Problem solving is in many cases the main ingredient in a recipe for startup success. The individual looking to solve a common problem in society is the one that doesn’t just end up forging a profitable business. Take Levi Strauss, the inventor of the levi jeans. He revolutionized the pant by producing riveted cloth with button flies and pocket corners in order to sell jeans that withstand the wear and tear of time. The business has outrun a myriad of generations and has its product worn around the world, which is something the founders never could’ve imagined.
No matter how big or small the problem, the people who find solutions are the ones with an opportunity for a sustainable business. Obviously there are so many more factors that go into having a successful business, like costs, buyers, competitors, etc. But if you’re in a competitive market, offering a unique solution is a great way to separate yourself.
Hush Blankets is doing just that. The business offers a solution for all the people experiencing sleepless nights. The design and development of their weight blankets are crafted by sleep specialists. The engineering is based on scientific studies that show how weighted blankets significantly improve sleep. For the Founder Lior, the idea all started at a summer camp.
“I worked at a summer camp for special needs children in 2011 and they had a room there called the Stimulation Room. In it there was a rudimentary weighted blanket and I kept finding myself going in there and going under that blanket – it felt that good. I knew one day I would bring something like this in a more premium model to the masses.”
You can offer a solution to a problem, or you can offer a solution to a problem that masses of people are facing. The first brings initial engagement to your business. The latter promises future and long-lasting engagement. Hush Blankets broke 6 figures within the first month and had 100% MoM growth in the following months. The brand is now planning to consistently generate 150 thousand per month by Q4 of 2018.
Where there are sales there is demand, and where there’s a demand there is pressure to quickly manufacturer. Trying to speed up lead times and still complete high quality production runs can be stressful if you don’t have a great relationship with a manufacturer. It wasn’t hard for the founders to find a manufacturer, but they did struggle with getting their products produced quickly.
“We were frustrated with the lead times and waiting on samples. It took about 2-3 months to finalize something we were happy moving forward with in the beginning. Hard to deal with time zones and simply the lead time on getting things here on a boat.”
A lead time is the time from initiation to completion of a process, whether that process be manufacturing or shipping. After you send your product specifications to a manufacturer, it can take up to weeks depending on your product until you receive a sample. If you aren’t happy with your sample and want to make tweaks, you’re talking months until you’ll be ready to start a production run. Then there’s the time it takes to complete your production run, which increases if you’re a smaller client for your manufacturer.
All of these lag times are the reason why some businesses take years before they start selling. Especially if you’re marketing your brand before you launch, it’s important to have a realistic idea of how long the manufacturing process will take so you can satisfy buyer expectations.
There are also lags that can occur from shipping freight by ocean. This is usually a much more cost-efficient way to ship if you have heavy products or bulk crates. However, this method takes longer so this is another lead time to consider in the overall process of receiving your products.
When they first started searching for a manufacturer, Hush Blankets was looking for one that offered a competitive price and was doing R&D in their industry. If you can find a manufacturer that contributes product design research, you will improve and innovate your product quicker and more frequently.
China is still the largest and most advanced textile producing country in the world, making them a top place for US businesses to manufacture in that industry. Hush connected with a third party to help them source their blankets from a manufacturer in China.
“Recently we’ve received samples from people who work in America but directly with China. It’s a middleman but they control the quality and it makes communication a lot easier.”
Partnering with a middleman is useful to gain quality connections to overseas manufacturers. However, the total production cost can end up expensive if you go through a middleman. Sourcify helps connect brands directly with pre-vetted manufacturers in a number of different countries so costs can remain low for brands while they still get access to the advanced production capabilities overseas.
Working with a quality, pre-vetted manufacturer can help you take your product to the next level. A good manufacturer allows you to have a competitive advantage in your industry by selling a solution to a problem through a high-quality, unique product.
“Competitors products are so very clearly just ripoffs of each other. We wanted to avoid that so we went with a unique, darker and shinier color to really show our uniqueness. The weight distribution in our blanket and small function tweaks we made to the internal blanket has made all the difference in separating us from the pack.”
Lior and his co-founder Aaron knew they were entering a crowded market but were determined to be number one by providing high-quality blankets and marketing them better than their competitors. Once you get a hold on the manufacturing side of your business, marketing becomes a full-time focus. If people don’t know, they can’t buy.
Hush focused on video marketing to communicate the premium aspect of their brand through eCommerce. Video marketing has always been one of the greatest ways to engage and convert an audience. It can be expensive to do it well but is becoming increasingly more effective than ads.
Lior and Aaron didn’t faced the same struggles that most new eCommerce sellers face. When it came to marketing, they realized the best way to minimize the hurdles was to find a couple major channels and stick to them with strict focus.
“Starting a brand from scratch is really, really hard to gain momentum. The only way to overcome it is to stay consistent even when you don’t think things are growing at the pace you want it to.”
After years of growing Hush Blankets and experiencing both highs and lows, Lior offers one major piece of advice to entrepreneurs starting out in a competitive product category:
“Be different from the beginning, but don’t stray too much from what’s already working. Find yourself a differentiator by reading the reviews of your competitors and what their customers are complaining about. Just be BETTER.”