Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Allen Chiang. My wife Kea and I founded Retro Radio Farm. The business grew from my hobby of tinkering with old things. We sell repaired and restored radios from the 1930s to the 1970s. We offer upgrades for AM to FM, Bluetooth/MP3, and WiFi to stream digitally from your computer, tablet, or smartphone, or smart speaker.
We started our business back in 2012 to sell old radios we found at garage sales, swap meets, and on eBay. At some point, we hope to be doing this full time but we’re not there yet.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Our business has grown since we last wrote for Starter Story. We have grown organically throughout that period with a new website, new products, customer support programs, advertising, and more media exposure. And lots more customers. We were on the Discovery Channel Vintage Tech Hunters series which has aired internationally except the USA.
Have confidence that a large community of people will always reflect the truth about your business, and what you need to do to better serve them.
Retro Radio Farm has been very lucky to have our customers, many of whom have reached out via Social Media to let us know when we are doing something right, and occasionally when we’ve missed the mark. Our customers have been frankly wonderful in their support of our vision. It has been rewarding and very gratifying to know that there are other people out there who support what we are doing. We have learned so much from them. Social media has played such an important role in this two-way communication. We could not have reached the success we have without the customer’s input on our business.
One really exciting area of growth is business to business. Some businesses have reached out to us to purchase these vintage finds for their own business. One was a restaurant group in Italy. The owners had a vision of a retro 1950s dining experience and they bought a bunch of our radios.! Amazing. Sure, we had all the hoops to go through, of sending these radios overseas and customs and everything but in the end, it was so worth it. I mean Retro Radio Farm radios in Italy!
What have been your biggest lessons learned?
Our biggest learning has been through a search engine optimization strategy and social platform marketing.
Years ago, when we first started our branded online presence Retro Radio Farm, we were nervous. We had just limited experience selling online. We knew starting our own branded company website meant greater opportunities. But it felt like it was such a steep learning curve. We were so unsure about how to do it.
Deep down, we knew that doing things the way we’ve always done it, means we’ll get what we’ve always gotten. There’s a word used for expecting something different. Also, if you do things the same way as everyone else, you’ll get what everyone else gets. Not sure which is worse.
Like all things in life, it starts with accepting there is a problem with this. We understood ‘do nothing’ always means losses too. It’s usually just a more insidious kind. No, you can move ahead by doing nothing. The difficult part is doing something about it. Now.
One of our initial biggest problems was our rankings in organic search results. “Build it and they will come” was not enough with an online search.
People search Google for everything. If your business is not on the first page of probable search results, you might as well be invisible. Years ago, when we first searched probable keywords relating to our product, our company showed up on the 12th page. Now, we’re on the first couple pages if not the first result. It took us years to figure out how to do this, with a lot of trial and error, and expense. That’s right, it’s not free and it doesn’t just happen.
Basically, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Actually, it’s more like a marathon obstacle course. We recognized our web pages need to be filled with relevant content so search engine crawlers can find it. The quality needs to be good enough that other people choose to link to it. This alone takes time. The content needs to be immersive so that people spend time on our site. Finally, it needs to be dynamic so people come back often. Like every day hopefully.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We want people to see our vision of what can be when we take something old and give it a new life and make it relevant again. These radios are little works of art. The designs, the engineering, the old technology all have a place. Through Social Media, we are communicating this to people who are not our customers now but maybe our customers in the future.
We have only scratched the surface when it comes to leveraging social platforms. Our understanding and execution are still immature. We’re not sure where it will lead us. Over the next 5 years, we want to better understand how to best leverage this medium. We want to improve our brand message and use it to evolve how we serve our customer base.
Crucially, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter social presence have forced us to re-evaluate our expectations for advertising. For example, it’s hard to trace actual sales back to the social platform spends. Unlike display advertising, the currency in this new realm is not just glitzy ads or repetition driving click-throughs funneling down to sales. The new measure of success is a buzz.
This time, it’s not a marathon or a sprint. It’s march. And we’re trying to get others to march with us. We want others to identify with our company’s vision and mission. We must adapt to our company message. The message must be timely and relevant enough for them to want to consume it frequently.
The more we engage with our followers, the better we understand what they’re looking for. All these interactions are data that social media can use to better target our message to the right people which ultimately drives conversions.
Of course, we hope to quit our day jobs and do this full time, maybe have a little brick and mortar presence as well.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
For me, repairing old radios was not a logical choice. The radios simply made me happy. I enjoy working on them. I think they are important. When Kea got more and more involved, she helped me to see the inner story that these artifacts tell. Retro Radio Farm exists to celebrate a bygone era in American manufacturing and design. We are literally saving these things from being forgotten. I had to have a certainty that this was all worth doing. Any entrepreneur feels this as well and must rise above the doubts.
Have confidence that a large community of people will always reflect the truth about your business, and what you need to do to better serve them. Search and social media provide an invaluable tool to mature that understanding faster than ever before. You may be surprised by the information you get. But never dismiss it. Don’t jump to conclusions. The real message is sometimes hard to see. You will need to discern the truth. You must learn to be adept in your response.
We have a similar approach to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. We trust that there are others who care about giving these radios a voice again. Perhaps these are not the people we envisioned five years ago but we have learned so much over time by using Social Media to communicate with them. By engaging with people every day on Social Media we learn more about our customers and how our products are received. Like in the real world, it takes time to be social. And also like in the real world, you have to be doing the right thing to be liked by many.
Back to the effects, all this has had on our family life. We have learned to prioritize and plan around the increased needs of our business. Our children understand the opportunity and their part in it.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Our business is not hiring at this point, but we are looking for investors.
Where can we go to learn more?
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