Think of it, build it, do it yourself.

Published by Michael Buttitta on

I spent 13 years as a partner in a company that manufactured and sold guitar picks, and we all did this working remotely from our various locations all over California. Yup, we sold tiny little pieces of plastic. Oh, we added some other stuff over time, like guitar straps, polish cloths and even a small line of guitars for a short time. But our main focus was always guitar picks, and we started with literally nothing.

We had no distribution, so we had to to distribute ourselves. We had no network of direct retail locations, so we had to build it ourselves. We had no manufacturing equipment for our unique guitar pick shape (it was a skull) so we had to design a mold and outsource that part.

We started off buying a (very outdated) 1500 location mailing list of music stores and then we called Every. Single. One. There was no sales staff, there was just the 4 of us. Often times it would be multiple calls just to find the actual store buyer and get them on the line. Rejections were a constant at this point in time and we were racking up tens of thousands of calls over the course of the first 2 years. And then once you actually got the right person, trying to hold their time could almost be impossible. But we did. Slowly but surely we built up some interest. Often times we’d need to mail out free samples to prove what we had was real and in production. And early on this led to having to track things… like conversations to begin with.

And at this point in time, SaaS (software as a service) was almost non-existent. Buying a CRM was far outside what we could afford. So I built a custom one using web programming and a Microsoft Access database. It allowed us to keep track of customer conversations. It allowed us to switch between customers and maintain that history of the relationship. We slowly started determining who clicked with which customer better.

And almost immediately this transitioned into keeping track of orders. Inventory items got added in to the database and I continued to build out my custom CRM to allow Purchase Order creation. I had to hand code and design a web site to showcase what our products looked like to North American stores and a global audience back when “drag and drop” web sites didn’t exist. Going to trade shows, print catalogs had to be designed as many international buyers at that point had the equivalent of dial up internet.

As the business grew, so did the technology need. So within 3 years we transitioned into QuickBooks Enterprise which required me to establish remote access and eventually transition everything into a web site that could integrate with QuickBooks and take orders online.

Did I mention I entered in to this venture as simply a web developer and designer? I had zero experience doing all of this. But what I did have was a team of 3 other people and we all believed in each other and prided ourselves on the fact we simply wanted this to succeed, no mater what. Titles didn’t matter, job roles didn’t matter, previous experience didn’t matter. We all wore multiple hats, often at the same time, and we all pulled together as a team, even though we all worked remotely.

Think of it yourself. Build it yourself. Do it yourself.

#entrepreneur #selfstarter #WFH


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