Starting a Casual Camping Brand and Growing To $2,000/month
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
Our names are Paul Schauer and Anthony Benacquisto, and we are the founders of Dry Camp - a casual camping brand that focuses on finding fun products for the outdoors and backing them with a great warranty.
Currently, the company’s flagship products are our Waterproof Dry Bags and Double Hammocks.
The Waterproof Dry Bags were designed to be sturdy enough to hold its purpose, but plenty light for your outdoor travels. They are ideal for any type of activity that may involve water or simply for a means to hold your personals during a hike.
The Double Hammock is a triple stitched, parachute material that, with each purchase, includes the extras that other brands make you acquire separately, such as the tree straps and carabiners. We are looking forward to carrying other products in the future, as we continue doing our research on what items we feel confidently represent our brand. As of right now, we are averaging $1,500 to $2,000 in monthly revenue through multiple sales channels.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Actually, now we are neighbors, but we first met each other via a mutual friend who realized our common interest in entrepreneurship and all likes of business.
Anthony solely owns another company, Flare Web Design, that focuses on web development and social media marketing. His company is doing exceptionally well, working with all sorts of brands - they even just secured a project with CoinsCabin, set up their educational cryptocurrency site.
Prior to dry.camp, Paul had another startup, Cobra Business Solutions, that Paul shut down shortly before we got together so he could focus on a new venture. At the time, Paul worked for a website and software developer where he managed the development of over 200 government projects.
Just get out there and try. Even if you have to work a second job to make ends meet or for the extra cash for your venture, just do it.
But getting on the beginnings of Dry Camp... We began with setting aside time to meet for basic discussions on what we could develop that we would genuinely want to spend more hours, days, and hopefully years, working on. We wanted to figure out what what type of industry to explore and what brand within such would interest us both.
Eventually, we agreed our love for the outdoors and nature would be the best route for us to take. With this direction in sight, we began our research. We spent copious amounts of time online searching for products, materials, and reading reviews. Just as much time was utilized asking people directly what outdoor gear they used or would appeal to them.
We decided that the Waterproof Dry Bag was something that was very unique... and could have been just the product to have carried the many belongings on the various trips we heard stories about. Comparing reviews, asking people what they thought, and doing due diligence on materials was a must.
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
Manufacturing a product is actually quite harder than you would expect. You have to do your research on what materials you want to use and where they would be coming from. We sought to build a brand with great quality that offered more product for the price and a great warranty behind it.
This meant we were going to have to compare manufacturer ratings and prices, all while creating a relationship that could last our company’s lifetime. We wanted to offer a lifetime replacement warranty on our products - so to do that, we needed to find a reputable manufacturer.
There are great sources for finding manufacturers for goods, but you want to be sure you are finding the right one for you. We searched Google high and low to see what we could stumble upon, beyond what places we already knew of. Then you start by submitting each manufacturer a request for quotation, where you can receive an estimated price for what you are looking to have made or sent to you.
I would highly recommend creating a list of these quotes and the following process to anyone who has a unique design, product or invention that they want to build.
Here are steps of the process we heeded:
Go to Google and search for manufacturers, whether by typing that in the search bar or looking through sites such as Amazon to get a feel for what products come from where. Check to see if they offer the goods you are looking for and/or comparable materials that you may want a sample of to test out. Do your research on the differences of these - and always take notes!
Be sure to look for ratings that are higher on the given scale, read reviews (which are always a must!), and check to see if they come with any assurance policies that will guarantee your products to arrive safe and sound. Make certain you take a look at the number of sales they do and their supply capacity. Begin making a list of the ones you want to contact with space for commentary.
Contact the suppliers with a message explaining exactly what you are looking for, including how many items you want as this can change their estimation on pricing dramatically. Then, ask if you can be sent a sample, either of their materials or the finished product. Be sure to be very thorough in the description of the product you are looking for, and I would suggest sending along a drawing even to help. Some manufacturers will work with you while alter your design, but some will not, so be sure to tell them that you want to wait to order when you have had time to properly review the samples.
When your samples arrive, make notes of your thoughts, test them out and show them off to get feedback from potential customers and/or people that will give you an objective review. This really helped us when we designed our products, and actually resulted us in having to go back to the drawing board to maintain the quality of our designs while ensuring comfort.
Talk to the manufacturer about packaging and anything you need and want to be included, including UPC’s, warning labels, and any other printed material. This will help you to know whether you have to look elsewhere or if the pricing and time frame needs to be adjusted.
Double and triple check your order before completing and sending through to the manufacturer. Remain in constant and quick contact as to ensure a smooth process and build upon your business relationship with the manufacturer for possible future purchases. Always remember to keep your options open though - for pricing is always ever-changing to meet your needs.
As mentioned many times above, be very thorough with what manufacturer you go with. You’ll notice they may change their pricing on you, so be sure to ask if they can send you an itemized bill. We had to search through many manufacturers until we found one we could trust, that had consistent communication, and exactly what we were looking for.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
Shopify, Shopify, Shopify. If you are launching an online store, this is the way to go. They are so easy to use and build. Setting up the design, the FAQ, the payments and everything is a pretty simple task, and I would recommend spending some time in there setting it up.
We launched the site after the products were added (side note: Shopify has a nice feature to scan UPC codes). Facebook and Instagram were the first few places we started out with. We talked to our friends and families to spread the word and initiate sales. But it’s not as easy as one would think.
We later launched our products on Amazon, and have had some pretty good success with that. The main focus is making sure you have good optimization on Amazon’s internal search engine and keep an eye on negative keywords. Make sure to adjust those as time goes on to improve your ranking.
Our first few months, we were under a few hundred dollars in sales. I would recommend no one get discouraged by that. Eventually, we began seeing profit and the fruits of our labor. Business is hard, very hard. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, but it is up to you to keep pushing and keep making those necessary changes.
Sales is not an ugly thing. Sales is the most important thing a business can have. That would probably be the most important lesson. Just go out and sell. Make it a goal.
Since launch, what has worked to attract new customers?
I’m very lucky to have a partnership with Anthony. His marketing expertise has really helped us build a following on Facebook and Instagram, where we initially focused most of our efforts.
We have over 1,600 followers on Facebook. We also planned that our name is on all our products and that we advertise as dry.camp, which is also our URL ...so anytime we post, it helps our SEO.
My advice for growth would be to just keep testing new things, and not being afraid to do so. Sell anywhere you can.
We take a lot of photos and get other people to send us theirs as well. We’ve worked with some influencers, as well. You have to be careful with influencers, and be sure that you are providing them with as much value as they do you.
For our site traffic, Reddit has been a surprisingly great place for us! Some places to post get flagged as spam, and we are genuinely sorry for those, but in other places, there are great places to post and advertise. But, when you make a good post, it really helps drive traffic.
My advice for growth would be to just keep testing new things, and not being afraid to do so. Sell anywhere you can. For instance, we just started using Refersion, which is a way to get affiliate marketers for your site, and we are offering a 15% commission on any sale. So we are super excited to see how that works out. The link for that is at the bottom of our website.
How is everything going nowadays, and what are your plans for the future?.
Things are growing a lot now, but we are still in the early stages and would like to see the company grow more. Right now, it’s just Anthony and I working to grow and market. We have other commitments, but make sure to spend an appropriate amount of time on dry.camp.
We have a lot of stuff automated, such as emails, but we are in it for the long haul. Short term goals would be to increase monthly revenue and expand our product lines to some new products.
Eventually, we want to bring together and build with a team, but that requires more growth and income. We want this to be a great brand that people can really connect with and trust.
Have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Consistency and trying new things. Starting a business is hard, but keeping it going is just as hard. Constantly trying to learn new ways to market that are effective, finding the right customer base, dealing with possible negative reviews and feedback all take its toll, but you have to keep trying.
We made good decisions with marketing. Dealing with finding a manufacturer was pretty difficult, especially when there are many factors that go into finding the right one for your business. That was a process that took time working through to figure out and even when you think you do, you may be thrown right back to the start.
We tried making our products be the best they could be, and the lesson is that nothing is perfect. Always try to improve on it.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We love Shopify and a lot of the apps they offer, they just make it so easy to start and run an online retail business.
One app we really love is called Kit. Kit is an AI marketing bot that works with Facebook and e-mail remarketing campaigns. It’s been very helpful with identifying our audience.
Yotpo is another Shopify app that we use that helps customers leave reviews. Refersion is the most recent one we added that allows people to sign up for affiliate sales. We use Amazon Sellers quite a bit too. We are on a lot of different social media sites as well, but don’t have any specific tools for that.
I would also highly recommend anyone to using Google Drive, Sheets and Docs. They just make life really easy when typing up blog posts and wanting to share any other info in your business with people inside. One more that I use as well is the Microsoft Office Lens tool, which is a very simple way to scan documents with your phone.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources for your business?
There are quite a few that, personally, really helped me out. I’ll just list them out here:
- The Narrow Road by Felix Dennis - A no-nonsense book on starting, running and building a business with small chapters that cut the fat.
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason - Teaches great money management techniques which is essential if you are self funded and also for managing growth.
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh - A book on building a great brand that is focused on customer and employee happiness.
- Built to Sell by John Warrillow, 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and any other book that shows you how to build a business for scale.
And two podcasts that offer a ton of the best info for free:
- The MFCEO Project by Andy Frisella - This guy really tells it like it is. Being an entrepreneur is not easy, it’s very hard and very difficult and you will question yourself every second. But Andy really puts things in perspective and offers a lot of great advice.
- OkDork by Noah Kagan / Noah Kagan Presents - Noah Kagan is one of the few guys out there I feel is providing a lot of great stuff for absolutely free. He covers a lot of marketing, business start ups and basically what most people are looking to learn he talks about.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Just get out there and try. Even if you have to work a second job to make ends meet or for the extra cash for your venture, just do it. Don’t wait. Throw things up in the air to see what will stick. Know that you will make mistakes, but that’s okay. Don’t sit idle. The hardest part is just to keep going when you’ve hit a roadblock, but keep going. Put in the work… muster up the most of your entire self - the courage, the drive, the energy ... and exert it.
Communication is huge. Be honest, be upfront, and don’t hide behind anything. In a partnership, sometimes you have to have hard talks with each other. Remember that this is for the success of your business, which means the success of both of you. When it comes to customers, be honest and helpful, even when you may disagree personally. Keep in mind that you have to handle things in the name of your business at all times.
One of my favorite quotes lately that I’ve been thinking about is a line from the book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!) In it, there is a character called The Englishman that travels with the protagonist and the Englishman is looking for the Alchemist so that he can learn alchemy from him. He has spent years reading, studying and learning every book and subject on alchemy. When they arrive to the desert oasis, the Englishman finds the Alchemist. When he asks to learn Alchemy, the Alchemist asks if he ever tried to turn lead into gold. When the Englishman said no, the Alchemist says, “Go and Try.” Later on, when the protagonist meets the Englishman again, he says “...It was my fear of failure that first kept me from attempting the Master Work. Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.”
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website: www.dry.camp
- Facebook: Dry Camp
- Instagram: @drycampteam
- Reddit: u/drycampteam
- Twitter: @drycampteam
- Flare Web Design
- @theonlyanthonyjames - Anthony’s Instagram
- @paul_schauer - Paul’s Instagram
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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