entrepwneurs

Two smart dudes who got together to start their own business selling the next big thing.

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    This blog was started in December of 2009 by two recent college graduates. They are starting their own business; this blog follows the difficulties associated with such an endeavor. They will sell the Next Big Thing (NBT), an inexpensive undiscovered whatchamacallit made in Brazil, China, and Vietnam.

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Please Read

Posted by O_O on January 28, 2010

I promised more content and I didn’t deliver. Sorry.

The blog is going offline for a little while. The business takes up enough time without having to anthologize it in a blog that, frankly, is only going to be read by my friends. So basically, the business continues, but the blog does not (for now).

D’oh,

Molson

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The Entrepwneurs Quality Guarantee

Posted by Jamie on January 23, 2010

We believe that we need personal experience with the Next Big Thing in order to sell it effectively. As such, we’ve been keeping a cheap, Chinatown NBT around for when we take breaks. Yesterday we’d been having a difficult day; so we decided to go out for some fresh air. While we were doing this our NBT exploded.

Now Molson and I are extremely serious about this business venture. Here at Entrepwneurs we want all of our customers to be completely satisfied. We take this opportunity to personally assure you that any NBT you buy from us will be of the absolute highest quality, and will deliver an indisputably spectacular explosion.

In the meantime, we will exhaustively test all manufacturer samples we receive with our patent-pending Entrepwneurs quality control method. That is to say, repeated kicking.

Nah, just kidding.

In unrelated news, our email harassment of Cerulean Centipede finally had results. She actually called us. This caught us off guard, as we were on Sporcle trying to guess all 152 of… something. (One of them is a missing number.) Apparently our samples have already been shipped. Which is good. We need a new NBT.

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Hunting for NBTs on Facebook

Posted by O_O on January 22, 2010

In your 20’s, you don’t have a family to support or a great job to leave. In your 30’s and 40’s, when you do have those things, you also have experience and connections. The opportunity cost of entrepreneurship is less in your 20’s than it is in your 30’s or 40’s. However, a business started then is more likely to succeed.

Over the last two weeks Jamie and I have made finding suppliers of the Next Big Thing our principal goal. As of Monday, our e-mail account boasted negotiations with China, samples from Brazil (Hunting for NBTs in Brazil), and 17 unreplied to e-mails addressed to manufacturers in Vietnam. Here’s the problem with that: the Vietnamese NBT appears to be substantially different from both the Chinese and Brazilian versions and entering the market without considering it would be an error.

Now, I’m on a first name basis with the head of the American-Vietnamese Trade Commission, not because I ball, but because I’ve called him at least 15 times. He seems to care and make an effort, but has so far not been able to provide a practical way to reach Vietnamese manufacturers. Conventional communication was just not allowing us to get in contact with the right people in Vietnam.

We were lacking connections, but found a solution in an unexpected place. On Facebook, there are a couple of groups dedicated to the NBT. They are fringe and foreign, but proved to be a fertile ground for contacts. On Monday, I browsed the members of these groups and sent a message to everyone with a Vietnamese name asking if they had NBT-manufacturing contacts in Vietnam.  I nearly got kicked off Facebook for spamming, but I did get three good leads.

Jamie is freaking out and is insisting that we use code names:

  • Fuchsia Falcon is a director, head of a shoe company, and the chief of an organization whose aim is to promote the NBT in France. I know what you guys are thinking: “Dude, this is the internet. I’m a 14-year-old girl on the internet. How do you know that this guy is legit?” I’ll tell you: I feel it in my bones.
  • Lavender Lobster is an NBT-aficionado living in Vietnam who supplied us with contact information for four factories, three Chinese and one Vietnamese. The Vietnamese factory has good products, is very professional, and most importantly responds to e-mails. Further, Lobster, a real NBT industry insider, had some great advice, which we might discuss later.
  • Our last and most amphibious contact, Saffron Salamander, put us in touch with a professional NBT user in Vietnam. He was able to provide contact information of another quality Vietnamese producer.

Hopefully, we’re only scratching the surface of what these guys will be able to offer. In any case, this was a major coup.

Sure, I might have some really sick connections when I’m 40, but when I’m 40 I won’t know how to use Facebook.

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Blog looks better, no?

Posted by Jamie on January 22, 2010

We wasted a couple of hours yesterday and this morning fiddling around with the blog – theme, formatting, making the pictures fit, et cetera. We believe it looks a lot more attractive. Maybe people will even want to read it now. Let us know what you think.

We’d also like to apologize for not keeping up with the State of Affairs posts we promised. Those aren’t going to happen. The way this is turning out, it’s just not practical for us to plan as much as a week in advance. We’re really taking things a day at a time here. Given how much our plans, concerns, and overall direction can change during the course of a week – we think it’s best just to let the weekly updates slide.

We will of course keep you informed as best we can.

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Hunting for NBTs in Brazil

Posted by Jamie on January 21, 2010

We’ve been in contact with a Brazilian manufacturer of Next Big Thing-like products. We suspect that their NBT is of superb quality – far better than what we’re looking at from Vietnamese and Chinese manufacturers. We suspect this for three reasons: 1) it looks better, 2) people say it’s better, 3) it’s incredibly expensive. If we were to go with this Brazilian manufacturer, the retail price of the NBT would end up at least four times higher than we had originally planned.

So, while we’re not ruling anything out yet, we think it’s unlikely we’ll buy from them. We do, however, very much want to see their product – to find out whether their price is justified. If it is, then maybe we can use it to consider how the Vietnamese and Chinese products can be improved.

As  such we’ve been in negotiations with them – from our end, with the main goal of getting a free sample. (Hey, we said their stuff was expensive, didn’t we?) Obviously we can hardly admit that to them. At the same time, well – manufacturers are happy to give out free samples to people who are credible potential buyers. We… are on a Gmail address, we don’t have a courier account (which is important, as we’ve found), they’ve never heard of us, and of course half the time we have no idea what we’re talking about. Which is to say, we’re not sure how credible we seem.

So our communications with our contact at this company (who we’ll codename, mm, Cerulean Centipede) went well at first. We seemed to be getting on well; she gave us product details, pricing information, an invitation to visit production facilities, and agreed to send over the sample. She asked for our courier account information (so that we would pay for shipping). We, well… shipping from Brazil costs a lot. We said as much. As we found out, this is not what’s done. Since then Centipede has been far less prompt with her replies to our messages. We have since agreed to pay shipping through a courier account. Which, sketchily, is in someone else’s name. (He gets shipping discounts, and we’re paying him back for the use of the account, but – it might not come across well.) These things are potentially concerning. Let’s just say word hasn’t come back from Centipede yet.

Then again, in these kinds of things all parties have credibility issues. In the end, whoever we deal with, we’re going to pay them a large sum of money, which will be 50% of the cost of a large number of NBTs, which they will make and send to us – after which we will pay them the remaining 50%. That is likely to be how it will work. As you can see, both parties have good opportunities to take the money (or NBTs) and run. Trust has to go both ways. And there are some frankly suspicious things about this Brazilian company’s product. Maybe it’ll all amount to nothing, but: we’ll keep you updated.

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On proper English

Posted by Jamie on January 19, 2010

So we recently made a breakthrough in communicating with some of the Chinese manufacturers we are trying to negotiate with. You see, we had previously been sending these potential manufacturers messages, that I drafted, that went something like this:

Dear [name]

Our company is interested in importing your [NBT]s, product nos. [XXXXXX], for distribution in the United States. We believe that [NBT]s have great potential in America, and are interested in further information about your company.

To start with we would like to procure a small trial shipment to test the product and our target market. We would be pleased if you could provide your MOQ, FOB price, and price for larger volumes at your earliest convenience.[...]

Please let us know if a copy of a recent factory audit, or similar, could be provided should we proceed to further discussions.

Yours Sincerely

We had not been getting good results from this message. We did get some responses – they were (often) cordial, friendly, open, et cetera; but most of the messages we sent out went unanswered. Which I assumed was natural – a lot of emails just never get read, right? Molson, however, had a hypothesis: that our English was too complicated, and we should write in language that our correspondents could clearly understand. He took over the key message drafting position. The emails we send now read more like this:

Thank you for the [NBT] quotation. I am very excited.

I like item nos. [XXXX], [XXXX], [XXXX]. I would like to see more pictures of the items that I like. Especially, I want to see close-up pictures of the [redacted].

Also, please tell me about the picture. I have attached it. Tell me more about this model, its price[...] When we make a large order, we want to choose the colors of the [redacted]. Also, we want to put our logo on the [NBT].

The conditions of your factory are very important to us. We will need to see pictures of your factory. Please tell us about your company and your factory.

Thank you so much!

Thanks to this simple expedient, our communications have become significantly more successful, literally overnight.

Incidentally, Molson is actually capable of writing above 5th-grade level. At least in theory. Just wanted to make that clear.

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Sex, Drugs, and Blogging

Posted by O_O on January 19, 2010

The principal goal of this blog is to create future revenue. Unfortunately for us, the process of converting a captive audience into cash is not a clear one. Ask Twitter.

Nonetheless, entrepwneurs.wordpress.com exists and will continue to exist because:

  1. Writing these posts is a great way for me to organize my thinking – a business diary of sorts.
  2. All else held equal, greater awareness of our product certainly means more sales.
  3. I have an idea for a narrative that we might pitch to conventional media. This blog is part of that pitch.
  4. This is gonna make me sound more like an entrenoob than an entrepwneur, but… Having a blog is cool! I enjoy entertaining you people.

Without sacrificing too much integrity, I want this blog to be as interesting as possible. If you have a cool idea or input of any kind, please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail at:

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“Welcome to our site! we believe in great service every time,all the time.”

Posted by O_O on January 15, 2010

“Enterprise Brief Introduction:

After Tomrrow is a famous film from USA.We [Edited Out] Cartoon Art Corporation represents our present and the future.We sincerely love the world, our motherland,our home and our [Edited Out].Though we are a small company,but we have professional Research and development ability and marketing department.We specialize in research and development,produce and sales of original animation and derived products. We also are building a plat where will gather many animation companies. We will provide our service to all the customers in the world. Most of products can meet all kind of contries standards.In addition,it is just two hours distance from Shanghai Port.We believe in a Chinese old saying: Where there is a will,there is a way. We will integrate the concept of environmental protection, Intelligence, beauty, justice, peace and love together, and put them into our original products and cartoon products. Further more,[Edited Out] and we will try our best to make contribution to human arts. Dear friends,please trust us and our [Edited Out], join us hand in hand, pls cooperate with us and make win-win situation.”

The above quote comes from one of the Chinese suppliers we’re currently speaking with.

Here at Entrepwneurs we believe in the psychology of positivity. We do not discriminate against non-English speakers or full-blown mental retardation. When we posted a buying lead on a China to USA biz-matching website, we specifically sought out people who wished to “integrate the concept of environmental protection, Intelligence, beauty, just peace and love together”. Further, we were looking for a company that was going to put all these wonderful things into their original products, and especially, their cartoon products.

How does that bode for us? You decide:

  1. The company we’re dealing with is called [Edited Out] Cartoon Art Corporation. The representative we correspond with via e-mail calls herself Mango Sun. However, Mango Sun is only her English business name; her given Chinese name is Pineapple Moon.¹
  2. Mango Sun likes to open e-mails with “Dear Mr. Jamie,  Nice days!” Look closely and you’ll see the latest in exclamation mark “!” technology.
  3. Mango on her production facilities: “We have two dryer machines and five punching machines,others is based on the handwork including [NBT part] ironing ,measure ,pruning,weigh ,final assemble and so on.” Mango on her workers: “10 years old.“²
  4. For the [NBT part] colors,we can make as to your demand,our standard color is green,white,blue,yellow,pink.In my opinion, the redwhiteblue is avaliable for you.It is fit for your market.” Mango’s emphasis, not mine. Clearly she knows the American market like the back of her hand.
  5. The picture is in the attachment,please check it,maybe it is not very clear,please don’t care.” Oh we will. We will.
  6. The important :’Please let us know if a copy of a recent factory audit could be provided’ I can’t under stand its meanings.Please tell me with another way.Thanks!” I’m not falling for this.³
Notes (for lawyers):
The opening quote is the property of the [Edited Out] Cartoon Art Corporation.
1: This is a lie.
2: I made this up.
3: I am falling for this.

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This is our gameplan.

Posted by Jamie on January 14, 2010

If an arrow runs from A to B, it means A is a necessary step for B.

So since Tuesday we’ve been working on the NBT – how should I put this – for real. As in, neither of us any longer have day jobs, and instead every day we get together, starting usually at 10, for 8+ hours to actually steadily work towards our end goal, that is, of selling vast quantities of NBTs.

We’ve been communicating with some possible manufacturers in China and Brazil, and attempting to communicate with a few more. In addition, we’re trying to find a bunch more possible manufacturers. After all, there are definitely a lot of shacks in Southeast Asia. This is easier said than done, as we’ve mentioned – it has come to be my understanding that virtually everyone in the Western hemisphere who knows how to get in touch with any such manufacturers of NBTs has some kind of commercial interest keeping that information private.

As for the overarching scheme of things, the problem is that getting from where we are now to our end goal of selling many, many NBTs (or even any NBTs) isn’t really a linear process of easily ordered steps. For example, we won’t be able to start getting NBTs shipped in to us as soon as we find a manufacturer. First we need a corporate bank account to wire the funds to them out of (wiring money to a shack in China sounds suspicious to us too, but hey, looks like it’s the only option). That means we already need to have legally established our company. (Which we haven’t done yet, because it is a hassle. Well, you can pay someone to deal with the hassle, but we are aiming to save money where we can, which leaves us facing a fair amount of bureaucracy.) In addition, we want to have our logo (which we haven’t come up with yet) stamped onto the NBT, and ideally the packaging for the NBT should be done at the manufacturer’s end (although we don’t know for sure if this will be possible.) This means we need a product name and logo for the NBT, both of which we need to trademark (or at least start the process of trademarking, which is a huge hassle) before we can proceed. Ideally, the trademark should be registered to our (as-yet-nonexistent) company.

None of the above is that much work, per se. It is, however, complicated, which makes it seem like a lot more work than it is. Each step has multiple prerequisites, necessary conditions, linked in an interconnected web. We decided to draw it out in order to organize our thinking. We liked it so much that we posted it for your edutainment.

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Plan A

Posted by O_O on January 12, 2010

January 11th 2010 was my last day at the job I mentioned in Plan B. It paid well. My parents will be sad to see it go.

At some point on that January Monday, I was asked to do something I did not want to do. I became stressed. When I’m stressed my mind becomes cloudy and being productive becomes very difficult. I find it helps to go outside when this happens. So I went outside. I had a view of  I-95. I contemplated throwing snowballs at the cars passing by. Stuff got real metaphysical, super existential and I started to feel better. Anyhow, as I was walking back into the office building the expression “the beginning of the end” popped into my head. Being as I’m an optimist, I thought “well, that isn’t an accurate description of what this is”. Rather, it was “the end of the end” and “the beginning of the beginning”.

As you may or may not know, I’m a recent college graduate. At the request of my parents I got a really shitty job in early November. I was fired after a month. I’m not really sure why – it was probably some combination of not fitting in, being too smart, goofing off too often, and breaking the chain of command.

Arrogants Anonymous. Step 1 is admitting you have a problem. Very fortunately, I was hired at a better place for better pay – the place I just recently left. It was a finite thing – I was sure that this new place was just going to be transitional. Regardless, I made a strong effort to not be a douche bag. I tried to fit in, I didn’t try be a smarty-pants (too often – besides, the cats I was working with were too bright to allow that to happen), I hardly goofed off (when I did, I was more careful than I had been to conceal it), and avoided breaking the chain of command like it was avian bird flu (Gooooooo Vietnam!). And you know what, they seemed to like it. I got some very positive vibes when I left. It seemed as though they were genuinely interested in hiring me at some point in the future. Damn, I love playing hard to get.

“Hi Molson,

Sorry for missing you when you left. Thank you for all your help, this was an important project for [Sybian & Sons] and you have done a great job at it.

Best Regards,

[Sarah Sybian, CEO and Chief Experimental Officer]“

Cool. More posts at a faster rate going your way.

Time for Plan A.

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