Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, My name is Chris D. and along with my partner and technical advisor Oliver C, we run Bighead Custom. Bighead Custom creates wooden “BLING” pendants that are created from customer or corporate logos. The finished product is unlike anything else available today. We have the technology to reproduce any photo or logo using colored metal flake and finish the piece off with a smooth sheet of glass. We give customers the “BLING” without the heavy price tag sting!
Our customers range from the up-and-coming rap artist, corporate America, celebs and everyone in between. Our “TURNOVER CHAINS” have become EXTREMELY popular and were born right after the Miami Hurricanes first debuted this style chain back in 2017. In fact, the turnover craze has forced us to create a 2nd website dedicated strictly to this style chain, Turnoverchains!
BIGHEAD IS EVERYWHERE! Since starting Bighead in 2011 and without any real advertising, Bighead does really well for a side hustle. Without giving up too much personal info regarding our finances, Bighead brings in enough revenue to help take care of 4 full-time employees. For a company that has never paid for advertising and only uses Youtube, SEO and other social media platforms (minus Facebook believe it or not) to expose the brand, it's really pretty impressive how large of an audience we were able to capture without paying for them! I think the key for us has been that we have something that doesn't really exist anywhere else. You can only get it from us. You can't shop us around. We have no real competition!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have been around art since I was a kid. My grandfather was a professional artist so needless to say it's in my blood. I've always loved being creative and was always tinkering around as a young kid trying to invent and come up with cool things to play with.
Always listen to your customer! If there's something that needs to be improved on, your customers will always let you know!
When I was in my 20’s I worked every type of job imaginable. Mostly sales. I was really good at sales but I was never really content. Art always had my attention and was never far from my next thought. I stumbled my way through life trying everything. I eventually settled on buying and selling used cars alongside my brother, Craig, the mastermind really. He knew this business well so I just tagged along and learned what I could and went on to make good money flipping cars. There was one huge problem, I didn't love it. I wasn't being creative. I needed that.
I’d go home after a long day of shuffling cars and mess around in my garage. Building, painting, inventing stuff. It was during this time that I, by total accident, came up with the Bighead formula! I made my first piece and started showing it to family and friends for feedback. It was a mixed reaction really. Who’s going to buy those? How will you advertise? Can you actually charge enough to make a living at it?
It was an uphill battle right from the start. I was making such good money at the time selling cars that It made zero sense to stop what I was doing to start this journey. But to me (I have always been my biggest fan) I loved the idea and knew I had something! After days and months of fine-tuning the process, it was time to figure out how I was going to let the world know what I had. This would take TIME, A LOT OF TIME. Ideas can happen overnight but building a brand absolutely CANNOT!!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The process would require locating, locally, the supplies I would need to produce these pieces. Finding product supplies locally would be key because I knew I didn't want to start incurring shipping costs. Once I located everything I needed, I was ready to start making a few.
Each of our pieces is hand created. The only machinery used is the scroll saws that we use to cut them out. As far as creating the art for each piece I had a ton of experience as a digital artist and could create just about anything that a customer might want (no need to hire an artist).
Customer mockups are a MUST for us before production.
The glass we pour over the top of our finished art is tricky to get just right. The glass has to be poured in a temperature-controlled environment. If not, it's impossible to mix correctly.
Controlling dust issues and air bubbles inside the glass were something that we also had to learn to perfect. If you have a product you'll eventually figure out how to make it better as time goes by. Bighead is constantly evolving!
Start-up costs were relatively inexpensive for us. I had zero overhead (working in my garage at home) and supplies were super cheap. As far as any legal stuff went, we would cross that road eventually. My partner, Oliver, working as an I.T. guy for a law firm helps!
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching Bighead wasn't going to be easy. The plan was to launch it on all social media platforms with one small issue, I had no prior experience using social media. So I jumped on the internet and started watching Youtube videos on how to post on social media. I learned the power of a hashtag. I learned how important good photos were. I learned that proper lighting for photos and videos was CRUCIAL! I learned all that I could regarding social media and once I was satisfied with what I taught myself, I was ready to go!
I needed samples now to photograph for content. I created a bunch of sample pieces, photographed them and started building my social media pages (Twitter and Instagram).
Finding customers took time. A lot of time. Bighead was new and no one had ever heard of it. I was starting from the bottom and I was about to find out just how tough and trying this was going to be. This is where most would quit but I kept believing in the product and the process!
As time went by I was trying everything I could to get the word out. I was beginning to get discouraged. I couldn't sell anything and I had just a few visitors here and there for each post on social media. I decided I would go after a celebrity and try and get one around their neck. I figured a photo of someone famous wearing one of my pieces could jumpstart Bighead for sure! No charge to them of course.
So I started direct messaging a select few. In 2006 MTV launched what would be a HUGE hit for them, “Rob & Big” which starred world-famous skateboarder, Rob Dyrdek. Rob's sidekick would be an unknown at the time, Chris (Big Black) Boykin. Rob & Big ran for 3 seasons and ended in 2008. In 2009 a spin-off of Rob & Big was created, Fantasy Factory, and first aired in Feb 2009. Rob Included Chris again to be his sidekick. Chris gained a ton of popularity from the previous show and he was someone I felt I could get the attention of to wear one of my pieces. Chris totally fits the bill for Bighead. He was starting his own T-shirt brand, had a killer logo, and was starting to expose it to the show. Viewers were falling in Love with Chris more and more with each episode and since he was still a virtual unknown at the time I figured I could get his attention more easily than an established celeb such as Rob and still reap the same rewards. Fantasy Factory was a blockbuster hit after just a few short episodes and everyone was talking about it! The timing couldn't be any more perfect for Bighead. I needed a guy like Chris and I needed him NOW!
Well, after countless messages to Chris, it paid off. Chris contacted me back and asked me to create his T-shirt logo and a pendant of himself wearing a crown on his head. I knocked them out and rush shipped them to Chris. In a few short days, I received photos of Chris wearing the pieces! Not only was Chris wearing them but posing for the photos inside the Fantasy Factory!! The Fantasy Factory was a 25 thousand sq foot warehouse where most of the show was filmed and the warehouse was getting very well known by the shows fan base. Well, needless to say, I couldn't believe it! This was the big break Bighead needed!
Long story short I posted the images on our Instagram and BAM! Bighead was born! (Sadly, the world lost Chris in May of 2017. Rest In Peace Christopher Boykin and thank you once again for doing what you promised. I will always be thankful.)
Famous record producer beat making extraordinaire, Scott Storch, was gracious enough to wear one and send back a photo as well. That was just a GIANT for us! That would have never happened without the help of Scotts Entertainment attorney, Matt Buser. I am forever thankful to Matt. Thank you so much for the follow through buddy. Need a great attorney? Give Matt a follow @MattbuserEsq #NotYourAverageLawyer
Other celebs followed. Bighead was movin’ on up!!!
It took a good three years of grinding every day before orders started coming in on a regular basis. We were nailing down celebs on the regular now and this was giving us some real credibility. Customers wear receiving them and wearing them and friends would see them and ask, Hey, where did you get that? This was when it really started rolling! There is NOTHING, I REPEAT NOTHING, like word of mouth!
As time went on I needed a website. I was broadcasting live one morning on Periscope (Twitter product, LIVE VIDEO STREAMING) showing off completed pieces to total strangers just to help gain more exposure. Just when I was about to hop off the stream I received a message from one of the watchers. He asked if I had a website and said if not, he could build one for me free of charge! I grabbed his phone number and called him that day. That person, Oliver C, has been my partner here at Bighead ever since. He has become a valuable piece of BIghead as far as technical issues go and more than that, a better friend. We have a ton in common and as far as business partners go, surprisingly, we have never argued one time during this ride. I know, hard to believe but it's true. I appreciate Oliver every day. Thanks, bud for all that you do!
As far as forms of the payment went we started accepting Paypal right out of the gate. As more orders started to come in, the new website started to handle all credit cards and all forms of payment. We built the website using Shopify and are very thankful for them and how smoothly our website operates.
I think the best advice I can give to people that are just starting out is to just BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and BELIEVE IN YOUR PRODUCT! Don't let others tell you it's a “bad idea” or “no one will buy that.” Just come up with a plan, stay focused, and move forward. If it's supposed to happen then it will but that will depend on how hard you're willing to work! Nothing will be handed to you along the way. Be prepared to get slapped around on your rise to the top!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For us, getting a few celebs to wear and send back a few photos helped TREMENDOUSLY! Also, giving out free products gave us the exposure we needed without relying on any sales in the beginning. Word of mouth is POWERFUL!
Once we started receiving orders on a regular basis the most important thing with any business is CUSTOMER SERVICE LIKE A MOFO!! Constantly improving your product and keeping your customers happy will result in you seeing your sales increase over time and more importantly you will keep your customers resulting in return orders! THIS IS IMPERATIVE! Also, answering emails, phone calls, and text messages are VITAL!!! Never leave customers waiting for a response. Competition is fierce and so ignoring them will just result in them buying elsewhere. Lastly, PLEASE KEEP THIS IN MIND... THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT! I DON'T CARE IF HE OR SHE IS WRONG, THEY ARE ALWAYS RIGHT!! Just trust me here. There won't be many complaints as long as you're conducting your business the right way. So when you do receive a complaint, don't argue with the customer. That can wind up costing you in the long run. Make them happy and move on.
The beginning of any new business is the hardest part. It's where most fail. They don't stick with it! Hell, most don't even start it! 99% of all really good ideas remain just that, a good idea. It helps to have a person or two that believes in what you're doing as well. Surround yourself with BELIEVERS and not HATERS. The believers will help push you through when you're not feeling it sometimes. And trust me, there will be many of those days.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, 13 years later, Bighead is ROLLING! A huge factor has been our website taking hold and moving up in the Google rankings. Bighead doesn't require the use of social media as much these days as far as finding new customers goes. I'm in no way saying not to use social media, I'm just saying we don't need it to exist.
Our website now includes a LIVE CHAT feature which has become invaluable! Being that our product is custom, customers sometimes have a lot of questions they would like answered before they actually check out and pay. LIVE CHAT is a must for anyone building a website for the simple fact that potential customers would much rather speak to someone NOW rather than later. And most don't like to speak over the telephone. LIVE CHAT, LIVE CHAT, LIVE CHAT! It's IMPERATIVE!
Our website is now responsible for about 95% of our buyers. Social media we feel has slipped and is slipping away slightly so we’re focusing more on rankings in the Google search. We use Social media these days mostly for posting our website name and pounding it into people's heads, BIGHEADCUSTOM.COM!!!
If you plan to put all your eggs in the social media basket you better think again. Remember, your website will always be there and YOU CONTROL IT! With Social media, YOU PLAY BY THEIR RULES AND their annoying ALGORITHMS! These days THEY decide who gets to see you. I'll pass on that, thanks!
Bighead continues to grow steadily. There are no real long term goals right now. We’re just taking the customers as they come and letting Bighead grow up getting bigger, stronger, faster! Sell Bighead one day? Everything has a price!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We haven't made many poor decisions, to be honest thank God. Bighead continues to be a really weird little company in the sense that it tends to thrive on its own without any human interference. Odd, I know. We joke around here that Bighead controls the US and not the other way around lol We’re just doing what it tells us to do lol. This is not exactly a business model that we are trying to promote, I’m just stating the this is how it is for us. It's a RARE bird for sure.
Always listen to your customers! If there's something that needs to be improved on, your customers will always let you know!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Shopify runs everything for us. We make any website changes in the house and Shopify processes all of our orders. We print labels, pack and ship all orders in the house as well.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The formula for any new company is almost always the same. Hard work, patience, and passion. Trust the process. Remember, It's a marathon, not a sprint so dig in and prepare to get dirty!
The beginning of any new business is the hardest part. It's where most fail. They don't stick with it! Hell, most don't even start it! 99% of all really good ideas remain just that, a good idea. So grab your ingredients, mix them all up and bake the damn cake already! It's the only way you'll be able to enjoy a piece!
Where can we go to learn more?
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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