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Welcome to the inaugural publication of the Entrepreneur's Mind Launch Pad. The EM is proud to present this new section of our webzine that profiles an entrepreneurial venture that is in an early stage of development. The Launch Pad ventures are working diligently towards codifying their business concept, but still face obstacles, decision points and critical milestones to be dealt with that will determine their still unknown fate. These Launch Pad articles will tell the tales of what the entrepreneur has been working with and struggling against as they bring their business concepts out of the garage, and hopefully into greatness. You will learn the type of resourcefulness and cleverness that is required to start from scratch, and the toll it takes on an entrepreneur's emotions and mettle.
- I. VU Points, Inc. - Fun, functional, ergonomic "lifestyle objects"
- II. About the Founder - Matt Esecson
- III. VU Points Performance Binoculars - Product Concept
- IV. Starting the Venture
- V. Maintaining a Virtual Organization
- VI. Marketing and Promotion - Bodypiercing and Binoculars?
- VII. Challenges and Obstacles
- VIII. Success and Opportunities
- IX. What Achievements are Necessary to Succeed - The Road Ahead
I. VU Points, Inc. - Fun, functional, ergonomic "lifestyle objects"
Amidst the salty air of the Northern Atlantic coastal waters, and hidden near the historical nautical area of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Vu Points, Inc. sits nestled among the tall, ancient trees in a place known as Prides Crossing. This small and pristine area might be the last place someone would look for an aggressive guerrilla marketing expert who is trying to redefine an industry and explode onto the scene of venues such at the ESPN Extreme Games and the Lollapalooza Alternative Music Tour. Out of his corporate headquarters in this quaint little town Matt Esecson the founder and directing force of VU Points is looking to capitalize on the three years of his life he has spent forming and shaping the establishment of his product development and marketing organization by successfully marketing his company's first product called the VU Points Performance Binoculars.
Vu Points is described as a company dedicated to the design and manufacture of fun, functional, ergonomic "lifestyle objects". The first product VU Points is producing and marketing is the VU Points Performance Binoculars that are presented as "the opera glasses of the 90's". The VU Points binoculars are much more than your father's old and crusty black-cased, two hundred pound military issue model. These binoculars have bright and bold coloring, an ergonomically friendly design, are easy to use, and are meant to be used towards one of today's most popular activities of the human race which is people watching. "Just like it says on the packaging, we want people to use them to gawk, ogle and stare and make it a product that will be used for watching concerts, sports event, and any other people watching activities." It is this vision of exciting and fun product types coupled with a strategy of "hot branding" that will embody what VU Points desires to be, "Our challenge is to create a company whose message, mission, delivery apparatus, and products are sharply focused on what VU Points is calling trend-setting 'ActiveStylers' consumers. ActiveStylers are defined as the generation of consumers that possesses new expectations and nontraditional purchasing patterns."
VU Points did not start out as an idea to build a company or a brand identity, but more to develop the initial binocular concept. "I didn't start out thinking lets make a brand then come up with a product to fold into that. As soon as the idea for the binocular product came up that was MTV Sports personified, and the steps for filling that need were conceived, then the decision for how to structure it was to fit it underneath the brand. All decisions are based on that." Now the goal is focused on making the whole business a brand more than a particular product. "The idea is that this brand will become recognized for presenting products that fit the need for fun, functional ergonomic lifestyle objects. The binoculars are the first product, VU Points is more of an idea for a company than a product."
According to Matt VU Points came as an idea literally on a cocktail napkin and the business bloomed out of that. Over a weekend he developed his first version of his business plan which was five pages long, and has since grown to over forty-five pages which he is currently shopping around to venture capitalists and investors. From a simple clay model to some of the most modern and complex consumer product manufacturing techniques utilized today, the Performance Binoculars have evolved into the first, and make or break product that Matt hopes will be in a long line of products that will all share the brand identity he has developed for VU Points.
II. About the Founder - Matt Esecson
Matt's experience lies in marketing and sales as prior to his VU Points venture he spent twelve years as a manufacturer's representative for consumer products in the New England area. The types of products Matt sold ranged from backpacks, to ironing boards, to Hefty trash bags. The size of manufacturers his organization represented ranged from the likes of Mobil to small specialty organizations making only one product. The organization's territory was in the six New England states and it was run by Matt and two partners employing eleven sales people in the field. Sales reached the levels of $65 MM per year during the healthy economic times of the 1980's. This experience proved to offer more than just profitability as a benefit for this evolving entrepreneur. This business Matt had built with his partners gave him valuable experience in sales and retail merchandising which is the foundation for his VU Points business, "The best part about selling is getting a no. Every time you hear no, you get that much closer to a yes. For this business of sales it is vital to learn how to handle rejection so when you get slammed against the wall and you hear no, no, no...it's all right. It's out there somewhere, you just keep going."
His success in this business proved not to be reason enough for him to pursue this lifestyle for the rest of his professional career. A changing business environment and diminishing satisfaction in this type of work steered Matt away from the organization he had successfully built, and towards seeking a new venture which ultimately turned out to be VU Points, "I did the manufacturer's rep. business for a while and didn't like it anymore. The retail picture changed due to the recession and a dramatically changing retail environment. I could still have made a good living but it wasn't satisfying anymore." It wasn't an immediate departure from this venture as Matt had built an entity that had the livelihood of other individuals dependent on its operations, so he gradually eased out of the business to ensure it was going to be handled correctly after he left and maintain its integrity, "I separated from the partnership over 2 1/2 years to ensure everyone was happy. I separated from the partnership and sold the intangible contracts for the product lines I came in with back to the partnership."
It was concurrent to these events that Matt was seeking his next business opportunity, and when the proverbial "2X4" hit him on the head for his VU Points venture, "During that time I was working with business brokers to see what was available in this area of the country so I could maintain earning a living and keep my family in the Northeast where they wanted to live." Buying someone else's dream as Matt called it did not work out and fortunately for him the idea for VU Points came to light which filled the need he had for finding a new business to make his own. His role in the VU Points venture is that of the company's direction, leader, idea person, and the implementor of all the functional facets of the business. Admittedly he knows there are aspects of the business that he is better suited for than others, but that does not stop him from facing all of his responsibilities and striving to achieve the best level of effort he can offer, "In a start-up situation such as this, you have to do them all and be capable with all of them. There certainly are better people out there that can do certain things more efficiently than me, and that's part of the business which is to bring people like that in to build a strong management team. The objective with the whole thing is to build a company."
III. VU Points Performance Binoculars - Product Concept
"The inspiration for the Vu Points binoculars was literally a cocktail napkin idea that happened one happy hour between rounds of Margaritas. I was sitting in the bar in the middle of the floor four tables away from the window when I noticed a table next to the window had opened up. There was a mad dash of people trying to get this table including people who already had a table but wanted to move to be next to the window. I thought to myself 'They all wanted that table to people watch.' Then I thought further that this is a great example of people watching being the world's most popular sport." After formulating this original idea, further consideration led Matt to think that at best the people at the window would not be able to see anything beyond twenty feet with good clarity. "I then said what about a pair of binoculars to help people watch people. And what if they were like Swatch Watches and were really cool? What if they were like the attitude and lifestyle that is seen on MTV Sports?!" Two days later Matt had taken his laptop computer and wrote his five page concept which became the foundation behind what VU Points is today.
The idea was for a fun, functional Swatch type of binocular that would be driven by breaching accepted distribution channels, appearance and branding. From the start the idea was to take the concept of binoculars from what Matt had determined was a stagnant, non-dynamic industry and turn it completely upside down to give it a whole new look and conceive completely new uses and markets for the product to be placed in, "The key part was to challenge the traditional method of distribution. A product is associated with where you find it. It would be perceived differently if it were seen in Audobon Magazine than in Rolling Stone or Wired." VU Points is also seeking to define who they are by events such as Lollapalooza and the Extreme Games, and then the retailers they will roll into and the packaging that will be utilized. Proposed retailers that would be non-traditional outlets for individuals looking for the Performance Binoculars would be the likes of Tower Records, Urban Outfitters, Nike World, and specialty sporting goods stores such as bike stores and surf shops.
The branding strategy would be to link the product with "passion branding" and "cause branding" to associate the product with things that people are passionate about. Cause branding can be defined from the visionary marketing book The Popcorn Report by Faith Popcorn which Matt considers the bible for his organization. Cause Branding - where each purchase expresses a point of view about the environment, social issues, even political candidates. Included in the cost of goods to the marketer is money that goes to support an admirable cause. "We believe cause-related marketing is not simply a gimmick to make companies feel good about themselves, but rather a cultural requirement that all companies should support."
IV. Starting the Venture
Being a methodical and thorough business person, Matt began diligently researching the prospective market he was about to enter which he knew nothing about. He wanted to find out everything he could about this marketplace to ensure that the money, time and his livelihood he was willing to bet on such a venture was a reasonable gamble. "I did research to find out if this sort of product exist yet and how big the market was. People sometimes get too excited and ignore the current marketplace." To expand his research Matt visited trade shows, read through various trade journals and magazines, went to retail stores and even went to the Supershow which is the world's largest sporting goods trade show to gather input and ideas. The conclusions from Matt's research demonstrated that the binocular market was a stagnant and relatively focused market that catered to individuals using binocular products for traditional and passive uses such as bird watching, hunting, and boating. This reinforced his idea of turn the industry on its ear by giving binoculars a whole new look and attitude, and to conceive new uses and market it to a whole new marketplace of consumers who may have never given too much thought about buying binoculars at all.
Initial product development and concept evolution was done by Matt himself with the assistance of his willing family and hints from existing binocular products. "I bought four or five pairs of binoculars to study and got brochures from every single binocular company I could identify." The prototype was made with a lump of molding clay that Matt fashioned with the help of his children who were invaluable for some of the features on the binoculars that are being mass produced today. The rainbow colored focus dial was an inspiration from one of Matt's children that proved to be a novel way for the consumers to be able to remember which focus setting was correct for them. As with many new ventures, the founder is called upon to take on responsibilities they may not be accustomed in performing such as this model development, but need to take on so their vision can unfold as the entrepreneur has formulated, "In those early days I was working hard to implement the plans from the entire vision of this business that came to me in an instant. It all came at one time, the plan, the prototype and the market."
Concurrent with the establishment of the marketplace opportunity and the product look was the work Matt did in developing th e brand identity and the entire appearance of the product and its supporting components such as the packaging, collateral material and promotional items. "During a trade show I saw two companies with products in packaging that I knew was the exact brand presentation that I wanted for my product. I liked the packaging and felt it would speak to the audience that I wanted." After querying the companies for who their designers were, Matt learned that both product's packages were designed by the same firm which he ultimately sought out to establish a business relationship with. "I went to this design firm with my clay model in hand and my business concept spelled out. They were a successful design firm that had many high-profile clients which kept them plenty busy. Frankly they did not need my business and were not to keen on working with a start-up venture. But I refused to take no for an answer and I knew they were the firm that I wanted to work with. They were the largest extravagance I was going to have for this venture. Fortunately they liked my product concept and marketing plans and we started working together."
The next step in the development was to partner with an industrial design firm to get the product concept translated into design drawings and engineering specifications to assess factors such as production costs and material requirements. "I interviewed three or four industrial designers to get the plans laid out. I then hired a model maker to make a more presentable piece to present to prospective partners. I settled on a designer that created the design plans and created a foam model based on those plans to test the feel of the prototype which they call the hand. After this step a hard model was then created which ended the industrial design phase. The next step was to turn the designs over to an engineering designer to make the product manufacturable." By no means was this a passive process for Matt. He emerged himself in every facet of the products design, development, and ultimate manufacturing process to ensure his vision of the product was met, and the level of quality and product attributes such as cost point were equivalent to his needs. "I became a product engineer and spent days on the phone with manufacturers, film makers, and adhesives manufacturers. I learned a lot about paints and melting temperatures of plastics and how to adhere one material to another...because I had to. You get it done."
As for his experience with these service organizations that VU Points partnered with to bring the Performance Binoculars to market, his attitude in approaching them and hiring them was one of they are being hired to help you so one should not feel animosity or extreme gratitude that they will offer you their services. They are your service providers and you are paying them for their services, therefore it falls on the entrepreneur to examine them carefully and make sure they will add value to your venture. "They're just people. You're pretty much going in and selling yourself. The presentations to brand firms and industrial design firms is to show them your vision and then ask them what they can add to it. They're interviewing you, you're interviewing them...it's a mating dance."
V. Maintaining a Virtual Organization
A core strategy of VU Points is to consider how much of its operation will be established and built by VU Points itself and how much will be contracted out in the true fashion of a virtual organization. This feeds off of a fundamental philosophy in emerging business which is "can you buy better than build?" For most of the VU Points operation the establishment of strategic partnerships has been a successful strategy in getting the entire process for product development, production and distribution done to most optimally use the limited resources of a start-up and to free up the founder to focus on those aspects he is most suited to perform. "Through my strategic partnerships I get the talent I need and all of the functional tasks of the business done which includes design, manufacturing, material sourcing, distribution, advertising, PR, and creating satisfaction for the customer. It's all done with me coming up with a lot of little slips of paper and then communication my ideas to the right partner for execution."
For his manufacturing, Matt employs a company in Connecticut that creates all of his tooling and molding components which are utilized by the manufacturing organization. This company also serves as the final assembly point for all of the components in the final product once all the components have been produced and shipped to this one location. "They were chosen because of they did the molding and tooling and worked through a lot of the problems, and it's all in one place to simplify problems and troubleshooting by reducing transportation." During the early stages of the product's roll-out, Matt has been on the line for each manufacturing run to ensure the product is being built to is standards, and the efficiencies of production are being met so the costs for his product fall within the levels he has established.
The components for the binoculars and its packaging are sourced from locations all over the world as Matt sought to round out the vision of his ideal product with all the appropriate accessories, "The optics are sourced from overseas and I buy them ready made from one of two manufacturers that produce the identical component which gives me a backup supplier if needed. The wrist straps and carry bags are sourced through several organizations in New England, Mexico and Europe that do the sewing, create the patches, and do the embroidery." Just as with the production and product design, Matt was intimately involved with sourcing all of the components and accessories to the VU Points product and spent a significant amount of time to find the elements that were right for his product, "When I found the clip that I liked for the carry case I hunted down the manufacturer. I then went through many library books on other manufacturers and distributors to collect ten different quotes and samples. That's how it's done."
There are other benefits to maintaining a virtual organization that cross into the realm of protecting ones business venture and allowing safeguards and controls to be placed on the partner organizations so the business venture's products and integrity can be protected. The effectiveness and efficiency of the business he has set up is certainly dependent on the amiable relationships he maintains with his partners worldwide. But the inherent dangers of doing business worldwide in places an entrepreneur can not be in all of at once requires steps to be taken to protect ones investment, "This operation has its critical and final aspects of production done domestically because I was sure that production of a product like mine if managed completely overseas would have had product going out the back door. I remember reading a Wall Street Journal article about a woman whose product was being made by an overseas partner, and that partner began to ship it to ten other distributors under a private label name. She was undercut by her own manufacturer at her points of distribution. It was a pure breach of contract but there was nothing she could do." Matt feels he is able to control the situation by having the virtual environment and controlling all the different elements of the product.
VI. Marketing and Promotion - Bodypiercing and Binoculars?
Getting the word out about his binoculars and spreading the message of what VU Points is has been an assault on many fronts by Matt to reach the various consumers in the various places he wants them to associate his product with. Public relations and product reviews has been the bulk of the promotion he has achieved in the printed media. Matt has devised an in-depth and comprehensive strategy to have VU Points press releases and product put into the hands of editors of the magazines his consumers read to get mentions in these periodicals that would equal thousands of dollars in advertising costs. Rolling Stone, Wired, Playboy and Buzz are just a few of the tens of magazines the VU Points binoculars have been favorably reviewed in and presented with a full product shot. Paid advertising has been on a very strict limit due to the need to carefully allocate the resources of this start-up. He was an advertiser in the first ESPN Extreme Games in 1995 where he employed a free-lance advertiser to create his ad. The only other paid advertising Matt has done is in a current publishing of Playbill magazine for the smash performance Rentplaying in New York City. "It's all been free PR up until now. The success with the Extreme Games ad has lasted for a whole year with people talking about it and having that image of the ad in their minds."
The most unusual effort and cornerstone of the public relations activities VU Points has undertaken was following the alternative music tour known as Lollapalooza across the country in 1995 to put the binoculars in the hands of those consumers who possess the characteristics and attitude that VU Points hopes to cater to with all its products. Lollapalooza is known as a day long rock-fest that brings in tens of thousands of young, alternative, X-generation individuals looking to share a group experience in modern and alternative rock music, and the latest fashion and social trends such as body piercing. This tour proved to be an excellent chance for Matt to get his product into the hands of his prospective consumers, and to get valuable feedback and market data with which to improve his ideas and product concepts. "It was a great starting point to position ourselves and in putting the opera glasses of the 90's into the hand of the 90's version of an opera which is the outdoor amphitheater concert. MTV's generation of kids are the ones at these events and it was a good place for me to be.
Following Lollapalooza around to sixteen venues across the country was one of the most trying and draining experiences of Matt's life. "People tend to glamorize it because of where you are at, but you're in a 10 x 10 foot space for 12 hours each day in what was one of the hottest summers on record, answering the same questions, reciting the same set of instructions on using the product 800 times a day, and maybe getting one break in to get a cup of coffee." This all combined with a grueling road schedule of carrying all of the booth materials and literature in a Winnebago that must be driven through the night to get to each venue on time to set up the booth and be ready for the next day's concert attendees. Matt is confident that his 7,000 mile trek to 16 venues was all worth it because the feedback he received was invaluable to better understand who his customers are and what preferences they have on a product like this, "Every day we got 3,000 to 5,000 people to try it and give me feedback. Every time we showed people how to use it, and how to correctly focus a pair of binoculars I could look down the line and see a grin on each face because it was the first time they had seen a clear vision through a good pair of binoculars that focuses for both eyes." Direct feedback led to improvement in the color schemes of the binoculars, opinions on the marketing tag lines that had been developed to promote the product, and ideas for where to promote the results of this tour, "People really responded to 'Respect Individual Points of View'. The fact that we were at this tour gave all these pop magazines a reason to write about us when they would never have previously thought to write about binoculars before."
This concert tour proved to be the ideal place for VU Points to display its product, and further engrain the attitude and brand identity of VU Points into consumers' minds, "That's the market I want. I want to take the tribal experience of going to concerts and adding some visual excitement to the aural experience. To help those who can't see the stage get the visual into it. When they go to buy a pair, or when they open Rolling Stone and see them presented, they'll remember seeing it a Lollapalooza, or the Extreme Games or the US opening of Surfing. It builds the culture of the brand." There were also some valuable marketwide conclusions Matt was able to come to after visiting cities all over the country and speaking with the people that live in these regions, "I felt that all the demographic stuff I read was a bunch of B-S. There are few differentiations due to age such as baby boomers and X-generationers. The differences are rooted in regions of geography. There are some cultural elements that are rooted in each generation such as JFK, the Shuttle accident, the Dukes of Hazard and Bonanza. But I found that different regions strongly drive the differences. That's why I market to a mind-set I call "Active-Stylers" (ie: fashion conscious, active evet enthusiasts) and not the demographic classes. It doesn't matter if you're 6 or 60, do you have the attitude? We encourage people to think outside of the traditional uses of binoculars and use VU Points as an accessory for their lifestyle whether it's mountain biking, concert viewing or spying on neighbors."
VII. Challenges and Obstacles
Building a company from scratch in an industry that the entrepreneur knows nothing about, and severing a flow of steady income can all equate to problems and challenges that can truly test the integrity of an entrepreneur's character. VU Points has experienced the gambit of pitfalls in their operations that are typical of a business of any age including production problems, design flaws, fund allocation issues, partner and vendor problems, scheduling problems...the list goes on. Matt has been able to work through them and fortunately have his company turn out for the better because of it and gain valuable experience in handling similar issue the next time he goes through any of these processes.
Problems occurred with some facets of the product design phase when Matt felt some of the professionals he was using lost sight of the design efficiencies he wanted to achieve and focused on designing a product to show their full capabilities and worthiness of recognition, "We're in business to be profitable and not to win awards for our products - although that would of course be nice. This caused a long delay in getting product to the level of quality that I wanted the binoculars to be at." The initial manufacturing schemes resulted in 48 minutes of labor required to assemble one unit which put costs too high for Matt's projections, and caused significant frustration among the production people and a higher reject rate than was acceptable. "It is absolutely amazing all the facets and people you have to work with and things you have to balance, and how so many things are intertwined in the creation, sourcing and manufacturing of a product." For some of Vu Points advertising efforts Matt was faced with free-lance contractors that did not abide by his wishes of a cost conscious effort. They ended up spending a significant amount of money on production elements that Matt felt he could have sourced through more economical arrangements such as bartering through magazine editorial contacts made through PR efforts. "People make mistakes, it's a part of taking chances and learning. But in a start-up there is little margin for error. When a paid contractor makes the mistake of ignoring specific instructions that results in wasting a considerable amount of your precious cash resources, you have to decide if they are suited to be on the virtual team. To me it's a matter of finding talent that can create my vision for the particular free-lance project with their unique skills within the time and money constraints I outline. When you are taking care of everything you're going to make mistakes and other people are going to make mistakes. There is little margin for error."
Personal challenges prove to be very taxing on the entrepreneur. Matt has realized these challenges and is conscious of relying on his own support mechanism, which is a system of stress management ( a lot of exercise), and family support to see him through the tough moments. "It's a real hard road. You have to honestly evaluate your own abilities before you get into it. You need a strong home life to support you and the ability and willingness to stop your comfortable life style. Some people should take a look at themselves and decide if they can do this. Some people are just not meant to carve a trail on their own. It takes an awful lot of persistence and a willingness to just get smacked against a wall and realize that you will be taking your loved ones on the journey with you. You are doing things you've never even imagined were involved with the project in the first place and sometimes everthing will go wrong. You have to control your frustration because when you arrive at home those are the people that are out on the limb with you and are trusting you." Matt does what he describes as self Prozac-ing himself to maximize his effectiveness by creating releases to help establish a positive mind-set. "It's a pendulum because the days you have highs you also have the lows. You Prozac yourself and stay right in the middle. Don't get too excited when the great things happen and don't get brought down too low when the bad things happen. Get out, dust your butt off, and go back on the plan. Keep the compass out and keep going in the right direction."
Have there been moments of uncertainty about such an undertaking, and concerns of whether one has gotten themselves in too deep with what they have created? "There have been times of trepidation, and it helps to communicate with other entrepreneus I know and work together like a support group. The advice from them was that you really don't want to go into this yourself. When you do all the pieces of the puzzle yourself and you're in uncharted territory, and people who were supposedly interested aren't getting back to you, and you're using your IRA for short term funding, and you have $200K in bills in the drawer...there are times that it is really treacherous. There are times when you think that yeah, you got in too deep. There are tremendous challenges with this sort of engineering because of the curved parts and the different materials... overmolding, in-mold decorations, sonic welding are all very modern production techniques and very difficult." Fortunately for Matt he takes comfort in his wife and family being healthy and their families being very supportive to give them what he feels is a lot more staying power than some people. "Anyone who tries something new, and is open to the experience, is guaranteed to meet talented new people, learn new skills, and grow as an individual no matter what the ultimate outcome of the enterprise."
VIII. Success and Opportunities
The VU Points Performance Binoculars started shipping in February of 1996. In the quarter since the first round of finished units were ready for shipping VU Points has generated approximately $30K in revenue. Fine tuning of the overall production process will offer Matt a steady flow of finished product to fill orders which began in late 1995. His ultimate goal of making the Vu Points Performance Binoculars a retail driven product is already taking on a life of its own as he was demanded by a retail store in an area ideal for his product to allow them to carry his product. "They wouldn't take no for an answer despite the lack of retail packaging. It's a great retail location on Melrose Ave. in Beverly Hills and will offer VU Points great exposure. Telephone orders are being handled through a 800 - telephone service (1-800-PTS-OF-VU) that is set up to answer questions and fill orders for the binoculars who in turn transmit those orders to VU Points on a daily basis.
Other retail channels that are non-traditional for this type of product that Matt wishes to capitalize on include the World Wide Web. The VU Points web site is ready for launch which will hopefully generate on-line sales to the tens of thousands of individuals that surf the internet who fit the profile of the VU Points customers. This web site will be much more than just a retail catalog as Matt wishes to employ the unique interactive capabilities of the web to share messages of his company, and the issues it believes in such as its social consciousness and goals to please its customers by giving them the chance to share their opinions on the products and the whole VU Points attitude.
A built in characteristic of the binoculars is the ability to customize the product for appropriate clients such as the Hard Rock Cafe or Wimbledon with custom artwork imprinted on the binoculars. Their high level of quality and production, and the film graphics makes the customization look much better and higher quality. "This customization ability was part of the design criteria. That was the thought all along." Matt doesn't want to take on custom production too early because he wants to ensure that it will be appropriate for his vision and morals. "We're a profitable and socially responsible company. Gotta pay attention to the clients that you take and do you hold true to these values. Learn from the mistakes that other people have done and make it true to who you want to be."
IX. What Achievements are Necessary to Succeed - The Road Ahead
Matt's goal with VU Points is to make the binoculars a product that launches the VU Points brand in retail outlets. His experience lies in understanding how retail stores work and the effectiveness of marketing and selling product within them. "I know how much we need to get to retail and how much to spend to get us there. The success of this product is how it will sell once it is in retail. All of this has been a prelude to the real game. I have to continue to hang on. We have to get into retail with our point of sale vehicle and counter sale display unit. A package unlike any binocular package because we are not just binoculars, we are a brand of fun, functional lifestyle objects for 'Active Stylers'."
As for the yet undetermined prosperity of the internet, "We have a website called www.vupoints.com that will be up at the end of June. People can visit it, buy 'em, try 'em, and if they're not happy we'll send their money back. It's supposedly a $10 billion market on the web, but we were also supposed to have 500 TV channels by now. You have to wait and see. I think we have a chance of selling really effectively on the web and every step we make will have to be consistent to VU Points."
With regard to funding, the organization has been funded privately to this point with personal investments, angel investors, and F.F.A. (friends, family and associates), and Matt is seeking to bolster his funding by arranging a second round of investment. His business plan is being shown to venture capitalists and presented to industry groups to try and muster interest to support the high six-figure funding VU Points is seeking to carry them into their retail foray.
The more intangible benefits to reaping the benefits of an emerging business venture is to start paying back those who have supported him and been with him for the entire duration. "I have created the product I first envisioned on that cocktail napkin, but all along my plan has been to create a company to launch the VU Points brand of products. It's been almost three years and we have accomplished a lot. The objectives are clear, we need to work through the ups and downs to build a company that will enable me to support my family. Our plan has always been to get our product into the mix of retail stores by implementing our distribution strategy, supporting our retail partners, and continuing to produce an outstanding product that brings fun and performance to our consumers. Once we have done that we will have succeeded in creating the profitable, socially concious company that is the VU Points that exists in my entrepreneur's mind.'' - ###
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