This is the first of four recaps-that-I'm-behind-on of The Consumer Show at Switchyards, which will be put together into a quadruple feature, because my full-time job ate my life for the last few months. Thanks for the patience, everyone!
So, The Consumer Show, Better Late Than Never, Part 1:
THE PITCH RECAPS:
TrailMonkeez: A super-smart shopping service for curious little ones. | You may have noticed that young children seem to take to iPads almost instinctively — not surprising, since 90 percent of children’s brains develop before age five. And each child is different, with unique needs and interacting in different ways. So how could we do a better job with their toys other than just handing them an iPad?
As founder Melissa Dreyer realized, the products out there just didn’t meet each need, because kids aren’t one-size-fits-all. And if you do an online search for, say, “toys for 4-year-old boys,” you’ll get back 40,000 results. How do you know which is the right one for your child?
With TrailMonkeez, you can get a custom, expert-guided experience that provides the best product, based on the needs of your child.
What did they do really well? They remembered why they started it all. There’s lots of advice they received as an entrepreneur, and you can change direction, but always remember why you started — you’re building a solution that met that need.
— TrailMonkeez —
How do they do it? With a business strategy that partners with educators to ask parents the right questions. They worked with early educators across Atlanta and combined that real-world teaching experience with proven learning models. After that, they use an algorithm to match learning products with the child’s needs and then recommend the right items in each stage of development (cleverly tying in ecommerce as well in that step).
Their ideal customers are parents who want a quick tool to help them figure out what to do, what do they get for kids at birthdays, etc.
TrailMonkeez also plans to expand to schools as a scholastic model, since they believe children should thrive at school and at home. While they are focused on learning toys right now, they also see a future in books, apps and more.
Wedding Soda: A more organized wedding for everyone. | Founder Lenora Wilkinson has been a bridesmaid five times, and she is over the organizational issues for the wedding party. But until she created Wedding Soda, there were no tools to help her out.
If you haven’t been in a wedding in awhile, maybe this sounds silly to you. I’ve been to more than 60 weddings (I swear! I counted the other day) and I’ve been in the wedding party somewhere in the range of 10 times, so I can vouch for Lenora’s challenges.
What did they do really well? They identified a need that had not yet been tapped into, which in this day and age is a huge accomplishment!
— Wedding Soda —
There is just a lack of communication during wedding planning, and the market needs a tool that the whole wedding party and guests can use to keep up to date with what everyone is responsible for. This eases the stress for not only the wedding party, but the bride and groom as well (which, if you are the bride and groom, is super important, because organizing a wedding is a lot).
Wedding Soda puts the wedding party into one portal with a series of invitations, and once accepted everyone can see budgeting issues (how much does that bachelorette cost?), accessories, etc, and can make informed decisions about what you can and cannot afford and get that out of the way upfront. (Bachelorette parties are not cheap, y’all.) Vendors can also join in and advertise and have a whole storefront (like David’s Bridal and florist shops), and participants can rate vendors after each wedding
Lenora says there’s an untapped revenue stream of $42 million because most tools focus just on the couple and not the whole party. Plus, Wedding Soda can save the average couple $1,500 due to efficiency and discounts.
Wedding Soda aims to be the first established in the space, creating a first-mover advantage before the big players for the couple get in on the action. The app launched on Valentine’s Day this year, and are working with a small budget and word-of-mouth advertising right now. They’re free to users right now, but once they adjust to the market they will likely change up the business model a bit.
Instrumental.ly: Record music anywhere. | Co-founder and CEO C.J. Mitchell can see the future of music karaoke apps, and it is Instrumental.ly, a mobile app that allows you to be the star of a video and audio, created by you, and shared with not only your friends but also the world.
What did they do really well? They’re better than most at bootstrapping, and are a top 300 music app already, with 200k downloads and no outside money! All of the team are part-time but working to disrupt the music industry, find new ways to market and improve the product.
— Instrumental.ly —
Being a recording artist is expensive: You have to pay for beats, equipment, studio time and more. That cost of high-quality output is the number one problem faced by independent artists. The second problem is promotion. Social media is a zero sum game because the various apps are all competing with each other, and it’s hard to get noticed in the first place.
The key so far? Social media rap channels. The “So Gone” Challenge garnished 200 million views and sparked a revolution in social media.
Following that model, the Instrumental.ly platform makes it easy to create audio, video and more from the palm of your hand, and get it noticed.
Right now, the app is free, but they plan to monetize for auto-tuning, filters and more at low-level prices that will add up with volume. They’re focused on rap first because it’s a small community, and will expand to other genres once they’ve gotten traction.
The founders have been in beat brokering/selling for more than 15 years and have connections who are all volunteering to share beats in the app. Content is easier, and keeping up with demand and product development has actually been a bigger challenge for the team.
They provide a variety of resolution options, and as to the quality of the video, well, they got technical about live transcoding for video and audio and bit rates, but the upshot was that they ensure users on other end of the app get a cool experience.
Prissy Tomboy Athletics: We lead unique and customized experiences for community and team development. | Co-founders Tracey Pearson and Jennifer White believe that the competitive landscape for businesses has changed, and to maintain a leading edge, brands must engage with their target market and communities. Their company helps retail brands (with a focus on the outdoor industry) and pro athletes connect back to the customer and create a full life cycle.
What did they do really well? Positioning, and creating a licensing model even with broad demographics. Also, setting up a portion of proceeds to go back to fun initiatives to keep girls healthy and happy, to get outside to play and connect. They also are proud of the community they’ve created of fitness enthusiasts who now connect with brands.
— Prissy Tomboy Athletics —
Tracey has experience in retail, product launches and fashion, and has been active in the outdoor industry for more than nine years. She’s pairing with Jenn’s history as a serial entrepreneur: She’s taken five companies from early stage through IPO or acquisition in the cyber security space, but she’s more than anything a sports fan.
The team capitalizes on their background in tech to collect data and determine which brands to work with. They partner those brands with younger women who are the target buyer audience, and provide experiences and products to gain brand recognition in that demographic. This also provides product placement with event or sport enthusiasts, to reach a wider audience.
Prissy Tomboy is sustainable via bootstrapping and they have not gone through any funding rounds, though they are investigating broadening their reach. Additionally, a portion of their proceeds go to the Prissy Tomboy Foundation, which empowers girls to live adventurously, and lead healthy, confident lives.
QuantumGravity : Affordable luxury eyewear. | QuantumGravity is building a brand with soul (always a good shout-out at Switchyards). CEO and co-founder Hemant Butti knows about soul: He’s still wearing the same pair of Ray-Bans his dad bought him 10 years ago. He’s bought more than 30 pairs of sunglasses since then, at various brands and price-points, but none matched the quality of his very first pair. (Well, okay, he says maybe a $1,200 pair did, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. I know, right??)
What did they do really well? The main thing is to build the right team. They’ve been working with each other and solving problems, with multiple prototypes and no outside funding.
— QuantumGravity —
Hemant says even Ray-Bans haven’t lived up to that quality recently, because most brands today are owned by a few giant companies, who make cheap products and then mark them up horrendously. Sunglasses companies which used to produce in, say, Italy, are now located in China, and most look the same with no design difference.
QuantumGravity has designed their Rome aviator sunglasses with durable frames from Italian manufacturers, and premium acetate lenses from a French lens company. They are offered in three colors: grey, blue and gold (with a real 18-karat gold coating, no less).
All of this for $600 or less retail price, which is actually quite inexpensive compared with other sunglasses of a similar background. (Don’t worry, I’m not a bajillion-dollar sunglasses girl either; I’m a $5-from-the-gas-station girl, because I always sit on mine. But I know a lot of people who would totally spend this.) They actually donate a percent of the profit to support cataract surgeries, too.
One of their biggest hurdles is marketing: How do you get a customer to realize that a cheaper pair is actually better, and still luxury? So many people prefer name brand regardless of quality, there’s a bit of cachet to it. They’re looking for an outdoors channel partner to help build some buzz, as well as a Kickstarter campaign.
That's a wrap for the twenty-fourth Consumer Show at Switchyards; see you there next time?