This is a follow up story for Knee Deep Limited LLC. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello there ladies and gents. My name is Garret “Buddy” Lamp, and I am the Top Brass Dignitary of Knee Deep Limited; more widely known as Muff Waders. Taylor “Earl” Nees is the Top Brass Dignitary Chancellor of our start-up. As founders, owners, and the only “employees” of the company, we figured it’d be fun to give ourselves unique job titles. You’ll notice very quickly that we like to keep things laid back, funny, and out of the ordinary. We invented and sell two pieces of clothing that are made for working outdoors and being the life of the party.
Our original product is the Muff Wader. A pair of work bibs/overalls that have many features to store drinks. The main attraction of the Waders in the insulated 6-pack cooler located on the chest. These Muff Waders are in fact, the only bibs made for work AND play. Staying on that theme, we created a pair of Muff ‘Spenders. You guessed it, the first-ever suspenders made for work AND play. Today, we are averaging $40,000 in sales per month. Our sales have increased dramatically due to our recent appearance on Shark Tank.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Muff Waders battled the Covid pandemic over the past year. Our manufacturer went under during the shut down so we had no way to make our Waders. Mind you, this was the only manufacturer to give us a chance, to begin with. So we had to scrounge for a new manufacturer. Sadly, we were sold out of inventory before we locked in a new supplier. This made us have very little sales over the holidays. Which was a painful pill to swallow.
Stop worrying about making everything professional. Be different and be your own brand.
Around summertime, while on a Muff Tour (I’ll explain what Muff Tours are later), Earl came up with the Muff ‘Spender. It aligns nearly perfectly with the Waders. Like the Waders, it has a bottle opener with Muff Mug and has two insulated drink pockets. The Muff ‘Spender is a perfect alternative for someone who doesn’t want to spend $85 on our Muff Waders. We decided to run a Kickstarter for the ‘Spenders to help pay for the original manufacturing costs. It was successful and helped us immensely from a financial standpoint.
We made an appearance on Shark Tank back in March. Although we did not land a deal, it was the best exposure we could ask for. A little insight: over 60,000 site visitors during the pitch and 200,000+ site visitors over the week following. It caused us to sell out of inventory before our pitch even finished! This made us heavily back-ordered. Many of those orders are just now being fulfilled.
Dealing with back orders has been rough. We receive hundreds of emails a week asking for updates on their order. The Covid pandemic has delayed our production even longer. India recently shut down for 2 weeks. Again, causing more delays as we get parts to our products from India. Many cargo ports are backed up globally due to the varies shut downs. Like many, we've had inventory sit in the waders for weeks as the ports play catch up. The best you can do is be transparent with your customer and explain to them the situations causing the delays.
Because of the back orders, we have run no advertisements. We are waiting to fulfill orders and have a solid amount of inventory before we run ads again. We’ll be running social media ads this fall. Our Facebook ads have been very successful in the past. Nearly every Facebook ad we run results in a cost of under 10 cents per click. That means we are getting people to our site for less than 10 cents! Our ads are also homemade and have an unprofessional feel. We believe this makes the ads blend in with users’ feed. Combo that with humor, a product that stands out to our target market (blue-collared Americans), and the results are outstanding for us.
The Covid pandemic has also hindered one of our main marketing campaigns called “Muff Tours”. This is where we get in an old 1990 van and travel to events to promote and sell Muff Waders. We go to football games, country concerts/festivals, county/state fairs, and anything where blue-collared beer drinkers will be. We truly believe that word-of-mouth advertising is the greatest vehicle to drive sales. By going on Muff Tours, we connect with our fans and customers. Our main goal is to go out and interact with people, tell them our story, and have a good conversation. We’re out on the front lines shakin’ hands and kissin’ babies! The goal is to simply spread the word of Muff Waders. That means we are not focused on sales while on tour. Having fans/customers remember us and tell their friends about us is something you just can’t put a price on.
Before Shark Tank, nearly all our site traffic was from social media. This is due to our organic growth from content creation. After Shark Tank, we have seen that number change dramatically to site traffic from SEO. This is because people will discover us on Shark Tank then search for us on Google.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Our Muff ‘Spender Kickstarter campaign was the second Kickstarter we did. Our first was for Muff Waders back when we first started the business in 2018. It failed epically as we tried to raise $135,000. It was a total disaster, but we learned from it.
So we had a new product, Muff ‘Spenders, but again could not afford to pay, in full, for manufacturing. Instead of trying to raise the entire amount needed to manufacture the product, we raised a portion of it. This way, we could set a goal that would have a better chance of succeeding. It was a great tactic that we benefited greatly from.
With the combo of Shark Tank and the Covid pandemic, our shipping ETA’s were delayed multiple times. It was painful for us to tell our customers the shipping date would be delayed even longer. It caused people to cancel orders and lose trust in us. If we face delays again in the future or allow for pre-sales, we will be telling our customers the wait is much longer than it actually is. We look at it as: A.) A pleasant surprise when we ship their orders out earlier than expected. B.) Give us wiggle room for unexpected delays.
Influencer marketing doesn’t always work. We have had some excellent influencer marketing experiences, but some just do not work out. It’s important to know if their followers are in your target market. Just because an influencer has millions of followers does not mean they will provide you a return. Don’t try to find an influencer with the most followers. Find an influencer with followers that match your current customers. Think quantity over quality. We are now more careful about who we reach out to for influencer marketing.
Over the past few months, we noticed that most of our orders were using discount codes that we haven’t promoted lately. At first, we were pumped that people were using them to purchase. We figured people were going back on our social media feeds and coming across them. It started to seem unusual though. A quick Google search of “Muff Waders discount codes” quickly showed us that some of our codes ended up on these promo code sites. We now rarely let a discount code last more than a few days. I’d say make it a habit to search Google for your own coupon codes, and don’t let the discount codes last too long.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I (Buddy) have officially started part-time on Muff Waders. This is the first time we have taken money out of the company. There are many factors as to why I am not full-time yet. The main reason is that we are debt-free and want to keep it that way. If we were getting paid in full, then it would deplete our funds to manufacture new products. However, I plan to be full-time by the end of the year. The dream of being my own boss is close to coming true!
Our product line has a lot of exciting additions coming in the future. For the Muff Waders, we are looking into a thicker more durable material to be more suitable for working outdoors. After that, we will be creating more versions that are insulated for warmth, waterproof for fishing/being in the snow, and a combo of each. Along with that, there will be more color options.
We are going to be coming out with some college team colors of Muff ‘Spenders in the near future. I will not give away too much of the surprise as no one knows what universities we will be going with. Each year going forward, we will be offering more college ‘Spenders. We are very excited to hit the road and go to some college football tailgates to promote the new colors.
Aside from extending our product line, and always thinking of new products, we are planning to build an office in our hometown of Holstein, Iowa within 3-5 years. After that, we will be building a warehouse to handle inventory, shipping, and start figuring out how to manufacture the product ourselves.
We come from a small town of 1,200 residents. Our mission with Muff Waders is to create jobs for Holstein, Iowa. Small towns in Iowa are losing population every year because of many factors. The main factor, in my personal opinion, is the lack of job opportunities. By employing Holstein, we can help stimulate the economy and enhance the lives of our local community.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
A recent book I read that I encourage all business owners to read is Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk. This book goes over the power of social media and content for any and every type of business. He is very blunt and straightforward. Any of his books and podcasts are very motivating. He is very realistic and harsh, which every entrepreneur should be, well, at least realistic!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I could go on forever about giving advice. The first thing I would say is content content content. Stop worrying about if your content is professional or not. Working too long on content can slow you down with other aspects of running the company. It will also hinder your time working on other content. Along with that note, stop worrying about making everything professional. Be different and be your own brand. Big brands have everything clean and precise. Guess what, you aren’t a big box brand. It’s okay to have an unprofessional vibe. It has helped us stand out tremendously. It’s just one way to be different out there. People want to find a brand that is different and unique. So stop being a perfectionist. Let your personality come out in your social media posts, your branding, your advertising, and your start-up as a whole.
Super unprofessional post/promotion that was successful for us.
It’s important to be passionate and believe in yourself. I know, you’ve heard it a thousand times. Yes, it is true, but you need to be reasonable and not delusional. Will your company be profitable? Are you willing to put in 80 hour weeks to start? Can you get over failing 90% of the time? Can you handle all that? There is a reason 8 out of 10 start-ups fail. You have to be more hungry than the rest. You have to put in more work than everyone else. You have to get over failing time after time. I can’t tell you how many ideas Earl and I came up with before Muff Waders, and during, that have failed dramatically. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve gotten more than 6 hours of sleep. My story is no different than the rest. For a full year, my schedule was: wake at 5 am, work on the company for 2 hours, go to school and work, work on Muff Waders for 30-60 minutes at lunch, get home at 5:30, spent time with my family, work on Muff Waders from 8 pm until midnight. Then put in a minimum of 6hrs per day of work on the weekends. All because I knew this was profitable and I could see what was ahead for us.
Now, back to being reasonable. Have you put in 60-80 hours of work per week for 3 years and still aren’t growing? Maybe you are about to break through, or maybe your idea sucks and you need to move on. It’s a tough world out there. You have to not only have an idea that makes money but also be willing to grind harder than any of your peers. Family and friends will think it’s an unhealthy life or unrealistic. They won’t understand your lifestyle now, but they will once you are your own boss, picking your own hours, while they clock into their 9 to 5.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Not yet. But keep your eyes open this year and next for new internship positions.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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