Life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way you plan it, particularly when it comes to a career path. This is especially true for Chris Meade, co-founder of CROSSNET.
After graduating in 2014 with a film degree and fired up to follow his dreams of becoming a film producer, Chris discovered that film directing was not all he had imagined it to be. Having to be out at all hours in all sorts of weather was definitely not what he had envisioned doing.
Thus he abandoned the idea and pursued a more realistic career in sales. Funny how things work out. This turned out to be precisely the experience he needed to later land plenty of successful deals for his own company.
In 2017, Chris found himself in the market for a job, once again, having been laid off. Not long afterwards he was hired as an account executive for Uber, which provided him with yet more useful insight into what it takes to run a business. By experiencing work autonomy and the trust placed in him by his employer, he learned the value of trust and work autonomy and was able to implement it in CROSSNET later on.
During the summer of 2017, Chris and his brother Greg met up with their childhood friend Mike Delpapa for a creative brainstorming session. Inspiration can strike at any moment.
When combined with passion, it can lead to great things. So it was that with sport reruns playing in the background, these three friends came up with a few hundred creative ideas. Once they had crossed off all the ones that wouldn’t work, they were left with just the one — four-way volleyball, a cross between volleyball and four-square.
After doing some searching online and finding that it was something nobody had yet invented, the three friends decided to capitalize and make their idea a reality. The next day saw them putting two volleyball nets together and working out the rules of the game.
After getting more friends to join them (and seeing what a blast everyone had playing the game), they knew they were onto a winner. It was at that moment they realized they had a product other people were going to want.
The Art of Negotiation
When it came down to the designing of CROSSNET, it really helped that Mike had an engineering degree and was able to take over the complexities of design, blueprints and all manufacturing conversations.
It was during this initial design stage and the process of negotiating manufacturing, the team learned its first big lesson: There are plenty of manufacturers who want your business, so negotiate early and often. Unfortunately, they only learned this lesson after they had already submitted the blueprints and their first purchase order for samples.
As many e-commerce owners have found out, when the prototypes arrive, they are hardly ever exactly what you had in mind. The same was true in this case, disappointingly so. It took a few more weeks of waiting before they had all the pieces they needed and were ready to do the first real test of their product.
As the friends played, people who were passing would stop and ask about the game. There were even people who wanted to join in and play the game too. After seeing the interest that this first test generated, it was clear to the friends they had the makings of e-commerce gold in their hands.
During those first few days testing and trying out their product, they were also able to discern the areas that needed improving. It took several attempts before they had a product they were completely satisfied with.
Built for Success
While the business did start out slow, it didn’t take long to grow. However, during those first few slow months, Chris and his friends realized they would need better footage of professional volleyball players playing the game.
Not to mention a hit in the world of influencers, in order to make people aware of their product. And that is exactly what they got one morning when they awoke to a video on Facebook that had been viewed over two million times in just one night.
The video was of the Latvian Olympic volleyball team playing CROSSNET, and it was going viral. The video footage was exactly what was needed to boost sales. After running some Facebook ads on it, they saw an immediate increase in sales. In fact, sales were now streaming in from all over the place.
Starting as a small company that had never had an outside investment, CROSSNET has since grown in size until it is now sold in over 3500 retail locations and has surpassed eight figures in annual revenue. Though it may have started out as a holiday idea, it is now a thriving company that is built for success in every way.
Be True to Brand
When it comes to running a business, it’s important to have an open mindset and be willing to learn. There will always be something that can be learned from either other businesses or from mistakes you make along the way. Most importantly, though, always stay true to your brand.
Chris and his team first came into contact with counterfeits of their brand in 2021. They found people pretending to sell CROSSNET but selling cheap fakes instead. Rather than wasting time and energy tackling the counterfeits head on, they decided to embrace their brand and make people proud of ordering originals.
They then invested in a vendor partner to take down all the copyright infringers, as well as investing in Amazon and Google PPC to make sure that all online traffic was redirected to the original CROSSNET site.
Throughout this journey, one lesson learned by all was to know the numbers inside and out. This prevents unnecessary spending and will also help to grow the business. Above all, though, it is clear that one should never dismiss an idea. You never know, it may be the gold mine you’ve been waiting for.