Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
After a few ‘refreshing beverages’, I had the idea of making funny Beer Can Chicken Stands! Being a machinist by trade and a lifelong tinkerer, I spent the next few months designing and testing. My goal was to make a flat stand. That way it is easy to ship and store. I worked with a local fabricating shop and we were able to cut a stable product with only using 1mm stainless steel. After a few alterations, I am extremely happy with how the stands have evolved! I knew that the motorcycles were cool, but I needed the “over the edge” factor. And that’s when I came up with “Rooster Love”, the adult version! I have always wanted to start up a business selling my crazy ideas that people have fun with. This is just the first of many more ridiculous things to come!
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
Right now, I have 4 beer can chicken stands. Three of them are motorcycles: American Bike, Canadian Bike, and Flaming bike. I call the fourth stand Rooster Love. They are cut on a Laser machine, deburred, washed, and packaged.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
I am in a tough place right now. I outgrew my local manufacture and my business, Toms RiDICKulous Things, is too small to buy my own machines. I had to look to China… for now. As a machinist, I would love to bring it back here. I hope to buy my own machine in late 2021 and do it all myself. I have some more products coming out in spring 2021.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
Ah, man. I love talking to people whether it’s online or in-person at trade shows! Online is nice because I talk to people all over the world and see their videos and pictures of my stand in their BBQ. At trade shows, I usually have the adult version in a display BBQ ready to pop open the lid. The reactions are priceless! A lot of laughing happens around my booth! As much as I love trade shows, there are lots of ups and downs. Sometimes the sales are slow because of weather issues or not hitting the right cliental. But during the months leading up to Christmas, I am constantly traveling from one craft sale to another across the country. While away, I really miss my two young kids and my very supportive wife.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
Ha, ha! Where do I start! I think I wasted a lot of money on social media ads saying “ increase your sales”, “ increase your google rank” and so on. The only way to increase anything is to watch some youtube videos about SEO. There is no trick. Just do your homework! I think the biggest advice I have is to read the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Basically, it said that you shouldn’t waste time making a perfect product to launch or you will never get it out there. And you might spend a lot of time in the wrong area. It is a MUST read (or audiobook in my case lol)!
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
I always love a challenge! It took me months to come up with a design to make the beer can chicken stand to support a chicken with sheet metal. And it took me a couple of years to perfect it. Not only is it fun and dishwasher safe, but it also goes back flat for storage. I’m often inspired by ways to improve my own living space/fun. I have had regular beer can chicken stands that take up valuable space in my own man cave!
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I have been in the machining industry for almost 25 years (man, that makes me sound old) working in many roles for different companies. I did my apprenticeship at a bearing factory, then I moved to Switzerland for a couple of years working at a company that makes chocolate and pasta machines. I spent about 10 years out west in the oil and gas industry. I think I have worked with most types of machines out there.
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
The most effective way to market my product has been on Facebook. I would join multiple BBQ groups and once in a while, I post a picture on the group. But with no link, so I don’t get kicked off the group. I would wait for someone to comment and then I post a link to my website to make it an organic post.
This fall I have sent out about 20 stands to Instagram BBQ food influencers that have between 4,000 to 50,000 followers. I would ask if they wanted to try out my stand and post a picture of them using it. This has proven to be pretty good for me. I also met some great people and got some amazing pics out of it!
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
I think it’s SEO. Being able to come up on the first page of Google is very important. You basically get free advertising! But you have to put in the work. That’s what I am working on now.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
I think at the beginning I would have said that it was money. But now, building a reputable brand and meeting people means more to me. I want to be able to come out with a few new products every year so I can show the world my RiDICKulous ideas!
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
It varies. I still work fulltime, I have two kids that my wife homeschools with a few neighborhood kids. I’m also helping my wife start a math education website (www.MentalMath4all.com ), normal house work, a couple of other things on the side, and www.TomsRiDICKulouThings.com! I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I spend a lot of time with family, online orders, and prep work. SEO is now top of my list.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
My goal is to get my beer can chicken holders on store shelves! Ideally, Home Depot and Home Hardware! My goal is to come out with at least 2 new products a year, I hope that will help me scale.
Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion
It’s funny, when I first launched, I thought my target market were men. I did a couple of trade shows that targeted men, like camping and tools. And the shows went ok. But it was the craft/ Christmas sales that I found my ideal group! About 80% of my buyers are women. They always say, “this is perfect for my hard to buy for husband/ son/ brother/ father”!