Robert: In this episode of the Stretch Goal Podcast we’re excited to have Casey Bunn today, entrepreneur, founder of Handsocks and RSVPHere. Also, a book author of “Oh Crap, I Need a App”.
This is a Stretch Goals Podcast where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host Robert Dickerson.
Scott: I’m Scott Davis. (music)
Robert: Hey Casey, welcome to our show today.
Casey: Hi, thanks for having me. This is awesome.
Scott: Thanks so much.
Robert: Tell us a little bit about yourself and the business you’re working on now.
Casey: I have been in Richmond Virginia, that’s how I met Scott. I have started a couple of different businesses. First business I started was 10 years ago. I was 25. It was a business for an online registration platform, online response to paper invitations. At the time that didn’t exist. I had such a memorable, we’ll call it memorable, experience trying to get an application built when I wasn’t technical, that I wrote a book about it to try to help other people do it and make less mistakes. That’s what the Oh Crap I Need a App is.
Then I guess you go through different stages of your life, your interests change, and I … My most recent business I started a little over three years ago when I had a baby, and came up with an idea for a product, and Handsocks was born. My current focus is with Handsocks. It really solves the problem of the protection and safety issue for parents, for children … For newborn scratching, for skin conditions, holding, and grabbing, you name it, anything your baby could touch that you don’t want them to touch. My long sleeve mittens stay on and fix that problem. That’s my most recent endeavor.
Scott: You’ve got a fairly successful kick starter campaign for that as well, right?
Casey: I did. The kick starter is like a love hate relationship really.
If you try to do a kick starter campaign outside of a full time job, two babies, and running a business, just expect that you’ll sleep a solid two and a half hours every night for 60 days. My mom actually had to move in with me for a couple of months to help take care of my children because there just wasn’t enough of me to go around.
It was successful because I planned a lot. I read a book by Jamey Stegmaier about crowdfunding, and actually you should check his book out. It’s green and white. I can’t remember the title of it. I know that’s terrible. I lent it out. The things he talks about crowdfunding actually are very applicable to business in general, about developing relationships and building community. That doesn’t end with a kick starter campaign.
I’m glad that I did it. It was a good experience. We did fund successfully. Blood, sweat, and tears. (laugh) I met a lot of other inventors, so it was awesome.
Scott: What were some really key lessons learned? Because I’m sure there are people who are listening to this podcast right now who have either wanted to do a kick starter, or did and failed. What really helps you get across the finish line? What’s the one thing you can suggest to people looking to do it.
Casey: Planning. I mean, kick starters not something you can just say, you know, this weekend I’m gonna do a kick starter. That’s really what I wanted to do, and a girlfriend of mine had funded. I was like, “You funded. I want to do kick starter.” She mailed me this book, and she was like, “Case, you have to read it.” When I did, I planned for over six months for the campaign. If you’re not gonna plan in advance, and you don’t have really the discipline to prepare for it, you won’t fund. It’s expensive to do, and it’s not worth it unless you plan properly.
I think there’s a lot of resources on what you need to do in the community that you have to build before you launch, but you have to have 30-40% of your funds locked down before you even launch, so that you know in the first couple of days that you’re gonna do well. The only way to do that is through planning.
Robert: The other piece of that too is once you get the funding, you have to execute as well, and get that product out the door. Some of the other kick starter people I’ve talked to you, they were talking about how that’s one of the hardest parts is executing on that, and you have issues that come up, and you still gotta deliver those things to your customers.
Casey: Right. That’s also part of the planning that you do. It’s not just about the community, but also about the delivery. Even so much as like how are you gonna organize all of the information once you get it? What’s the best way to stack your rewards so that it’s not a complete disaster trying to fulfill? Doing a little bit of organization on the front end … I mean, all of that happens on the front end. If you don’t do it, then you know, your kick starter [inaudible 00:04:41], and to your point it’s like, now what do I do? (laugh) Yes, I agree with you.
Scott: We should write a book here on the whole having a 9 to 5, and transitioning over to some other idea, and building it from scratch. Rob and I were both very lucky in that we got successful [exi 00:05:00] as founders of our own businesses, and been able to move on to more, not luxurious lifestyles, but more comfortable where we can kinda pick and choose what we work on. A lot of the tips that we share here are for how do people go from 9 to 5 grind to like transitioning over, protecting yourself so you still have income. You’ve always been inspiring in that regard because you seem comfortable doing two things at once, whereas me it’s like I had to get out of 9 to 5.
Robert: You don’t need sleep, right?
Casey: We talked about that, I’m like … People are like, “How do you do it Casey?” I’m like, “Well, I don’t sleep.” My husband gets on me for not doing as much exercise as I should. I mean, I’m pretty thing, but I don’t what happened to my muscle. I had babies, and it just melted away.
Casey: I would say as it relates to the 9 to 5, it’s just a choice of what you have to do for your family. You have to put the work in your family, and a lot of times it depends on too, like can you fund your own business? Like I’ve been funding my own business with my job. I’m blessed enough to be able to have a position that makes enough money to help take care of my family with my husbands income, but then also be able to self fund my businesses. I can hire people for cheaper than I can hire myself at this point.
My main MO in my business is really delegation, and making sure to have the right people to kind of say, “Okay, you’re assigned social media, and you’re assigned blogging.” I would love to do all of that, but there’s just not enough of me to go around. In the interim, my MO is delegation, and that’s the way that I found best to balance it, but it’s hard. Like no doubt.
Scott: It sounds like you could be a cohost of this podcast as well. (laugh) everything you just said is like 5 or 10 of our last few episodes.
Casey: Yes, well you invite me back anytime.
Scott: I absolutely will.
Robert: I think the delegation piece is something I wanted to highlight real quick, because it’s something that it took me a little bit of time to figure out that I needed to do that. I was trying to do a lot of stuff on my own. I did the same sort of thing. I had a traditional 9 to 5, and I was using that income to fund my business. Then once I decided that I can’t do it all, I need to delegate, that’s when the business really started growing, because I was able to bring on people, like you said, that were cheaper than I was, that were able to do the work when I wasn’t. Because I always found myself as being the blocker to getting things done. I don’t know you’ve found something similar.
Casey: There’s just not enough time in the day. There are things that come in … I’m working on this. It is my number one priority. I read a book recently called The One Thing by Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, basically says that if you can’t do any two things well … I’m like, “But wait a second, I’m doing way more than two things.” (laugh)
Casey: He’s like, “You have to focus.” Basically the premise of the book, and I’ve talked to Jay about it … Took me 30 minutes to get on … I mean, 30 days to get on his calendar, but I findally got 30 minutes of his time, and I’m like, “You are amazing. This is brilliant.” It’s changed my life really, because in my job my one thing is to focus on meetings, because meetings leads to everything else, and without meetings nothing really happens. In my business I’m focusing on delegation because if I can delegate everything else out, then I can focus on sales, which is what I’m really good at.
My goal for exercise … He says one for exercise, one for spiritual. My exercise goal is 100 squats a day, and so sometimes … My husband will say that I don’t do that, but it is my goal. I’ll catch myself blow drying my hair, or at the top of the stairs just doing 10 air squats trying to squeeze in my 100. (laugh) I think that focus on the things that matter the most, and delegation of everything else is key to be able to balance a day job, and businesses.
Between my husband and I, we both have full time jobs, he’s a firefighter, and we both have businesses outside of that, and two little kids, two and four. You just can’t do that by yourself. [Upwork 00:09:01], I use Upwork a lot. I don’t know, have you guys used Up-
Robert: Yeah, I use Upwork a lot.
Casey: It is freaking amazing.
Robert: It is. It’s awesome.
Casey: It’s like the best platform. I can put any job on the planet on there and find the most unbelievable passionate talent to help me. Until I can afford to hire somebody, or until I really need to hire somebody full time to work side by side with me, that’s what I’m doing.
Scott: That’s awesome. In the past you mentioned RSVPhere was a business you started in your 20’s, can you give us a little bit of bio on that? Like how it started, and then where it ended up, and the lessons you learned from that process?
Casey: Oh man, I feel like I could spend the whole 30 minutes talking about that. That’s why I wrote a book. I’ll just give you snippets. The idea came like … I had not RSVP’d to a friends wedding, and I thought there should be ways to RSVP that don’t require mailing something in, or making a phone call. There’s gotta be an easier way. Online response to paper invitation when I was 25, did not exist. That’s why I created RSVP here. I hired a company to help me. I didn’t know anything about requirements. I had no idea how to hold them accountable. I signed paperwork without having a lawyer review it. I put a $15,000 nonrefundable deposit down. What? I mean, that is crazy. Four months later I had four pages of code, and I thought that was amazing.
Casey: (laugh) My technical board member, which I finally got, was like, “Case, I could write four pages of code in an hour.” I’m like, “What? It’s been four months.”
They charged me $7,500 for like 20 wire frames, like pictures. It was $7,500 for 20 pictures, and I thought that was amazing. I mean, oh my gosh.
I just didn’t know any better. I didn’t talk to enough people, and I didn’t align myself with the right people technically to help walk me through the process of building an application. I hired that company, fired that company, did not get that $15,000 back. I had borrowed all of this money from my family and friends, and (laugh) just gung ho to get this application built, and I only had $30,000 left. I went to the next company and they’re like, “What’s your budget?” What did I say?
Scott: (laugh) Now you have zero.
Casey: $30,000 program. I told them exactly how much money I had, and they were like, “Okay, we’ll do it for 30 grand.” I thought that was amazing, which is the most ridiculous thing on the planet.
Anyways, they outsourced it to India. Didn’t tell me. They paid some young person over in India $10 an hour to make this code. It was awful. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s good resources in India, but you just can’t … This is just not the right way to go about it. Long story short, I end up losing $15,000 with the next company too, because I tried to get my money back and they said they would go out of business. It was awful.
Twice, two times, I lost 15,000. The way that I found the person that ultimately did the work was just a freelancer. He did it, and it was awesome. He did it in 8 weeks for $8,000. 8,000 or 12,000, I don’t know. It’s been so long. Whatever, it was inexpensive, and it was done perfectly.
Then it was, of course, how do I monetize this? Because I had this free product. It was free at the time. I had spent all this money to make no money, and that’s not a good business plan.
You have to read the book to talk about then what. This guy built it and went to Washington and said, “I can build it, but I’m not gonna maintain it.” Well, then what do I do?
Thank goodness for [e-lance 00:12:49] at the time, now Upwork. I found a developer, she’s in Germany and she’s amazing.
The story that I wrote really kinda goes through the particulars of what to look out for, what to ask, how to surround yourself with the right people, and that is way longer than a five minute conversation. That’s kinda this history of that app.
Now, it’s running itself right now, and it has been for 10 years. I still own it. I’d actually love to sell it because I feel like there’s a lot of potential for someone to grow that, and I just am focused on Handsocks right now. It just runs along making money, and provides the service pretty good.
Scott: You should reach out to Paperless Post, and Punch Bowl, and some of those other online, e-friendly invitation services.
Casey: I should. I haven’t. I should put that on my to do list.
Scott: I know the CEO, so I could put you in touch.
Casey: Do you?
Scott: We’ll do that after this call.
Casey: Thank you.
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Now you’re in this … Niche is probably a bad word, but to me it’s a smart industry that you’re in with Handsocks, because it’s a space where you need lots of help, especially when you’re a new parent. Then when you’ve got newborns, and even smaller maybe 3 to 4 month old kids. Like my son last week scratched his face with his nails and it got infected. There’s very much a need in this space for children, and so you’ve found this like perfect pocket of people who need stuff, and there was no innovation in there. Those are the types of opportunities like Rob and I look for, which is like what are these industries and spaces where people aren’t innovating fast enough, but like we believe could go further than they are? You’ve done that, but do you feel that there’s disadvantages being a female entrepreneur even within a space that largely is women centric? We know a lot of women are online shopping for their kids. Do you feel that there’s still disadvantages?
Casey: Yeah. I could appreciate you asking that. I don’t know this is the case for all businesses, but for me I kinda feel like it’s an advantage.
Scott: That’s kinda what I thought too. (laugh) You’ve got this great network of women who want to support the idea, not only because it’s something they need, but because they’re like, “Hey, I can relate to her.”
Casey: That’s exactly right. Well because I am genuinely passionate, and emotional, and I feel like that … Not like there’s not a lot of … I mean, there are men that are like that too, but maybe not to my extent, and so when people see my passion for the business, and understand the reason why I created it, and the extended reasons that have come, I think that being a woman is an advantage. I haven’t looked for funding yet because this has been self funded, so from a financial perspective, I can’t say. I haven’t gotten that far. I appreciate you saying …
You don’t have Handsocks Scott? I need to send you some.
Scott: Yeah, I don’t have-
Casey: the small ones. I will say that I also feel like that there may be … That mothers that contact me for certain things may have a level of trust with me. The trust and the community that I’m creating may have something to do with that I’m a mother. Not that I’m a female, but that I’m a mother.
Scott: They can relate to you, yeah.
Casey: Yes, exactly. Handsocks, just to give you a little snippet on what’s going on with them, so this … Let me just show you what this … It flips open to expose the fingers. You put these on like a pair of pantyhose. It’s a long sleeve, like a sock, that you roll up like panty hose, stick the hand in, and slide it down. Then it flips over. This is plushy enough that babies can’t grab through it. Not only can they not scratch, they also can’t grab. If you’ve got a baby that has a feeding tube, or is connected to oxygen, then the thickness of this mitten offers protection in that space.
I had no idea. I created this be a better warmth mitten, which by the way it is. My children are perfectly healthy and love these things. I know kids that wear them in the summer time, like will not take them off, because they just love them and they’re comfortable.
The extended use for Handsocks is really where my passion is now. I want every baby … by the way, 54% of people who buy Handsocks, dads.
Casey: Yeah. Do you know why I think that is?
Scott: Boxing gloves. No. (laugh)
Scott: No, why is it?
Casey: I think it’s because dads are fixers. Dads are problem solvers. You know?
Casey: If somethings wrong with your baby … Okay, so a little scratch go infected, right? That feels hard. Jimmy Kimmel’s baby just had heart surgery.
Scott: I saw that.
Casey: Did you see the picture of his baby connected to all those tubes and cords [crosstalk 00:17:31] and stuff like that?
Scott: It’s horrible. Yeah.
Casey: Well, his baby’s gonna have heart surgery again this summer.
Scott: Mm-hmm (affirmative) In 6 months. Yep.
Casey: Exactly. He’s gonna be a little holder, and he’s gonna be able to grab. Imagine what this will do to be able to protect his baby from pulling all those things. You can’t tell a 6 month old not to pull on cords. A daddy will see something like that, and then just find the answer, right?
Casey: He’ll just find it. I was talking to a day yesterday and he was like, “You know what? If the nurse at the NICU said that my baby needed Handsocks, I’d go on Amazon and buy a case of those things.”
Casey: True story! (laugh)
Scott: I was gonna say, it sounds like you need to get in touch with all of the children’s hospitals and create some relationships there, and give them some samples, because I think that’s a natural avenue if you haven’t already done that.
Casey: I appreciate that. I am in touch with actually probably 5 or 6 children’s hospitals. We just picked up our first chain of pediatricians, because we’re offering … I don’t know if you can see this or not, but like logo-ed Handsocks. This says [crosstalk 00:18:31]. Logo-ed Handsocks and customized stickers.
We just became a sleep partner, so safe sleeping. You think about the scratch on your babies face … Partnership I think for business is really important too. If you can find some strategic partnerships, for me that could be hospitals and pediatricians, but it could also be people in the industry that care about a cause like safe sleeping. Over the weekend we partnered with a company for safe sleeping, and we’re coming out with mitten that is a safe sleep like branded, stars and moons. Things like that can help differentiate you, and help build credibility to what you’re doing. I think that that’s really important.
For Handsocks it’s online sales and building awareness, like 80% of what we’re doing is that because the margin is better online, and because we’re hoping for organic growth within the community. Then 20% of what we’re gonna be doing is B2B. I’m not selling to Babies’R US, I’m selling to the children’s hospital in San Francisco. I’m selling to the Allergy and Eczema Associations. If you can find strategic partnerships where you can keep your margins up, but there’s a functional need for what it is that you’ve got, then I think that the chances that you can have good, long, trusting partnership is better.
Scott: Yeah. Makes a lot of sense.
Robert: How are you finding those partnerships? Because I mean, I think like you said before, raising that awareness when you’re just starting out is probably one of the harder things to do. How do you start identifying those partnerships, and reach out to people as you’re building this new product?
Casey: Locally is easy because you can meet people face to face, and they can feel your product and touch it. I started with local pediatricians, and then once you get some then you have the credibility to call other pediatricians and say, “Hey, we’ve got a chain of 20 pediatricians that give these out to their new patients as presents, or in certain situations.” I think local for strategic partnerships, and certain, I guess, lines of business would be ideal.
Outside of that, I used Upwork to data collect for me. I found somebody on Upwork to go in and make a list of all the children’s hospitals in all of the US, and all of the contacts in marketing and HR and supply, so that I’m not spinning my wheels trying to find that information. Now I have a list. I’ve delegated, back to delegation, I delegated that task out to someone else, and I kind of identified corporate B2B, like their HR folks so they could give them to their employees having babies. Corporate B2B, hospitals, and pediatricians were my three areas that I got lists to begin just calling and developing the relationships with.
On the other side is other mom inventors. Other mom inventors who have been doing this longer than I have, have way more connections that I do in media, in manufacturing, in … I don’t know, you just name it, like they’ve done it. They’ve done it, they’ve been there, and they want to help me. I think you can do that too with your product or your service. You connect with people that don’t neccesarily compete with you but have the same audience, and they know what you’ve been through, and they want to help.
Scott: When are you going to Shark Tank?
Scott: How many times have you been asked that?
Casey: I get asked about Shark Tank all the time. All the time. “Oh my gosh, am i gonna see you on Shark Tank?” I’m like, “Oh that’d be so much fun.” (laugh) You know, Shark Tank always asks you what your sales are and I’ve gotta sell a lot this year. We sold $20,000 worth of Handsocks last year, and $10,000 the year before. They had just come in, we sold 10,000, and I was selling them slowly through boutiques. They were not on Amazon intentionally, because I thought like, “Oh boutiques like nichey product. I won’t sell on Amazon.” That just really wasn’t the right way for me to go. It wasn’t. We put them on Amazon last summer, and sold out in four months.
Robert: Wow, that’s awesome.
Casey: I could’ve done that the first four months. I just was holding out. We’ve been in business all this time, I just with the distribution just wasn’t … I should’ve gone to Amazon much faster. I control them on Amazon because there’s only one Handsock and it belongs to me. I’m not selling to retailers that are reselling on Amazon, so I’m not price competing with people. They’re $15 no matter where you go, and that makes it pretty awesome too.
I think the reason why we don’t have more sales is because I ran out of inventory, and replenishing that inventory has been delayed. That’s been a real big issue.
Scott: That’s a common problem when you’re talking about manufacturing products, just keeping that inventory flow so that you can keep selling products.
Casey: Yes. That’s the kick starter. We did kick starter to launch the new collection. I’m placing that order this week. I’m actually buying 21,000 pair, and we’re not gonna run out anytime soon. I’m just saying.
Scott: That’s great.
Casey: (laugh) It’s been good. A lot of hurdles, but just a lot of value. Talking to parents that have children that don’t have a hand that use Handsocks, talking to parents of children who suffer from skin conditions and are reducing infection risk, it’s just amazing. No matter what it is you’re doing, if you’re passionate about it just keep doing it, and just keep talking to more people, and just keep praying and believing that it’s gonna happen, and you know, set big goals. My big goal is to help 100 million children worldwide. That’s my goal.
Scott: If we were paying you $20 for every episode of ours that you just emphasized in the last paragraph, you’d probably have about $10,000. (laugh)
Scott: Because you have passion, having big ideas and how to tackle them, and the execution. I mean all of that is things that we talk about on this show.
Casey: Good. Well I hope this has been really helpful. I love an audience of people trying to make things happen. I think you only live one life, you gotta use the time wisely because at the end it’s just gonna be like what did you do with your spare time? What impact did you have? You can do it. Just keep doing it. Don’t give up. Doesn’t matter how little sleep you get. Whatever. At the end of the life you’re not gonna be like, “Oh, I wish I slept more.” No.
Scott: That’s true. That’s true.
Robert: Honestly, this is awesome because you’re making me excited to go back to work, honestly. (laugh)
Robert: Because it’s so refreshing to hear other people that are working late at night trying to get stuff done, and battling, and really trying to get their passion, and trying to push things forward. That’s really what entrepreneurship is all about is like just making it happen, and grinding it out. People online, and different people make it look sexy and stuff like that, but no, it’s the hard work over a long period time before you become successful.
Casey: That’s so true. Totally true.
Scott: Well thank you so much. I really appreciate you being on here today. We’ll have to have you back in like 6 months and do a recap, and see where you are.
Casey: Oh my gosh, wouldn’t that be fun? Hey, maybe I’ll be on Shark Tank by then, and we could talk about it.
Scott: There you go.
Casey: Ah. (laugh) This has been great.
Robert: How can people keep up with you online and find the Handsocks.
Casey: Oh please, yes. Our Handsocks Facebook page … We’ve got a Facebook, and Instagram, and a Twitter. Then you can just reach out to me directly if you need something. It’s just Casey, C-A-S-E-Y, at Handsocks.com. Then just spread the word. Handsocks needs awareness. There are parents that need Handsocks and don’t know they exist. What I would ask of your community is just tell people about them. Get them for newborns. If you’ve got friends with babies that are recovering from surgery, or have something specific going on, help spread the news of Handsocks so that I can meet that goal of affecting 100 million babies.
We give back to orphans for every pair purchased, and so part of that 100 million is not just babies wearing Handsocks, but also the affect we have on children as we give.
Scott: That’s beautiful.
Casey: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Robert: That’s great. Well thanks Casey. We appreciate it.
Casey: Thank you. All right, thank you guys. Have a good day.
Scott: Thanks. (music)
Robert: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals Podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode, and listen to other episodes, by heading over to stretchgoals.fm. (music)
Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.
Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.