I left the 9-5, had work, didn’t have work, made work.
I didn’t intend to start a product company. I left my salary job as an in-house graphic designer to pursue the world of free-lance, jobs were coming in and I felt ready. But, as it’s known to go for people who choose this path, the carpet was ever beneath me waiting to be tugged.
One day I showed up to my office and there was no work to do. And with a wife and two kids at home, I couldn’t be idle — my conscience just wouldn’t let me. So, as a discipline for the mind and an opportunity to sharpen my skills, I began designing a single playing card, the jack of spades. It turned out pretty well. The next day I showed up and still no work. So I designed the queen of spades. After three feverish months of this pattern, still workless, I had to my surprise finished designing an entire deck of playing cards.
I was flat broke. Totally broke. Like, my friend lent me $1,200 to keep my lights on and feed my family type of broke. I was a bit of a mess. I was working hard, but with no income to show for it. It was at this low point that I asked my officemates to help me put together a pitch video (which you can watch below) and launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce the playing cards I had illustrated by happen-stance.
“I had designed an entire deck of playing cards and was completely flat broke. Like totally broke. Like, ...”
A project, a family, a coffee mug, a truck ... and then a lot of money.
The video came together nicely. It communicated clearly what I did and what I needed. I asked for $6,250 to cover a minimum manufacturing order. And I was completely ready for the project to fail. I had been cooped up, alone with this project for so long that I had no idea how people would react. As some of you know, I reached my goal. Actually, I reached my goal with in 24 hours, and by the end of the campaign, I received a remarkable amount of $146,000.
A great joy and weight descended onto me: My work had made a great impact on so many people, I was financially strong, but I had also promised my backers a quick turn around. There was so much work to be done. I started the manufacturing process the day after my Kickstarter campaign was secured. I built a team for fulfillment and operations, which was a rag-tag team of friends. The process was heavy. It was long. It was around the clock. But, it was successful. We printed, packaged and shipped more than 4,000 orders in the course of 40 days (we captured three of the packaging days in the time lapse video below).
After so much momentum after the first week, I made this follow up video, thanking the current backers and offering more products.
“...A great joy and weight descended onto me. I had promised my backers a very quick turn around. There was much work to be done.”
4,000 plus orders needed to be processed and shipped with in one month. The pressure was on.
Misc. Goods Co. had launched. It was now an actual company in the market place, and I had a platform to show my ideas. From there, I started to reinvest most of my Kickstarter earnings into creating new products. I was ready to explore what else I could make, and see how people would respond. My next products were the second edition decks, a hard case, a wallet and a ceramic flask. I created an online store and put the new products on the site. The following months were steady and uneventful. I made sales and the brand was well received, but MGCO was still a hobby for me; I wasn’t pushing it. Free lance graphic design was still how I paid the bills.
In November, event organizer Rusty Meadows gave me two tickets to attend a commerce startup conference in Brooklyn called “Nearly Impossible.” The timing was providential. I used the trip test my future: either I would walk away from MGCO and allow it to fade away, or I would stop treating the MGCO as an outlet for my spare time and start treating it like a primary business.
“I used this event as an opportunity to place a fork in the road. I needed to begin to drift one way or the other”
Photo courtesy Nearly Impossible
Listening to various speakers talk about the common struggle most start-ups deal with was encouraging for Noel and me. It allowed us to push away the feeling of failing and embrace the opportunity to persevere.
The conference served me well. My wife and I listened to men and women as they shared stories of starting their companies. They were candid and honest. I felt less like an outsider to the “startup” world; other companies are much like mine, and share the same struggles. A whole spectrum of people shared appreciation for my products and many of them encouraged me to push harder, to carve out a place in my life to pursue MGCO more intentionally.
One of those people was Kiel Mead. At the time, Kiel led a creative cooperative called the American Design Club. A company of creatives and entrepreneurs who were young to the industry, who shared expenses and contacts as opportunity arose. One of these opportunities was to share a booth space at big trade show event in New York called “NYNOW.” This was my next opportunity to test the strength of the MGCO products. So I bought a ticket to NYC, asked a friend if I could crash on his spare bed and spent nine long days commuting from Brooklyn to Manhattan to pitch my products to buyers from all kinds of different places. Some owned small boutique shops across the world, others represented major retail companies. The experience, although taxing, strengthened my resolve.
I own a company, people like it and it appears to have room to grow. I am undeserving and thankful. Now it’s time again to roll up my sleeves, and make the most out of this opportunity.