Last week I interviewed #HOWLive speaker, Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Company. I wanted to know how he’d built his part-ecommerce, part-back-of-the-room “merch” business. In his online store, he sells 140 DDC-emblazoned promotional items like posters, caps and T-shirts, of course, but also ice scrapers, emery boards, toothbrushes, the cool pill box I bought (because the description was so hilarious) and, the one item he can’t keep in stock, The Stuff Sheath, a nice little leather pouch to protect his popular Field Notes when you put them in the back pocket of your tight jeans.
Aaron is a talker and he warned me of that at the beginning of the podcast. He started many more sentences than he finished and I had to interrupt him to get a few of my questions answered. But I quickly realized it would be best to abandon my agenda and just follow his meanderings, trusting that his pearls would rise to the top.
And they did. Even though he kept insisting that he couldn’t provide any type of “7-step formula for success,” he did share a very useful perspective that we can all learn from.
Here are some excerpts – but for the full effect of his ramblings, listen to the podcast/interview here….
My dad taught me, make the best thing you can make and they’ll jump in line for it. If they don’t, it’s still fun to make the best thing you can make.
If you want to print T-shirts, call the screen printer. It will cost this much per T-shirt. Make your thing, raise the money, sell them to your buddies. Whatever profit goes into making the next thing.”
If you have an idea for a sticker, you have to go find the thing that’s going to be weather proof and will be a better quality sticker. It may not be cheap. There is something to defying some of the avenues we’re offered. Here’s the biggest thing: investing in yourself. Before I was in the red, I understood how to go out and with a very limited budget, make the best thing I could make, even if it meant waiting longer or dealing with some cut throat promo person. There’s a lesson there.
It’s not about the dollars but about the fact that someone really uses it. I use it! To make something that simple and functional and to see it go is very rewarding. It’s scary to drop a bunch of cash, but based on the sales, it’s going to keep going up and up. I have to front end load it to get a bunch of them on ice. I’ve got 42 left now.
Let’s say you want to make whiskey with an ampersand in the name….you sell 14 of 1000 bottles that you make. That’s not a bad thing even though you lost money and you may be in the red. You can be creative with it.