Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Saleh Sokhandan, I am the founder of Vidavin. I am a designer of creative and artistic products that are made based on 3D art and optical illusion techniques.
Creating pleasant and new experiences is my goal. This goal led me to create Vidavin website and also the Vidavin's shop.
I started my journey in 2017 with 2000 dollars and now it’s been reached 1 million dollars.
Our audiences are all those who:
- love new and artistic experiences.
- interested in a product with their photo.
- want to buy a custom gift.
Our imagination is endless, and we like to accompany others in the joy of new experiences.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Running an online store didn’t come to my mind suddenly. Before starting this business, I was an artist. I was drawing optical illusion paintings for years. I was a teacher. I had translated a book. I had done several drawing projects and I also had an art studio called Salso studio.
Vidavin was originally based on my interests. We didn’t make it just in one day, it has taken a lot of time and effort. It was a secondary business along with my projects.
I just launched a website, and then I found out we can sell products based on 3D art and optical illusion techniques. I remember when people saw my 3D drawing in parks. They always wish to have them in their houses, they inspired me to make this dream come true!
Our first product was a 3D washable sticker. People could stick it on the floor. In our first product launch, we started in 2 sizes. One of them was 50cm \70cm, another one was 40cm \60cm. At first, they had seven samples but we extended them to twelve different designs.
Honestly, it wasn’t satisfying enough, so I spent a lot of time improving the design and quality, and then I created some new products like mirror mugs, Lyana necklaces, 3D framed wall art, and this fascinating journey of transferring imagination into reality is to be continued.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Since I worked as an artist for many years and specialized in 3D painting and optical illusion techniques, for the first time I decided to use optical illusion techniques to create floor stickers that were both attractive and different.
When people saw these wonderful stickers on the floor for the first time, they were surprised because they had never encountered them before. They experienced a sense of joy and wonder.
As time passed, I came up with interesting and creative new ideas that were first made just for my entertainment. For example, my second product was virtual shelves with seven samples.
This product was a sticker resembling the real shelf that people saw in ancient and traditional houses. On this shelf, I designed a flower pot with flowers that were reminiscent of the people’s traditional culture, it became so popular because people used it instead of the real shelf and it made their home décor unique.
One of my first challenges in manufacturing the products was choosing the right materials. I didn’t know if the raw material I was choosing was right or not.
I hadn’t any experience in this field. But I had to take risks in the first place because if I hadn’t taken the risk, I wouldn’t have noticed my mistakes.
I realized how important it is to have a generalist in the team. A person who can link different solutions.
For the first time, I prepared 1 thousand packages of shelf stickers, and to find out if my choice was right, I participated in an exhibition and offered it for sale. A large number of stickers were sold at that exhibition, which earned me the initial cost of attending the exhibition. And a few packages left that I sold on online sales platforms.
When trying to run a startup you have to find an even unrelated opportunity to link to your idea.
That exhibition was a new year event launched in a public place. I did a 3D floor painting instead of the cost of a podium. Thus there was an opportunity to present that sort of product that I made at that event.
Next, I tried local online stores and marketplace in our country like Digikala and ran an Instagram page to introduce my products.
In less than a year the money I invested multiplied forty times. In Vidavin, we are constantly experimenting and trying to offer products that have high quality and reasonable prices.
Early in my career, there were some big mistakes in the production procedure that made products unusable. These are the experiences we gain in the production process. Or for packaging, sometimes the designs had drawbacks that cost us dearly. And because it was at my expense, it seemed like a lot to me, meanwhile, it would be a small loss in a big company.
Another of my challenges was balancing things. I was always asking myself: Is now a good time to promote a product? Or should a new product be introduced?
But in any case, from every failure and challenge, an experience will remain that helps us along the way.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As I mentioned, I started the business with vidavin.com but after time passed, we understood it could be more than a usual website and could run as a business. So, we designed some new products based on our interests and we also managed to rent a place and turn it into Vidavin's studio.
It was the spring of 2019, our team members worked very hard to equip the studio. The original location of the workshop looked like a ruin. We cleaned everywhere, painted the walls, built a warehouse, and attached the products to the walls.
I realized that doing the right thing at the wrong time can be ineffective, and doing an ordinary one at the right time can be a masterpiece.
After that, we launched social networks accounts and started advertising on Instagram. Since writing about our products was not easy, we worked more on social media marketing than SEO. People had good feelings when they saw our products on Instagram. We also used influencer marketing to boost our sales.
After 4 years now we have also launched Vidavin store and we also have B2B sales. It was based on our customer's needs to face directly with our products. We thank it would be a good idea to launch a place like a showroom to announce our products and make a place to order directly in that place. We ran this store and achieve great experience and developments idea.
Having more branches is one of our goals for the next two years. To achieve this goal, we will also use the facilities of Metaverse World. The plans and ideas we have about this goal are already exciting for us.
Vidavin's goal is to create eye-catching products which have unique experiences for their customers. Besides paying attention to producing great physical products, I insist on making a unique and different experience in all processes of user experiences. These experiences are about all aspects.
Now, I am working on these projects to build fascinating experiences from the online shopping of customized products.
- Customized digital and NFT Products
- VR and AR shopping for a better feeling of products before the order
- Virtual photo shooting atelier
- AI digital art generated by basic information
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In the first offerings, we used online sales platforms and marketplaces. They were local online stores in our country like Bamilo and Digikala. That allowed us to show products with descriptions. We tried to write honestly and clear and it went well. We had a lot of sales there. It gave me the motive to make new products and also work more on our website design. One of the competitive advantages of our website is the ease of purchasing products.
Over time, our sales team grew stronger, and the training I always gave to the sales and SEO team was to introduce products clearly and honestly and answer all the questions of the audience, whether on the website, WhatsApp or Instagram. We also used all Instagram features such as stories, posts, lives, and so on.
We used influencer marketing too. Finding the right influencer took a lot of time for our marketing team. Sometimes I thought it wouldn’t work, but usually, the costs came back and we made a profit too. After a while of experience in influencer marketing, I learn that everything depends on business audience definition. for Vidavin it works by flat fee payment for introducing our products and values by specific influencers. their fields are fashion, lifestyle, daily blogging, etc.
Email and SMS newsletters as well as holding sales festivals are other ways of promoting for us. We use these ways on a small scale just for connecting with our customers. we use every opportunity like getting a discount or chance of having the first version of products to notice our customers join our news network. also, we try to use these ways as simple as possible by using typical cheap platforms of SMS and email marketing like Mailerlite.
We even had an Instagram contest to make our page more attractive. My partner and I participate in podcasts too.
Putting a discount card in the customer order package is another way for us to retain our previous customers. Usually, our customers send thank you messages after purchase, which we use in our social media.
I think one of the most enjoyable things for business owners is positive customer feedback. We consistently evaluate products to receive such satisfying messages. For example, the blades of our 3D frame wall art were first made of plastic. Today, we use thin metal to create a better experience.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We all know that the world is moving toward virtualization. We seek to create new experiences in the modern world. Based on optical illusion technology, we will achieve this goal in the next few decades.
The digitalized customized products we want to make will give people a pleasant feeling. As the world enters digitalization, people will have the opportunity to order different customized products, such as clothes, mobile phones, etc. We want to make this opportunity happen too.
We want to simulate the virtual environment in which customers can view their decorative products. To create such an atmosphere, which is based on the Metaverse world rules, We are currently building the infrastructure of these new experiences in different parts of the world.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Starting a business is more important than being perfect. Whenever I started in my life even though my work was not perfect, I got a good result and whenever I didn’t, I sustain a loss or damage. I didn’t have a killer idea but when I started, I found that people like products that lead to an enjoyable experience.
Another thing that I learned was the courage to change. In my opinion, changing your business way is not as bad as other people believe. Don’t assume that if the business is on the right track now, nothing needs to change in the decision plan.
As we all know every two years, new technologies replace older ones. So, if you insist on one product or process it will equal losing new opportunities but you should also find a balance between making new products and promoting your previous ones.
Making a pleasant experience not only for customers but also for ourselves is important because it will cause more valuable outcomes.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
WordPress: we use WordPress to power our website. This makes our company website flexible and easy to use. Making good UI/UX was a goal for us and WordPress made it possible. We make changes continuously, including adding blog posts and tutorials, updating plugins, etc. for example Yoast SEO helped us in improving SEO.
- Instagram: Without a bit of exaggeration, Instagram helped us a lot to be seen. Selling products based on optical illusion techniques online is not an easy task at all. But using all the features of Instagram helped us a lot.
SMS Marketing: In addition to sending discount code messages, we inform our customers about their purchase process through messages that have created a pleasant experience.
Email Marketing: Most businesses ignore email marketing. but email marketing can be very effective and has a very reasonable cost compared to other advertising methods. we use email marketing to promote our sales festivals.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
To say that a book or a podcast has an impact on entrepreneurship is personal. A story that seems irrelevant may turn into an influential idea that can make a big difference.
But I was impressed by the following books:
- No filter by Sarah Frier
- How to measure anything by Dougas Hubbard
- Zero marginal cost by Geremi Reffkin
My favorite podcast channels are:
- Hidden Brain
- Ted radio
- Idea cast
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
If you try for a few months and fail. Explore different ways. think. Connect the solutions and try again, never give up.
One of my most strange and precious memories came back to the first time I decided to make mirror mugs. They were ceramic mugs with coasters. We design customers’ photos on the coaster based on optical illusion techniques. Because of the mirror finish of the mug surface, the reflection of the photo appears on the mug.
We were working on making mirror mugs for 4 to 5 months and one of our team members was responsible for this work. then we became disappointed.
At that time, I realized how important it is to have a generalist in the team. A person who can link different solutions. In the end, I claimed responsibility for the work by myself, when I tried different ways and tried to relate the issues, I finally managed to manufacture the mirror mug.
If a business craves success, having a member who can connect issues with follow-up and accuracy is inevitable.
Do not be afraid to accept different situations. Experiment with the new ideas and review your previous decisions.
In all cases, I try to do the right thing, even if it cost me a lot or I have to go through a lot of pain. My choice is to focus on new opportunities. I am constantly reviewing my past decisions. And I realized that doing the right thing at the wrong time can be ineffective, and doing an ordinary one at the right time can be a masterpiece.
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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