Caleb Wojcik: Launching the SwitchPod Handheld Tripod to $400k+ on Kickstarter

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Episode 370: Caleb Wojcik: Launching the SwitchPod Handheld Tripod to $400k+ on Kickstarter

Caleb Wojcik saw a need for a sturdy switchable handheld tripod at a video conference back in 2017. He hadn’t built a physical product before, but that didn’t stop him or business partner Pat Flynn from launching the super successful SwitchPod six months ago. Find out how they built and launched the SwitchPod as Caleb explains everything in this episode.

For those of you who might be newer listeners to the show, Caleb was one of the “Three C’s,” the original three hosts of The Fizzle Show (Corbett, Chase and Caleb), back when the show launched in 2014. Since then he’s built several businesses and a name for himself in the world of online video. Welcome back to the show Caleb!

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Transcript for this episode:

Note: apologies for transcription errors, this was generated automatically by Descript, our editing software.

Corbett Barr:[00:00:00] Hey there. Welcome to the fizzle show. I’m Corbett BARR and this is our podcast about earning a living independently, doing something you love. And today I’m really excited because we have an old friend of the show, not just an old friend, somebody who kick the show off way back 370 episodes ago.

I can hardly believe it. Caleb, logic, welcome back to the show.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:00:24] Yeah. Thanks for having me. I know that the first, I think it’s like 59 or 60 episodes. Are you, me and chase and then. I came back for one episode with you guys in Portland, but it’s been awhile, but that’s a lot of episodes in the can.

Corbett Barr:[00:00:36] it is a lot. And, um, I know some things have changed, but a lot of things have stayed the same, I would say. Uh, so we’re glad to have you back for people who are listening, who haven’t dug way back in the archives, Caleb and chase and I started this, uh, I think it was 2013 or so.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:00:52] Yeah. I think it was late 2013 or 14 trying to remember which. Yeah.

Corbett Barr:[00:00:56] and that was when we only knew a couple of friends who had podcasts. And I remember you and chase were really hot on it as like the next big thing, and sure enough, it is the next big thing. It is the big thing now.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:01:09] well, you, you can’t contain chase in a, in a single podcast. So it was like his element, I think, and that really helped. Set the tone of the fizzle brand for, from the beginning at being different because the business podcasts that were out there were pretty stuffy for the most part. There were a few that were, they were fun.

And, um, I mean, the first time I heard about you was on Pat Flynn’s podcast, and that was early in his episodes too. So compared to now, there’s so many podcasts, but fizzle show has always been a different, different style of.

Corbett Barr:[00:01:44] Yeah. We had a.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:01:45] more fun business podcast.

Corbett Barr:[00:01:47] We had a lot of energy in the early days, partly fueled by a, what we call the Negroni cast . And, uh, after, after several of those episodes, chase realized that I’m a Negroni is three kinds of booze. So there’s a lot of booze in there.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:02:02] and so derails the entire episode

Corbett Barr:[00:02:04] It kind of does after awhile. Yeah. Uh.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:02:06] many phrases and inside jokes that my wife and I have from the podcasts, like things that I heard from you for the first time, like shitting and tall cotton and throwing beat up. Like instead of throwing a meetup, we were talking about like you’d throw meat up in the air, and I think there’s still some hidden websites that chase has made from inside jokes that you and I never found.

I’m sure.

Corbett Barr:[00:02:28] yeah. Some people did though. I’d love to see his like roster of domains out there.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:02:34] that would probably be a scary thing to look at actually.

Corbett Barr:[00:02:37] Yeah. So, uh, it’s been a while since we work together, but obviously we stay in touch. And you’re up here in Portland quite a bit, and you’re down in San Diego where you have been working with another mutual friend of ours for quite a while.

And, um, I wanted to talk to you today. Mostly about the switch pod because this has been like such a cool thing to watch from the sidelines. I’ve got, um, my early prototype and I, I don’t think much has changed since the, uh, the first Kickstarter batch went out. But tell us about the switch pod. What, what is it and what, what problem does it solve?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:03:14] So PatFlynn and I, who’s been a video client of mine for like five years now. We’re at a video conference. We were at vid summit and I had seen a lot of people using this GorillaPod before. It’s, it’s a little tripod thing that has all the little balls, like adjustable legs and things like that.

Corbett Barr:[00:03:33] and it goes into like a million different, like directions and shapes and stuff. And to me, for my OCD level, it’s like not rigid and like structural enough.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:03:44] It’s never perfectly straight either. So I would like spend half the time adjusting it. It’s just so it looked right and not filming, but basically you tubers and people filming themselves, vloggers would bend it into this curved handle shape thing. And, uh, Casey Neistat was the person that kind of popularized using it that way.

He called it the bendy tripod. And. We were at this video conference on the last day and I just, everyone had one. Basically they had an attached to their camera. They were flogging, walking around, and when they go to set down their camera, they couldn’t do it basically. Cause it takes way too long to bend the legs back out into the shape.

Eventually the legs get weak over time, cameras fall over, things break. And I turned to Pat and I was like, there’s gotta be a better way. Like someone should make something that fixes this small problem that people have.

Corbett Barr:[00:04:35] And this is if you’re doing, um, blogging, which is like blogging with a video camera, you’re, you’re often on the go, moving around, showing travel scenes and, and interviewing people on the fly. But then sometimes you need to quickly switch to like a seated position or something and you don’t want to be holding the camera still.

Right. And so it’s that,

Caleb Wojcik:[00:04:58] down where it’s not resting on the lens or that like where the microphone Jack goes into or the screen on the back. Like cameras are expensive and delicate and to have them setting on a like a hard surface or whatever, you want to be able to just set it down and kind of walk away and trust.

It’s not going to fall over either.

Corbett Barr:[00:05:14] and this was all happening just what, like two years ago?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:05:18] Yeah. That was 2017 I think so it took us about two years total from idea to shipping. So it was, yeah, it was vid summit 2017 in the fall that we had that initial idea,

Corbett Barr:[00:05:39] so you like, there’s, there’s this crappy bendy tripod out there and all bloggers were using them pretty much or some something like that. And, um, nobody was happy with it

Caleb Wojcik:[00:05:51] Pretty much that was, that was the gist of it. We started doing a little bit of research and talking to people while we were there and saying like, what do you like? What do you hate about this thing? And everyone’s just complaining about it. And I was like, well, you bought it. It’s solving some of your problem a little bit, but not enough.

And Joby the company that makes them has tons of sizes and colors, and they’ve sold millions of these over the last 10 plus years. They got bought out by a bigger company that owns most of the tripod companies in the world. And when I was describing this problem, this idea to Pat, a third person walked up.

Corbett Barr:[00:06:26] up

Caleb Wojcik:[00:06:26] His name is Richie Norton. And ironically, he was the reason why we were up at the event. He had been on Pat’s podcast, and he works with creators and businesses to make physical products. So he and his team at Prouduct go to the creator. They figure out what they want to make and they make it just. All kinds of things from TPS, t-shirts to unique ideas, like what switch pod became and he was like, let’s do it.

And I was like, do what? And I was like, I’m just complaining. I complain about things all the time. Like, like why is there a, a left no turn arrow? Like I can see if traffic is coming. Like I won’t turn in front of traffic like a no left turn arrow or a no right turn arrow. It bugs me. Like I complained about things all the time.

I was just complaining about this product and he was like, no. Like we could make it. And Pat, like got really energized by the idea while we were there. And it took a while. You know, it took a few months to have initial conversations with them and their engineer and talking about what the product might be and the shape and the size and all that kind of stuff.

But over time we started making prototypes and showing them to people that were our friends that were other YouTubers and video makers and getting their feedback on it.

Corbett Barr:[00:07:40] and you’ve never made a physical product before and had Pat either.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:07:46] I mean, he had, I think, launched a physical version of his own book, but that was, you know,

Corbett Barr:[00:07:51] That’s as far as it. Yeah. Right. Not like he was inventing something. So this, this company that you, uh, this Richie guy, you said he works for something called Prouduct

Caleb Wojcik:[00:08:01] yeah. So it’s combination of the word proud

Corbett Barr:[00:08:02] proud product and, um, what pieces were they responsible for?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:08:09] So we had an initial phone call with them that was just a brain dump of what do you want this thing to do? What are the main features and benefits, and what is the competition and that sort of thing. So it started there. It started with the initial idea. But then the person we talked to, Cole, he’s an engineer by trade, and so he then took that, started sketching things out.

We had some initials, crew drawings that we had kind of shared of shape and things, but he actually started doing it into CAD, three D printing different shapes, mailing them to us, testing it out, and then he started working on the function of how do you make something turn into a tripod that starts as a hand grip and kind of working on the mechanisms and.

And all the engineering behind it. And then fast forwarding through the production product, also found manufacturers and vendors that could prototype it in China and manufacture it and packaging and introducing us to a warehouse in the U S to ship it out. So they really took our ideas and ran with it that way.

And so we paid them for their services in those regards, but they didn’t like become owners of the business.

Corbett Barr:[00:09:20] I see. So do they end up taking like a percentage, like a revenue share or it’s just you’re just paying them for their services.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:09:27] We just pay them for their services. And their incentive is if the product does well and they do a good job, we’ll keep working with them. And the more that we make, the more successful the product is, the more they make in their margin. And so their goal is to make it as inexpensive as possible for you, and then handle all the logistics behind it because.

Like I, I eventually did end up going to China, to the warehouse. But finding, uh, which manufacturers to use in China that make tripods and dealing with the cultural barrier and the language barrier and everything involved with that, like that is what they Excel out.

Corbett Barr:[00:10:04] Yeah. This is awesome because when I’ve thought in the past about building physical product, I just imagined like doing all of that stuff yourself, trying to. I don’t even know how you would come up with a prototype, like how do you, you suddenly have to learn CAD software and start planning that stuff out, but there are people out there who will do that piece for you.

Is it, um, expensive to get that ball rolling? Like how much, if somebody, let’s say somebody is at a conference and they come up with an idea and they decide they want to go down this route, like what, what kind of out of pocket expenses are you talking about before you actually get the things to ship.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:10:43] It was a little bit at a time. So if someone had initially been like, that’s a great idea, it’s going to cost $25,000 which is about what we spent before launching a Kickstarter, somewhere around 25 to $30,000 is what we spent. But it was incremental. So it was, let’s hire an engineer for a thousand or $202,000 and start working on prototypes, and that covers three D printing cost and mailing them to you and that sort of thing.

And it’s like, Oh, let’s, let’s make a few more prototypes and let’s use some plastics, or let’s use metal and let’s see what that’s going to be like. And so it kind of kept going on and on. And so it was getting that affirmation from people. We were showing it to that like, Oh yeah, you like keep going. So it was kind of like checkpoints or

Corbett Barr:[00:11:28] Yeah. And it was almost like.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:11:29] some affirmation, and then keep going.

Corbett Barr:[00:11:31] Yeah. Almost like you were doing an MVP, even though you didn’t sell this thing, you still were getting them designed and either having an actual prototype in hand or able to show people photos and things like that, I assume. And then, and then just deciding like this is enough of a checkpoint for us to keep going.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:11:49] And that’s basically what it was, is we had, you know, the first few things were made out of cardboard or, uh. Like acrylic. So they didn’t function at all. They were just trying to get the shape. And then once he started three D printing them and we started getting the opening and closing mechanism switch pod, that’s kind of like the bread and butter, like marketing thing that people see, like how it works, that that like really engaged us and other people into wanting to try it.

And then we also timed investments and into prototypes and deadlines. Around different events. So we were going to VidCon. This is about eight months after the initial idea, and we knew at that event there’s tons of YouTubers, tons of video creators and people within product. And Pat and I were going to all be there.

And so we wanted to have three different prototypes there and kind of use that as our unveiling. And so that was when we first talked about it on the internet. We recorded people using it there, and we started handing out business cards and things like that. Um, that was kind of the first main event of talking about it.

And then from there we just tried to document it publicly as much as possible. So I talked about it on my YouTube channel. Pat would talk about it on his share teasers on social media and just kind of see what the response was like.

Corbett Barr:[00:13:07] Yeah, I remember there was a whole lot of, um, talk about it long before it came out, and obviously Kickstarter and we could talk about that. That’s a, that’s a whole long process, but the upside is it gives you a long time to, um, as Austin Kleon says, show your work, right. Let people in on the process of building a thing so that, uh.

You know, it builds buzz and excitement and people feel like they know you and trust the product and, and are invested and connected to the reasons why you built it in the first place.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:13:38] And there were, you know, not a ton of use on those videos to be honest. You know, starting out, even though Pat had an existing audience, I had an existing audience. We built those audiences talking about different things, but the people that did watch it are the people that did join our email list. Pre Kickstarter campaign launch.

Those were the most interested focused people that we could reach out to when it did launch. So the fact that we were building buzz and we didn’t just launch the Kickstarter out of the blue because that was something we consider. We didn’t want people to take our idea or, and I think that eventually we reached a point where it’s like, well, we need to build buzz and we’ve already done this much work to this point.

I don’t think someone’s just going to take our idea and run with it or care about it as much as we do.

Corbett Barr:[00:14:21] Right? How have there been any competitors that are really similar yet?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:14:26] Knock on wood, there’s not been any that we’ve seen that are knockoffs or anything like that. I could, I could see if we get our sales up even more than they already are, or we’re getting into more markets or we’re getting into more stores, like someone’s going to try to come up with something, but I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been.

Not that that should enable people to go do it, but, but there hasn’t been a, a knockoff or. Something that’s come out that I’ve seen that’s like, that’s basically what me, what we made. So not yet.

Corbett Barr:[00:14:56] It’s a one of those things that is natural, I guess, as a new entrepreneur or even as an experienced entrepreneur like you or Pat, to be nervous about somebody taking your idea. Um, but it seems fairly rare in the beginning. It’s definitely more likely once you’re successful, right? People tend to copy things that are already successful.

So, um, maybe it’s less of a concern than, than people give it credit for.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:15:23] Well, and once it’s out in the marketplace, or once you’re selling it, like what are you going to do to keep people from, you know, like even our patent gets filed and there’s detailed drawings of all the pieces. Someone could buy it in whatever country, take it apart and reverse engineer. Like they do that with advanced things like computers and phones.

So what’s. Going to keep someone from doing it, you know? But the goal that we always had is, let’s have a brand behind it. Let’s have our story behind it. And then when someone comes across it, there’ll be like, Oh, isn’t this just a knockoff of whatever else? And the people that buy knockoffs are going to always buy the cheap thing from wherever else.

But. We’re already making this in China, and most knockoffs come from China. So we’re already trying to do this as inexpensive as possible. This is made of metal is high quality materials in it. If someone’s going to knock it off, they’re going to

Corbett Barr:[00:16:19] Have to spend.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:16:21] learn what to spend out in the molds that we had to get made to, to manufacture it.

Corbett Barr:[00:16:24] Exactly. So I want to talk about the device itself and explain to people what it’s like, and then I want to ask you about the brand, because I think that’s a really interesting piece. So for people who haven’t seen this thing before, like describe it to us

Caleb Wojcik:[00:17:43] So I would say it’s like, it’s like a handle for your camera, but not necessarily like a, like a selfie stick. It has, it has a grip that’s really strong, like the butt of a gun or like a, um, maybe like a attachment to a hose where it’s like, it’s got a good

Corbett Barr:[00:18:03] metal and it feels solid

Caleb Wojcik:[00:18:05] Yeah, it has finger grooves there and it enables you to hold your camera firmly.

And a lot of people that are doing videos now, they’re using bigger cameras. You know, you’re not using a little point and shoot camera anymore. You’re using a DSLR with a lens and a microphone and

Corbett Barr:[00:18:20] It gets heavy. You’re talking about like what, like up to 10 pounds of

Caleb Wojcik:[00:18:24] yeah. Up to 10 or 15 pounds. And you help hold that out at arms length with a, you know, not very ergonomic thing.

So we, that was the initial thing was how can we make this comfortable for people to hold? And then also, how can it be a tripod so you can set down your camera, so the three legs of the tripod collapse on themselves and become that hand grip. And then you can easily flick them open. And with some help of magnets, kind of hidden in the part of the, the top of the tripod, it kind of snaps into that tripod position and, and then you can set it down.

Corbett Barr:[00:18:57] Yeah. And the magnets are like a really slick aspect to it. Um, people can go to switch and see everything that we’re talking about. Um, but I’ve seen videos of you guys like flicking it open really quickly. It’s got kind of a, a cool, you know, method to it. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you can go really quickly from holding the thing in your hand with this like 10 pounds of camera running and gunning to flipping it open and setting it on a table or whatever.

And it’s a really sturdy base. It’s three solid metal legs that are, you know, in a triangle position and it just feels like you’re comfortable putting your several thousand dollars worth of equipment on top of it and not worrying that it’s going to flip over or something.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:19:42] And when we were building it and looking at the competition, it was like, okay, well. What do we have to do? Differate differentiate ourselves. Speed was definitely one of them. Getting the legs of the GorillaPod into a tripod position and then moving it back into a grooved kind of hand grip. Took a took a while.

So we filmed some side-by-side videos of us doing that, trying to get it set up properly and then like flipping open a bunch, open a bunch of switch pods and the amount of time that it, that it does that and strength was the other one. So the legs of the grill pod would weaken over time. Or if you put a

Corbett Barr:[00:20:16] and those little joints.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:20:18] and the little joints would pop off or break.

And so we wanted durability and strength. So we, we had, I think two prototypes when we launched on Kickstarter, maybe four. And we stacked as much weight as possible that I owned. I had like 50 pounds of weights. And then it held it fine. And I was like, we need more weight to like show it. So I put 50 more pounds of weight and I ran out of like plates from borrowing from people.

And so the switch bot could put a hundred pounds on it. And in a little over 25 or 30 the grill apoB just like collapsed.

Corbett Barr:[00:20:51] Yeah.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:20:52] And so we were looking at what are the issues that people have with this. We want to have the opposite. So sturdy, strong was something we wanted.

Corbett Barr:[00:21:01] So you mentioned branding and branding to me is more than just the name. Uh, it’s, you know, how you think of the product and it’s also the packaging. And we should talk about that. Cause the packaging is great. It’s really, I love that you chose yellow. It’s bright, bold. It looks really nice when you open it like you expect from a nice piece of equipment.

Um, but the name. So perfectly like describes what it is, and yet it’s short, compact, whatever. Um, how did you come up with that? Like what’s the story behind that?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:21:32] Well, we had thought about other names. Um, there’s some of the other names are really bad. Um, originally we thought it would have more of a, a bending. Part to it. Like you could still kind of bend it into whatever shape you wanted, but the top was a little bigger. So we thought it looked kind of like a Cobra.

So Cobra pod was an early name. Um, Zoomerang was an early name. I don’t, I don’t know, cause like the shape of it collapsed kind of looks like a, like a boomerang. And so, I mean, we went through different names, but switching between the two different modes of it was the main

Corbett Barr:[00:22:10] Yeah. Yeah.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:22:11] was what we came up with.

Corbett Barr:[00:22:13] And just that idea of being able to. Handle because those two modes are really what everybody needs for filming. The majority of what you do is a flogger. Right. And, uh, and switching between the two just makes so much sense. Um.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:22:27] just came from the original person. We had designed the brand. We found someone on maybe, maybe it was fiber or one of the, the. Like freelance designer websites and we did like a custom package for hundreds of dollars or whatever and worked up a brand. I mean, we’re still trying to save money really early on and he chose black and yellow and most camera things are red or blue or black.

And so yellow just stands out at conferences and things like that, that we would have booths or just on a shelf. And so we just kind of embraced the black and yellow all in.

Corbett Barr:[00:23:06] Yeah, I love it. Um, who designed the packaging?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:23:10] I did. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I mean, I got a template of the shapes of what would happen to go on the outside of the box with no dimensions from, from our, from our box box plant in China. It was just like a PSD with a general shape. And I was like, uh, I don’t know what. So I like, you know, try to figure out the sizing of fonts and all that kind of stuff.

But. Most of the stuff that was done for the Kickstarter campaign, for the packaging, for a lot of this stuff, it just like, I just had to figure it out cause we, we didn’t know if it would work.

Corbett Barr:[00:23:45] Yeah.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:23:46] We were trying not to put too much money into it, hire too many people and keep it as lean as possible. So I would just, we did all the photo and the video for the campaign and to the packaging and everything we could on our own.

Corbett Barr:[00:23:57] And, um, so you launched on Kickstarter, it was up on Kickstarter for how long before or how long was the campaign open?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:24:04] Uh, we did the max, so we did 60 days. I know 30 days is typically the average amount, but from what I’ve heard from most people, the lull in the middle is just more total days of exposure, exposure. And it gives you enough time to kind of regroup after the launch to be like, how are we going to close this out?

Really strong. So we did 60 days.

Corbett Barr:[00:24:25] and, um, the product, what does it cost to switch pod now? Retail

Caleb Wojcik:[00:24:30] $99 yeah,

Corbett Barr:[00:24:32] Okay. And how much did it sell for on Kickstarter in the beginning.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:24:35] so the very beginning, we did $69 for the early bird, and then I think we ended up doing about a thousand or 750 of those, and then it went to $79

Corbett Barr:[00:24:45] Okay. And then what did you guys end up raising on Kickstarter total?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:24:48] about $415,000

Corbett Barr:[00:24:51] Yeah. That was like a huge Kickstarter. I mean, there aren’t many that get that big

Caleb Wojcik:[00:24:55] Yeah. Our, our public goal is a hundred thousand dollars and that was because the molds to get this made were almost $70,000 for all the parts. So the molds are basically what you inject plastic or metal into, and they print out all the different pieces. And so that didn’t. Add up to like what we would actually have to pay to manufacture it and ship it and import tariffs and all that kind of stuff.

But we had invested almost 30,000. The molds were going to be 70,000. That’s where a hundred thousand dollars goal came from. And we met that in about 12 hours, um, from a mixture of our audiences. And then we had one very large influencer make a video about it on day one that helped kick this over the top.

Corbett Barr:[00:25:38] Really. So how, how did that work? Was that somebody that you or Pat knew already?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:25:42] So we went back to vid summit in 2018 so one year after our initial idea, we went back and we had our final prototype. We wanted to actually launch it like that at that event publicly, but we just weren’t quite ready, um, to launch it. And we only had one prototype. We didn’t have any of the assets ready.

And I was like, let’s, let’s push it off until we’re ready. So we’re at that event and the one influencer, Peter McKinnon. He’s a bigger YouTuber now. He has over, I think like four and a half million subscribers at the time. He is somewhere around two and a half million subscribers, and he was in that the camera video photo space, one of the bigger YouTubers out there, and he was the exact kind of person that we made it for.

Someone that sometimes he’s blogging, he’s taking his camera on trips all the time, making YouTube videos, and we wanted to. Show it to them basically. And we waited till the last day. The very last night he had come to a VIP thing because Pat and I both spoke at the event also. We were at the VIP event and when he showed up, we got an introduction from the person that ran vid summit.

So it wasn’t just like us as fans kind of walking up to him. We got the proper introduction and they said, Hey, you should check out this thing and these guys are making, so we got five or so minutes to to show it to them. He was stoked by it. He asked if he could have it. And I was like, I’m so sorry.

That’s our only one. Um, we’ll make you

Corbett Barr:[00:27:09] but we’ll send you one.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:27:10] yeah. Cause at that time they were about $1,500 to $2,000 to make one

Corbett Barr:[00:27:15] single prototype.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:27:16] pod that’s finalized aluminum cause it’s completely custom. And so we, we made him one and we shipped it to him a few weeks before our Kickstarter campaign was going to launch.

And we had no. Kind of expectations of anything we wanted them to have. One, if we somehow got some sort of shout out at all, great. Um, he opened it and he’s like, can I make a video about this tomorrow? And I was like, can you wait one week until we launch our Kickstarter campaign? So he was so excited about it.

He wanted to make a video about it. He launched the video about six hours into our campaign. We were about halfway, so we were at like $50,000. And then a few hours later we got another $50,000 and reached our goal. So we, we did give him an affiliate link, you know, a custom thing where people bought through his link.

Um, you know, he would earn money once the Kickstarter campaign closed. So there was the incentive of, Hey, we’re not just trying to use you. We want to give back to you for your help. So that’s, I mean, that’s old school. Affiliate, internet marketing stuff that I’ve

Corbett Barr:[00:28:25] Influencer marketing. Yeah,

Caleb Wojcik:[00:28:28] Um, but we also made a product that he really cared about. And so in the video, he told the story of how we came up to the event and he tried to take the one that we had and we made him one. And he was very open and honest through the whole video. And you know, I don’t. I dunno if he’s, he’s had Kickstarter campaigns for his own product since then.

Um, but I don’t know if he’s done a Kickstarter for, you know, two random people with an idea before. And so that, that made a big impact. And then because he made a video, other bigger people were either interested or backed our campaign and things like that, but we were in that point where it’s like, well, we don’t have any prototypes to send people.

So at that point we were down to three. We were trying to get one to Casey Neistat. And you know, like I traveled around a little bit to show him to some people during the campaign and, uh, build whatever buzz we could. But, you know, hindsight, if we would’ve known it was going to be this successful, I would have made way more of them, ship them to way more influencers and have them all launched their video on day one, but we didn’t know what was going to happen.

Corbett Barr:[00:29:30] yeah. If, if that had happened, and there’s that effect where if you’re in a certain space and you see more than one person, you know, talking about a new product, it’s like, it really gets your attention, right. Especially if it’s all on the same day. Um, if you had done that, who knows? You might have had a million dollar Kickstarter

Caleb Wojcik:[00:29:46] exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Corbett Barr:[00:29:48] Uh,

Caleb Wojcik:[00:29:49] a matter of not having enough prototypes, not having enough final prototypes, and we tried to rush some more. But we couldn’t even get them by the end of the campaign. Like it just lead times of products.

Corbett Barr:[00:30:01] it’s also that, that, um, balance between running lean and following the, you know, the, the guidance on trying to be as minimal as possible until you have proof that something’s actually gonna work out versus like putting some energy behind it so that it gets as big as it can.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:30:19] Yeah. And I think that. People are also a little jaded by crowdfunding campaigns at this point. Like a lot of them are just used as marketing. So people will have a finished product and there’ll be ready to ship in like a month or then sometimes, um, as well as other ones that have failed. Um, that coolest cooler one, there’s like major FTC problems.

I was actually just reading about one today of a guy that made a, a backpack and he raised about $800,000. Years ago, and he hasn’t shipped any of them, and he just settled with the FTC for, for not delivering to all these people. And so like people know of that. They’re a little hesitant about that versus just buying something.

So it’s a gamble of whether you’re going to develop your product all the way to completion and then launch it or crowdfund it. And we really did. Need the money. We weren’t going to drop $70,000 on molds on a product. We didn’t have validation for from our, from our audience or just the internet

Corbett Barr:[00:31:21] 60 days, uh, 400 something thousand dollars. What is that? Around like five or 6,000 units that you would pre-sold.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:31:29] yeah, it’s about 4,500 units. Yeah.

Corbett Barr:[00:31:30] Okay. And then how long did it take from the time the Kickstarter closed till you shipped the first batch?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:31:36] So that closed March 29th and we were shipping around October 10th

Corbett Barr:[00:31:43] Okay. Like six,

Caleb Wojcik:[00:31:45] about six, about six months. Yeah.

Corbett Barr:[00:31:46] Uh, and I think, you know, people who have bought on Kickstarter before know that that’s kinda how it goes. Um, but was that more or less than you thought it would be in terms of months?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:31:58] We said September or October, I think I would have been more vague, just like even it’s just delivering on your promise. If we would have said holiday like December and delivered early, people would have been happier than we were towards the end of the two month window that we gave. So it was just, you know, I was happy with how quickly we deliver it in six months considering like we hadn’t started.

Manufacturing at all during the campaign. We had to wait for the money to come from Kickstarter seven days after the campaign ended, after their fees, paying our affiliates, and then then we could pay the down payment to the factory in China. We could have probably taken a loan and then paid it off a month later or something like that to speed it up, but just we didn’t really want to deal with that hassle and we just decided to wait for the money to come.

Corbett Barr:[00:32:49] Yeah. Um, so this, you start shipping in October and, um, fast forward, it’s been six months or so that you’ve been shipping. Uh, you had a baby in between there.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:33:02] It did. Yeah. Actually, we were shipping the product like when my baby was being born kind of thing. So I w I was like all the customer support email with a newborn baby. Like I didn’t sleep much the first few days. There.

Corbett Barr:[00:33:15] I can’t imagine. That’s insane. Uh, how sales been going since

Caleb Wojcik:[00:33:20] Great. Uh, we actually, so we sold over 5,000 more. So we’ve almost sold out of our first run of 10,000 cause we basically doubled down. We took all the money from Kickstarter and put an inventory and so we made about 10,000 switch pods and we have a few hundred left of those, have another shipment coming from China.

That’s been coronavirus delayed for sure. Um. And then we also on the, on the campaign anniversary, we launched an accessory, a ball head. And that was just the main thing people are asking for is a ball head. That was our brand that could fit right on top easily. And we kind of, instead of designing something from scratch, when I was in the factory in China around August of last year, I just asked the person there, cause they make tons of tripods, they have a showroom of all these different things they’ve made.

For themselves and for different companies. And I said, show me your strongest ball head. And they showed me one that was attached to another tripod that they had designed and developed. So it wasn’t like we’re infringing on another company that had had something made there. And I was like, can you just chop off the legs on this one and design it so it fits more on ours, but as the same internal elements.

And so that was much faster and we didn’t have to pay tooling because they already had the tooling, and that was the next product we launched. But we. Didn’t kickstart that one cause we kind of already knew that’s what people wanted. And we were further along the process of

Corbett Barr:[00:34:44] you have a customer list now

Caleb Wojcik:[00:34:45] have a customer list of five, 10,000 people, you know, that have bought the switch pod.

And you know, we knew only a fraction of them would buy this, but it’s a lower price product and it’s supposed to be an accessory. But now that we have that, we’re selling more of them kind of bundled together. So it’s, you know, we did around 2,500 of those and we’re having to order more. And so the demand is continued steady and most of what we’ve done is been just evergreen.

We haven’t been running ads and we haven’t been doing much more influencer marketing, just kind of word of mouth and

Corbett Barr:[00:35:20] Are you selling mostly direct through your website or do you have them in stores or how does that work?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:35:25] It’s a little bit of all of that. Cause we, we definitely were selling on our site first. So right when the Kickstarter campaign ended, you’re able to. Basically redirect a purchase button on Kickstarter to whatever site you want. So I spun up a Shopify site in a day or two, just to make sure we didn’t lose any traffic and momentum so people get pre-ordering for those six months.

And during that time, we also had some retailers come on board for preorders BNH at aroma focus camera, some of the bigger camera stores moment who has their own, uh, smartphone cases and lenses. But they sell stuff too. So. Slowly retailers online, only retailers kind of got interested in it. Having seen our success on Kickstarter, they wanted to have it too.

So at this point, I think we have six or so U S retailers, some international. I’m really trying hard to get into more places internationally just to grow elsewhere, grow the market. And um, then we also got on Amazon. Once we had product. So something I thought early on was, Oh, we’ll just take premier as an Amazon for six months, but if you don’t ship something in 30 days on Amazon, they’ll take your listing down and refund everybody.

Corbett Barr:[00:36:38] So you have to be ready.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:36:39] Yeah. So we waited until we had them in our warehouse before we made an Amazon listing public.

Corbett Barr:[00:36:45] Well, you guys have awesome reviews on all the sites. It’s really cool.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:36:49] so I would say, and I don’t know how the percentages break down exactly. Most of the sales still come through our, our site, our direct. Brand website, but a lot sell through Amazon and a lot sell through retailers as well.

Corbett Barr:[00:37:03] So looking at this from a big picture standpoint, you know, you’ve, you’ve spent three years almost on, on the project, and obviously that wasn’t full time. Um, but at the end of the day, you know, you’ve sold. 10,000 or so of this hundred dollar product, which my quick math tells me is about a million dollars in revenue.

And I know that you’ve mentioned that you reinvested and so on, and that there are a lot of costs involved to an outsider, million dollar product sounds like a home run. Do you feel like this is a home run right now? Like is this, is this a a life changing experience? Is this, I’m

Caleb Wojcik:[00:37:41] Life-changing is definitely a word or a phrase. We heard a lot, um, from either like.

Corbett Barr:[00:37:48] Um,

Caleb Wojcik:[00:37:48] friends or family. Um, during the Kickstarter campaign when it was a a hundred thousand dollars, 200,000, $300,000 and externally, it looks big. But I, if there was a digital product with 3% credit card fee margin, great life changing, you know, but this is a very expensive product to make, and we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get 10,000 of them.

You know, the first run. There’s a lot of upfront costs to get the. The tooling done, the molds, made all the money we spent on branding after fees and affiliates. That 415 was more like 350,000. And so it just, money just disappears, you know, quickly with, with this kind of stuff. Um, you know, we wanted to protect it.

So getting a patent and you have legal fees there, and we did some advertising during the campaign and so everyone, everyone comes to collect kind of thing. But. It is becoming, now that we have the system set up, we have the, the supply chain set up that as more of them sell now the profit margins are higher for sure.

And we make more money selling them on our site than we do to Amazon because Amazon takes 15 ish percent and they have different fees for having your product in their warehouse and them shipping them around and stuff. A retailer. Buys them at about 30% off because they need to make their margin. If we get into a bigger store, like a Walmart or whatever, they’re going to want 40 or 50% margin.

So like not all sales are equal, but to us being in those other places, we may not have made that sale. So it’s like, would you rather have. 60 or 70% of full price, or would you want to hoard all that and only sell through your website versus being more places, being seen more places. So it’s, it’s, it’s a mixture, but amount of, it’s not a retirement amount of money, but it’s definitely another business that’s bringing in money that

Corbett Barr:[00:39:50] And if you sell,

Caleb Wojcik:[00:39:51] work or.

Corbett Barr:[00:39:52] if you sell 10,000 copies over the next year, that will be a big difference maker for you, given you don’t have all the startup costs.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:40:00] And then that’s, that’s it. Now is any issues, any problems, any of the main things from getting started are mainly ironed out. Now it’s scale and scaling is, is how we would make a lot of money. And what I’ve learned is you basically play the inventory game when you have a physical product, because to buy inventory you need cash.

And to get cash, you need to sell your inventory. So it’s, it’s always a timing issue of when do we want to buy more inventory, but we can still pay ourselves or run the business. But you don’t want to do it too late because then there’s supply chain delays right now especially, and you don’t want to run out of inventory and lose out on sales.

And so basically we took. We could have just made 5,000 fulfilled. The Kickstarter walked away with, I dunno, a hundred thousand something like that, but we took that hire a thousand we made 5,000 more. If you sell those 5,000 maybe that’s somewhere between 300 and $500,000 that you could buy more than with those 10 or 15,000 you could.

By 30 and 50,000 and so you just like play the ramp up game and then when you get to the bigger numbers, that’s where the the main profit is. So you don’t want to get like too greedy and hoard too much early on when you’re trying to

Corbett Barr:[00:41:13] Cause then you starved

Caleb Wojcik:[00:41:14] the, the start of the business. Yeah.

Corbett Barr:[00:41:17] so thinking back to Caleb logic from early 2017 or 2016 whatever. You’re just a guy who makes videos and you’ve never built a physical product before. You’ve probably thought about it like all of us have a little bit, and probably had some preconceived notions about how difficult it might be and what you’d have to go through and so on.

If you were able to talk to yourself back then or to talk to somebody now who’s kind of in the same position, like what are the key things that you learned, maybe mistakes that you made, but the key things that you learned and the key things that you think somebody needs to pay attention to to make something like this successful.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:41:58] I think you have to have patience with something like this. It’s way slower to do a physical product than a digital product. I’m used to, you know, if I have an idea, you could spin up a website in a weekend or make a product and have it available immediately. That’s more of what I was used to in my more recent career.

So patience is definitely a big thing. And asking for help. It’s definitely a huge thing cause most digital kind of things. Like if it’s a software thing or coding or like I can Google it, I can look it up, I can figure it out. But what I’m trying to figure out, like what material is going to be strong enough to hold this or engineering something in CAD, like I don’t know how to do that.

And the amount of time it would take to learn that is probably not worth it. And I should pay, pay someone that’s an expert in it. So being okay with investing money into things that. You don’t know how to do or that you shouldn’t be doing yourself was another big one. And then lastly, I would say attention to detail because no one will care about your product or your thing as much as you, even if you’re paying them to care about it.

So checking people’s work or when you get prototypes, like really looking at them deep, seeing what the flaws might be, foreseeing what’s going to happen when there’s 5,000 of these on the market where if you have a defect and one part is going to fail. 2% of the time. Think of all the customer support emails you’re gonna have to deal with.

Think of all the replacement parts you’re going to have to send, and so it’s just a matter of, okay, is this going to be an issue a lot or is this something that’s randomly going to happen? If it’s just randomly going to happen, maybe don’t focus on it as much, but if there is an issue trying to attach it to like your, your personal wellbeing of like, no, this is my product, it needs to be good enough because I’m going to have to deal with the repercussions of it.

How it’s going to impact me customer support, email wise or brand wise or what have you, because other people, even the people making your product at the factory, like it might just be a job for them and it, it isn’t necessarily going to be a passion like it might be for you.

Corbett Barr:[00:44:05] Yeah. Uh, congrats, man. This is like. It’s just such a, it’s just a whole different life. I mean, considering that you are, um, you know, by trade, uh, basically like an information marketer, you’re also a video, you know, a producer of videos and content and so on. And to learn those things and to be successful at them takes.

Tons of time and energy and, and you know, anybody would be happy over the course of 10 years or something to be good at it. And then here you are now with this other feather in your cap of having built a physical product that is super successful and has, you know, tons of potential for the future. It’s awesome.

Do you feel like there are other physical products in your future?

Caleb Wojcik:[00:44:53] I mean, right now we’re working on things that are adjacent to switch pod that are accessories or you know, other problems that video creators are having. It would, it would kind of have to be something unique enough for me to, to want to chase it down to the effect that we did with this. Like. I don’t think I could make products that are just, uh, another version of something that already exists.

This excited me because it was different and unique and, and new. So unless I have more ideas like that, I don’t know if there’s like a brand new business I would see, I would create. But I feel like a lot of the newer, bigger growing businesses or products are new things. So if I could think of a new thing, or Pat could think of a new thing, we might. Might chase it down and see where it takes us.

Corbett Barr:[00:45:43] Knowing you and having watched your progress. I mean, when you and I first met, like I think we’re talking about nine years ago or something like that, which is hard to believe. Um, you were working in a cubicle and, um, all this is like, been amazing to watch from the outside. But in thinking about what set you up to be able to.

Build the switch pod. A couple of things come to mind. One, obviously our connections and getting to know people. Um, and you know, being able to work with Pat Flynn, who’s a really smart business guy and has a lot of, um, audience himself. But, you know, you never would have, um, known Pat if he hadn’t put yourself out there.

Right. And, and attended events and so on and, and gotten to know people. But the other thing that, that strikes me is that. I remember you being really curious about video and about production and, um, if you hadn’t just followed that to see where it would go, you never would have made all of these, you wouldn’t have been at VidCon.

You wouldn’t have like wondered why there wasn’t a better tripod. Right. Is that, do you feel like this all started just because you had an itch around, like wanting to know more about video and to get better at it yourself.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:46:59] Yeah. I think it’s been a combination of the network and finding something that I really liked and was interested in and went deep down the rabbit holes too far on gear and equipment and videos. Techniques and all that kind of stuff. And, and going to events where I learned about that or other people were interested in it and growing my network that way.

Cause like if I didn’t have a network, if I was just someone in my garage trying to make a product and then launch on the internet, it would have flopped. Like it had to solve the problem and get in front of the people that would want it. And. I am more in this, in this brand and this product focused on making sure that it’s really good and it does what it needs to do and all the systems are in place so that when people buy it, they can get one and it gets shipped to them and that sort of thing.

And partnering with someone like Pat, who has an audience who is a marketer and is great at it, who has other connections and network that I don’t have to, people that have audiences as well. All of those things. Interlinked together, I think to make this successful. Cause I don’t think just just having a product idea or just having an audience is not enough.

That the mixture was what we needed.

Corbett Barr:[00:48:14] Caleb, thanks for coming on and catching up. It’s been too long. Congrats on the baby. Congrats on the, uh, switch pod baby as well.

Caleb Wojcik:[00:48:22] yeah, they both, they both were, I guess, I guess switch pod wasn’t conceived in the same year, but they, they were launched and, and birthed

Corbett Barr:[00:48:30] were birthed in the same year. Yeah. You add a little bit more to do with the birth of the switch pod then of your own baby,

Caleb Wojcik:[00:48:36] sure. Yeah.

Corbett Barr:[00:48:37] Yeah. All right, everybody you can find more about Caleb, you can find the SwitchPod over at, I will have links to everything that we talked about on this episode over at I’m Corbett Barr, until next time, thanks for listening to The Fizzle Show.

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