The MVP Surprise
By Torin Hofmann
I was going into my last year at MRU and was registered for my first ever block week class. The class was Venture Launch instructed by Evan Hu. By now I had a better understanding that by the time I graduated I wanted to be fully engaged in The Beauty Butlers. I wanted to be working for myself, trying to make my way through life on my own terms. By the start of my final semester I had taken the knowledge of the lean start up and the minimum viable product into account. This had helped Beauty Butlers get off the ground and validated a handful of assumptions we were working with. A simple animated video with a survey attached did the trick for us. This was the main business I had been working on, but was still curious about the world of product sales. I grew up with both my parents owning their own business, solely in the service industry. After learning and reading about how scalable products have the potential to be, I wanted to try my hand at it.
It was back in December 2015 when my girlfriend brought home coconut oil for the purpose of using it for her skin and hair. I had never really heard of re-purposing this organic material for external use. After convincing my brother and I to try it, we both became addicted to using it instead of regular lotions. I found personally that if I didn't continually use lotion my skin would dry out. With coconut oil it stayed hydrated for much longer. I was tired of all the options women have for beauty products and how so few are solely male oriented. I then set out to purchase some for myself. After looking everywhere the only place I could find that sold this ingredient was a natural whole foods store in the cooking aisle. The light bulb went off and I quickly rushed home to play on Illustrator. I needed to brand this product that looked and sounded male oriented. I then scoured the internet and found that Coconut Oil on Google trends has been building for a few years now with high daily visits.
After designing the logo, purchasing a competitor's product, and making 1 unit of my so called coconut oil for men, I was ready to test the MVP. I took some medium quality pictures of my product and created a free website using Wix. I completely bullshitted the entire website to look like I’ve been in business for years. I created a buy now button which only lead to a message stating we were still in production. With this site I added Google Analytics to carefully trace my audience moves and location. The site was designed for free like I stated above, which meant the SEO was not up to snuff. I needed a different way to drive traffic. I created a twitter account for my brand, visited Fiverr to buy 2000 followers for $5 (just for the perceived look), and started spamming my website and using the top hashtags for my product. Three days later Google Analytics told me 20 people clicked the buy now button which would have lead to $400 in sales. I immediately quit playing around and started contacting manufacturers.
As I write this today, the final quote with my order from Ontario is getting finalized and I foresee the shipment for the end of May. We plan on selling on Amazon, but understand there is a formula for success with every site. I hope to keep you updated as I go!
Learning how simple it is to not trick the public, but test an assumption before making any serious investments, has been a huge lesson for me. I saw an opportunity, formulated a plan to test my brand, and now following the next steps to make this into a passive revenue stream. It would of been a silly business move to go ahead and purchase inventory without knowing if it would sell. Who knows, maybe this inventory will take months to sell, but I feel much better about making the payment now that I have some buzz and pre-orders waiting.