Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Dan Watkins, and I am the founder and CEO of GloFX. Our brand develops innovative eyewear and LED flow props, ranging from glasses with kaleidoscope lenses to fiber optic flow toys. If it augments your vision or you can dance with it at a music festival, odds are we make it or are looking into making it.
We are the #1 global leader in dimensional eyewear, and have sold millions of pairs since inception.
We started marketing primarily within the ever-growing EDM music festival demographic, and years later, our top sales still come from this category. We love being part of the EDM and festival culture and are fortunate to be able to grow with this community.
Although we focus a lot of our time and marketing toward these festival-goers, it’s exciting to say that we’ve expanded our brand into other markets as well, such as arts and science museums, educational institutions, and EDM subculture fashion. We have also been working to spread the word about our own line of batteries, a product that has done extremely well since its release.
On top of selling the standard products we provide on our website, our wholesale team has done a tremendous job handling bulk custom orders. We’ve seen substantial success in utilizing this area for experiential marketing campaigns. One of our most popular orders is Custom Paper Diffraction Glasses where businesses can choose what their glasses will look like as well as have their logo on the frames.
In 2018, GloFX was named #1,650 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America, and pictured below is a portion of our Executive Team from when we won 1st in class at the Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Award in 2017.
To learn more about GloFX, here is a link to our About page.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Although I never set out to start my own business, I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur by nature. At one point when I was working 40 hours a week with a different employer, I realized that all my hard work was paying off for someone else’s idea of success.
I started GloFX with $400 in capital, and within 30 months, I watched that $400 snowball into $1,000,000.
GloFX was originally a side project I started in my garage when I wasn’t at work, and I was just selling basic glow products to local clubs. I was putting the money I earned back into the business, and before I knew it, I was making 80% of my income by only putting 20% of my time into its creation. And that’s saying a lot when you also have a 40-hour week job!
After the garage, we moved into a small office building. I first rented two small offices, each about 10x15 square feet. We were packed in! Within about a year, we expanded into over a dozen of these small offices. We had a small operation inside each of them. All-in, we were still under 2,000 square feet. Pics below!
The business really took off as soon as I discovered diffraction grating film. This eventually turned into GloFX Diffraction Glasses, a key factor in developing our line of dimensional eyewear. I started GloFX with $400 in capital, and within 30 months, I watched that $400 snowball into $1,000,000.
A few years later, we moved into our second facility, which was half office and half warehouse. It was right around 4,000sq ft, which was HUGE for us at the time.
In 2017, we moved into our current location, which is roughly 15,000 square feet. The new production warehouse is more than twice the size of our previous location. We anticipate outgrowing this facility again soon.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Creating a product is not a walk in the park. One of our most substantial and earliest launches was the Lux Series, and for around two years we were pinching pennies to get enough money to start the production process. The Lux Series was specifically a Glove and Orbit launch. An Orbit is a spinning disk on a string with LED lights. When spun, the LEDs create mesmerizing patterns and trails. Gloving is a popular hobby in which people use the lights on the end of their gloves to create glowing patterns as they move their fingertips. Both very different, but the flowing aspect remains the same between the two forms.
And then when we thought we had enough money (over six-figures worth of investments) we still went $20k over budget and spent over a year editing and tweaking the prototypes to create the perfect products.
We start with product development. This includes figuring out concepts and ideas, researching marketing strategies, prototyping, sourcing, and manufacturing.
Then, we moved to funneling. That’s when we started analyzing marketing data, researching SEO, creating prices, making website pages for all the products to be accessible, and finally starting to think about styling, themes, colors, and logos.
Below are images of the Lux Orbit during the prototyping phase.
Once we got all the logistics in place, marketing came in full swing to push our products as much as they could.
This meant social media, promotion at events, paid advertising, wholesale outreach, ad campaigns, and guerilla marketing. At the time, our team was pretty small, so it was all hands on deck for marketing. Even our product engineer helped with marketing at times. Some of our biggest marketing successes came from Google Adwords back then when it was at its prime. These days we focus more on social media and display ads. Below is a shot of one of our marketing meetings just before launch of the series. We were in our second location at that time.
When the product launch finally came along, we already had enough excitement surrounding the Lux Series that we didn’t see a lull in sales when the series dropped.
During this process, we quickly learned a lot about the required safety precautions attached to lithium batteries and even hired a law firm to do patent research on our glove lights. Of course, the process wasn’t as simple as a few paragraphs, and what could have gone wrong did. But we never lost sight of the goal, and on the other end, we came out with one of the largest scale product developments GloFX ever tackled.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
One of the biggest factors keeping customers coming back is constantly focusing on “what’s next”. It’s easy to say, “This is working. Let’s keep doing exactly that,” but that’s not how you grow. You always have to take chances because who knows? One of your craziest ideas might also be one of the best.
For example, for one of our earliest versions of the Space Whip, one of our most popular flowing toys, we released Sparkle Fibers as an option to compliment our regular Nano End Glo Fibers. They didn’t do as well as we thought they were going to do, so years later, when our team decided to bring Sparkle Fibers back, it was a big leap.
However, we knew the flowing and whipping community had grown substantially since this first Sparkle Fiber release. When the Space Whip Remix officially came out, everyone went crazy for the “new” Sparkle Fibers. It was what we were looking for in our first release and more! You just have to flow with market, follow your gut, and not be afraid of failure. If we hadn’t made that jump again, our sales this quarter would look much different.
Photographer: @rubiera.photography Model: @reagan_rampage
We also focus on multi-tiered marketing. For us, this looks like heavily using buyer-intent keywords for search engine optimization, remarketing to high-value customers, and utilizing our reseller network. Over the years, we’ve shipped wholesale orders to thousands of resellers, and right now, we have over 300 approved resellers worldwide.
When we were starting out, we wanted to get ourselves face-to-face with our demographic. To do this, we did (and still do) have onsite event activations all across the USA. Most recently, we were the official Dimensional Eyewear and LED Flow Arts Sponsor of Electric Forest 2019.
It was exciting to be able to send an awesome team into the field to interact with the Flow Arts community as well as possible consumers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now, we’re doing great. We just released our Space Whip Remix Series to the public, and this is our biggest product launch to date! Before the Remix came out, we were all focused on getting this product into the hands of our customers. Now that that’s released, we have time to spend on updating the website, refining our shipping processes, and more.
Amazon Prime Day was an amazing turnout for us and so was Electric Forest. We just got Afterpay officially installed into glofx.com to allow buyers to pay in smaller installments, and we’ve already seen positive feedback with both sales and happy customers.
Moving forward, we’ve got some big projects sitting with the product development team, and our marketing team is helping out the creative and wholesale departments with media and outreach.
Overall, we have slow months and fast months depending on festival season and holidays, but there is always something to be done. And we’re always looking up and up to see how we can improve the company together.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The first thing I would say is to hire slow, and fire fast.
When in the hiring process, you need to really make sure the employee you’re choosing is a right fit for the company. Are they going to excel at what they do and take tasks upon themselves to complete? Also, are they going to fit into the culture of your company?
Make sure you’ve covered all your bases because the last thing you want to do is lay someone off. Employee turnover can be one of the most expensive and detrimental issues that a business faces. So if the time comes and you realize this person you hired wasn’t what you thought they would be, lay them off now rather than later. The sooner you realize this and pull the bandage off, the sooner you can get someone new in who will work much better.
Create strong business systems. Never underestimate the power of a well-oiled machine and what it can accomplish.
Some more common things that I’ve heard over the years but I still had to learn myself are trial and error. You can’t assume you’re going to get everything right on the first try. That’s an almost delusional idea. Accept that you are going to fail at some things when you are an entrepreneur. Once you can be comfortable with that idea, the quicker and more confidently you will bounce back, and the bounce back is always the most important step.
Also, watch out for tariffs and taxes! Nexus will almost always occur faster than you think, including globally. Don’t let your company suffer from an oversight like this.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
With a growing company, we are always searching for what programs and platforms work best for us. For our website, we have found that Wordpress has done wonders. We have WooCommerce installed and numerous plug-ins to make things easier. WooCommerce helps us out with website organization such as order tracking, managing coupons, product page editing, creating sales and discounts, and more.
We use a variety of other tools, technology, and integrations to maintain efficiency with day-to-day operations. GloFX is a “systems and automations” focused company, and we’re always looking for the most cutting edge technology.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m actually not big into books or podcasts, but I will say that I have an intense appreciation for Google. If you have a question or want to learn more on a particular topic, Google is just a few clicks away. I’ve read some great articles over the years like this.
I would have to say that some of my best resources have been from peer influencers, observing my most prominent competitors and companies in different industries, and attending conferences and seminars. If you are presented with an opportunity to go to an informational conference or seminar, definitely take the offer. They are chalk full of information that is meant to help you in ways they feel should be expressed face-to-face. Some of my biggest leaps of knowledge came from these resources.
My last, biggest influence would be my dad. He was a salesman for 20 years and engineer by trade, which happened to line up with my two top interests.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The advice I always give are these four things:
- Stay laser-focused. When you’re not seeing immediate turnaround, it’s easy to give up or think that maybe you should focus your time and efforts on something else. But if you’re hoping around from idea to idea, strategy to strategy, you’re never going to see the results of your hard work. Don’t feel defeated when something doesn’t work. Use that as fuel for the next attempt.
- Make sure you’re producing quality products. I know it’s hard to find quality without having to fork out a lot of money, but investing in quality over quantity is the most important. Customer feedback could, in the long run, make or break your sales. Steer away from products that have a tendency to fall apart as soon as the reach the customer, even if it’s better on your wallet.
- Create strong business systems. As mentioned before, GloFX has many platforms and systems we rely on daily to organize our workload and maintain a steady balance of future goals and daily tasks. Never underestimate the power of a well-oiled machine and what it can accomplish.
- And lastly, you must find and train great employees to operate those systems. Having happy, capable workers will make the previous 3 steps a piece of cake. When everyone is clear with what they have to do and what is expected of them, that is when you have a functional company.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
As a company with under 30 employees and big ambitions, we are always on the hunt for talented new teammates! You can find open positions on our GloFX Careers Page.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website: https://glofx.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/glofx/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialGloFX/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/OfficialGloFX
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/glofx/
- Rage Blog: https://glofx.com/rage-blog/
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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