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Taking a deep breath

Posted by Matt Damman on

For maybe the first time in over a year, it's 10pm and I have nothing to do. Well, I have stuff to do but nothing I *have* to do, and really, it's the fact that that mentally, for the first night in over a year, I think I'm sort of... relaxed? 

Why now? Why so long?

Well, last summer we (Shauna and I) had the idea for the Walkie Chalk. It sort of hit us one afternoon on the patio when she couldn't bend over to draw sidewalk chalk with the kids due to just having had our 3rd child. Shauna zip tied a piece of chalk a rake handle and the seed for Walkie Chalk was planted. 

From that afternoon on, it's been a near frenzy of work to bring Walkie Chalk to life - all the while, working a more than full time job myself actually running a small company, and Shauna staying at home with our 3 children. It was constant encouragement from friends and some family that kept us going, but it became more than that too. Once you have an idea for something tangible like a toy (or, I guess any new idea that will require feedback, reviews, opinions), and you decide to move forward, you put yourself out there. It's an odd feeling. You spend weeks or months creating this thing, your "baby" and then you release it out into the wild. I think most of the time, that's when things die, if they even get that far. If I had a $1 for every person who has said to me "Oh, I had an idea for...." I wouldn't be writing this, I'd be on a jet to St Barts. So you put yourself out there and you get feedback, or worse, you don't get any. I've had that happen. But, with Walkie Chalk is was different - People LOVED it! Everyone who saw it simply loved it - well, everyone except for a couple random knuckheads on Facebook. But the moms, dads, teachers, whoever all said they wanted one... or two. 

So then... it shifted. It went from friends saying "oh, cool idea" to "you'll make millions on this" - well, I can tell you there is a vast canyon between the start of an idea and making money, let alone thousands or ever millions. Going through development, concepts that worked and didn't work, creating prototypes, testing them, finding manufacturing, quotes that were insane.. and on and on, to the point of having retail ready production inventory - well, big difference from that to making money, any money. The legal costs alone on a new product are a punch in the gut. But, what I was getting at is, if flipped from a fun thing to work on - to then, having expectations and a fear of letting a million dollar idea die, or worse, not get executed right - like, what if we do all this, spend all this money, push my comfort zone with contacts, asking for things, put ourselves out there asking friends to buy the product - and it sucks? Then what? Do we move to Montana and raise cows? I can't milk a cow. We had to make it work. 

Twice I wanted to throw the whole thing in the garbage. A stupid tube with chalk in it tested me more than any job, project or really almost anything in my professional life. Going 0-9 in high school football as quarterback was worse, and always will be, than any job mess I could get myself into - but, two times I wanted to literally take Walkie Chalk and put in the trash - the stress, pressure and my own expectations were a bear, plus feeling like I was on an island with it, the weight of this "million dollar idea" on me. But, Shauna just listened, said we'd be okay and I did what I always do with tough decisions or situations. I  thought it through and went to bed. The sun came up the next day. Always does. And we moved forward each time. 

We had to, forward was the only way. And when you try and launch something new, on your own, you learn really quickly - its you or nothing. There is no company around you making it go. You call in sick, nothing happens, like, nothing. I respect big companies and people who work for them, I worked for 3 huge ones. But when you do, regardless of the stress or pressure you think you have, losing a job as the worst case scenario - when you are your own start-up, it's worse because it's all on you. Lose a job? Hell, you don't HAVE a job, you're trying to create a job, for yourself! Anyway, it's a hell of a feeling and ride to go on, something I encourage anyone to try. 

So, I'm rambling and you're probably wondering (that is, if you are a human and somehow even found this post)... why, now, can I relax? Well, in one years time, we took this idea - this idea people all say "why didn't I think of that" to... or "it's so simple" to (and yes, making something simple is a lot harder than you think) - we took this idea from July 29, 2015 to now... tonight I sit here on Sept 25 with purchase orders from Toys R Us, Bed Bath & Beyond, Hobby Lobby and Ace Hardware, all nationally in-store orders. Walkie Chalk will be in thousands of stores in a few months in several national retailers (we are still waiting on several more). And, we did this all ourselves, right down the pantone color of the logo - not a single detail that relates to Walkie Chalk, from the size of the sticker, to the font on the back of the package, went by without me touching it - and many times, re-working it. It's our baby.  

But, we did it. We took a new idea and actually did something. I guess for all the stress, money spent, hours logged, fun stuff we passed on doing, we can say that. Someday I think it will feel more satisfying.

Now... this isn't where all of it ends of course. Not even close - the funny thing is, the work is just starting! Manufacturing for the retailers, logistics, shipping and marketing... how to do you get people to see and buy Walkie Chalk. If you know, call me!

For now though, a night off...

Okay... enough time off... what's next?