“I think the role of the entrepreneur in the world is to find ways to do things better or more efficiently and then try to do that as many times over with the help of other people.” — Santiago Nestares
Benedict Dohmen and Santiago Nestares of Benitago Group, both 21, met as computer science students at Dartmouth College. Both worked very long hours in the library and suffered from back pain. They began collaborating on a prototype for a product that ended up being called the Supportiback, gathering feedback from members of the Dartmouth community, including a local hospital president and professors and students studying engineering and medicine.
They launched the product on Amazon in the UK, and when it seemed their first small order was in danger of selling out quickly, they arranged financing from their supplier and were off and running. Since then, they’ve entered the US market on Amazon, and are on track for nine-figure revenue in 2019. They have introduced 120 consumer products, and are trying to become an alternative to big consumer products companies through a strategy of applying their successful scale-up strategies to brands they acquire.
Also joining us in this special episode is Elaine Pofeldt (@elainepofeldt), an independent journalist and speaker who specializes in careers and entrepreneurship. She is the author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want, in which she looks at how entrepreneurs are scaling to $1 million in revenue prior to hiring employees.
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Want to hear another case study episode? — Listen to my conversation with SpyGuy’s Allen Walton and learn how he made the switch from overworked and under-appreciated employee to seven-figure entrepreneur. (Stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Benedict Dohmen and Santiago Nestares:
- Connect with Elaine Pofeldt:
- Back Pain Led These 21-Year-Olds to Create a Multi-Million-Dollar Business by Elaine Pofeldt, Forbes
- Supportiback at Amazon
- The Boron Letters by Gary C. Halbert and Bond Halbert
- Ca$hvertising: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone by Drew Eric Whitman
- An Illustrated History of the iPod and Its Massive Impact by Leander Kahney, Cult of Mac
- Amazon Sponsored Products Masterclass With Brian Johnson and Brian Burt
- Fulfillment by Amazon
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
- What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)? by Ash Maurya, Medium
- Python Tutorial: Learn Python For Free, Codecademy
- Nike Ad Too Violent for New Zealand, Ad Age
- Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations by William Ury
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
- The Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule), Investopedia
- Warren Buffett’s “2 List” Strategy: How to Maximize Your Focus and Master Your Priorities by James Clear
- Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger by Charles T. Munger
- The Psychology of Human Misjudgement Full Speech, Harvard 1995 by Charlie Munger
- Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin
- USC Commencement Address by Charlie Munger
- Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Shareholder Letters by Warren Buffett
- A Beginners Guide to Parkinson’s Law: How to Do More Stuff by Giving Yourself Less Time by Joel Runyon, Impossible
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- 16 Essential Steps to Writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by Adam Henshall, Process Street
- Who: Solve Your #1 Problem by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
- Topgrading: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method That Turbocharges Company Performance by Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D.
- Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock
- How to Build and Manage Teams by Vinod Khosla and Anu Hariharan, Y Combinator and Stanford
- Hiring and Culture with Patrick and John Collison and Ben Silbermann, Y Combinator and Stanford
- Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), Investopedia
- High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant by Scott Wintrip
- The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
- The Art of the Good Life: 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth, and Success by Rolf Dobelli
- How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business by Douglas W. Hubbard
- How did Benedict Dohmen and Santiago Nestares become a team? [09:24]
- At what point did Ben and Santi go from complaining about the common problem they were experiencing to creating a business centered around relieving it? [11:20]
- Getting started in the world of manufacturing with a budget of (just under) $2,000. [14:10]
- Entrepreneurship and copywriting preparations Ben and Santi made during the 30 days they waited for their first shipment to arrive. [16:09]
- How did Ben and Santi divide their skills and labor to optimize the time spent on getting the business off the ground? [20:27]
- Ben and Santi describe what happened when the product finally arrived — and they sold a quarter of their inventory on day one. [23:33]
- How did Ben and Santi adapt to the situation once it became clear they were going to sell out of the product on hand? What did they do right — and wrong? [25:05]
- Using the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) method to turn otherwise disheartening and often business-killing failure into feedback. [27:38]
- Third-party tools Ben and Santi have used to gauge metrics, track sales, and split test while selling on Amazon. [30:59]
- Why did Ben and Santi choose Amazon as their first entrepreneurial platform? [34:13]
- Aside from MVP, how else do Ben and Santi generate actionable feedback from an online audience resistant to interaction? [36:14]
- Have Ben and Santi found the information gathered in the European market (where they began) directly relevant to the US market? Looking back, would it have been easier to start in the US? [41:20]
- Santi says he and Ben went into business with the “mentality of removing obstacles rather than coming up with obstacles” — how has this translated into solving real problems? [46:01]
- Santi talks about negotiating credit terms when it was time to place the bigger second order. [46:57]
- Where did Ben and Santi learn how to negotiate? [50:51]
- The important decisions — both good and bad — that shaped how business was done after this first success. [51:34]
- How do the lessons of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger inform Ben and Santi’s partnership? [54:41]
- Rewinding the story a bit, how did Ben and Santi evaluate the feedback they got from Supportiback prototype users at Dartmouth — and how did this feedback modify the development of what became their three key products? [59:36]
- How did Ben and Santi vet their manufacturer? [1:04:58]
- As full-time college students at the time, how did Ben and Santi find the time to do all of this research and development? [1:09:08]
- What catalyzed Ben and Santi’s development of products beyond their initial offerings? How did they decide on the number of products they planned on launching? [1:16:34]
- Does emotion ever intervene in Ben and Santi’s business decisions? [1:18:08]
- Where do Ben and Santi hire help when they can’t do everything on their own, how do they coordinate their efforts, and how do they vet this help? [1:19:41]
- The process of scaling up by taking cues from the Austin Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) community. [1:31:23]
- Weighing the pros and cons of acquiring profitable products and building new ones from scratch — and points in between. [1:35:43]
- What motivates Ben and Santi’s entrepreneurial ambitions, and what do they hope to see their company doing in the future? [1:38:22]
- Personal entrepreneurial heroes. [1:42:58]
- Books and resources currently in rotation. [1:44:56]
- What advice would Ben and Santi give listeners who want to follow their lead but don’t have a similar background in mathematics or computer science? [1:49:17]
- Parting thoughts. [1:50:57]