Founders’ Log 1.3
Well this blog is coming out a little bit later than I had expected. Most of this was written and/or sketched out last year on 12/22/21. For a number of reasons I wound up not pushing this through prior to the end of the year, but I do not regret that. I got to spend good time with my family which was much needed after the maelstrom of excitement and chaos that was the past few months. Without further adieu, I give you…
Dunsel’s: A year in review
It feels like so incredibly long ago that I was in my senior year of university at the Jim Moran College. In fact, it was only just last spring. Will and I were only a few months into a business idea that we thought had some legitimacy to it. We had started out as a fundraising effort for the FSU Sailing Club, of which Will is the treasurer, and what we found was not simply a quick grab for cash to help pay for the team’s travel expenses, but rather something so much more. We found that there was a really cool business model at hand. One that was more so a system that could help us reduce the effects of plastic pollution than one that was simply revenue - expenses = profits. Now over a year later, this discovery remains true, and is still so central to the underlying philosophy that this business is operated under.
After exploring the idea, and becoming comfortable with the manufacturing, sourcing, and storytelling of the business we started pitching the idea relentlessly. Literally to as many open ears that would listen. These pitches served two purposes; first, they helped us flesh out our idea in real time, and second, they started to open up the possibility of raising some seed capital for the business. The first of many seriously helpful opportunities came after spending countless mornings, afternoons, and evenings practicing and honing our pitch down to perfection. Will and I worked with my brother, who happened to be a public speaking coach, extensively to refine our story. We did this for the FSU InNOLEvation Challenge. A university wide business pitch competition with a considerable purse for the winning teams. We didn’t win the first prize - shoutout to Chaos Audio - but we won the next best thing. The “Most Viable” award. We were granted $4,000 for a business that was a fraction of what it is now, yet the judges must've felt a certain degree of confidence in us to have received such an award. This success then became a formula where we were able to repeat it over the course of the next few weeks securing an additional $10,000 through different grants and student competitions throughout the state of Florida. All the while telling the same, sad story. That there is a tremendous amount of waste that could be put to better use, but isn’t.
After the momentum of the Spring we got to work on building and establishing relationships with potential suppliers of sail cloth material. We were able to source quite a bit (so much so that we still haven’t really gotten through our piles yet), but we knew that this step was necessary for us because we could talk all the game we wanted, but if we couldn’t find the material - we were toast. We were able to get our feet wet sourcing material just as much as we were able to start selling. After establishing an online store, and developing a digital presence, we were able to start seeing some sales. Not that we hadn’t sold anything already, but more so that these sales were starting to be what I like to think of as “organic” or really just not directly related to one of us or our network of family and friends. For the family and friends reading this please remember that your support is by no means any less important to us, however it’s much easier to convince your mother and her friend from work to buy something than it is to convince a completely random stranger online :). The main difference being that we now started to collect solid evidence of data for this business to be built off of.
I’m gonna fast forward through the rest of our senior year and through graduation. All great things and experiences for us personally as well as for our business, but to recap all of it would just be too much. Now we are both college educated individuals with bachelor's degrees in “commercial entrepreneurship” the most comprehensive business degree you’ll find anywhere. I spent a few weeks in Guatemala, and Will wound up doing a road trip across the country to visit and help his parents who had just moved to California. Over the summer I worked another year as a lifeguard up in New York. This summer was of considerable importance to me because it could have been the last year I worked as a lifeguard (I think I have one more in me), but more so because of what lied after the season ended. Quite literally nothing. Well, except of course the business. But the reality is the only thing that awaited me after that summer was the work and money that we could make for ourselves. We have bills to pay and lives to live, and if this business can cover those, then we can keep going, and if it can’t… Well, you know what happens. That’s the reality of it. I was fortunate enough to have some savings collected from my years of lifeguarding, but the goal was really to keep from eating away at our savings for as long as possible.
When both Will and I were back in Tallahassee, we were ready to crush it. I have to mention that Will was also enrolled in the master’s program at JMC, so he had the luxury of splitting his time between a full time student, and full time entrepreneur. Which more often than not meant late nights, early mornings, and working the weekends. Over the course of the Fall we had a few intentions. Namely growing our audience. We did that through the upkeep of our various social media channels, and then also the goal of attending in-person markets. Something that was previously impossible in our business’s experience because of COVID. We finally started to attend markets, and we finally started to really move the needle on our growth, our reach, and our financial goals. As we neared the holidays we started to see some important changes. In October we did our first $1,000 day, which may not sound like a ton, but when you have built everything from the ground up it certainly is satisfying. That satisfaction was pushed further when quite literally the next weekend when we did another record day of sales on Saturday and then again on Sunday further raising our PR. These two weekends changed what markets meant for us, and gave us a new metric to base everything else off of.
I should note that a lot of these new numbers coincided with the release of our new Duffel Bags, which were incredibly well received by our customers and were very helpful in that they helped us take much larger steps towards financial sustainability with every sale. The Duffel bags are a very interesting story about product development, salad bowls, the evolution of a business, and a case study on scaling, but I think I’ll leave that for another time because it’s worth exploring on its own. Anyway, Will and I charged through the holiday season at what felt like 120%. We were constantly having issues keeping any inventory at all because we would make one week and then sell out that weekend. It was like that pretty much from October to until about a week before Christmas. I think we got as close as we could get to our limit in terms of capacity, if not having met it entirely. It was a rush, but at the same time it gave us a lot to think about moving forward.
Looking back, the year was a seriously beneficial, entertaining, and exciting one. For me, 2021 was a year full of learning, growth, opportunity, and success. I think most importantly it was a year of foundation building. We worked incredibly hard to make this business a success, and I think our commitment, dedication, and perseverance cleared the path for us to keep working on. We have a lot of work to do now. Looking forward there are so many new and exciting directions ahead of us, and I can’t wait to share all of those with you all. Until then I’ll leave you with this list. No context.
- Fire hoses
- Fanny packs
- Mushroom fibers
- Military Surplus
- Construction waste
Till next time,