In this episode I talk with new hardware entrepreneur Kris Christopher, founder of Grow Nanny which is a hardware startup that is developing indoor gardening products with an ultimate goal to help feed the world.
Podcast MP3: Download
Kris Christopher of Grow-Nanny
Before founding his hardware startup Kris was a truck driver for Pepsi, so he had no experience with technology development especially with hardware design. Since coming up with his product idea to help feed the world, Kris has been incredibly motivated and has taught himself a good amount about both software and hardware development.
Fortunately Kris isn’t making the common mistake of hiding away from the world while he develops his product. Instead, he is reaching out to as many experts as possible to help get feedback and guide him along the best path to market. In addition to seeking out consulting and coaching from me, Kris has also been actively meeting with various professional investors, and attending lots of entrepreneur meetups.
If you’re a hardware startup founder without any product development experience, this interview will show you that it is possible for you to succeed in hardware, if you are willing to learn and seek out help when needed.
John Teel: Welcome to the Predictable Designs Podcast where we discuss all things related to developing, manufacturing, marketing and selling successful new electronic hardware products. I’m your host, John Teel. This is episode number three. Today I’m speaking with Kris Christopher, who is the founder of Grow-Nanny, which is a hardware startup developing indoor gardening products. Welcome to the show, Kris.
Kris Christopher: Thanks for having me, John.
John: Okay, well, let’s go ahead and get started. Let’s start by, can you tell the listeners a bit about yourself and a bit about your product. What your background is; I know you’re not an engineer or anything like that but that really can make an interesting story what your background is. If you could just tell everyone a little bit about yourself and about your product, that would be great.
Kris: Sure. My name is Kris Christopher, I’m the CEO and founder of Grow-Nanny Incorporated here in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s just me, so I’m also the janitor. Just like John said a little bit earlier, I don’t have any technical background of working for any type of companies doing hardware or software or anything like that. I bumped into a problem when I was doing hydroponics at my house as a hobby really and I couldn’t afford the setup equipment for environmental control so I started tinkering and it was just a hobby of mine working with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. Once this idea just overtook me it progressed and since then it’s been a learning journey.
But again, my background was driving a truck 60 hours a week for Pepsi, and listening to audiotapes on software programming and hardware and what a microcontroller is.
John: Oh, that’s great, Kris. I think that’s really impressive. You’re learning while you’re still working your day job. That’s one thing I love about audio and one of the main reasons of doing podcasts. I’m obsessed with podcasts because a lot of entrepreneurs have so much to learn and a podcast just allows you to learn. Driving a truck or exercising or doing whatever. That’s really great that you’ve been able to learn all of this.
So you didn’t have any software experience before this either because you seem like you’re pretty good at- you made a lot of progress in the area of learning how to program.
Kris: Correct. Back in college- I’ve been in college since 1999, often on trying to strive for electrical engineering degree; I’ve only gotten two and a half years in. One of the first things that you have to do was take a software class; like first-year engineering. I took C++ and I hated it. I thought it was one of the worst things ever. I couldn’t imagine having to do that for a living but when I wanted to make my product, I figured, I could just buy the hardware and how hard can it be to program something? I figured, if other people are doing it I could do it.
John: Do you have the idea for your product first and then that was the motivator for learning how to program.
Kris: You got it.
John: -Arduino and everything else.
Kris: Yes, what I wanted didn’t exist and I couldn’t afford to get somebody to make what I wanted. The more that I learned and the more that I found out I could do and then the more that I learned about what my customers wanted really because I got a whole working prototype, thought I was going to change the world and started sharing it with my friends and people that I knew that grew. To be honest it sucked. It wasn’t something that was scalable at all and nothing talked or anything else. It wasn’t much better than what you could get for much cheaper.
That’s what really drove me, was finding out what customers expected for something they’re going to pay for and then trying to give them value with what’s available in tech. It’s always something new that I’m learning but what I really focused on, to go hard on was software for the time. Then, it led me to a point where now I need my own hardware product. I can’t use these libraries. It’s got to be my own microcontroller, my own actual product.
John: Yes, so far you can promote products that you can take an Arduino-based project.
John: You mentioned that this prototype, you talked about how horrible it was, but did you get a lot of valuable feedback from those people that you showed it to? Was that still a helpful process for you to go through?
Kris: I would say the most helpful thing that you can do, is just get other people’s opinion, because when you first come up with an idea, you think you’re going to just change the world and everyone’s going to like this thing. The truth is, it’s completely different when you look at it from the customer’s perspective.
In order to do that, first, I started with just Facebook ads, just spending five or $10 at a time. I would just put different things on there and try to get clicks to my website. Then I would track what was working and what wasn’t. I did that for about six months, just constantly changing it, and then finding out who my target audience was because my target audience was actually different than what I thought it was going to be as well. Once I targeted those people, I actually changed everything. I changed the product, I changed the value proposition, target audience, everything.
Six generations later, now I’m here and I just got a hardware report and my cloud architectures working, the softwares working and crashing; every day it’s different. I’m on my way but just like you said, it’s still early phase even after so long.
John: Yes, but I think you’ve done the right thing. You’ve started with the customer and that you’re working from the customer toward the product. You already mentioned the worst thing you can do is to have this idea, close yourself away from the world for years while you work on it and you eventually get it and you’re like, “Oh, this isn’t actually what anyone wants.”
Kris: Hey, would you think you guys all love this?
John: You’re overly optimistic and overly confident. I think that’s the nature of an entrepreneur, we have to be optimistic people. If we’re pessimistic, then we probably wouldn’t take on such a huge goal like bringing a product to market.
John: You’re doing a lot of things right by starting with the customer. Getting that early prototype out there that was ugly, that didn’t serve the purpose that you were hoping it or didn’t have all the functionality that you wanted but you were still able to use that to get valuable feedback and then progress forward from there toward a product that actually people did want. That’s really good.
Kris: Right. What I found out was, there’s a lot of features that people expect. You’ve got to go a mile deep in whatever technical field that is; for me it’s the cloud architecture and software programs. Just little things like federated identity when it says, “Log in with Facebook or LinkedIn”, or sending notifications to somebody. These are things that I had never even dreamed of adding. Once I did, it changed the game for me on being able to try to explain what this thing does.
For a year and a half, I worked 60 hours a week at Pepsi, and then I was probably doing another 20 to 30 on my own just on my product. I was doing 90 hours a week for a year and a half to save money so I could quit my job. Back in July, I finally quit and I saved $40,000 which I thought was the most awesome thing ever for a guy that’s been living paycheck to paycheck his whole life.
Now, I’ve got all of my time to do this, but my time is running out so I need to do everything. If anybody tells me about something that I can do more than I’m doing right now, then I’m on it and I have to keep my antennas up for any opportunities for me to get better. I’m just all in whatever I can do. Then once I get another job here, which I’m doing, then I’ll be able to. I’ll have to put less time into it. Right now, it’s all systems go.
John: Well, you definitely have the right mentality. I think it’s critical that whether or not you do everything yourself, you at least have to know how to do it well enough to judge the quality of the work from other people if you eventually end up outsourcing it. I’m a big proponent of learning as much as you can to take it as far as you can on your own. At some point, if you’ve not done a whole lot of electronics design, at some point before production you probably have to get a professional engineer to review the design, but you can take it pretty far on your own. I’ve found it not only does it save you money but from my own experience learning things yourself can also speed things up because no one is more motivated than the entrepreneur. You’re obviously quite focused on your vision and making it a reality much more so than someone that you hire.
I know for my product which was mostly mechanical I had had a mechanical engineer and he just never was quick enough for me. I wanted everything done right now and he had other projects. I got frustrated, so I went to another engineer and I think he even got a little aggressive with me and told me to quit harassing him.
Eventually, I’m just like, “Forget this, I’m just going to learn to do 3D modeling and injection modeling myself.” It was a learning curve but ultimately it ended up saving me thousands of dollars and so much time because I was able to do it myself much faster than when I could pay someone else.
Kris: I was still in my just learning and adding meaning phase and the very, very first, first part of this, one of the biggest things that influenced me was a video that I watched of you. I was googling how to make hardware products and I came across this interview with you saying exactly the same thing that, you couldn’t do everything but you just taught yourself which saved you money and it helped you go a lot faster. That’s one of the things that really inspired me to kick in in the high gear, to do all of these things that I didn’t ever think were possible.
Electronics engineering or software programming and cloud architecture, these are all highly technical skills that take lots and lots of time to learn and to try and tackle these things you got to be crazy and you got to have a little bit of help too. I remember hearing that about you and that’s been a huge motivating factor for me. I just want to thank you for that.
John: That’s great. Yes, you have to definitely be adaptable and flexible, trying to do this. As you’re already realizing, you have to do everything from pitching your product to developing it, to overseeing manufacturing, operations, shipping and warehousing. There’s so many hats to wear, or the janitor hat as you’ve mentioned at the beginning. You can’t do this role surrounded by dirt and slopes, you’ve got to do the janitor role too.
Kris: Yes, I notice there are a lot of other entrepreneurs that I have been meeting. A good part about this place galvanized here in Phoenix is you get to meet people at all stages. A lot of them they’ll tell you, “This is my idea and this is what I want to do. I’m just going to hire some software guys and I’ll hire some engineers.” I’m thinking to myself, “There’s about zero chance that you’re going to get out what’s in your brain because you just don’t have the technical knowledge to know what it takes to do these things.”
Just that alone is a refreshing wake-up call as to what you are really trying to tackle. It’s like trying to see the a mountain the fog.
John: Absolutely. One of the reasons why entrepreneurs that actually have some money to spend can be really put in a dangerous situation where they want to buy their way through this process instead of doing all the work that it requires. That’s a recipe for losing your money if you just start throwing money at the problem and hiring people because odds are, things are, it’s going to cost more than you think or the product isn’t going to be what you want or the product you saw customers want isn’t going to be really what they want. There’s definitely a lot of risks associated with it.
Kris: Yes for sure.
John: Obviously after the pitching contest, it seems like you’ve been focusing on networking. For instance, at the pitching contest, was the room mostly entrepreneurs, other entrepreneurs or investors or it was other entrepreneurs?
Kris: At the pitching contest it was just entrepreneurs; people that have an idea, that might be getting ready for a funding round or just trying to get out there. A lot of people that were just in my position there. I also recently did a startup boot camp where a friend that I had met at that pitching contest told me about and that’s where I got to meet the investors.
First, they brought in investors that were like speakers to the event, but afterward, we all had a happy hour session. It seemed like it was just me, the person that put on the event and the two investors in the room and all 30 of us, it was like, just us three having a conversation the whole time. Then afterwards, we must have hung out for about three hours.
Kris: –had drinks and talked without any, “I’m looking for this, or can you do this for me?” It was just kind of hanging out and talking.
John: These are the investors you had mentioned inside the Academy and the community area. Is that correct?
Kris: Yes, that’s correct. One of them was an angel investor, the other one was a venture capitalist. One was interested in software startups, the other one just in real estate. Both of them were very experienced, having 15-20 years plus of doing this and it’s like a hobby for them, but that’s what they do for a living. They have different views than I ever would have thought that these people have.
One thing that I learned was that it’s really heavily syndicated, which means that all of the rich people know all of the richpeople and all the guys that are investing in your area in the same products, they probably know all of each other if they don’t know each other. Then, they like to talk a lot.
John: Well, a good job real quick. You pitch one of them and the other ones, they hear about it. I think a pretty tight-knit community is you’re saying.
Kris: I didn’t know that, and then also the thing that was the biggest wake-up call for me was they’re not interested. Both of them venture capitalists and the angel investors, you would think that you go to angels first and then venture capitalist but now it’s an overlapping field, and they like to see that you have revenue coming in, that you’re already market fit.
All these things are huge accomplishments for someone trying to start a startup. A small business and a startup or two different animals and you have to get an investor that’s really like- I think it was Dave Wood that was saying that he specializes in tech entrepreneurship. That’s an even more rare gem.
John: Because even though these, neither the investors you spoke with were from hardware, it sounds like real estate and software, but they obviously have a lot of valuable business experience and investing experience, so I’m sure you gained a lot of valuable insight from your conversations with them.
Kris: I did.
John: Drinks definitely help, that always helps open up the conversation so–
Kris: The angel, he’s here in Phoenix, and then he hooked me up with a friend of his that specializes in hardware, but what I learned was I’m not ready yet from your hardware report. That was scary because I thought that I could throw money at this at any point in time and just have it light on fire and go, but the truth is, I really need to put in the rest of the work. Now that I’m this close, I just can’t let off the gas.
John: It’s really all about the execution, which you probably read me say it a hundred times, the value is not in the idea, but in the execution. Especially investors, they want to see considerable execution because obviously there are so many entrepreneurs that have product ideas and have all this excitement and one way for them to filter out that talkers from the doers is those that have actually executed; typically some market proof that you’ve got a customer interested or ideally that maybe a crowdfunding campaign that was successful or ideally that you’ve actually sold your product on the market.
John: There are investors that will invest before that, but it’s really, really difficult to find an investor. They have to really believe in you strongly which, when it comes to investors that’s one lesson I learned is, in most cases, they’re a lot more interested in the founder than they are the product itself. They know the value is in the execution, not the idea, and it’s the founders who determines the execution.
Kris: That was one of the things that the angel said, that the two biggest reasons that they end up not investing in a company besides the numbers in the papers that get them in the room, when they’re actually listening to people, what they care about is the background of the team, and then the coachability of the founder because, as he said, a lot of founders, they get the one-track mind, they think they’re going to do their idea, their way. Just like I said, the customer experience for me has just changed everything. If someone else has got a better perspective, I’m open hearing it.
John: The coachability factor seems like a really big factor. I feel like so many people come into this process feeling like they have a pretty good understanding, even though they’ve never developed the product they brought at the market, they think they have the vision planned out or the path. Each step you get to, you realize how all your assumptions were incorrect. I think those that had been through this and have the experience know that this person better be coachable because if they’re set in their ways, I think there’s zero chance that you’re going to make it happen.
Kris: I completely agree.
John: We’re on the topic of funding since you’ve realized that you probably aren’t going to be able to get funding immediately without having some traction, what are your plans going forward for fundraising? You mentioned that you have the 40,000, but that’s obviously supporting you as well and not just all going towards your product. I’m sorry, do you have a family that you’re supporting as well, or is it just you?
Kris: No, just me?
John: That helps.
Kris: Yes. I stopped dating as well as soon as I started going full-time on this, which has been very different for me. Now it’s just me and my hardware.
John: Now you’re just obsessed with hardware?
Kris: Yes, so funny. It’s true. No, it’s just me, so it makes it so I can stay light and nimble. I’m going to have to do this on my own. The first thing that I did was I started to create an API that other people can pay for. That was the one thing that I got the most questions for when I talked to other people. You can buy these wireless sensors and use the API with your own system. That way, you own the data and you don’t have to use my software at all. I set that up so that people can use it so I can get money from that.
Then now, what I’m in the process of doing is premium features so you can save all your data, run artificial intelligence algorithms for irrigation schedules. It’ll post on Facebook pictures of your grow; just different things that you can do with software that people will pay for. Then for a low price, just $10 a month for premium services, and then you can use the software as a premium service. That’s just to spark interest.
John: Is that something that you have the software out there now that you’re making money from or is that just your funding strategies to get the software out there and start using that to raise money?
Kris: Correct. The funding strategy is just to get the proof of concept project built with all the hardware that we discussed in the hardware report, which Christmas Day, I just got it running for the first time. I’ve actually got it in my hand right now. I went with a lot of your ideas from there and then just got the breadboards, put them all together.
Now, I’m putting together the software. Once I can do that, I can start getting this version out to the people that are my early adopters. Then after I get more information back from them, then I can put it out and start making money. I’m guessing it’s going to be, I don’t know, at least six months to a year before I can still make a dime on this. To keep funding it, I’ll just get a job and keep plugging away.
John: That’s the deal with hardware; it has a long upfront. We’re at a time where you’re just spending money and not making money, but that benefits you later because the hardware has such a much higher barrier to entry than software does, so you’ll have less competition. Most people won’t make it past that initial stage of getting the product on the market.
Kris: That’s what I’m hoping is going to help me. A lot of engineers that I’ve seen, or at least been following since I started this, have already made it or fizzled out. There’s only two that I can think of that that have been in my position that actually made it. None of them did it alone, which is probably one of the things that scares me the most, that it’s just me. It’s been so hard to find someone that will be willing to put as much as I am into this so early on.
John: Absolutely. I was about to ask you if you had given any thought to finding a co-founder, but my experience finding a co-founder is similar to finding an investor or similar to finding a retailer or manufacturer. They all want you to have traction already in progress because a co-founder is probably risking some money as well that they would bring into it but mainly they’re just risking their time and so they tend to want to see progress as well. It becomes really, as you’ve mentioned, it’s difficult to get a co-founder interested enough to- Especially to have your level of commitment and passion toward the project, that’s really challenging.
Kris: Yes, when my friends ask me what phase of development, I’m in, I tell them I’m in the “prove I’m not crazy” phase. Once I get past this, then I can start getting a lot more traction behind me.
John: Do you have crowdfunding in your plan?
Kris: That was one thing that was- I thought I was going to change the world because six months ago, I got approved for an Indiegogo campaign. Basically, you send in what you have, your schematics and all your designs and a business plan. The engineers there, they look over it and then they give you feedback and then they give you a green light, and someone that’ll help you with your crowdfunding campaign. I thought that I would get to around this phase that I’m at now, or I just have something that’s working and then ask for a small amount to see if I could just do it.
Now that I’ve really researched Indiegogo, Kickstarter, the way that these campaigns are run, it’s similar to a marketing campaign, where the ones that you see get funded 1,000% or 2,000%, they set their goals really low and then set the value high so that more people will see that other people are investing heavily in this and then it goes, “Oh it’s goes viral”. The techniques that you have to use and just the SEO work, the getting it out there to the right customers and then having a following before you even get started, all these things, it takes a lot of time and I don’t want to start it without knowing what I’m doing.
Now that I’ve learned how much it’s going to take, then I really kind of backed off on this. I think it’s better just like you said, give a proof of concept to the prototype, then I can start getting out and move volume to these awesome people that decided that they want to use my product in their grow rooms.
John: You hit on one really key point there is, to have a successful crowdfunding, you really have to have your own audience ahead of time; that’s essential. I did this seven, eight years ago when I was working on my product. I ran it, I think it was an Indiegogo campaign, I had no audience online audience and the campaign was a failure because no one saw it.
I just had made the naive mistake of thinking that people would see it on Indiegogo but that doesn’t happen. You have to have your audience up front and you get that momentum rolling because no one wants to be the first investors. Those first investors have to be people that trust you and then once that gets going, then you can bring on people that you don’t have such a relationship with that would be interested in investing at that point.
Kris: I agree.
John: What I highly encourage everyone to do is, start building your audience from the moment you decide to start building your product, because the development process is going to take a very absolute minimum and very, in most cases- not the case, but a minimum of one year, but you’re looking at one to two years before you can typically get a product ready for market. It’s good if you can simultaneously be building your audience during that time because audience building is a really slow process as well. It’s more efficient if you do both at the same time than two years later, you’ve got your prototype and now you have an audience of several thousand people that either you can use for market testing or to drive to your crowdfunding campaign.
Kris: I agree. You actually gave me that advice, I want to say, a few years ago, back in July of 2018, is when I started with, I guess it’s called the sales funnel basically. I started doing the social media, I got my business page and then from there, I tried to get these growers’ email addresses, and then just keep them updated with a newsletter every month.
John: Is that something you’re still actively doing?
Kris: Correct. As of right now, I’ve got 783 people that are a part of that email list and all of them are indoor growers that are my target audience.
John: That’s great. That’s great. Were these people that are on your list, would you consider it more of a waitlist? Did you tell them about your product?
John: Okay, so it’s just more they’re interested in your topic; they are in the industry?
Kris: Right. This thing has changed six times in the last year and a half. Literally, like changing the board, the controls, the cloud architecture, everything’s been changed multiple times. When you told me that it sounded counterintuitive, how are you supposed to sell something that doesn’t exist yet? The truth is you’re selling value and you just want to keep these people interested.
John: Absolutely. You don’t have to have anything to sell. You went the right strategy. I wouldn’t necessarily start telling him about your product upfront from day one but just providing value to them for free in exchange for you get their email address or social media; but an email address is 10 times more valuable than a social media following. I get people to focus on email and not social media as much.
Kris: My favorite social media grower, his name’s Everest Fernandez and he’s a YouTube sensation. He’s got thousands of followers. He’s one of the best teachers I have ever had; he is definitely top five for me. I sent this guy a message and I just said, “Hey, I’d like to start this product that helps with automation and you always say how this equipment is so expensive. This would be an answer for that. Would you be interested in being a part of it?” He’s like, “Dude, anything I can do. Heck, yes. Let’s do it.” I was like, “Can I use your videos that you’ve already created, on how to grow, on my website and in my program.” He’s like, “Absolutely.”
I did some SEO work for him and then just helped him pick out some YouTubers that were taking his stuff from his YouTube account and reposting it and now I’ve got this great content. I’m talking hundreds of videos from one of the most famous teachers out there that I get to use. I’ve incorporated that into the program so you can push a button and it’ll have the video pop up on vapor pressure deficit or electrical conductivity of the water reservoir.
That was one of the things that I got that was huge in the very beginning that just kept me going; was having some successful people back me up like that. For me, it’s been a lot to learn myself and what I’m capable of because I’ve been pushing my limits beyond anything that I’ve ever tried before. Twice now I’ve had anxiety attacks and just almost a complete mental breakdown that takes four to five days just to come back from.
Sometimes I’ll spend 20, 30 hours at a time programming just in the zone. I just stay until I can’t go anymore and I keep trying to work that muscle to make it stronger. Just recently, I had another one. I think it was since I got your report and I’ve been going so hard. I had to take three days off just to recuperate because my brain just wasn’t working correctly. Like when you look at the screen, the numbers, they all start going together. You got to definitely take breaks and pace yourself.
John: Your mental state is really one of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur. People don’t think of that but it’s such a roller coaster. You can have such high moments of just excitement and other moments you can be having an anxiety attack. That’s why I encourage entrepreneurs to maybe take on activities like meditating or daily exercise. I do those for my own benefit because it’s really you don’t have that emotional stability of a day to day job. You don’t have near the stress but you don’t have the highs and lows that you can have doing your own business as well.
Kris: I agree. Just to hear you talk about that, it really makes me feel more human because sometimes I’m like, “Am I going crazy? What is wrong with me? What is this?” But I can’t stop. No matter what happens, I’ve got to keep finding a way through just one little tiny step at a time.
John: That’s the only way to see succeed. There’s no easy way you. Just have to keep pushing through it. It’s definitely challenging and anyone that’s ever done it if they said it didn’t take an emotional toll on them is lying to you unless they’re robot or something; it definitely did with me. Even doing my own business today has highs and lows so that’s just always the case of doing your own business. But it makes life so much more exciting than just doing a nine to five where you know what’s going to happen every day that a year from now I’m going to be doing the same thing that I was doing today. When you’re an entrepreneur, a year from now your world can be totally different than it is today. It makes things a lot more exciting, I think.
Kris: I agree. I haven’t hit those giant highs yet. It’s been grudging just to get this bar.
John: Well, that’s good. That’s good. You’re definitely not alone in that regard. You mentioned the lonely factor, that was really one of the primary reasons that I wanted to develop the Hardware Academy, was to just give a place for hardware entrepreneurs to communicate with each other and not feel so alone.
I feel like you would even maybe mentioned at some point with me that no one that you know, friends or family, don’t know anything about startups or especially hardware startup.
Most of us don’t really know anyone in our circle that have experience with hardware
Kris: My best friend knows how to just shut me off he calls it when I go into nerd mode. I just start speaking Latin to him. I can see it in his eyes, he glazes over.
You have no idea how much it’s helped me, especially so many people that have ideas that are similar to mine, I feel like this thing that I’m creating it’s like the natural evolution of technology. I feel like it’s coming out soon. If it’s not me, it’s going to be somebody else. Because all of these different things in tech are all set up and they’re all so easily handed to you on a platter, almost for free to use these tools if you just put in the time. It’s coming right now. If I can get it out there that can help me on the early stage on this.
John: I believe that’s where the future of innovation lies; is with individuals and not large companies there. The most innovative companies tend to be the smaller ones. You get too big– This isn’t always the case, Apple is still obviously innovative, but that’s definitely something that a lot of big companies struggle with; is keeping that innovation alive. That’s why a lot of large companies they’ll take a department and make them a separate startup trying to foster that startup mentality because it does it tend to–
Kris: Yes. Look at Oracle, they were super huge, they tried to stay in their ways and then charge everybody an arm and leg and then everybody came out from under them and just took away their business.
John: The last thing I want to hit on is- well, there’s several things but I’m curious about your manufacturing strategy. You are still early so you probably not really planning out your manufacturing strategy too far into the future. Is it critical for this to be made in the USA or anything like that or do you plan on just starting in the US, which I typically recommend, or domestically so you can better control the quality, optimize manufacturing, optimize the product and then eventually ship all the manufacturing offshore. Is that pretty much your strategy?
Kris: I went onto your list of I think it’s PCB way is the one that I picked. Where I’m at now is, since the hardware report I put all of those components onto a schematic and eagle and I did my very best to connect all the peripherals and then put all the passive components on there that need to be put. The next step is just like you said, send it out to an electronics engineer somebody that can look over it and make sure that I’m not crazy and then after that, send it out to PCBWAY, get 5,10,15 printed out of time, and then I’m going to box them myself with the prefab boxes that I have. I also have a 3D printer and then print out my own instruction manuals, my own everything and get the boxes printed and then start sending them out.
John: I think that’s a good strategy. For me, the way to go is to start small and definitely don’t worry about the fact that it’s going to cost you for each of these products that you sell. No one makes money on the first especially when you’re talking 10s of units, even by hundreds of units if you’re breaking even that’s okay. Your goal is not to make a profit on these first ones, get feedback and get some market traction.
Kris: You got it. Customer input is all I’m looking for right now. First I just got to make sure it’s working. The PCB, I don’t have the skills to check my own design. That’s what’s inhibiting me is I’m going to have to source that out to an engineer to get them to check when I’m done.
John: Also feel free to post your design in the Academy. You’re not going to get a full in depth review in the forum, but people, myself included, will be happy to at least look at it and do a quick review and give you some feedback or pointers.
Kris: I’ll definitely do that. I was worried about putting this actual schematic out, not because anybody who was going to steal it, but just put that off chance because the only people that possibly could steal my idea are the ones that are there, but everybody’s working on their own thing. The truth is, I think we’ve said this several times, but nobody’s going to steal your idea until you’re making some money.
John: That doesn’t happen. I understand that’s a concern. I think everyone has that concern. If that’s a concern for you, then there’s always a private discussion area so you can always just post it privately and only I can see it and I’ll give you my feedback as well.
Kris: I think there’s about three or four guys on there that I would love to run this by and see what they think. Because there’s a lot of people in there that have much more experience with this.
John: There’s definitely a lot of experience in there, but there’s also tends to be, I’ve seen quite a few entrepreneurs with gardening, growing type products as well. I know you’ve connected up with some of them I believe.
Kris: That’s what really excites me.
John: Well, Kris, this has been fantastic. I think we’re well over an hour now, so I think this seems like a good point to stop the conversation. This has been so fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you. My final question is, if listeners want to learn more about you and your product, where’s the best place to learn more?
Kris: It’s www.Grow-Nanny.com. There’s a hyphen in between the grow and the nanny, but if you just google “grownanny”, you’ll get my everything. I’ve been working a lot on my SEO. Thank you so much for having me, John. This is a real treat for me. It definitely made my day.
John: Okay, well great. It made my day as well. It’s been great talking to you and I’ll see you inside the Academy. Well, I hope you found this podcast to be helpful. This was actually a shortened version of my interview with Kris Christopher. The full interview was over an hour long and is available exclusively to members inside the Hardware Academy. Okay, that’s it for today. Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of the Predictable Designs Podcast.
Other content you may like:
- Video – 7 Strategies to Develop a New Product
- Episode #2 – Five Biggest Mistakes Hardware Startups Make with Customers with Dave Millman of BizDev Global
- Video – Where Should I Develop and Manufacture My Product?
- Episode #5 – From Crowdfunding to Development and Manufacturing with Erik Hunter of InD Creation
- How to Develop a Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) Product