Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I love engineering, design and CNC machines. After graduating from college I worked a job as a manufacturing engineer where I was introduced to 3D modeling and CNC machines. I started making art and furniture using 3D design software and used the machines after hours to make my projects. In 2018 I was introduced to 3D printing and bought a machine. I started making Nintendo Switch accessories for my son and eventually put them online to sell. After about a year of doing that I lost my day job and began spending a lot of time at home. I decided to build a rock climbing wall in our house (with my wife’s approval of course) and wanted to try and make my own climbing holds. It took some time but I eventually figured out how to utilize my 3D printing and modeling knowledge to make high quality holds and started listing them online. I’m constantly working on new designs and projects.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
I am the owner, engineer and only worker. I do all of the product development, prototyping and design. I also run the machines and make orders when they come in and I handle all of the customer communications and shipping. Growing my business is a challenge on top of all the responsibilities but I really enjoy working for myself.
What are your best selling products, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
My best selling products are my Rock Climbing Holds and Personalized Nintendo Switch Accessories. I use SolidWorks 3D modeling software to design everything and I use my 3D printers to create the parts. What makes my climbing holds stand out are complex and precise shapes I can make using the computer and high accuracy 3D printers. The 3D printed Switch Grip and Game Case are personalized with a variety of colors making each product one of a kind.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I enjoy the freedom of unlimited possibilities and creatively working to bring them to reality
Who do you sell to (and how do you get customers)? What marketing tools or strategies you use to boost your sales? Are you satisfied with the results?
Right now my major focus is bringing high quality and precision holds into home gyms. Hold companies have focused on commercial gyms, but families and climbers both need home recreation. Joining precision engineering with creative hold design allows me to be able to provide original holds for advanced home gyms or beginner and kids’ climbing home training.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
Do what you love. I enjoy climbing and I enjoy crafting new holds climbers will use creatively to make their own routes and challenge themselves. Take risks. Whether it’s during climbing or in business there are calculated risks you have to take and challenges you will have to overcome. Be committed. In climbing, we often discuss commitment to a move on a route. In production, commitment is continued diligence paired with precision to produce the best product.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
There will always be challenges. Taking the risk of believing in oneself, working tirelessly toward one’s goals. My current challenges are in design work. Each of my holds takes hours to design and begin crafting before it is ready for production. I enjoy the challenges of marketing, production, entrepreneurship, and crafting. Taking them each on and logically working through the best problem-solving methods is always interesting. By centering my business around what I love, I have created challenges through which I enjoying working, instead of working to simply pass time.
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
Music is inspiring when creating. I also enjoy watching professional and semi-professional climbers see what type of holds and volumes would be more effective for training away from the gym. When I’m not in front of my computer designing holds, I’m usually climbing or watching skilled climbers get new ideas.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
This is something that really depends on the platform from which our climber’s order. I try to be as accommodating as economically possible as I want to help climbers create what they need at whatever level or location they are currently at. I typically let Etsy handle calculate the postage and I try to have orders out the door within a couple of days. I like to provide free shipping for orders over $35 to encourage people to try more of my products. I send almost everything flat rate USPS.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Strategic confidence. Ingenuity and creativity in design. Diligence and Precision in craftsmanship.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Believe in yourself and your ideas. If you need it and you can create it, someone else probably needs it too. Try different things. I started out 3D printing fun switch accessories for my son, but I have been able to use the 3D modeling I learned for something completely different. Use tools which allow you to express your creativity, they’re out there, and if you can’t find what you need, start creating it.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Success has many steps. Success is stepping out on your own for some people, for some it’s a certain amount of money. For others, it’s the liberty to travel your own path. For some, it’s a success by simply taking a risk because they aren’t risk-takers naturally. I have worked in varying types of manufacturing and engineering, success to me is more about the freedom to create a product I personally can take pride in, it’s about the ability to have something that is my own. My definition of success may change, but I know I will look back and be glad that I tried something new and different and provided a product others needed and enjoyed, a product they can use to create routes and exercises in their own homes and gyms. I feel lucky to provide a useful tool for others’ creativity and passion.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I work from home full time now so I try and keep the house clean and have meals ready while keeping the business going. Multitasking is key, I try and keep the 3D printers running almost all the time and I’m usually pouring holds about once an hour. I also try and take a couple of days out of the week to relax and be creative on the computer in order to come up with new ideas or designs.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I plan to continue with the climbing holds as long as I still enjoy it. I want to make a variety of different holds and expand my online business past Etsy using Ebay, Amazon, and my own website.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
It’s difficult to figure out what people want to buy. I spent a lot of time on designs and products that no one bought. You can’t force success, I had to take some time to figure out what sells and works well for my set of skills.