Vanessa Chan left a high profile job to building prototypes for her first product, a mashup of tangle-free headphones and jewelry she calls loopit.
More about today’s guest:
- Dr Vanessa Chan on Twitter
- From Technically, ‘Why she left her cushy corporate job to make earbuds that don’t tangle.’
Announcer: From 2820 Radio in Philadelphia, it's The Build. Conversations with entrepreneurs and innovators about their dreams, their triumphs, and their challenges. Joe Taylor Jr.: Design, what does it take to design a great product? Something that customers love to use, love to wear, and love to share with their friends. Now what if you could take that same process to design a great life for yourself and for your family? That's the challenge Vanessa Chan set for herself when she left a high profile consulting job and started building prototypes for her first product. A mash up of tangle free headphones and jewelry she calls Loop It. Joe Taylor Jr.: So far, she's learned how to crowd source a physical product, how to get attention from the press, and how to start spending more quality time with her kids. It's the story of Redesign Studio coming up next on The Build. Announcer: The Build is made possible with support from 2820 Press. Providing business consulting and content strategy services to customer-obsessed companies nationwide. More information at 2820press.com. Joe Taylor Jr.: I'm Joe Taylor, Jr. It's The Build. Welcome Vanessa Chan from Redesign. Vanessa Chan: Thank you for having me here. Joe Taylor Jr.: My pleasure. You're kicking around at McKinsey thinking maybe consulting is not the life for you. Tell me about the journey from working in a really well known consulting practice to actually building a product. Vanessa Chan: It was interesting. I hit a magical age and started doing some soul searching. When you start soul searching, it's something where people tell you to go back to what you really loved as a kid, and for me I love making things. I knit, I make jewelry, I make these crazy cakes for my kids, which people think someone like the Cake Boss made when actually me and my kids made it. Vanessa Chan: I was talking to some folks who specialize in careers and they asked me, "What's your outlet for creativity?" I told them, "It's my hobbies." They started planting a seed in my head, which was what if you just take your true passion and try to go do something with that? That was kind of the first thought that was in mind. Vanessa Chan: The second thing that happened was my daughters are at the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. While I was at McKinsey I was leading innovation for them as part of the practice that we were a part of. Springside had asked if I would help them build out their center for entrepreneurial leadership where they had a venture incubator. They were asking several of us to be the inaugural advisory board to help build out that program. Vanessa Chan: We were helping Pre-K to 12 age kids to bring their ideas to the market, including my then third grader who had an invention called Hair Hugs. I was helping these kids think about their products, their concepts, build prototypes and think about the route to market. I was a bit intrigued that these kids were going through that process. Vanessa Chan: Meanwhile a third thing that happened was Kickstarter and Indiegogo and a lot of these crowdfunding sites started getting very large. I was reading about all these businesses that were developing from the crowdfunding sources where the model for those who don't know, is you basically have a product and you are basically getting pre-orders before you have to buy a lot of inventory. It really decreases the risk around needing to invent something and hope people will buy it, to you invent something. If people pre-order it, you then have to buy it. Vanessa Chan: As these things were floating around I had a little bit of an epiphany which was the world's really changing. While I was at McKinsey I spent most of my time driving innovation for B to B and B to C companies. Really the world's becoming more about H to H, as I call it. Human to Human innovation and thought that this would be a really fascinating thing for me to do was to move from B to B and B to C to more Human to Human innovation. Vanessa Chan: The idea that I as a human have ideas that potentially I could sell to other humans. It's less about needing to go through these other channels but more direct to other people. Vanessa Chan: When I was at McKinsey I had spent most of my time with large clients who had very deep technology portfolios. Their question was, "Okay, we have this technology, we're not making money off of it. What can we do?" Vanessa Chan: I spent all of my time looking at the world of what are the world's problems. I really was wired for 14 years to look for problems. I started sketching down for myself things that just bugged me. Where I was like I really wish there was a product that did this. I wish there was a product that did this. I took those ideas and started making prototypes. I knit. I make jewelry, [inaudible 00:04:37], I do all this stuff with my hands so thought why not, why don't I try to make some prototypes. Vanessa Chan: The thing that really bugged me the most was tangled headphones. I was on the phone constantly when I was at McKinsey and would literally spend 30 seconds before every conference call trying to untangle headphones. I was looking around and observing other people and they all were having that same problem. I thought I would lead with that. Vanessa Chan: Basically took the plunge a little over a year ago. Decided to leave the corporate world and embark on this new journey which really for me was a learning journey, which was can I bring an idea and concept I have, make a prototype out of it, then find a [inaudible 00:05:15] manufacture it, and then bring it to market. Learn about branding, marketing, IP, all this stuff which I really hadn't learned when I was in the corporate world. Vanessa Chan: That's kind of how I went from McKinsey to going to do this. Joe Taylor Jr.: It's interesting that you start the story with the idea of what's going on at your kid's school. First of all there's a school that exists that has a venture incubator inside the K to 12 school. For folks who are listening, that's your competition, here they come. They're coming for you. Joe Taylor Jr.: The second thing is it always strikes me when I talk with entrepreneurs that we're accustomed to this way of working in the corporate world where we are working in very, very narrow silos. Your silo happened to be innovation. You bring a lot of education to the table. Tell me about the journey to take on those things that you had never really experienced before. The branding, the marketing. Joe Taylor Jr.: You have a very strong sense of how to build a product that solves this dilemma, but now you have to think about selling it, manufacturing it, marketing it. What did you have to do to grow into the role of CEO? Vanessa Chan: Great question. One of the things that I mentally had to get over was, and we laugh about this at McKinsey and I think it's true actually for anyone in my generation, which is we are all insecure over-achievers, which means we're perfectionists. You think about the school system that we went through. We all were trying to get the straight As, perfect SAT score, captain of the sports team. You go to an Ivy League school, you go to the top jobs and there you go. Vanessa Chan: For me, the biggest mental shift was really this idea of failing fast and trying stuff out and it wasn't going to be perfect. Joe Taylor Jr.: I think in our generation we were told not to fail at all. If you fail, you're done. Vanessa Chan: Exactly. Joe Taylor Jr.: Now I teach folks that are coming up at age 20, 21, 22, and they're saying with no fear, "I'm on my fourth startup." It's fine. Vanessa Chan: It's true. In fact, I have to tell you my biggest source of strength has been my children. The school they're at right now is teaching resiliency. It starts very early on where in kindergarten my daughter came back with a coloring paper which had a bunny rabbit that says if you make mistakes, you're trying. Already this idea that you're going to make mistakes as you go and it's okay, it's part of a learning process, has been critical. Vanessa Chan: For me, going from a planner and to someone who really didn't feel comfortable making mistakes to just throwing myself out there and trying things has been the biggest challenge. It's been a great learning experience for me and I'm very open and talk to my kids all the time about any challenges I'm facing. We've gone through the prototype process together. They gave me opinions. They really are great coaches around how to think through this. Vanessa Chan: I know it sounds a bit counter intuitive around it, but I really think that when you're empowering children to understand how the world is working and ask them what they think, they have such an innocent and unjaded view that if you actually use your ears and listen to what they're saying, there's some gems of advice there. That's really been helpful for me in my transition. Quite rankly, very empowering for our family as a whole. Vanessa Chan: All of us are going through this journey together. I think it's a very good for them to see their mom taking a big risk like this. What I've said to them is, "You know what? If I learn then it's not really a risk." Joe Taylor Jr.: One thing I love about the way that things are framed up on your website, you talk about solving problems. I love that you've framed them around the word gripes. The idea of gripes. We talk about entrepreneurs who are really successful because they solve problems, but I think that you're drilling down into what are the things that actually annoy us that we could find better solutions to. Joe Taylor Jr.: How did you land on the idea of headphones beyond knowing that you're on the road a lot. As a consultant, they're always getting jammed up. I remember for the time that I worked at Apple, for years, no matter what role you were in, you carried lots of extra headphones because you'd run into people that would say, "These headphones are all jacked up." You would just have them in your pouch, like, "Here's extras." Joe Taylor Jr.: For the first three years of the iPhone, all of us gave out free headphones to anybody who would ask. Yeah, they got tangled, they got messed up, here you go. Joe Taylor Jr.: Tell me about coming into the market with something that is so differentiated compared to what normally gets sold as an audio file product. Vanessa Chan: For me it was a couple of different things. One was the tangled headphones really bothered me. One of the things I found in working in the realm of innovation for 14 years is you really want to be observant. For me and my first product I was launching, I wanted to make sure it was a universal gripe. I didn't want something that was kind of a niche. Vanessa Chan: I spent quite a bit of time in my travels, just keep my eyes open and just watching people untangle headphones. I knew it was something which was bothering people. Vanessa Chan: The other thing for me was just observing for myself and others, which is how do we use headphones. One of the things which you won't relate to but as women we have these huge handbags. I actually spent a lot of time just looking in my handbags for my headphones before I even untangled them. That step in itself really bugged me and my headphones would get caught. I was like is there a way I could have it so it's more easily accessible? You don't want to be wearing headphones because they're ugly. I was like I need a kind of fashion angle to it, as well That's why I thought about decorating them. Vanessa Chan: My very first prototype was just from physical clips to prevent things from tangling. Then those just looked ugly. I started tinkering. I spent a lot of time at Beadworks. It's a local beading studio where my daughters and I will spend hours there just making jewelry. Spent time there just decorating old Apple headphones and wearing them. Then revolved from physical clips to magnets. Vanessa Chan: Once I had this idea which I wanted more universal design, which is why I went for the women's version was kind of a chain, kind of Chanel-like in terms of it's a very understated look so you can layer it with different things. I then went and looked for contract manufacturers. That's how I got going. Joe Taylor Jr.: How do you find manufacturers to produce something that's so specific? Vanessa Chan: It's something where luckily I grew up in Hong Kong. That really helps, and Shenzhen is just across. It's an hour train ride away. I've got connections that are very helpful. Also the internet can be helpful, as well. Vanessa Chan: I think right now is you think about Human to Human interactions, it's like the world is kind of collapsing right now. Joe Taylor Jr.: I've heard from the team that's over at Spore, they make some solar chargers, I don't know if you've met them. They spun out of Drexel. There's a group of guys and I can envision them just walking through the Shenzhen market. What they told me about an experience was you still have to go up to these manufacturers face to face and sell them on your idea. It's not necessarily I'm going to pay you to just make the stuff. They have to be convinced that it's a worthwhile endeavor. Vanessa Chan: I also think that you need a level of trust. It's something where the most important person in this working relationship is my supplier. My supplier doesn't deliver, then I'm going to have a lot of disappointed customers. You want to make sure the quality's there. You want to make sure they're telling you and delivering what they are telling you that they're going to do. Vanessa Chan: We had a lot of different suppliers send us samples. The sound quality of some just wasn't there. Then there's one supplier I found where me and her just connected over email. You know when you're dating you just know? We would finish each other's sentences, we Skyped. She's about to have her first baby at the end of March. She left the corporate world four years ago to start this company with her husband. We already were bonding. I'm meeting her for the first time in a few weeks. I'm actually taking my children with me to Shenzhen to see the stuff come off the line. Joe Taylor Jr.: That's fantastic. Vanessa Chan: We're going from me sketching things out on paper to the entire samples, prototyping, pricing, marketing, kickstarter, launching all that stuff together to actually seeing the product come off the line. I'm real excited to meet her for the first time. We've spent a lot of time on the phone and video chat. Vanessa Chan: It's something where with video chat that's a game changer. You can actually look in someone's eyes and you can tell is this someone I want to do business with. Joe Taylor Jr.: Absolutely. Vanessa Chan: We really do have a good working relationship. Joe Taylor Jr.: Tell me a little bit about the process of iterating from prototype to the actual piece that's going to roll off the line. How many different versions of this did you go through before you got the final? Vanessa Chan: Oh my goodness. I can't count that far. We had designs that had on paper. I then went through a bunch of different prototypes. I made it Beadworks by myself. Then I was narrowing. We had pearls, we had beads, we had all kinds of things. Vanessa Chan: Then ended up on this chain design. Then on the first generation I really wanted the sleek look to it. We didn't have a microphone. It was activating the microphone in your phone because it looks quite elegant that way. A lot of people want to be able to throw their phone in their pocket and go. Now the one we finalized on Kicksatarter, has a small microphone which is kind of inconspicuous and I made sure I placed it in a place where when the clasp is formed it's not obvious it's a microphone. Vanessa Chan: I went through four or five different microphone designs. I went through ten different earbud designs. Every little piece was a design element. This woman I was working with in China gave me a bunch of different samples. Each time I had to wait a few weeks to get samples in then I'd iterate, and so forth. Vanessa Chan: We probably went through 20 or so different design generations. Joe Taylor Jr.: I think the compelling thing to me thinking about how I observe folks solve problems, if you think about what designers and developers call use cases. What is the specific use case? You're not just solving for what is the best earbud. You're solving for what is the best earbud, what is the best microphone, what is the best connector, what is the best clasp, what is the best texture. The level of complexity I think is about an order of magnitude higher than if we just sat down and said let's design some good earbuds. Joe Taylor Jr.: I think on the opposite end of that, tell me about the reactions that you've seen people have to the product. Even just clasping and unclasping it, converting it from accessory to technical item. Vanessa Chan: Sure. First of all, I want to be careful of the word, "Best." I don't think there's a best anything out there. I think one of the challenges that you face as an entrepreneur is you think you're trying to get the best. You'll never get anything done. I think it's really around what are you trying to achieve, and is this good enough to go do that. Vanessa Chan: The thing that's been amazing is the reveal, which is most people don't even chow I'm wearing Loop. In fact I'm wearing it now. I don't know if you know this is it or not? Joe Taylor Jr.: Yeah. Vanessa Chan: You've probably seen int [crosstalk 00:16:26]. Joe Taylor Jr.: This is the disadvantage of being on radio right now but we'll put links to the video in the show notes because it's pretty impressive. I can imagine you sitting in a meeting or in an airport or something and just taking it off and plugging it in your phone and people sitting around you must just look at that and go, "Wow. What just happened." Vanessa Chan: It's even people who know I have like, they're like, "What are you doing?" I tell them, "Look, here it is," because I'm always wearing it. If you're a good salesperson you should be wearing it all the time. They're like, "Wait, that's it? I've been looking at this lovely chain you've been wearing the whole time. I had no idea they were the earphones." The reveal on this has been really fun. The number of people who have come up to me said, "I have this problem with the tangled earbuds, thank you so much for solving it and making something which looks nice as you're doing it," has been fantastic. That's really fun is just seeing people's physical reaction to something that I developed. Joe Taylor Jr.: You are working on this pro. You're sitting at Beadworks, you're playing around with ideas and then you decide to take the crowdfunding route. Tell me about that journey. When did you feel like thing were going to really take off? Vanessa Chan: I remember when we got our first factory quality shipment after having iterated with several suppliers. I got kind of my first generation [inaudible 00:17:47]. I just lit up. I really was like, "I think we're ready." That was basically end of the summer of 2015. Vanessa Chan: We needed a video, we needed a bunch of other things to happen. Being someone who's very analytical from McKinsey, you start looking and the stat was you should never launch near the end of the year for crowdfunding, which makes sense. As a mom of two kids I'm so busy with Thanksgiving and Christmas and all that. Everything becomes a blur. Vanessa Chan: We decided to launch in January, which gave me time to get my branding done, a bunch of other things. It's amazing how quickly time flies with this stuff because you're working with a lot of different contractors who are trying to get things together. It was basically end of the summer we decided that we were going to go and ready for crowdfunding. We launched in January of this year. Joe Taylor Jr.: What did you set your goal at? Vanessa Chan: We set our goal at $15,000, which was a modes goal. Something which I felt like we could reach. It also would help me buy a lot of inventory not just to fulfill the Kickstarter campaign, but also to pre-order for other channels out there, as well. Vanessa Chan: We ended up reaching about $35,000, which is great. As I tell people, Kickstarter is a stepping stone to other things. People often times get obsessed with raising six figures or other things like that which is great if you get there. There's been other challenges with people have been oversubscribed to that point as well where their supply chain hasn't been in place. Vanessa Chan: I think we're in a very good spot right now where there's all kind of additional opportunities that are coming up. Joe Taylor Jr.: Tell me about how you feel like you want to grow the company. You've got pre-orders. Do you continue to bootstrap that way? Do you think you find an investor? Where do you want to see it grow? Vanessa Chan: That's a really good question. I'm at this inflection point right now in exploring multiple channels. One of the things that happened is there's been people from Direct Response TV reaching out. There's been online shopping channels. There are online retail stores. There's retail stores themselves. Vanessa Chan: Right now I don't have a fully fledged business plan. It's actually funny. People asked me as we ere getting product liability insurance, "Can I see your business plan?" I said, "I actually don't have a business plan." In fact I deliberately did not do a business plan because I didn't want to be planning for something that was so uncertain. Vanessa Chan: What I have is a very detailed cost model, which is for different certain volumes that I order. I know exactly what my profitability will be. Other than that very, very detailed cost model, I decided not to go with the detailed business plan. Joe Taylor Jr.: Sounds like the distinction between the vision you have for the business that could change day to day based on those variables, rather than the exercise of writing a lot of things down that you're just going to have to shred at the end of the quarter, anyway. Vanessa Chan: I came in knowing I know nothing. When you know nothing, the last thing you should be doing is putting a lot of detail in a plan when you know you know nothing. The only thing I knew was I have to make sure my costs are going to be tight. I need to make sure that my supply chain was going to be tight and so I have ea fulfillment center I'll be working with when we do get some larger orders. Vanessa Chan: I wanted to make sure that I had clarity on my first step. Outside of that, like I said, this is a learning experience for me. Anybody who calls me or wants to do something, I always return those phone calls. That's where I'm now trying to figure out how much of these things are legitimate, and which are not. Joe Taylor Jr.: That's a great question. What is your filter for determining if an opportunity is worth following up for? Vanessa Chan: This is what you'll find if you ever do crowdfunding. As soon as your campaign hits, you will get a slue of emails, Twitter, and people who are reaching out to, quote unquote, "Help," you. Some people will want a percentage of your raise. I've had people ask me for as high as 10 to 12% of my total Kickstarter raise to help me with PR, to help me with social media and so forth. Vanessa Chan: Others come out and start being friendly. Then later on try to pitch you on something else. I've had that happen to me where one person reached out to me over Twitter, was giving me all these links for things to be helpful, said he was an entrepreneur, then the next I knew he's trying to sell me on some scheme for online retail where I had to pay him a couple thousand dollars, and so forth. Joe Taylor Jr.: I'm sure these things are presented as completely legitimate things that everybody does, right? Vanessa Chan: Exactly. It's something where in day two of your crowdfunding campaign you'll have ... Some people come out and actually scare you and say, "We've seen campaigns like yours. They will stagnate after the second day," which is what happens because your friends and family kicks in. You'll see a plateau and that's when you get the phone calls from people. Vanessa Chan: The only thing I could do was ask for references. What I did was anyone who's reached out, I always responded back. Every single person I asked for references. A third of those never wrote back again. Joe Taylor Jr.: They just ghost. Vanessa Chan: Nothing happened. No reply. Then two-thirds would come back with references. Of those, half of those references were not valid. I actually had one guy who had a really lovely conversation with, a PR firm. We were talking about kids and raising them. Everything like that. I called a couple of his references and one of the CEOs said, "Do not work with this person, run as far as you can. They're taking credit for our campaign. Yes we worked with them but they never did anything." Joe Taylor Jr.: Wow. They haven't even figured out to close the loop that the reference they're giving out is giving a bad reference? Vanessa Chan: Or they may think that some people may not call the references, right? Joe Taylor Jr.: Yeah. Vanessa Chan: I've been very good about calling references. I've tried some things, I've been burned on some things but none of the things I've been burned on have been huge dollar amounts. Vanessa Chan: I walked into a couple things knowing I might get burned but waned to really explore for myself what my gut feeling was telling me and if I was right or not. Now I'm in a place where I have to figure out what's my next step. That's where I am right now. Joe Taylor Jr.: Coming back to the idea of gripes, as an entrepreneur, what are some gripes that you have that you wish somebody would solve for you? Vanessa Chan: I have so many gripes I think it'd be a therapy session. I have hundreds of gripes. Literally every day I have a living document of just gripes that just bug me. There's too many for me to even mention. Joe Taylor Jr.: What do you think is the biggest one, though? Vanessa Chan: I don't know. Honestly, all of my gripes are ones which bug me. One thing is clutter. We live in a small brownstone right now with two kids. The kid clutter drives me insane. Constantly there's all kinds of things that I'm trying to think about of how to decrease the clutter. We have Lego messes everywhere. Vanessa Chan: My kids are tinkerers like me. We all are tinkerers and creators, which means we have a lot of stuff we've made. Constantly I just observe and write things down when they come to me. Joe Taylor Jr.: One of the things that I observe is we've been talking a little bit about finding partners. You've got a manufacturing partner. You've got a fulfillment partner that you're planning. How many actual employees do you have in the organization so far? Vanessa Chan: I have one person right now that's helping me with books. She's really kind of an all around general manager so helping me with anything that's coming up. That's been helpful because there's times when I think you need a sparring partner. Me and her are very complementary to each other. Other than that, everyone's been really more on a contract basis which I think is important for anyone starting out because cash flow is always an issue. You don't want to be spending too much if you don't have to. I think that's always an interesting question. When should you be adding more stuff or not. Joe Taylor Jr.: I think one of the surprising things is that the outward face of the company, very, very polished but you are basically the only actual employee/owner? Vanessa Chan: I'm the employee/owner of my ... Kelly, who's doing a lot of work behind the scenes. In terms of everything from what I want my brand to look like, from making decisions on which contracts I should use for video, we have two different videos. The first one we had was much more of a let me tell you how to use it, and I could tell from my video completion rates on Kickstarter that they were kind of low. Basically very early on in the campaign probably a week or so in I was like, "We need a new video." Quickly found someone to shoot more of a storytelling video and the completion rates shot up, as did some of our sales, as well. Vanessa Chan: Then I've been honestly once you do a campaign which is crowdfunding, it's a 24-hour, 7 days a week PR campaign. That was what I was spending all my time on was Twitter, Facebook, reaching out to press and trying to really drum awareness of what we're trying to do. Joe Taylor Jr.: Let's touch on that a little bit. It's an area that we spend time with clients figuring out how to get attention from reporters. Usually rule one in my book is have something that's a great story, or have something that's a fantastic product. In this case, you did a lot of the outreach yourself, and ended up ... I mean the first experience that I had of you was the newscast that was on right after the Grammy's here in Philadelphia. My wife is tapping me on the shoulder saying, "What is that?" Joe Taylor Jr.: Then we're recording this here at Benjamin's desk in Philadelphia at the Curtis location. The interesting thing was you were already in the Benjamin's desk network. We're like, "Wait, I should know this person. How has this happened?" That's a thing that I know of many companies that will spend a significant amount of money and get very frustrated that they're not getting that TV placement. That story placement. It feels the way it should, fairly effortless for you. Joe Taylor Jr.: Tell us a little bit about how you landed on the evening news the night after the Grammy's. Vanessa Chan: First of all, the Philadelphia community is amazing. I mean it really is one where people are trying to support their own. E reached out to a lot of different people, our friends. Through those connections we started with the South Philly Review. My neighbor across the street happens to know the editor, who then said, "This is a great piece. We'd love to cover someone who is one of our own." We got in there. Vanessa Chan: We also had Philadelphia Daily News. I had a friend who had a friend who had a friend, and Michel Hinkelman wrote the first piece about us there. Then I went and pitched at the Philadelphia Women's Conference to QVC Sprouts there. Joe Taylor Jr.: Sure. Vanessa Chan: Got a couple of local people interested there. Basically started off quite small. It's something where like I say, say you have to run 24/7 PR campaign. We had a short little few paragraph overview of what we're doing. Then if you set your target right and you're able to hit your goal pretty quickly, and we hit our goal quite quickly, less than a week, then people are excited even more to cover you. Vanessa Chan: Then Kelly had a friend who was over at 104.5 and so they put something on. Then [inaudible 00:28:57] 101 called, and then CBS called. Joe Taylor Jr.: This becomes a snowball. Vanessa Chan: It just becomes a snowball and it's funny because you don't know when things are going to hit. I remember we were skiing one weekend with my kids and suddenly there's a flurry of pledges, like within a 30-minute period I saw a big spike. I'm like, "What is this?" Joe Taylor Jr.: What just happened? Vanessa Chan: What just happened? I go and I Google because you're on the ski lift and the thing was like ping, ping, ping, ping. I'm like something happened because this is not normal Daily Mail had covered us. Daily Mail is one of my favorite sources of news. I let out a little squeal of delight when they covered us. You just don't know where it's going to be coming from. Vanessa Chan: We've been very fortunate with our press coverage. I think there's two angles to it. One is tangled headphones are a universal problem, so there's been that angle. I think the second angle is people are interested in the story of someone who's leaving the corporate world to try to become an entrepreneur and being inspired by their kids to do it. Vanessa Chan: I think there's two angles to our story, which I've seen people interested in. Joe Taylor Jr.: Along those lines, if someone is listening to this right now and thinking about making that leap, what advice do you give them? What do they need to do to be ready to make that jump? Vanessa Chan: I think the first thing is my husband and I have a very strong partnership. We've always been very supportive of each other. Having his support through this has been very, very important. I couldn't imagine not being able to do it without him being my cheerleader and my champion and so forth. Vanessa Chan: Secondly, I think framing this in a way where this is a learning journey, especially if you're of our generation which is insecure over achievers, if you're coming out thinking I'm going to make a million dollars right away, then you're going to just be disappointed and scared. Vanessa Chan: I think really wanting to do this because you love your product, you love your idea and you want to learn, I think is really, really important. Vanessa Chan: I think third is financially having put away enough that it won't be scary to not have your paycheck. I miss my paycheck, to be perfectly honest with you. My husband and I have been careful around saving and so forth. He has a very steady job and he can cover things, but I do miss not having my monthly open up my bank account and there's a nice deposit. I think being able to understand the implications of that is absolutely critical. There's decisions you're going to potentially have to make, especially if you don't have someone who can cover that part of it for a while. Vanessa Chan: I think those are things which I think has been critical for my ability to go take that leap. Vanessa Chan: One thing that was funny is I really enjoy listening to speakers and read and Philadelphia is amazing in terms of the numbers of speakers they have through the Free Library and other places. Peter Thile came to speak September of 2014, I want to say. This was before I had officially left McKinsey. I remember- Joe Taylor Jr.: That was the one at the Franklin Institute, right? Vanessa Chan: Yes, exactly. Joe Taylor Jr.: It was a great event, yeah. Vanessa Chan: It was a great event. He was promoting his book, "From Zero to One." I remember him saying if you want to ... I won't get the quote quite right but it was like if you want to play basketball, don't talk to swimmers. I was like you know, I want to play basketball. I want to become an entrepreneur. This is where Benjamin is asking a lot of other places in Philly were just very welcoming in terms of talking to entrepreneurs and really understanding what it's about. Vanessa Chan: I started talking to a lot of entrepreneurs and just getting a sense of what does it mean. Even within the McKinsey network there's been people who are entrepreneurs. The thing that's been incredible is the amount of time people are willing to take to talk to you. I've had people I've never met in person before where I literally just cold called them or sent them a cold email from reading about them somewhere, and they spent an hour on the phone with me telling me their top ten lessons of things I should look out for. Then sending me congratulatory emails when my Kickstarter got funded. Vanessa Chan: I think the other thing is getting inspiration from people who have done this. It's a very up an down kind of journey. Having people that are there to rally you, especially when you're in a down, is really important. Joe Taylor Jr.: Laurie and I always talk about what folks call the lumpy money concept. The biggest thing you have to get used to is the fact that you night close a deal at the beginning of a quarter and now there's a big lump of money in your account, but maybe it's the last time you see a deposit for three months. It's very different from that steady paycheck. Joe Taylor Jr.: What was your reaction when you started seeing those pledges actually come through on Kickstarter? Vanessa Chan: First of all, it was a lot of gratitude. The first wave of pledges comes from friends and family. If those don't come, then you're not going to start building momentum. It really is something where once you start, it starts building. The first was gratitude. Then you get to that scary second, third day when you just start seeing things level off and you start going through some panic around okay, maybe it's just my friends and family who really like this. Vanessa Chan: Then you have to kick yourself into gear and start doing the PR and all that. You start seeing things spike as you go. When I started seeing some more of the non-friends and family especially start picking up and getting a lot of encouraging emails from those folks saying, "This is great, we saw you on TV, we're excited for you, very supportive," then it really is fantastic. Vanessa Chan: I've gone back and read a bunch of these emails when I'm down and also have gotten to know some of these folks. I've written back to every single one who's written to me just to thank them for their support. It's been a very, very warm community. Joe Taylor Jr.: What's the next big thing that you're going to tackle on this journey from Kickstarter Crowdfunding into a steady state operation of manufacturing fulfilling for what we expect will be a steady stream of customers? Vanessa Chan: I think the first question for me is what channel do I want to go after. I think there's still a lot of uncertainty behind that. There's online retail. There's been a couple places that have reached out. I think that could be potentially quite steady. Vanessa Chan: I think there's some big plays which are unified to DRTV or [inaudible 00:35:18] to online shopping channels. That's also very different. Vanessa Chan: I think right now it's hard to say. I think I'm at that point right now where I'm discovering what the different channels could be and trying to make an informed decision. It's also thinking about what's the role that Loop It plays in the broader journey I'm on. I have a lot of different products, as well. Have to think carefully around what I do with this as my first product [crosstalk 00:35:42]. Joe Taylor Jr.: I think that yeah, even the way that I've observed you build out the brand, Loop It is the flagship product but you've set up Redesign as a studio. It's going to allow you to put more things out into the world. You're not just trying to corner a single market right now. You have a lot of things, and the mechanism to put them out into a pipeline. Vanessa Chan: I have a lot of ideas and I have the ability now that I've gone through it once to think about which other ones do I want to go through. Vanessa Chan: There were a couple ideas but I can't talk about too much here on terms of giving away the next [inaudible 00:36:19] of things. It's funny. People are like, "Why did you start with Loop It?" It's a universal gripe, but also it's physically very small. I have some products which are big. I'm also thinking can't fit a thousand of those in my brownstone. There's also the practicality of it. Shipping was much more expensive, import taxes and all these other things you have to think through. Vanessa Chan: Right now for me it's around okay, let me play Loop It through its journey. Let me figure out what's the right home and channel for it. Then once I have that, think about the next [traunch 00:36:49] of things that I might want to go after. Joe Taylor Jr.: I think the brand is evocative of things like Dyson. They started with a vacuum cleaner, but there's also fans and hand cleaners and all these other things. It gives you that platform upon which you can iterate. Joe Taylor Jr.: Thinking about where you feel you want this to go. What's your dream for Redesign? When we're talking in ten years, what will you be looking back on as the things that you feel really proud that you've accomplished? Vanessa Chan: I think in ten years I will be ecstatic if Redesign becomes a brand which really is solving everyday gripes that drive people insane through various kind of simple, practical, elegant solutions. If I have a bunch of products that have done that, that will feel good. Vanessa Chan: I think what would make me completely beyond ecstatic is if I can inspire some other people to do this, as well, and actually help other people bring some of their concepts to market. Vanessa Chan: I mentioned this really was a journey about education. Even with the journey I'm on right now I've had several friends and people reach out saying, "Hey, can you talk to me a little bit about your journey, how did you do this? I want to try to do something similar." Vanessa Chan: If we could create a movement around people who are not scared to try to go take the plunge and build something great, that would be a game changer I think for the U.S. economy. Vanessa Chan: Quite frankly, as you know start looking at the corporate world, it's getting harder and harder. It's a little bit of a challenge right now to say okay, if you have an Ivy League education you're doing really well, you can go into the corporate world and sit there and have a job that's going to be there for the rest of your life. You look at the way the world's changing. Another great book is, "Second Machine Age," and it talks about the reason why the U.S. economy is growing but median income is dropping, is because of productivity and the fact that Moore's Law is actually happening. Vanessa Chan: One scary statistic I heard was I think it was like 80% of the jobs that my daughters will be applying for ten years from now don't exist today. Joe Taylor Jr.: Sounds like your daughters may just be inventing their own companies to work inside anyway. Vanessa Chan: They could be. It's funny because there's something around nature where both of my kids have really surprised me in terms of where their intuition comes from. We watch Shark Tank and my younger daughter said, "You really should go on Shark Tank." I'm like, "Well, I can self fund this and the deals are quite aggressive that Shark Tank goes." She looks at me, she goes, "Mommy, you go on Shark Tank, you say no to the deal and you get free advertising." I was like, "That's a good point." Joe Taylor Jr.: That is a sound strategy. Vanessa Chan: Very sound strategy. My little moguls I think know more than I do. Joe Taylor Jr.: Oh my goodness. It strikes me that I speak a lot with folks who are in school now and I remember growing up in the '80s when you were 12 and 13 you wanted to be in a band. I meet a lot of 12 year olds now that want to be Richard Branson instead of Mick Jagger, which is a really interesting kind of shift. They want to start a company instead of a band. Joe Taylor Jr.: What do you feel like you need to model for your kids to give them the assurance that they have the ability to choose that path? Vanessa Chan: For me, the biggest thing is making sure my kids are exercising their creative muscle and developing it. I think that creativity is something that has to be developed over time. I think the more creative you are, it could be problem solving, it could be with your hands, whatever it is. That will just serve you well in the future. I think if they are really flexing that creative muscle, that will help them. Vanessa Chan: I think secondly is making sure that they are creating informed decisions. Having the facts on the table, thinking through decisions they're making. We have very open conversations about this. I remember when my oldest kid was 4 and we were at a CVS and she wanted to buy some crayons. There was this Crayola 8-pack of crayons. "Mommy, I want these." I was like, "That's great, but look at these Rose Art over here, they're $1, and there's a coloring book here that's $1, with the same money you could get a coloring book and crayons or you could get Crayola." Vanessa Chan: We had this whole discussion about branding. She's 4, but there it is. It's a very tangible conversation we can have. She ended up deciding to go get the Rose Art crayons and the coloring book. She's in the car coloring, and she opens up and she's like, "Oh look, one of the tips is broken on the Rose Art." I was like, "That's because the quality isn't quite there." She's like, "Well yeah, but if I had the Crayolas I'd have nothing to color on right now." I was like, "Exactly." Joe Taylor Jr.: Exactly. Vanessa Chan: There's quality and the trade-offs and all that. We from a very early age have discussions around the way the world is working. I remember when I blew their mind that Pepsi and Doritos are owned by the same company. Joe Taylor Jr.: Right? Vanessa Chan: We had a whole discussion around synergies. Why would a company like Pepsi want to own Doritos? Well when you have a soda you want to have some chips. Then we talked about when you're putting them into a retail store you can put them in the same truck. Vanessa Chan: It's something where I just think giving them an awareness of the say the world works earlier is helpful. Quite frankly, I went and got a PhD. I really didn't understand the way that the world worked until I started at McKinsey. I had no idea. Joe Taylor Jr.: It's almost like you had to come around, because I feel like I had a similar journey. I joke with folks that I've worked at the Financial Times before I completely understood what a stock was. I'm covering companies and still trying to figure out what are we actually covering. It took me until grad school to figure out oh that's what I was writing about all those times. They're for, but they're receptive to it. Vanessa Chan: She was receptive when we had like absolutely. Even on Sunday. We went to go buy bagels and my 7 year old, like I said we're talking through this stuff since they've been able to talk. She asked me, "How does a credit card make money?" Joe Taylor Jr.: Oh boy. That's an entire different conversation. Vanessa Chan: It is but the thing is in her mind right now she's looking and asking the question. For me it's the fact that she's watching me do this transaction. She's like, "Why do credit cards exist? How are they making money? What are they doing?" We had the whole conversation around that. Vanessa Chan: At one point it was getting a little bit too much because it's quite layered. She's like, "This is really complicated." I was like, "It is. Here's the two things you need to know." That's really what my husband and I are trying to do is get our kids to observe the world, ask questions, and having open dialogue. They know all the troubles we've had in terms of jobs and challenges with trying to get my thing to go viral. We have very open conversations around this and they are brainstorming with us all the time. Joe Taylor Jr.: They're going to have really specific points of view when they get to be 13, 14. Vanessa Chan: Sure. I hope they do. Then I'm doing something right. Joe Taylor Jr.: Exactly. Great. Vanessa Chan, thank you so much for stopping by The Build. We appreciate. We can't wit to see what this grows into. Vanessa Chan: Thank you so much for having me. Joe Taylor Jr.: The Build is a production of 2820 Radio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our producer is Laurie Taylor. Our Associate producer is Katie Cohen Zhaniser. Our talent coordinators are Katrina Smith and Gazem Yali, and our post production team is led by Evan Wilder at Flowly Audio in Detroit. Joe Taylor Jr.: My name is Joe Taylor, Jr. Thanks for listening to The Build. Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Build. We hope you'll share this series with your friends and provide us with feedback on the iTunes store.