Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
What’s up! My name’s Teddy Giard and I’m a Junior Marketing major at Clemson University and a co-founder of Kanga Coolers.
At Kanga, we invented the world's first iceless cooler designed to fit around an entire case of 12 oz. beverages (12 & 24 packs). Our customers are beer drinkers, tailgaters, outdoorsmen, and generally anyone looking to have a good time and keep their beverages frosty on the go!
After airing on Shark Tank average sales and revenue are hard to assume, that being said we are approaching our one year of operation and have officially brought on two full-time employees. We are beyond excited to see where this journey takes us and more importantly it’s humbling to take a salary from a company you put your own blood and sweat into.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My name’s Teddy Giard and I’m a junior Marketing Major at Clemson University. I’ve always had a passion for film and advertising which naturally lead me down the path of digital marketing, storytelling, filmmaking, and branding.
Growing up, I was always taught that if you want something done right the best way to do it is to do it yourself. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs it was always somewhat second nature to figure out a way when it’s not written out for you.
Growing up, I was always taught that if you want something done right the best way to do it is to do it yourself.
I was also taught to simply pursue what you're passionate about and if you do it with the full intention to better others and your community support and opportunity will flow your way.
I remember sitting down with my parents and looking into career paths for videography and quite frankly none of them stuck out to me. That being said, I still had a passion and love for film making so I continued to pursue it while putting my positive emphasis and outlook on life into everything I created.
My social media presence isn’t huge but frankly, I don’t care. I’m not in it for the followers or fame. Ultimately just having the knowledge of what people wanted to see and how certain types of music, coloring, images, and logos affect a person perception on things naturally lead me down a path of digital marketing where I happened to run into the Kanga team and they gave me the opportunity to brand their entire company.
Ultimately, I had a vision for the brand. The way the product makes you feel and what it stands for is my job. The real manufacturing and concept came from our CEO Logan LaMance.
The overall idea came about during a Clemson tailgate where we saw everyone carrying around open cases of beer that were soaking in the sun. Just about everybody took their beer out of the case and placed it into a koozie. Low and behold the idea for creating a koozie for an entire case of beer was born!
How the idea came about
Logan was assigned a class project where he had to come up with a product and perform a Shark Tank skit in front of the class.
He was walking around a tailgate and noticed everyone was carrying around cases of beer and letting them soak in the sun. From time to time these individuals would come back to the case of beer and put the beer can in a koozie. Logan simply asked the question if there’s a koozie for a can why isn’t there a koozie for an entire case of beer. Low and behold the Kase Mate was born!
We initially started with a couple of prototypes around campus where we received support from friends and family to launch a Kickstarter which made us $34,000 to fund our very first purchase order.
After Kickstarter, we had brands and large corporations approaching us about creating custom coolers for their brand/business. From this point on we knew, we had a product that people could get behind but we wanted to be more… we wanted the Kanga brand to stand for something. Naturally, that lead us onto Shark Tank where we pitched our crazy vision to the Sharks and landed a deal with Mark Cuban.
Financially we just brought on Logan and our Head of Sales, Austin, on full time. We also purchased our first office/warehousing space to fulfill orders. From here on out we have been putting all of our money back into the company besides the bare minimum of what we need to operate off of.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Our first initial prototype was made in a mom and pop cut and sew shop. We simply brought a case of beer into the shop and asked if they could make a neoprene sleeve around it and add a zipper to the side.
Naturally, that lead us onto Shark Tank where we pitched our crazy vision to the Sharks and landed a deal with Mark Cuban.
Unhesitantly, they agreed to perform the task and in return kept the case of beer that we brought them. After our initial prototype, we started using a small manufacturer in the USA but knew we would really have to begin manufacturing overseas in order to scale faster in other areas. We hope to manufacture within the US one day.
Once we had a working prototype and launched our first Kickstarter we participated in a campus-wide “Shark Tank” event called “Pitch Smack Down” which was put on by Clemson's Entrepreneurial program and lead professor Dr. Hannon. Dr. Hannon holds a Ph.D. from Cornell and draws in an incredible group of entrepreneurs to judge this event. The year we participated we happened to win first place and use that money to file our patents. We are still patent pending.
Describe the process of launching the business.
If I were to give any advice to anyone looking to start their own business it’s to build a core group of individuals who share the same passion for you product/brand/idea but ultimately build a team that is full of polar opposite personalities and skill sets.
As Steve Jobs said “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” ultimately you want to surround yourself with self driven gifted individuals who are seeking the opportunity to work on something their passionate about. You want the leaders of your company to get excited about working because it’s their passion. When you pursue your interests and are given the freedom to take risks and break boundaries the company will begin to piece itself together like a puzzle.
From there, we have had angel investors and have taken out small loans which we have paid off immediately to avoid any interest. On top of that, the $34,000 we raised from Kickstarter really helped us get off the ground and moving. We saw the majority of our customers come in post Shark Tank obviously.
The biggest lessons we learned as a team is to not launch a crowdfunding campaign/e-commerce campaign before it is completely dialed through and through. In reality, you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s worth getting an experts opinion… and not everyone who says they’re an expert is an expert.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Biggest growth strategy is to SEGMENT! Gather information about your target audiences and break down your social networks to target specific focus groups.
This will increase engagement on all of your platforms and increase the likelihood of somebody making a purchase/repeat purchase.
Segmented marketing has allowed us the ability to take an extremely small advertising budget (<$500/day) and generate an over 4/1 ROI.
The way in which we segment is through social media, Google, and email with each platform being used to push customers through the buyer's journey. In our case, we use social for prospecting and retargeting, through utilizing facebook custom audiences we’re able to target specific types of people, and custom tailor our content/messaging from here.
We then use AdWords to capture as much traffic from search as possible, through company-specific search ads. once a user is on our site our main priority is getting them to sign up for our email list, which consists of different workflows to lead subscribers down a custom-tailored path based on their engagement with the emails.
We rely heavily on Facebook and Instagram ads but most importantly google search words. Google search is often slept on nowadays but it has proven to be the most useful.
Email outreach is also vital. Not only can people hear your companies voice but it is so easy to segment using email.
Ultimately we use all of these platforms because we want people to engage with our brand and hear our mission of “Bringing Fun and Convenience to Beverage Cooling Solutions” We’re big believers in branding as a whole… Although it is hard to justify specific brands value directly from paid marketing, the repetition is proven to increase its overall value.
We are in the process of making our way into Amazon… I wish I could provide more graphs and information but we haven’t been operating long enough to truly have accurate examples.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As of today, we are in the green!
We have several trade shows set up within the next year and we’re continuing to see success with large corporate partnerships in regards to wholesale custom orders.
As far as the brand is concerned we are beginning to expand into the action sports realm having just sponsored professional surfers, motocross racers, wakeboarders, etc. We’re excited to see what the future holds as we continue to expand towards our goal of becoming a brand revolving around experience and positive nature.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Learn to embrace failure.
When we first started, especially on the marketing side, there was an apprehension to try things for fear of failure.
As we started growing and our ad budget increased we learned that the insights you receive from failing are far more valuable than the ones you receive from succeeding. The most effective way to sell is through knowing what your customers don’t want.
The Community You Build Is More Valuable Than The Product You Create. If you build a strong community behind your business that is the Greatest factor that will allow you to keep your head above water through the hard times.
Something we all learned is that your partners from a class project aren’t always your best business partners. We also learned the value of equity and the importance it plays with a company and its overall ability to function, scale, and maintain control/ownership.
Some of the best decisions we ever made were partnering up with up and coming companies along the way. A simple virtual handshake can go a really long way. For example, we wouldn’t be writing this article today without the referral from our good friend Kyle Bergman over at Swoveralls.
It’s common to see people claiming they’re entrepreneurs before they’ve even done anything. I for one wouldn’t consider myself an entrepreneur… I haven’t done anything yet, this is just the beginning of a long road. The title is earned not given to you.
One of the most important lessons we learned while starting a company within a large University is to use third-party resources. This is a tricky situation because most people are mislead by what they can and can’t use within a University. In most cases if you use a resource that isn’t available to all students the University will claim the intellectual property.
Programs like the SPIRO Institute at Clemson University are amazing because they are third-party funded allowing students to practice and explore opportunities without the fear of their own school taking ownership in something they produced.
Yes, Clemson falls victim to these practices but so does about every University in the Country. Ultimately never expose your good ideas to the public. Keep them tight and seek guidance from genuine people that are going to invest in 90% into YOU and 10% into your actual company.
Quick plug to Liberty University because they are the only University to my knowledge that allows students to use all campus resources without worrying about losing intellectual property.
Some helpful skills and habits we all have are prioritizing during the day and making time for life outside of work. Having your own company in most cases leads to more hours on the job… that being said it’s crucial to stay active and have a healthy work-life balance. Who knows, one day you could sell a company for a billion dollars and it would genuinely suck to have 0 friends to share it with.)
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
At Kanga Our Current IT Stack Consists Of The Following Programs/Services:
- Google Analytics
- Google Platforms (Ads, Analytics, Tag Manager, etc.),
- Facebook For Business
These programs have allowed us to Manage/Automate As Much Of Our Business As Possible, Being a team of only 4, who up until the last month operated remotely these programs have given us the ability to effectively communicate, operate, and automate as much of our business as possible. Whether it be running zaps to update the team on site performance, or creating workflows through our email software drip, these programs have allowed us to grow at a rate that once seemed impossible.
At Kanga, we utilize all of these tools and have each platform set up to engage differently with a specific demographic and target market. Everything that an individual see’s and or interacts with has a purpose.
We are looking to expand further on all of these platforms and interacting with our consumers differently based on analytics and feedback. As we stated earlier, we are still such a young company that there is still so much to learn and not a ton of analytics to provide. Right now it’s about staying true to our brand identity and keeping up the engagement!)
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- Dare to be Legendary
- Nerd Marketing
- The Unofficial Shopify Podcast
- Shopify Masters
- Radical Company
- No Rain No Rainbows
The most significant resource has been the Clemson SPIRO Institute lead by Professor Dr. Hannon.)
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
First and foremost see if it’s an idea people will get behind… gather real market analytics and if they come back positive go full steam ahead. Never step off the gas, don’t be afraid to fail, own your mistakes, and treat others with respect. Good gestures go full circle.
It’s common to see people claiming they’re entrepreneurs before they’ve even done anything. I for one wouldn’t consider myself an entrepreneur… I haven’t done anything yet, this is just the beginning of a long road. The title is earned not given to you. A lot of times the people you want to be working with are the ones who don’t need to tell you how awesome and valuable they are, they just show you.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking to bring on interns which have and can lead to full-time positions. We are always in the market for sales reps, social media interns, graphic designers, and financial accountants.
The best way to land a position with us is to not just tell us what you can do but show us up front. If you show the initiative we notice.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website (www.buykanga.com)
- Facebook (Kanga LLC.)
- Instagram (@KangaCoolers)
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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