Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Mihir (as in me here, you there?). My background is in products. I used to write code. I am the sole owner of Wise Charlie. I started this project to learn about mental models. Charlie Munger inspired me to dig deeper into the topic. I figured I’d share it with other Munger fans who are also interested in mental models. Mental models are big ideas from big disciplines. They help with critical thinking and making wise decisions. My thinking has astronomically exploded ever since I started this project. I can say I can think clearly and wisely because of Munger’s wisdom.
Wise Charlie sells a deck of 100 mental model flashcards. Each model consists of a short definition, a funny example, and a fun illustration. The brand tries to replicate Munger’s dry humor. The project has generated about $15,000 in sales in the last 12 months, 780 newsletter subscribers, and 400 Instagram followers. Wise Charlie’s target costumes are learners—teachers, parents, and working professionals who are interested in improving their own thinking.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started investing in stocks in my early 20s which forced me to learn more about Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Over time I became obsessed with a book on Munger, Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger. This book has a collection of speeches Charlie Munger has given in his lifetime. Frequently in the book, he mentions using latticework of mental models to think rationally about life and business. This quote stuck with me, “To a man using a hammer every problem looks like a nail.” I finally got what he was referring to. In a complex world, we can’t rely on one field to solve every problem. We need to use a multi-disciplinary approach. For example, in investing, besides the field of finance, ideas from psychology, statistics, sociology, and math are also relevant.
In 2017, I got an itch to build a physical product. While I was re-reading this book, an idea came to simplify his mental models in a consumable form. I took a chance because the risk was minimal. I would put some of my personal capital in and if the product and branding failed, I would walk away with learning about mental models in-depth. To me, the risk was justifiable because I wanted to become a better thinker.
There is no magic bullet to entrepreneurship.
I spun up the coming-soon website by using Vue and off I went on to work on the product.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I had some experience in building physical products so I understood the ropes of prototyping, manufacturing, and all of the supply chain-related things.
I hired a designer to help me turn short definitions into fun illustrations. Once the content (design and copy) was created, I found manufacturers to help build an initial prototype. The first version was crappy. I used Alibaba. The second illustration was very expensive. The third iteration was better, but the packaging was heavy.
After running the final prototype, I showed the deck of cards to my friends and family. One feedback I got was the box was super bulky. I brought the size of the cards and packaging down. It was useful to do some user testing because it also helped me save a ton on shipping costs.
Once the product felt good, I ordered a batch of 1000 decks of cards. I was hesitant to order a large order of inventory because I didn’t test out the customer demand for the product. I would’ve gotten a better price if I would’ve ordered a larger volume.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I built a website from scratch. I had a lot of fun building it. I was still writing code so I was a developer of the site. I used the Shopify Buy button to sell the product. Once the product arrived, I took some pictures and posted them on the website, and got ready to sell.
I didn’t have a grand launch or as a matter of fact any launch. But after a few months, I was done with the project. I built the entire project because I really enjoyed building and still am. I ignored distribution and marketing. I had a customer here and there purchasing a deck.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The strategy from the beginning was always clear to bootstrap as much as possible and acquire customers at no cost. The only sales strategy that I have implemented is to partner up with other newsletter hosts. This has allowed me to understand what type of customers are interested in a product without spending money on acquiring customers.
I set small goals for myself from the beginning. And I tried to accomplish one task at a time. The enemy of greatness is not getting started.
I email teachers and learners to see if they are interested in sharing about Wise Charlie with their readers. I have had quite a bit of success with this strategy.
Another strategy that has worked well is to post really fun visuals on Instagram. They are fun, but also concise enough for people to learn about mental models. I have had organic growth in followers and some leading to sales.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Currently, the only goal is to acquire customers and sell inventory on hand. Wise Charlie is hoping to make 1000 customers learn about mental models and apply critical thinking frequently. I am halfway there. Until then there are no other goals.
I don’t put time restrictions on my projects. This has helped me stay motivated and keep up with the project. If I were to set a goal to sell x number of products in x number of months, I would’ve given up on the project a long time ago. But having a mindset of growth without goals has really helped me keep going.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
This is my second attempt at starting something from scratch. Consistency can make a project really far. I didn’t have the right landing page, product copy, professional pictures, or a blog. But I stayed consistent in taking feedback and making consistent improvements.
Second, an honest tale took me far with customers and potential customers. I didn’t make my emails and communication formal. I kept it casual, clean, and concise. People respected that which led to a pretty high response rate.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use Shopify Buy Button for eCommerce and payments. I use Webflow for the website and blogging. And I use Buffer for social media publishing. This is my software stack to run my business. I sometimes use Upwork to find contractors to work on special projects.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I like to read, a lot. Link here.
One of the most recent books I read was the Wright Brothers by David McCullough. It’s a classic American story about grit and innovation. We take advantage of airplanes today, but when you read about what it took to build a plane, it makes you pause and react in awe.
I like a quote from the book, “The best dividends on the labor invested have invariably come from seeking more knowledge rather than more power.”
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
There is no magic bullet to entrepreneurship. The success looks great. But Wise Charlie didn’t have a special formula. I started with the mindset that it might go down south. The minor positive outcome feels random.
Don’t get me wrong, as much as I am being harsh about my success, sailing the boat of entrepreneurship was still worth it. It is the best way to learn. Period. Experimenting is fun. It has a characteristic of playfulness. You define the score and keep the score. No school, no advice, or no books will help you learn as much as learning by doing.
I set small goals for myself from the beginning. And I tried to accomplish one task at a time. This is why I was able to sell my product to 450 plus customers. The enemy of greatness is not getting started.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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