Cuddle up with your data.
The cuddly animal designs that FlashPals uses support wildlife conservation efforts through online sales and donations - Save data. Save the WILD!
FlashPals is one of the featured exhibitors at the DaVinci Inventor Showcase, which takes place on Oct 13, 2012 at the Denver Merchandise Mart. A whole lot of innovation comes to Denver on this day, so don’t be left out!
FlashPals CEO & Founder, Doug Stienstra, took time to answer a few questions about the difficulties of finding just the right adhesive, funding with a Kickstarter project and turning intangible ideas into a tangible reality…
What was the defining moment that led you to create this product? What problem does it solve?
The idea for FlashPals came after my girlfriend asked me for a “cute” USB flash drive for her birthday. After struggling to find any options, I decided to make my own. She loved it. So did her friends… and sure enough, the idea started to catch on. I really didn’t intend on turning it into a business, but it typically doesn’t take long for me to get obsessive about something, and pretty soon the flash drives evolved to have names and personalities, and soon thereafter I had built a full e-commerce website, and online orders started coming in. I’ve been a big animal-lover since childhood, so it made total sense to support conservation efforts through the product-line. Flash drives already save data; why not have them save real wildlife too?
After you came up with the idea, how did you size up the market and decide who your customers would be?
It was pretty clear the females were the right general demographic as I assumed my girlfriend wasn’t the only one looking for cute flash drives. Then for a while I was working as a para-educator at an elementary school, and that’s when it hit me that kids need flash drives for school. There was nothing on the market that came even close to FlashPals, and I knew there was some huge potential in that back-to-school market of parents and kids.
How did you go about naming your product?
The name was actually originally “dataBabies”, which my room mate at the time came up with. However, this evolved into “FlashPals” after conducting market research and focus groups. To narrow it down I wrote down the top 3-5 names down and walked around showing people the product, asking them one simple question: What name do you think best describes this product? “FlashPals” was the clear winner, so I trusted the consumer and went with it!
How long did it take you to create you initial prototype, and what problems did you run into along the way?
Creating the first prototype didn’t take long at all, but perfecting the prototype has taken a couple years now. The first prototypes were very tacky as the plush piece just didn’t fit well with the USB drive. It was also difficult to find the right adhesive that was both strong and flexible. Eventually I went to a local supply store and literally went through every single aisle and looked at every single product until I found the perfect missing piece. It just took a lot of trial and error, and I found the solution.
Funding a new idea is always tricky. How did you go about lining up the money you needed?
For the initial stages I was able to finance most of it myself. However, I was able to bring it to a more market-ready level through funds from elevator pitch and business plan competitions. My parents have also been more than generous in helping out when I’ve been desperate. Credit cards have also come in handy, and I’m currently running a Kickstarter project to raise $2500 (ends September 16th), so check that out!
Is this a product you’d like to produce and sell yourself, or are you wanting to license it to someone else? And if so, who?
I’ve worked very hard to build a strong supply chain to produce each of the product’s components so that it is made specifically for my company. The final product is produced here in the USA, and I sell it myself through FlashPals.com, as well as through various retailers.
What all channels are you using to market your product?
The product has mostly marketed itself either through word-of-mouth or the press. Entrepreneur Magazine featured it in their June 2012 issue, which really helped give it publicity. It mostly takes a lot of self-promotion through social media, Youtube videos, and simply spreading the word each time I meet someone new.
How many people do you currently have involved in your business?
FlashPals operates under my business Cure For a Niche LLC, and I am currently the only member. However, I have gotten help from a couple student interns over the summer, and I also have an advisory board consisting of two members.
How do you define success? What would hitting a “home run” look like in your mind?
Success for me is simply turning an intangible idea into a tangible reality that both myself and others can see and touch. Therefore, FlashPals has already been a huge success for me simply because it’s something I’ve acted on turned into a real product-line. Ideas come easy, but it’s easy to simply occupy the time coming up with newer bigger ideas instead of starting simple and making something happen. However, a “home run” would be putting FlashPals on shelves worldwide while making FlashPals.com a central hub for anyone looking for a unique flash drive. I’m going to take this and run with it as far as possible.
Where do people go to find out more about your product?
Find out more about FlashPals at www.FlashPals.com. Also like us on Facebook! Oh, and check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and YouTube. I think that covers it:).