just the concept of in baseball, I'm assuming you guys only singles in homeruns, right, there's this concept of like overnight success, and that this stuff happens and it does and those are homeruns in my opinion, I have hit one homerun in my entire career doing them and a lot of it is luck and timing to be honest with you. But what I have been successful with is consistently over and over and over again hitting singles. So just doing small things correctly, doing them right, building processes with them, and just like getting stuff done at the end of the day versus trying to go like for this big like this huge win, I went for all the little ones that all added up. So I really dug out these pictures. So as you can see in that first one, those are the first socks that I ever made. We actually, I don't know if you guys are familiar with like Nike elite socks, they've got like the dots on the back. They're crazy expensive. They're like $14 for a pair socks. I honestly don't know why they cost that much. Yeah. So in like 2013 I live up in Portland. And so basically all my friends in middle school, their parents were Nike executives. And so these kids would come to school decked out and like all the latest Nike stuff. And I saw they started wearing the socks every day. And there's also this thing like called the employee store there and I remember going to this and everything's half off. I was like $8 for socks. Like that's ridiculous, right? Then they all start wearing them to school. And I'm like, so someone's paying for these. And they had like white, black, blue and red. So like really basic boring stuff. And again, I was kind of that kid in middle school, I kind of had to stand out like I was always wearing neon and my mom was like, we're just going to stop trying to help you match because like it's not going to happen. I'm also colorblind, which does not help the fact Yeah, the middle school days were rough but so again, like these Nike socks, I like when you start printing stuff is illegal. I don't know. I googled it, found dudes on Yahoo Answers would like answered legal questions for me, all these little steps. And then. So in that second picture that is all those blank white socks, like I literally started this on my dining room table, we'd go to like Dick's Sporting Goods and like buy them out every day. And I'm actually banned from our sticks now because they got mad at us for buying like, which is bizarre, but we would, I convinced my parents, I'd annoy them until they drove me there. And then we'd go and I buy the 20% off coupons in bulk on eBay, go to the store, get them 20% off, take them home and make socks and sell them on eBay. And that's like how I got my whole start. It was just very simple little steps that kind of built into this bigger company. And the same thing comes to like my social media stuff. So my company when we started, I remember like, I couldn't get 100 followers. It took me like six months to get 100 followers. And this is like when Instagram first came out. And like it's really, it was very disappointing, right? I'm like, oh, everyone has an Instagram, this can't be that hard. And then I had like 100 followers in the first six months. And I was like on this thing every day commenting on people's stuff. DMing people like doing giveaways and like, just none of it worked. And now we have like these big social accounts. But that took six, seven years to build up, which obviously is not as fun to look at. It's like, oh, it happened overnight. Like I see all these people now. And it's like, oh, I got 100,000 followers, it's like it happens. But again, that's more of like a homerun versus a single. And like, at least for me, my singles have worked a lot better than homeruns.

Brennan Agranoff 06:20
So oops. So the second big thing is understanding what you're good at. And then really focusing in on that, because you could spend your time doing so many different things, right? Like, there's so much to do every day, but we just don't have time for it. So you might as well focus on what you're actually good at, identify that and really hone in on that because that's what you're going to be able to optimize your time for. And so for me, I want to preface this with I was a really really weird kid like, really weird kid for fun. I would play in Excel, like that's not normal. Now it did pay off because like I would sell stuff, I go to like Goodwill's and sell stuff on eBay all before I actually did the socks. And I have these really comprehensive spreadsheets of like, this is how much I'm making, these the fees, these like the shipping fees, and I end up making like 30 cents, I think but like I got the Excel spreadsheets like all made out. But it's crazy. Because like even today, we have like all these different stores now and they all feed into one big thing. But like every day, I'm still going into like, this is our actual Excel spreadsheet where like we do all of our revenue or ad spend and everything and it gives you a pretty accurate estimate of how you're doing. And they're all like super complex formulas and all this stuff. But it was because I learned it at a young age. And I was obsessed with it. Most of my advantage when I was younger was I was super passionate about what I was doing. Honestly, like I loved computers, I was like totally a nerd. And so like the Excel thing, I loved it. And then also, I don't know if you guys are familiar with like the whole shoe game at all, they're like 300 dollar shoes, yet it is absurd. People wait hours and hours in line. And like I was obsessed with it. But instead of waiting hours in line, I figured out how to write software that you could buy them online when they like immediately came out. And so I did that. And then all the sneaker head dudes are paying $40 for shoes are now wearing socks that are matching, and I'm making them and it was also really cool, because I could crank these out the next day, because I basically taught myself graphic graphic design at like age 13. And the one advantage I had up there. So there was three other companies doing this, like I was not the only one. I certainly was not like first to market like that's honestly not a strength of mine. But what I was gonna win is they're a bunch of 35 year old dudes trying to design socks for 14 years, 14 year olds. I'm a 14 year old designing socks for 14 year olds. And I don't have to like rely on graphic designers. And like, I've always been very like good about bringing stuff in house. Like that's a big passion of mine, we bring it in house. And then we find a way to like automate it. And so again, it's just figuring out what your strengths are and playing to them. And for me when I was younger, that was passion. And this was before I even like use my age for really any and then innovating. So like I said, we were printing on those Nike elite socks, which is like, great, we're selling for like 25 bucks, 30 bucks. But like your supply chain is not very good when you rely on Nike who won't even sell to you. We had to go to like a third party distributor. And you can't buy those from China because like they're no longer Nike socks. And so 2016 I was like, Okay, I need to make my own sock. So after about a year and a half of testing and like I don't even know how many samples we got. They would just send them over and we test them and like they wouldn't work. Like it took six months to a year and a half somewhere in there. And we actually tried going to like North Carolina, like we flew to North Carolina, we found the sock factory because I guess all the sock mills are in North Carolina. And fun note actually, I technically, so I didn't go to college, but I have a college degree in hosiery 101. It was a three day class. So, so we figured out how to make the socks. And we essentially finally started making our socks and people really liked them. And actually, it's still the same base sock that we use today, which is I mean, we're constantly innovating and like you'd be amazed again how much math goes into like polyester counts like it's ridiculous. And then the other thing is, like I mentioned on Instagram. I got on there when it was first like sort of becoming like an actual platform. This was before people were like using it for mass marketing or anything and just the matter of like, innovating and getting creative, not only with like product, right, but really in every aspect of your company has been so crucial for me. Like, again, this is whether it's production, or in this case, it was marketing like, so this is like what I would do, I figured out, I could send socks to these famous dudes with a lot of shoes. And they would take like professional pictures. And then they post them to their following. Basically, it was influencer marketing in 2013. But I didn't pay for any of it. Which was great because no one knew what it was like, it wasn't influencer marketing. That's what's called now. But like, it was influencer marketing before there was influencer marketing. And so it was super cool. Because I look back, I realized that six months goes like, Wait, I've been doing this for like four years now. And I didn't know that it was just like, I found something that worked. Like just, if I get like a tiny bit of success, I keep like hitting at it over and over and over again, and keep evolving on that. And then seeing what I can keep getting out of it and how I can make it better. Because when I first started, I'm sending socks to like random dudes with 1000 followers. And then I figured out that some guys that have 100,000 might not sell as many for me that have 1000. So it's just like Testing, testing, testing, testing, and not necessarily like relying on my emotions for it all but like relying on numbers.

Brennan Agranoff 11:07
So it was great, I was selling all these Nike socks, I was selling a bunch of these Hoopswagg socks. And I was trying to sell more and more hoops like socks, because I just did not like the concept of relying on someone else. Like I said, I'm obsessed with bringing things in house. And so I really did not like the concept of relying on some company in Wisconsin to keep selling socks, and Nike just shuts them off whenever they want. So what really launched me into phase two, this isn't very interested me. So again, back to this concept of singles and homeruns. So like I said, I had hit single over, after single, after single, after single for like four years. And it's like November of 2016. And this company approaches us. They're called the Sock Game, which is that other brand we run now. And they were like the first ones to they, they were first to market essentially. They created this product. And I didn't knock them off. I just like, did it better than them in terms of like a customer experience and artwork and all that sort of thing. They're a competitor. And so they approached us and wanted to sell. And like when I get this email, I was like freaking out because like, these guys had like half a million followers on Instagram, like they were a big deal. What was funny is we get on the initial call. And I guess we like, we're comparing sales numbers or whatever, because they're trying to like figure out how much to sell for. And so we ended up buying this company. And again, that was like a single for me, like, two years ago, that would have been a complete home run. But it was a single, it made sense. Like the artwork alone made sense paying for and we buy this company with no expectation of anything happening. So we finally signed all the paperwork in February or whatever. And like I said, I'm very like, I try stuff all the time. Like I have a problem with trying things. It's a good problem. It's just I can't stop my mind from like thinking. And like same with marketing, like I've tried to basically every type of marketing in some way, shape or form. But I was like, press. People mentioned press. My eighth grade PE teacher said his wife does press, what's press? And so I got to my eighth grade PE teachers wife, which sounds really weird, but she's super nice. And so she's like, oh, like you have a really cool story. Like you're 16 you just did a million dollars in sales. Like that's a great article, right? You just acquired a company, we should do press. And I was like, Okay, well what is press, I still don't know that. And so she helps me write a press release, which honestly, I thought was super boring. It's like the super long like, 15 page thing about yourself. And again, I had no idea what to come out of this. I just remember sitting on the first call. And like when I was younger, like people would try not take advantage of me because my age but like they'd like throw things that I didn't have grasps on for concepts yet. Like to like overwhelm me. And so she's on the phone. And she's like, Yeah, we're gonna get you on like Forbes and all these big news sites. And I was like, okay, she's like, totally BSing me. Like, that's not going to happen. She's just telling me that. And so she goes and starts pitching this article for like three months, comes back. And she's like, Yeah, like, no one really cares about your like, story or whatever. And I was like, that's kind of what I expected. And then we were like, okay, that's fine. Like, let's wrap up the project and move on. Like, again, you try something that doesn't work, you move on you try something else. So the next day, she emails me back. And she was like, just kidding. I actually got an email back from CNN, and they want to do an interview. And again, she was like, this is all like speculative. Like, it doesn't always happen. When these people, reporters email back like, they're usually looking for stories to fill in gaps. So we do this story. I remember I sat down with her. We meet my parents and her sitting this room for like, eight hours and they just pestered me with questions, the same like eight questions because I had to have the answers like word for word, I guess. So I didn't like mess it up anything I'm saying. So that was an experience. But basically, we do this interview. I remember I prep for like, eight hours. It was like a five minute interview. And like, they just asked completely irrelevant questions. I mean, it was about my business, but it was like, not what I was expecting at all. And she's like, okay, cool. Well, like read this article. And I was like, okay, like, what does that mean? And then she was like, okay, so if this does, if it happens to go live, we'll like email you and it'll go on like the CNN Money Section which even then I was like holy cow, like I've never been on, like my local news site, let alone like a national news site. So they email us. And like, let me remind you, so I'm a junior in high school. And all this is sort of happening. Like, this is what I do at night when I go home, like most like, I would go play soccer, and then I go home and work. And so we get this email like 7am. My dad literally calls me down to like his office where he's like, Yo, dude, like, we got this email. She's like, email says live and we're like, okay, it's not there. Like, it's just not on the site. And then we like accidentally clicked on like, the homepage, and it wasn't on the money site, because it was on the homepage. Yeah, super cool. Super, super cool. Now, the crazier part to me was, I didn't know what was going to happen after this. Like I thought this was like the end game. Like this was the home run, right? In reality, this was like, barely a single. What happened was, so I go to school, I still go to school. So,

Brennan Agranoff 15:48
it was a fun drive to school. Yeah. So I go to school, and like no one really knew about it until that 9am. So about 9am, I'm sitting in like my first period class, and then announcements come on, and they like, start doing this announcement. They're like, congratulations to Brennan Agranoff. Although like for the whole day, every class period, the teachers would like read the article. It's like no one in the school did any tests that day, like I was a legend after that day. So it was super cool. But I'm literally like, I remember I'm sitting in poetry class. And this article goes up. And I'm like, watching the website visitors. I like I'm obsessed with watching live people on our site. It's like a weird little obsession. It's like what I watch for TV instead. And I'm sitting there and we're getting all these emails, like more interview requests, more interview requests. I don't know that was gonna happen. And then I'm like, yo, like, CNN like they wanted, they want me to go live in like, 20 minutes, like, can I go take this real quick. And the teacher was like, he got really mad at me. We're like, really chill now. But he was like, no, like, you can't do that. And it did happen. That did happen. So but super cool. Like, I'm totally overwhelmed, right? I'm sitting in class all of a sudden, like, and it wasn't that I wasn't nobody in high school. But like, I certainly wasn't like, I just kind of stuck to myself did my own thing. I became very popular very fast. Yeah. So it's crazy. And then after that, we got more and more interview requests. And then so like, literally after the next day, we did three more interviews, like we ended up on all these sites, we got invited to like talk shows, there's this German documentary crew like they're like the PBS. I don't know if anyone's like, knows Germany very well. But Galileo, it's a big, big television show over there. So they flew an entire film crew here, we filmed for like three or four days, that was a really interesting experience to me, too. It was supposed to be like a, like a documentary or whatever. And then it was all staged. Like, they kept having me act. And it was just kind of awkward. But that it was very interesting to learn that, like that's how those are made TV, I guess. And then my favorite article of all time, actually, is Daily Mail. Daily Mail is just an interesting publication to me. If you ever want to, like feel bad about yourself, get yourself on Daily Mail, you will just get absolutely roasted by everyone. Like they just make fun of you for everything. Yes. So we ended up on all these new sites, we're selling more socks than I've ever like, I think the day we went on CNN on that front page, we sold like more socks that day than I had sold like, the past previous two years, like it was insane. There was like nothing that I could compare to it. And again, that was like my home run. That was the one home run that I've really hit. And it was a matter of timing and a little bit of luck. The timing in a sense, because they told us afterwards, like the only reason I actually went live is because they had no other news stories that were important. So I mean, I'll take it, I'll take whatever I can get, right. But it just, it's crazy to me that like something that little, like exploded into this huge thing. And like I still get press inquiries two years later about articles that like, were written two and a half years ago. And so it's been that one thing that kind of catapulted and kept every like, the momentum moving.

Brennan Agranoff 18:33
So, again, back to sort of now where I am, and how this all plays into it. So playing to your strengths now is a lot different than it was for me when I was 13. Like I said, when I was 13 my strengths were I was extremely passionate and like I had a lot of free time. Now my strengths were,and this is sort of leading into phase two, like the CNN sort of propelled me into that. But like my age, I figured out that was a great card to play, whether it was for marketing purposes, or the press, like the press is the best marketing I've ever done in all honesty. And so figuring that out, I was like, Oh, wait, people care about my age, like, I'm gonna keep doing that, right. So we kept doing more media interviews more, and it's just a snowball effect. Now, granted, not everyone can go do media interviews, like that's not realistic. Again, that was a homerun, like, I got pretty lucky with that. So just some of the other stuff that like we're taking advantage of now. For example, so again, a little bit more background on what we do now, we print all the socks up in Oregon, we've got a manufacturing facility, and it's literally a bunch of part time moms that work there. Like I'm not kidding. They drop their kids off at school and they come to work because we only need hours like 8am to like noon ish and so works great. They drop their kids off, they come to work, they all get to like talk about mom stuff and make socks and it's really cool. So that was like our crew during Christmas one of the days but like, on another note again, playing to your strengths marketing wise, that is a fantastic marketing point that moms make all your socks. It works. Go look at our Facebook. So again, just like picking out the little things like that. I've told you that who actually makes the socks matters two years ago? No like, but I figured that out. And again, it's all through testing like, I posted, I'm like, Oh, wait, I got a really good response for this, like, I'm gonna keep posting that right? And then some of my personal strengths. So in the past two or three months probably, I've been launching a whole bunch of different brands. One of those is Litmitts, which Susan showed you, which literally was born off of an Instagram story, which is kind of ridiculous, honestly. And then another one called Make My Pillow. So one of the things we're really good at is like, we, I started this pet sock company. We basically, I don't know, if you guys have seen ads on Facebook, there's, like three companies in between the, between the three of us like, I feel like everyone on Facebook has to have seen these ads by now. But essentially, like you upload a picture your dog, your cat, your face, whatever it is, and we'll put it on there. Now, what I developed with this by sort of accident was like, we have all this customization software that we can like turn around stuff next day. And so now I'm starting to launch all these products, because it's a strength that really no one else in the US has quite yet. A lot of the other companies take like, 10 days turnaround, we're like three day turnaround. So again, I'm going to leverage that and like sell the crap out of it. So I can like, pop off these little companies. And they're nothing massive. Like the Hoopswagg is like a brand. To me, these are more like little companies that I'm able to grow. And it's more of like a parent type thing. There's great for special occasions, like oven mitts are doing really well right now for like Mother's Day and Father's Day. We're gonna do like aprons for Father's Day and barbecue stuff. So just like little stuff like that. But it's leveraging what I already have going for me, which is I have all of this infrastructure to actually produce product, which at very low cost, because a lot of people have to find manufacturers and it's a slow process. And like, I can launch a company in a day. Like the Litmitts thing, I'm not kidding you. I had this idea for an oven mitt. I was like, that would be dope. And then I posted on my Instagram, I was like, We need a name for this. So I took like the average response, like I actually got, like 50 people that all responded Litmitts, which was a little bit bizarre, but literally bought the domain name, threw up a site and like, within 24 hours, we're selling stuff, which is just, it's also crazy, like the age of the internet is insane that you can do that. Like that's the one thing. Nothing I have done could have been done 20 years ago, like it just couldn't. And for that I'm extremely lucky. But yeah, just figuring out what you're good at. And then doing it over and over and over again. There's also something to be said for like, expanding what you're looking at right, and getting better at other things. But for me, it's always been like a fine line of like, okay, I'm going like, I'm going to do well at what I do well, and then on the side, like kind of improve myself in other areas that I'm not as good to get better. But at the end of the day, like when I've experimented with it, and when I put all my time into something else, the other stuff starts to fall apart. And so it can be boring, I'm not gonna lie to you, like some of the stuff that I do day to day is not exciting. Like it's what works. And so that, again, has really helped carry my company through.

Brennan Agranoff 22:42
I'm not good at this. Oh, I feel better. Oh, there we go. Okay, so innovate. Again, there's a really, really good story behind this, actually. So basically, that is me holding socks, myself. And my friend three years ago, again, these dark socks started coming, I saw they were doing well. The whole reason I started printing these face socks, these dark socks were the company that was making them was getting so many bad reviews, because they could not ship them. I was like, Well, I can make socks. Like why not do this? Now the really interesting story behind that. Do you guys buy stuff on Etsy out of curiosity? So do any of you sell stuff on Etsy? Yeah, so it's been incredible. Like that, that is incredible. I've never thought of Etsy as a big platform. Honestly, I never saw it is that because I would throw stuff up on there, I would just wouldn't sell. But I figured out you do face socks, they sell really well on Etsy. And they're handmade by moms. So don't forget that. But the most interesting thing, and this is like a little bit of a marketing thing. I can basically tell you within 48 hours of launching a product on Etsy now like, will it convert if I run a Facebook ad for it? And the reason that is I sort of figured out like, I don't want to say hack, like their ad algorithm. But I figured out like the little tweaks in it, that I have so much data because like, anytime someone searches Mother's Day, the way Etsy works like, they're not a very big platform yet. And so they're not really good at like controlling where their data is shared. It shows up in everyone's accounts. And like it's, it's, it's crazy the amount of market data that I've gotten from Etsy, but like no one would think to get market data from Etsy to like, but like I predict all of my sales based on Etsy estimates, which is kind of crazy, like all my projections for Christmas, which we do like 80% of our sales during Christmas is all based on Etsy over the next two months, which is again, kind of bizarre, but it's one of those things I forgot that works so I'm going to keep doing it. And then like I said, it's not only innovating with the marketing and a great example of that too is like, we have this video like it's our, it's got like 10, 15 million views or something on Facebook, or maybe it's 5 million, I don't remember. It's a lot of views. I have one video that converts all my ads for this pet socks. And it's an ad that I shot on my iPhone and edited in iMovie. And I shot the same one, I've got like an $8,000 camera because I thought I needed that, you don't. And I shot the same, literally like side by side shots. And the one with like the fancy camera and the fancy, I didn't, it just does not work. Really not happy about that. But I shoot everything, I refuse to shoot anything that I will do advertisements with on a fancy camera. Now it's all on my iPhone. And that's one of those things that like, again, emotionally, like, I want to use my fancy camera be like, This looks really good. But like, for whatever reason, it just doesn't work. And it's just like a matter of listening to the numbers and what data is telling you. And so that is just, or also like, the fact that these pictures convert, why, like, Why does my, they, no like, this is weird, like, why does that picture convert? I tried getting like, I had a mom, a dad, a girl, a baby, like everyone, and like, that's the one that converts, it's just bizarre. Um, and then also, it's not just like innovating on your marketing or whatever. Because like, there's, when you, when you start to grow a company, right? Like, I didn't realize there were so many freaking departments in a company. There are a lot of pieces to it. And but it's a matter of like, innovating on all of them, like our accounting gets really confusing. So we start building different like stuff or like to integrate with certain products that might not exist, but without innovating in our marketing department we couldn't innovate with our marketing, our accounting department we couldn't innovate with our marketing. And then even like, so that's a picture of our warehouse during Christmas. We were literally hiring on like, anyone we could get off Instagram at that point, because like, it's not, it's not a hard job. I mean, it's like physical labor for socks. It's not bad either. We, we figured out like the best incentive. And this is, this is kind of crazy to me. Like we would run shifts until like 3 AM like, because like I said, all my sales come in about 40 days throughout the year, so we'd have to make as many as we can. And so I figured out the best way and cheapest way to get teenagers to work till 3am, you go buy a McDonald's, it is crazy what McDonald's will do. No, and then No, no pizza. No, we got pizza one night. We got pizza one night. And then for moms, you buy them chocolate, it is crazy. We have like, my dad's full, not full time job. But like, part of his job is he literally stocks our candy bar at our shop. It's absurd. But anyways, so there's so much that goes into this. So like when I first started, I was pressing like in my garage, right? And like, as you can see, now we're using like pretty massive industrial equipment. And we start doing that. You have to start building all of these systems and processes and constantly improve upon them, and then have to track like your error rate. All this stuff, like every single little step of this manufacturing process, there's 1000 things that go into it. And if you don't, like continually make an effort to improve upon those, it all kind of ends up falling apart. It's just a matter of like consistently improving across everything. And in no way is that like an easy task at all, right? Like I could spend my entire life just innovating manufacturing processes. It's It's a never ending battle, honestly.

Brennan Agranoff 27:36
Oh my gosh, I cannot do this. Thank you. Anyways, so there there's a lot of like, like I said, there's a lot of like, the new stuff and the flashy all this like, woo hoo, it's like but there's also a lot of crap that I've gone through to get to that. Probably more crap, the good honestly, and no one really enjoys talking about that stuff. But I do. So first example. So when I first started our Nike leads, I convinced some dude to introduce me to help me sell on Amazon. I was like, maybe Amazon help me sell more socks. And it sold a lot of socks. But the problem was, I end up selling 60% of my socks on Amazon. And the problem with that is like I didn't own my own marketplace, right? And so they just shut me off one day, like it was like, yeah, sorry, we're just gonna like, shut you off. It was in the middle of December when I do all my sales. And there's nothing you can do. They just like they put you in timeout. And I'm like, yeah, sorry. Yeah, no, it's literally time out there. Like you're gonna sit in this corner, you're gonna tell us what you did wrong, and how you're going to fix it. You're like, I don't know what I did wrong. And so I was like, screwed, like that was, that was like, I thought that was the end of my company, honestly. And like it would have been if I didn't have any capital behind it. Like it could have put anyone else out of business. Like I got really lucky that I made it through that because all my money that are supposed to make that year just disappeared. They shut me off during Christmas. And like that was that. And so immediately after that, I was like, that's when I started developing my own brand and really like, creating a brand for me and like, my own website. And now I think we're at like, three or 4% Amazon sales, like it's honestly pretty insignificant, which is like the goal. So it's just a matter of like, the biggest thing for me was like, I want to, like I said, I bring everything in house, I'm obsessed with it. And so being able to have control over all my own channels and everything, like is super important. But like, again, I could have gone out of business that December like, it totally could have happened. And then the pet thing like I said, I started that about a year ago. And we ended up growing it to about a million in revenue in a year, which was great. But the problem with it was during Christmas, I finally got like my, my ads are converting really well. And like being myself and like let's just keep dumping more money into it, right? It just keeps generating more revenue. The problem was I had no infrastructure to do that. And I did that anyways. And we got so, we just got hammered. We're getting like 600 emails a day, the middle of like, December my three customer service students like, they were high schoolers. Lesson learned there too, like not very reliable, necessarily. They just, they left and like yeah, sorry, my family, they're going to Chicago this weekend. So I was like, great. So I was literally spending like 15 hours a day responding customer service emails, because you can get through all 600. But by the time you got through 600 you had formed 100 back and you're like, right. And like, they weren't necessarily, it was just a lot of confusing marketing and like the ship dates, and honestly, when people buy stuff online, they aren't necessarily super smart about it. I cannot explain to you, if you ever ordered anything online that has a face on it, just do me a favor, do not upload a picture of face that is sideways, or like it's off the side, the amount of people that do that. And they're like, Well, why does it look like that? Like I wanted my face. And I'm like, well, am I supposed to like grab your phone? Like, I don't know how I'm supposed to have that picture of you. Like, this is what you sent and they're like, Well, yeah, but like, I wanted you to like, rotate it. I'm like, No, I can't. Yeah, I'm like, let me three like, I'm not sure what you want, or they'll send us the wrong picture. And then it's our fault, I guess. I guess, ecommerce. But anyways, there is a ton of stuff that I've taken from this. And honestly, for me, my failures, and all that sort of thing has been much more valuable for me than any of the success I have, or like really ever will have. Because like, it's a matter of, and this is on a micro scale as well. It's like a macro scale for the whole company, like these big losses affect me a lot. But same with like the micro ones day to day, right. So like, for example, the past few weeks, our error rate has been higher, those little losses do affect like, and it helps me to go fix those right. And then it helps me going forward because I build like systems that actually work. And if I wasn't paying any attention, these errors, like that's my favorite thing is the problem solving. It's like creative problem solving, it makes my mind think and that's genuinely what I enjoy about what I do every day. So what's next? Like I said, these pictures convert. I don't know why. So that first one right there is me with a pillow. I saw this company that was making pillows, a lot, a lot of pillows, and the dude felt the need to post how he makes all of them. And so I was like, Okay, I already have half the equipment. So I bought a, I am not kidding you, I have a like Build A Bear stuffing machine now. So that's what I, that's what I play with in my free time.

Brennan Agranoff 31:55
So I figured out the manufacturing process behind pillows, and like we launched it last month, and like, we're still, I'm not gonna lie, there's like a lot of kinks. But like we're working those out. Again, it's just a matter of like solving that problem. Another good examples, these myths, like I said, those started from an Instagram story. And I saw people like them. And like I said, one of my strengths is getting to market really fast. I'm not necessarily first, but I get to market really fast. Like that was up and running in 24 hours. Now, fun little facts about that. I didn't have any myths to make. I had one, which is the one in the picture. And I was like great. So I took a picture of it, created mock ups so that I could like make digital, I could throw whatever I wanted on there before and I sold them. I made all these mock ups, sell them online. I think we ended up selling about, this was literally last week, I think we sold like 250 of these things before I even had them in my hands, which was like a little bit of a risk. But like I knew our manufacturer was good enough that we can do that. And what's really funny, so we kept selling these and I was like, great. Like if you're have to make them, we got good at them. We like integrated with what are all of our infrastructure and stuff. And we actually ended up like, you can't buy white oven mitts that are principle in the US anymore. They're all gone. Like I bought all of them. Like I had to order some from China now. And the people in China are like frantically trying to make them fast enough to get them back to the people to US, which was just, I figured there'd be more, but I guess not. So again, like I said, I like that, like it's fun getting creative. And the marketing stuff is like what I like, we have, it's just getting fun with it. Right? And like for example, we have a dude jumping out of a heli— he's going skydiving with a life size pillow of Ellen next week, that's going to make a great. Yeah, this kid really wants to go on Ellen, so yeah. No, it's like a full like, six foot Ellen. So yeah, we made a six foot Ellen. So? Yeah, I don't think so. Definitely not. I just figured bigger than life, I guess. And then another really cool thing that I've spent a lot of time on in the past few months is like, working with, so we work with a lot of like charities, which is super cool. So we're taking, like fundraisers. And this is more like with my traditional hoof swag brand, where it's like, you know when you go to like a restaurant or whatever, and they give 20% back, we're like, why don't we do that online because people want to leave their house. Socks are pretty easy for like, they're great gifts for like a lot of occasions. And so we're working with charities, and like we take charities on and then we do this, like fundraising night. So we set this timeframe, it's usually four or five hours. And then like 35% of all the revenue goes back to this charity, which for them is a lot more scalable, honestly, for people purchasing online, because then you can send it to your aunt in Wisconsin, and she can purchase and support you versus like having to go to your local restaurant. So that's been super cool. And then when we do that we usually pick, we're doing this new series now where we pick like one every month and go like filming video with them and do this like content series. And so that's been really cool. And it's just completely separate from this like, we're selling faces and then there's like this totally charitable fundraising aspect that's been super cool to work on. So I keep my time spread out between a lot of things because my brain moves really fast and I have to keep it entertained. Honestly, otherwise it gets kind of boring. And like that's what I like is that I genuinely enjoy what I wake up and do every day. So yeah, that is pretty much how everything came to be. Obviously there's a lot more behind all of that but like, those main points and yeah, thanks for having me.

Susan Sly 35:20
You rock. Thank you. And I'm just gonna share that Ron and I were chatting earlier this year. He's like, now that I've done high school, I have all this time. And here's my throwdown for all of you. I'm flexing a little bit. What are you doing with all your time? Because none of you all are doing in high school full time, right? That's all I have to say. Like, you know, just get on with it. So any final words?

Brennan Agranoff 35:42
No, I mean, honestly, if there's one thing it's like, just like literally go out there and do something because like, either you're gonna screw up and learn something or something's gonna go right. So

Susan Sly 35:51
I love that. All right. Thanks, Brennan. You're awesome

36:02
This episode is over. However, there are hundreds of great shows on the Raw and Real Entrepreneurship channel. Don't forget to subscribe so you never miss a new episode. On behalf of our team, we want to thank you so much for listening to this show. If this episode has helped you in any way, please go ahead and give us a great review on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, or wherever you listen to this podcast. Please tag Susan on social @Susan_sly on Twitter, SusanSly on Instagram, and @SusanSlyLive on Facebook. With that, we will see you in a future episode of Raw and Real Entrepreneurship.

Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is the CEO and Founder of Step Into Your Power Inc., the Co-CEO of RadiusAI, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of five and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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