Building a Durable and Portable Guitar Brand – Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 51:20)

PODCAST AUDIO

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Intro

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars shares his journey of creating sleek and durable carbon fiber guitars and ukuleles designed for portability and great sound, with their flagship product being a foldable mini-dreadnought travel guitar.

Episode Summary

Adam Klosowiak, co-founder and CEO of KLOS Guitars, discusses the inspiration behind the company and the value proposition of using carbon fiber as a material for making guitars, highlighting its durability and resistance to changes in temperature and humidity. He also talks about the customer journey and how they prioritize product-market fit by evolving and expanding their product line based on customer demand. Klosowiak emphasizes the importance of balancing inventory levels with sales and discusses their marketing strategies, including aspirational marketing and showcasing their guitar’s features. Finally, he shares his lessons learned in supply chain management and the importance of inspections and checklists when dealing with international suppliers.

  • 00:00:00 In this section of the video, Adam Klosowiak, the co-founder and CEO of KLOS Guitars, shares how he got started in entrepreneurship while studying electrical engineering at Princeton. He explains that he found his degree to be theoretical and wasn’t getting much practical experience with building things. He entered a hackathon with two friends, where they built a power strip controlled by Bluetooth that won the competition. This experience inspired him to take a class in entrepreneurship, and around the same time, his brother built a carbon fiber guitar and entered it into a business competition. They won a summer accelerator and launched their first product. The idea for KLOS Guitars was his brother’s, and the two have worked together with Adam leading the business side and his brother leading the product design.
  • 00:05:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak, co-founder of KLOS guitars, discusses the value proposition of carbon fiber as a material for making guitars. He notes that carbon fiber is stronger and lighter than wood, making it more durable and resistant to changes in temperature and humidity. Klosowiak explains that their mission is to make affordable instruments that are durable for people who travel and use them often. They identified a gap in the market for affordable carbon fiber instruments and successfully filled it by creating a product that solved this specific problem.
  • 00:10:00 In this section of the video, Adam Klosowiak discusses how solving a small gap in the market helped KLOS Guitars get its first several thousand customers. He also talks about how the use of carbon fiber in guitar making affects the acoustics of the instrument. According to Klosowiak, the difference between carbon fiber and wood is not noticeable compared to the differences between different types of wood. However, carbon fiber offers greater consistency in the design process, which can improve stability and minimize variations in each unit. Klosowiak also explains the customer journey for KLOS Guitars, stating that most customers are already guitar players who want a smaller, more portable guitar.
  • 00:15:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak talks about the focus of KLOS Guitars and how they started. He explains that while their travel guitar is the most popular, they are also expanding to produce premium ukuleles and other guitar models. Klosowiak mentions that being naive as a young entrepreneur can be helpful, as it allows one to be convinced of the potential of their product even in a saturated market like guitars. He adds that their first successful launch on Kickstarter with only $1,000 in advertising spend was a big validating moment and led to early adopters being willing to wait nine months for their guitar to be delivered.
  • 00:20:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak talks about the product development process of his company and how it evolved over time. Initially, they made the first 2,000 units themselves, learning how to manufacture and assemble their product. Eventually, they found a supplier to make carbon fiber parts for them. They prioritize making things that have the biggest impact on the customer experience, whether they make it in-house or not. They also take customer feedback seriously and have a “coming soon” section on their website where customers can click on instruments they would like KLOS Guitars to make. Through this approach, they have been able to evolve and expand their product line based on customer demand.
  • 00:25:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak, the co-founder of KLOS Guitars, talks about their product development strategy and how they prioritize product-market fit. KLOS Guitars always stays true to listening to the market, tries to not make something that no one will buy, and relies on early adopters to launch their new instruments. Klosowiak also discusses how they have grown their business slowly and organically by doing almost everything themselves, finding experts when needed, and transitioning from Kickstarter to having their own website and dealers who carry their products.
  • 00:30:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak, co-founder of KLOS Guitars, discusses the success of using Kickstarter to launch products and move them to their website for direct-to-consumer sales. They also discuss opening up to selling their products in stores, but the pandemic quickly slowed that strategy down. However, as brick and mortar began to perform well again, they turned that channel back on, and found success in both e-commerce and working with retailers. Klosowiak also talks about how they built their team, starting with part-time interns and eventually hiring hourly workers for manufacturing and marketing, with videography being a crucial skill set. One of their first employees was eventually given the co-founder title after bringing a lot to the table.
  • 00:35:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak, the founder of KLOS Guitars, talks about the challenges he faced growing his brand in terms of manufacturing and sales. He shares how it took years to switch from a manufacturing challenge to a sales challenge and how they now balance their inventory levels with sales. He also discusses their marketing strategies, emphasizing the importance of SEO and organic traction, and how they have diversified their sales channels to include their website, Amazon, and other instrument-related websites. Klosowiak also reveals the complexity of doing international business, including the higher cost of shipping and duty and tax implications. Nonetheless, they plan on expanding their brand around the world.
  • 00:40:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak discusses the different marketing strategies that KLOS Guitars uses to promote their product. Klosowiak highlights the various features of the guitar, such as durability and portability, and creates ads that showcase them. He also mentioned the importance of aspirational marketing and how it encourages customers to take their guitars on adventures. Additionally, he talks about the difficulties that come with supply chain management and shares that in the past, they’ve had cases where a whole batch of parts did not meet their specifications.
  • 00:45:00 In this section, Adam Klosowiak, founder of KLOS Guitars, discusses the challenges and lessons he learned in supply chain management, particularly the importance of inspections and checklists when dealing with suppliers from different countries. He emphasizes that even big companies like Microsoft encounter supply chain errors despite having many full-time employees managing the supply chain and quality control. In the rapid fire segment, Klosowiak recommends the book “Shoe Dog” for entrepreneurs, suggests Flux Marine as an innovative company in the renewable space for its electric motors for boats, and endorses productivity tool Slack. He also mentions Chobani’s founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, as someone who currently inspires him, and shares the advice to expect hard work when starting and growing a business.
  • 00:50:00 In this section, the interviewer asks Adam Klosowiak about the challenges of starting a business and how one should deal with the inevitable difficulties that come with entrepreneurship. Adam emphasizes the importance of keeping a level head, solving problems, and remembering why you started the business in the first place. He also mentions that despite having hundreds of guitars, he only gets to play for about one to three hours a week.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Book: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars

00:08Introduction
00:53Starting the business
05:19Value proposition
07:44Market Research
13:04The buyers
20:31Product development process
29:23Sales channels
32:06Team
37:56Shipping
40:13Marketing
43:59Mistakes made, lessons learned
46:30Rapid fire round

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars

  1. Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight)
  2. An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about Response: (Flux Marine)
  3. A business or productivity tool that you would recommend (Response: Slack)
  4. A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Hamdi Ulukaya)
  5. Best business advice you ever received (Response: Things will be hard, things will go wrong. But don’t be discouraged. It’s worth it because you’re doing something you’re passionate about.)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there, entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep Talks. This is the show where I interview successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and leaders, and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some strategies and tactics used business. Excited to Adam to show Adam is the co-founder and CEO of Close.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Close guitars build terrible, portable, and great sounding sleep, carbon fiber, fiber guitars and UKs. And today I’m gonna ask Adam a few questions about his journey and some the strategies tactics he used his. So thank you so much for joining today, Adam. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah, thanks for having. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So I did a little bit, uh, for research on you.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, and, uh, I think you have an interesting story. I think you [00:01:00] were studying, uh, engineering and then somehow you, uh, fell into entrepreneurship. Can you share a bit about, you know, what made you start this business? How did you get the idea and how did you get into entrepreneurship? 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Of course. Yeah. So I was studying electrical engineering at Princeton and um, I found electrical engineering there to be quite theoretical.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, it was very interesting and I loved the degree, but all my classmates and I consistently felt like we couldn’t actually build anything. We were very good at theoretical physics and engineering, but we weren’t very good at actually building, you know, useful things. Uh, which you think engineering, you often think practical and tangible.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, devices and and such. And so I, I got into a hackathon with two friends where we were supposed to design this [00:02:00] something in 24 hours and then present it, and we built this power strip that you could control via Bluetooth from your phone in 24 hours, and we actually ended up winning the hacka. And the prize was a summer accelerator where you were to try to launch the product that you built.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And that was the first time that, so we ended up not taking the accelerator because, uh, it had a caveat where you had to take off your senior year, uh, of college and we didn’t wanna do that. But the process of evaluating if we. We’re going to accept the accelerator. We did all, all the market research, competitor analysis, you know, cost analysis, and I actually thought that process of analyzing a product and building a product was far more interesting than.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: What I was studying in my degree and that kind of got me interested in [00:03:00] entrepreneurship, um, at the very beginning. And so I then took a class at Princeton in entrepreneurship and around the same time, my brother was studying mechanical engineering at Brigham Young University. And he’s always been really good at making things and designing things.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And so he was combining his interests in guitar and carbon fiber at the same time, and he built a carbon fiber guitar for one of his classes and he needed help entering the, the idea into a business competition. And so I kind of paired my experience with what he built. Into this competition and we won a thousand dollars and that was the very first guitar.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Whoa. So did you actually end up finishing your engineering degree or did you say, this is not really helping me not 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: build this business? No, I did. I did. Yeah. So the, all this happened my [00:04:00] s uh, my senior year, my second semester. So right at the end of college is when that guitar competition or the competition happened where we built that guitar and we ended up winning a summer accelerator from Princeton for the guitar company.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And we did that the summer right after I graduated. Uh, and that, that’s exa, you know, I graduated, I drove home with all my stuff and then three days later I came back to campus to start that. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Cool. So, so idea for close, kind of the business, uh, business mind, uh, to take that. So he’s kinda like the product, product person, product manager, 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: and you’re the business.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. The very first guitar was, was his idea. And you know, since then we’ve launched many, many more products. But yeah, that very first one, uh, Ian had been working on it and Ian actually, [00:05:00] uh, was teaching me guitar for several years already on Skype, cuz we’re, you know, we’re brothers and so, Uh, we already had a, a good relationship and yeah, he was my guitar instructor, so it was kind of funny that we ended up making a guitar business together.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So did your brother or you, when you started getting onto the business side of this business, like. How did you know that this, you know, one guitar that he had created this idea of creating a guitar? I’m assuming the value proposition is really the, the material. Is it, what is the value proposition? Is it the carbon fiber material or, 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: right, yeah.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: So around the same time, I forgot to mention this, but around the same time that my brother was making this carbon fiber guitar, the guitar that I actually bought from him, that I was using to learn, It had cracked during the winter, uh, and there was, there was a big crack, um, going from the bridge to the end of [00:06:00] the guitar, and that was one of the influences that my brother had on building his guitar.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And you hit it exactly right. The value proposition of carbon fiber. For many industries, but specifically guitar is that, uh, it’s much more durable and resistant to temperature and humidity changes than wood. And it’s much lighter than strong alternatives. You know, carbon fiber has taken over so many industries recently.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, road bikes to then mountain bikes to then hockey sticks, golf clubs, car parts, airplane parts. So many things incorporate carbon fiber that people don’t even know. Uh, tennis rackets or racquetball. Um, and it’s just kind of entered, you know, there have been carbon fiber instrument. Made since the eighties, but it’s always been an extremely niche and extremely [00:07:00] expensive, uh, material to use for instruments.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And what we were trying to do is try to make it a little more mainstream. And so we were trying to design a product that incorporated at first, just some parts out of carbon fiber. So our first guitar was half wood, half carbon, uh, and we wanted to make it a price point that was more main. And, and that’s always been sort of a mission that we’ve had, was to make actual affordable instruments that people who travel and use them and generally might not have a high budget, uh, can afford them.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And, uh, and that’s why we chose the half carbon Halff wood route initially. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And, and so, To go back to the question that I was going to ask initially. So is that something that the research, you had already done the market research or your brother had done the market research and identified kind of like this gap, um, that, you know, [00:08:00] the people, musicians who are traveling or who, who travel a lot more, uh, you know, and their guitars or these musical instruments are more prone to breaking.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So this, this, this, um, Guitar, you know, house wood, half carbon fiber, it’s, it’s gonna fit them well. Like did, was there any sort of, uh, market research or was it more, more like, uh, intuitive that, you know, my guitar broke, this was the solution for me. Yeah. Other 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: people can also use it. Right. It was a combination of, um, is kind of an educated approach and an educated guess I would say.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, you know, again, we were both engineers, so we actually knew very little about business. Um, we didn’t know what the words marketing meant. We didn’t know what supply chain was. Uh, we were extremely ignorant at the time, but this was the logic. The logic was that there were several [00:09:00] carbon fiber brands out.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: But they were all really expensive. Like 1500 was the minimum, but that was just one brand. And for the most part it was two, two and a half thousand plus. And so we knew there was proof of concept and there was demand at that price point. And then we also knew that travel guitars were in high demand, made out of wood at a lower price.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And so the hypothesis was that if we could be the first to fill the gap of, you know, it’s a great material, but there’s just nothing at the lower price range. Uh, so it was a very niche gap, uh, you know, a good product with a good material, but not available at that price point. That’s the gap that we were trying to.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And although it was a small gap, it was a gap. And that is, I think, a huge part of why we saw early success because we, we targeted a very specific problem and we solved a [00:10:00] very specific problem. And, and for a while we were the only ones who, who solved it. And so we, we, that carried us into the first few years of our business.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And I think the logic there and the takeaway there is when people are designing something and making something, even if it’s a small gap, but if it’s a big enough problem and, and you make a specific enough, enough solution, you know, it, it, it can get you your first several thousand customers. Hmm. Cool. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, I, I don’t know, music.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, so I’m, I’m curious, like, does, does the material affect the acoustics of, you know, when somebody’s playing it, does it actually change the, the quality of music or something, or that’s not really a consideration 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: of this? Uh, yeah, it’s a great question. We get that question a lot. The, the thing to keep in mind is that there are, you know, hundreds of different types of woods out.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And so a lot of [00:11:00] people will ask, you know, well, how does carbon fiber sound compared to wood? And it’s so difficult to summarize wood by just saying wood. You know, like an African cherry will sound so sound different than a spruce or. Uh, Ash or older or, you know, mahogany. So what, what I would say is the difference.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: You, you can tell a difference with carbon fiber, however, it’s not anything different than differences between woods. So I’d say if you heard two different woods and two different carbon fiber guitars, you wouldn’t be able to tell which one is carbon. And which one is wood? And then you would probably have a hard time distinguishing between the different woods and different carbons, uh, and carbon fiber.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: You can design from the ground up and you can, there are many advantages of using carbon fiber in designing, because you’re not chopping down a tree to shape [00:12:00] and, and each piece of wood as imperfections With carbon, it’s exactly the same every time. You can control the thickness, you can control the density of material that you put in between carbon.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: So for example, our soundboard is carbon, foam carbon, and that’s called a composite sandwich panel. Hmm. And that gives you durability and strength, but it also gives you resonance and the ability to flex, uh, and produce good sound, uh, and you can control all the variables. And then once you nail it, it’s exactly the same every time.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And so there’s really great stability and consistency across each unit. Whereas with wood, you can get great variation, even if the method of manufacturing is the. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So in terms of the customer journey, um, with everything that you’ve discussed so far, [00:13:00] uh, and you know, you said this is kind of like a niche product.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Can you share a little bit about who the customer is? Like is it someone who’s already a guitar player but they’re looking for one additional guitar, but which has like the specific quality, you know, they can travel with it. Yeah. Uh, you know, the, the then, you know, they will go online and search for like, you know, guitars for travel, or they would already have heard of carbon fiber guitar, so they would search and look for your business or, uh, yeah.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: How, how does, how does one get to know about your business, this, this particular product, and, and so what, what does that, uh, 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: customer journey look like? Right. So I’d say there are kind of two versions. There’s the current snapshot and then the goal, um, the current snapshot is that most of our customers are already guitar players.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, it’s not someone who [00:14:00] wants to learn guitar and they don’t know anything. Some, some customers are like that, but the majority are already guitar players. The majority already have another instrument. And if they’re getting a travel guitar, then they most likely have a larger guitar. Uh, majority will have a larger guitar, but they want a smaller one that’s more portable.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: They could take with them everywhere. Um, the customers that are buying a, our full-size guitar, which is a big guitar, uh, those customers, um, also want a guitar that can travel well, but they emphasize performance more are, our guitar are big. Guitar sounds much better than our travel because the, a small guitar will inherently have, it’ll be very difficult to make it sound good because the volume of the body is so.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, and when I say good, I say good compared to a big guitar. Um, and [00:15:00] then our ukulele, so the bigger guitar is less about travel and more incorporated into performance. And our big guitar can be someone’s, I would say, only guitar, and it would be a very nice, good single guitar to have. Our ukulele is a very premium ukulele.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: It sounds incredible. It’s, uh, one of the more expensive ukuleles out there. There’s, it is very travel friendly because it’s virtually indestructible. But even if you’re just looking for one of the best ukuleles out there and you want one of the best in the category, our ukulele is one of the best. Um, and so that kind of deviates a little bit from travel and it’s just plainly one of the better in the market.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And so each one’s a little different, but how people find it, uh, the travel guitar generally, you know, [00:16:00] durable guitar, uh, best travel guitar, portable guitar, all those keywords will land with close guitars, uh, and will be ranked, you know, top five on a lot of those lists. Um, That is the main driver still for our business.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: The travel guitar isn’t our most popular guitar, but I think as our other models, uh, gain more popularity and there’s more views about them, um, they, they’ll become more popular as well. Um, so yeah. Cool. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, can you hear a little bit about your launch, uh, you know, the launch period itself? Um, how did you launch, how did you get your first customers and how did you know?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That there is, there is some, uh, there’s some links to this 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: idea. Yeah. You know, I, I would preface answering that with, it helps to be incredibly naive [00:17:00] as a young entrepreneur because you, you almost don’t take no as an answer or as an. Mm. Um, and if you’re so convinced that your idea’s amazing in certain categories, and I would say guitar is one of these, you almost can, uh, you can create that reality because, you know, guitar is one of those categories that’s interesting.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: It’s, it’s, um, there are so many different brands that there could still be a new guitar brand that launches today. That in 10 years could be very popular just because the branding is good, the marketing is good. Uh, it’s a very saturated market and there are many, many brands and there’s room for many brands and just like apparel and fashion, um, you know, there’s no best shirt.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, people have a lot of different styles and whatever you like. [00:18:00] So with that being said, at the, at the very beginning, Uh, we knew that we had a cool product when we compared it to what else was out there from a style perspective. And as guitar players. We had some intuition there. I think it was our first launch when we launched and we spent.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: A thousand dollars on advertising and halfway through the campaign is when we learned what advertising was. So we launched on Kickstarter and we raised $32,000 for that first campaign, or 33,000 and, and yeah, we spent a thousand dollars on it. We got our first 70 customers that way. Targeted travel, guitar, carbon fiber, guitar, you know, all the obvious search terms.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Hmm. And those 70 customers were our early adopters, and they were willing to pre-order, they were willing to wait nine months for their guitar. Hmm. And [00:19:00] 70 to us at the time was huge, you know? Mm-hmm. 70 people are gonna play this guitar every day once they get it, and they’re willing to trust a team with no experience.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, to build this product. And so that was, that was a big validating moment for us. Um, I would say it wasn’t yet, you know, I still had another job, um, the first year and the second year, and so it wasn’t yet enough for me to drop everything and, and say, you know, the a hundred percent I believe this idea is gonna go off.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: But we launched two more models. We made an improved model of the. 1.0. Uh, we sold, I think 160 or so on that second Kickstarter, and then we launched a third model that had a premium model included in the campaign. And. It had electronics in the acoustic guitar and we sold [00:20:00] 500 in one month. When we launched that one, our third Kickstarter, that’s when I truly knew.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: That was two years in. That’s when I quit my other job and went a hundred percent full-time, and that’s when I knew that if you could do that in one month and with how little experience we had, Then you could, I think, build a company around this. And I think although it’s niche, I think it could be sustainable and you know, it’s turning out to be true.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. I mean, um, very curious to learn a little bit more on the product side. So it seems like, you know, your brother created the first guitar with his mechanical engineering. Yeah. Um, you put it on Kickstarter and then you created other versions. Yeah. Did you also get into creating, like building some of the electrical components and things like that?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Or was it that once you got your 70 orders in the first Kickstarter, you found a manufacturer who can, [00:21:00] uh, design and build this kind of thing? So can you share a little bit on your, how, how your product, uh, or your product development process and where, where, where it’s right now? 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s a, it’s a really interesting development over the years.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: So we made the first 2000 model units ourself, uh, in here near Salt Lake City in Utah where we are now. And that was a hu we learned so much doing that, you know, setting up a manufacturing plant, setting up an assembly line, um, building all the molds ourselves, laying up the carbon fiber. The first two years were huge in learning how to make the product, what makes a good product, what makes a big impact on the customer, and what doesn’t make a big impact.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Where is it worth putting a lot of time into? Where can you put less time into who can? And then eventually we had a supplier who [00:22:00] made the carbon fiber parts for us, and that’s what we do now. Uh, we receive the different carbon fiber parts and we start with the assembly. And that, and that is as an example, part of the question, the thing that customers care the most about is picking up an instrument that feels really good.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: It plays really well. Everything, every final touch is perfect. Uh, whether we make that carbon fiber part initially before it’s assembled, or if a supplier makes that, that doesn’t impact the final user’s experience much. And that’s how we kind of prioritize to what we make and what our suppliers make. Uh, but our product development history really evolves from the customer, and I find that to be really cool because, you know, we made the first travel guitar and then the reason that we launched an acoustic electric travel [00:23:00] guitar is because.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: So many of our customers, even though we, you know, we had maybe at that point 250, 300 customers, so many of them were asking, can you make this, but acoustic electric? And so that to us was the next step. Okay, let’s make an acoustic electric. Once we did that, and on that campaign we had a more premium version, we were shocked at how many people bought the more premium version.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Because it was a little ironic. We were trying to be the affordable carbon fiber guitar and we had this expensive model and, and so many people were buying the expensive model. And so that was the first time where we were like, okay, you know, we’re, we just graduated college. And so we’re poor young adults, but not everyone is a poor, young adult.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And actually a lot of people like buying expensive things. Because you know, there’s a totally different [00:24:00] value creation around having something that’s nicer, more premium, longer lasting, better quality. And so then that was a, you know, that was a big lesson in price point and quality. And so we designed a more premium version.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: We then designed full carbon models, so even more premium. And even better quality, and that worked really well. Then people asked, can you make a Yu Ukulele? Can you make a big guitar? So that’s pretty much how we product develop. Now we wait if, if you go to our website and you go to the Coming Soon section of our website, we have a very large list of instruments that are coming.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And, and customers are able to click on whichever instrument that we don’t make and sign up for us to make it. And we plan to make every instrument that there’s enough demand for. And what I like about that [00:25:00] strategy is, one, it’s, it’s automatically developing something that has a product market fit. Uh, it, we inherently won’t make it unless there’s enough of a product market.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Two, we already have early adopters right when we launch it. And so there’s, there’s almost no risk. And, and we, and we also do a Kickstarter for each one. So there literally is no financial risk with the launch of a new instrument. Um, and, and that way we’re able to always stay true to listening to the market.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Well, with this strategy, we find it impossible to make something that no one will buy whi, which I think is important to remember because sometimes you could get misguided from the market or kind of detached from a product market fit by thinking that the market will want it, but then they don’t. Uh, and so that’s our current strategy.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And, uh, [00:26:00] initially were, were you and your brother doing everything with your own two hands, like using your own engineering knowledge and doing the research? Or did you actually go out and, and get some help or, you know, consult with people who, who had more experience? You know, as you said, you know, you both who you and your brother.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Pretty much, uh, new to this. Yeah. Did you get any help, like in terms of the design and product development, or was that, uh, uh, completely just, you know, you two trying to figure it out and Cause that would be, I mean, I’m, I’m just trying to ask you, I mean, that would be pretty impressive, you know, two people coming up Yeah.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Completely new product. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah. Yeah. My, my brother is a phenomenal engineer. Um, he, you know, since we were young, He’s always been designing things and fixing things. And his first job was when he was 14, fixing bikes at a local bike shop. And you know, he would build, [00:27:00] he would build devices that no one would really think to make at a young age.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Like at 16 he built a paper shredder where he pulled a rope and razors would cut a piece of paper they’d put in. This was a mechanical device. Um, But I would say we both, you know, en engineers are, are good at learning things and if you don’t know something, then you have to find an expert and learn from them and then test it.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: You know, some things go well, some things go poorly. You test again, you know, learn more from another expert, whether it’s finding experts or YouTube or talking to a supplier. Learning from. So pretty much all of the product development happened in that way. Um, when Ian encountered an engineering challenge, uh, yeah, we cons, we found someone who was better at it, maybe in a different space or, or we tested things.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: But yeah, the scientific method will, [00:28:00] will take you very far as far as hypotheses and tests and taking notes and learning what went well, what went poorly, and, and just going from. Um, but yeah, it’s part of the reason that we’ve grown slowly and organically is because we’ve done almost everything ourselves.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And, you know, it’s the same way on the marketing and business side. Um, especially in the early days when I didn’t really know what I was doing. Um, But I was good at, I was good at finding people who did and just asking them a million questions and learning from them. And eventually I developed some sort of expertise that was enough to get to the next stage.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And then at the next stage there was always new things to learn. Uh, so it, I think that approach can, can take you quite far. Obviously certain industries have more of a technical. Challenge than others. [00:29:00] Um, but Ian had the, the right amount of technical experience with carbon fiber to be able to learn. I think you do need to have a certain level of competence to be able to learn.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: You know, if you have no experience with carbon fiber, you can talk to a carbon fiber expert and you won’t learn anything because you don’t have that language and that understanding. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, at what point did you transition from Kickstarter to having your own website? Uh, I, I see that in terms of your sales channels, you have a website.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I also see on your website you have like a bunch of dealers who carry your products. Um, can you share a little bit about how you transitioned, you know, from just doing, I’m assuming you were just doing business on Kickstarter and then you at a certain point where you went, uh, completely. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah. The transition was pretty fast for us.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: The, we did the first Kickstarter took about a year to fulfill that. Then we launched our [00:30:00] website and we sold, I think it was about double what we sold. Or or about the same amount that we sold on that first Kickstarter, but on our website. Then we did a second Kickstarter while we had the first product on our website, but the new product was on Kickstarter, and that’s always been our approach.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Basically launch on Kickstarter, move it to the website, launch on Kickstarter, and move it to the website. And so with time, that became a very efficient way to advertise and use Kickstarter. The Kickstarter would generate sales, but then people interested in our other products that are readily available, they would buy it on our site.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And so every Kickstarter we did, we always, we also had a bump on our website. Um, we made the switch, so we were direct consumer for the first five years, and then we opened it up to sell our products to stores. [00:31:00] But it wasn’t too long after we started retail that Covid hit, and so our retail strategy was quickly crushed by the pandemic and it laid dormant for about a year and a half, and it wasn’t really until kind of news started coming out that brick and mortar was actually doing quite.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: About a year and a half into the pandemic, um, that we then decided to turn that channel back on and, and now we have, you know, the brick and mortar and the brick consumer channel. And in my opinion, based on the data that we’ve seen and, and how the two work together, I, I think the best pairing is to do both e-commerce and work with retail.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Because it’s just two different sales channels and they both help each other a lot. And so that synergy, I think, will only continue to get better in the next decade. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, definitely. Uh, I [00:32:00] mean, one thing that you mentioned at the beginning was, you know, you were right out of college and you didn’t really have a lot of business experience.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I’m very curious to know once you started getting some success, like at what point did you start scaling your team? Like at what point did you start making, um, hiving and. Okay. What roles did you hire for first and what does your team look like right now? Yeah. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, so we, we hired builders right away. Um, at first it was kind of the intern type employee.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, we hired interns from the college that Ian went to part-time. And initially we didn’t even have enough money to pay people. And so what we, what we paid people with was a guitar. Uh, so the initial employees, it was, uh, I think 80 hours of work was equivalent to a guitar. Okay. And so, so that’s, and that was the Yeah.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: At first it was, you know, a small team build your own guitar and you get to keep it and own. And then you’re also working on other guitars alongside your guitar. And, uh, we quickly then moved to more, um, you know, established hourly workers. Uh, building the guitars and manufacturing really was our biggest.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Our biggest challenge the first four years I would say. Um, and the marketing team was always quite small. Until then. We generally had one videographer, marketer, um, kind of someone in that role, and it was always just one person. The first three years we had. Uh, our first employee slash co-founder, he had a mar, he had a videographer background and so that was essential initially, and he was also good at learning marketing things, and so we worked closely together.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And then, um, your co-founder, you Yeah. He became a co-founder after initially being a first employee. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So do that. Like did he invest some money or did you just say that he is, you know, he’s bringing a lot of skills to let scale a certain 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah, it was, it was the latter. So over time he brought a lot to the table and so we gave him that title.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Okay. Um, and, and yeah. And then after he left, after three years, um, and then we always had one marketing person. And their main skillset was videography. And the reason for that was because one that helped develop, that helped build the website. I was still doing, I was coding the website and usually it was simple Ws and Shopify.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, but we were launching a lot of products on Kickstarter, and for that we needed a videographer. It wasn’t until I think year five that we had more than, Person on the marketing team. Uh, so it was really quite late and we always had a manufacturing challenge, not a sales challenge. I think in 2021 was the first time that we had more inventory than I could sell.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Okay? So it really took a long time just switch from a manufacturing challenge to a sales challenge, and now, Um, now we try to balance that and have a fine line between that. Cause you never want so much inventory that you don’t have an inventory problem, but now you have a storage problem and, and too many models and too many units.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, and so our manufacturing team kind of ebbs and flows, uh, and we try to keep this, keep it tightly, uh, intertwined with our sales levels. [00:36:00] 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Now, initially you did mention that your SEO does a lot of the, the heavy lifting in terms of bringing the traffic to your website. Uh, can you share a little bit about marketing?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: What is working, you know, whether SEO or advertising or. Social media, what, what really brings new customers and, and how do you, uh, keep those customers? Do you have like, uh, customers who, who buy again and those kinda things. Can you share a little bit about your marketing? 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah. So now there’s a much bigger, uh, paid advertising component.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Definitely. Um, yeah. I think as any brand grows, that becomes a part of it. Um, I think, you know, SEO and paid advertising go hand in hand. Uh, SEO and organic traction is almost the highway that you have to build and that has to make sense. You know, if someone searches carbon fiber guitar [00:37:00] organically, they should be able to find us.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: If they can’t, then that’s a glaring red flag. Uh, and then you kind of pour gasoline on top of that. You advertise for that audience, whether it’s on social media or on search engines, through search terms. Um, so yeah, now we do both. We, we also try to sell on several different platforms. You know, our own website, Amazon, other instrument related websites.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, Yeah, in general, diversifying, you know, stores, um, diversifying sales channels and driving traffic everywhere creates, you know, a multi, multiple touchpoint system where people are learning about the brand in different places and that all helps, all the platforms do well. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Are you, are you study mostly in North America or is it like, uh, international fulfillment?

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, we’re now mostly in North America, about 75%. Uh, initially we actually were 50 50 North America and outside of the us. Um, and, and I think that’s because there’s a large international community on Kickstarter. Um, but yeah, now it skews more us. Uh, you know, definitely the plan is to keep growing everywhere in as many countries as we can, uh, but still majority us.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Are there challenges to growing in other countries? Like how, how would a customer in, let’s say Europe or Australia would buy this? They would just go to your website and place the order and you basically ship that out? Or do you have like your own fulfillment centers in those countries or, or distribution channels?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: I would say the complexity with doing international business just increases significant. Um, you know, with everything, with every aspect, um, shipping’s more expensive, sometimes there’s duty and tax that you have to follow. Sometimes there are different rules, uh, for product specifications that you need.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, So it definitely, it definitely makes it, um, more complicated, but not, not too complicated. You know, it’s definitely achievable. Um, we, at the moment for most countries will ship the guitar if they buy it directly on our website. Some countries we have inventory in Amazon, in those countries. So Australia, for example, you can buy it.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, Amazon Australia and we shipped to there and then it ships to the customer from, from there. Uh, Amazon, eu. We have some inventory there, but all those areas are, you know, we want to [00:40:00] improve in all those areas. We have a couple stores that are outside of the us, uh, but not yet as many as we like, so it’s still a work in progress, but it’s definitely doable.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Cool. Uh, in terms of messaging or in terms of, you know, just, uh, attracting people to your website or product? I mean, I see one, one, uh, campaign that you’ve done is like, you know, playing golf with your guitar, which I’m assuming it’s kind of like you’re highlighting how durable your guitar is on your website.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: You have a lot of, it seems like, uh, musicians who are playing your guitar, and that could be one strategy. You know, really just the, the quality of music and functionality of the product. Yeah. Um, and I’m not sure if you’re trying like, some sort of influencer marketing also where you’re bring like more established, uh, musicians who maybe who are endorsing your product and things like that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Can you share a little bit about, you know, in terms of your messaging, what, what are the different things you’ve tried, you know, in terms of different value propositions of your product and what has really stuck in the market? Like what, what. Talks to 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: consumers. Yeah. Um, we try a lot of different things and I, I think, you know, every product, our product has several different aspects to it.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, it has several different feature benefits. Uh, for example, it’s very durable and so some ads we highlight durability, but it also sounds really good and it’s an instrument, so, uh, you have to show people so that they can hear how good it sounds. And so we have ads where people are just playing them. Um, the durability, you know, there are def different ways to showcase durability.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: You could do kind of a scientific ad where you kinda show the data on how it’s durable or you can kind of go the humor route, which we tried with the golf video. You know, obviously you would never golf with your guitar, but it’s kind of this, um, funny, creative way to showcase durability by combining it with something you would never think.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, and that kind of is a new spin on an old idea. Um, so yeah, you know, portability, our guitars are very portable. You can fold them in half. And so sometimes we have an ab where you, the guitar is disassembled and goes into a suitcase. Um, yeah, there are a lot of, and the high quality and premium finish is another feature benefit.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: And, and so sometimes we’ll have an ad where we show how they’re. And, and people working on them. So they kind of feel the craftsmanship. And then a big one is kind of aspirational, but [00:43:00] uh, the benefits of all this is that you can take your instrument to a cool place and play music there. And so a lot of our ads will be people playing in cool places.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, and that’s kind of aspirational marketing. I. In the sense that we want our customers to, from day one think, okay, I now have this guitar that I can take anywhere. So let me take it on an adventure and test it to its limits. Uh, I’ll be carefree with the instrument because the instrument’s strong and we kind of have this idea that.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: You know, we’ll worry about the instrument. That’s our job. The musician and the customer. Their job is to worry about the music and, and enjoying it. And so that’s kind of the relationship that we want with our customers. But yeah, the, the advertising strategy is very wide and we try to cover all the features of the product.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Cool. Um, in every entrepreneur’s journey, there’s always mistakes made, lessons learned, failures, uh, in your journey, um, can you think of like one big mistake or one failure, big failure that was, that really sticks out in your mind? What did you learn from it, uh, as an entrepreneur, as a business, and what can other entrepreneurs learn from 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: it?

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah. It’s hard to just pick one. Um, you know, I think, I mean the first that comes to mind is supply chain. Um, once you start working with suppliers who make one of the components for you, um, it adds a whole nother level of complexity to the business. So we had a big. Uh, we had several supply chain mistakes.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: None of them were massive. Um, but we’ve had mistakes where, uh, you know, a whole batch of parts that come are not [00:45:00] to spec. And so, you know, we, we were waiting for months and, and especially initially actually our first, our first order of next that we partnered with a, a supplier. We, we didn’t go through the, the correct process of inspection, a checklist, um, you know, pre-shipment items and we received parts that were not correct and so we had to start over.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: That. That I think, was a big challenge and I think many people making things will, will kind of attest to the difficulty of making things. And there’s just a lot you have to keep in mind. You know, you have to give good instructions, you have to have a good inspection checklist. Sometimes you have to hire an inspector if it’s in a different country, it adds another language component or a travel component.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Um, and so I think that was a, that, that was a big learning experience and it’s an ongoing experience, you know, uh, even companies as big as Microsoft who are making. Their products. They’ll have supply chain mistakes all the time, and they have many, many full-time employees just managing the supply chain and quality control and, and all that.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: It’s, it’s a massive industry. So that was, I think, one of our earlier kind of burns and lessons learned. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Cool. Uh, very. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve heard, uh, those kinda horror stories in the past also. Yeah. So now we’re gonna move on our rapid fire segment and then this segment, I’m gonna ask you a few quick questions.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: You maybe, or two words or sentence or so. So the first one is one book recommendation for entrepreneurs and why. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: I would say shoe dog, and I think it’s a great story of persevering through many [00:47:00] challenges, and it’s a good example of a now successful company, Nike, but debunking the myth that. To make a big successful company is easy.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: You know, it took over a decade before there was any real traction. And, uh, and so I think that I really like that story because it kinda reminds entrepreneurs that it’s, it’s really not easy for most people. And, and it keeps, keeps you. Rooted in that. Yeah. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, that’s, that’s actually one of the most recommended books on, on the chauffeur for sure.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, an innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retailer or tech landscape that you feel excited about? 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: So for this one, I’d say Flux Marine, they, they make electric motors for boats. Um, sort of like not quite the Tesla for boats, but, uh, I think it’s a very innovative idea. In, um, in kind of the renewable space, and that’s one of the sectors that I like the most.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, kinda innovation and renewables. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Is it, uh, battery based or something 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: else? Yeah. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. A business or productivity tool or software, uh, that you would recommend or a productivity tip. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: A lot of people probably use this, but Slack, I think. Um, okay. I, yeah, we’ve integrated Slack so tightly into our system that now I couldn’t imagine working without it.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Cool. Um, a peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: inspires you? Um, I’d say this changes for me quite often, uh, just cuz you know, there’s so many successful. People out there. But I think the one, the most recent one that comes to mind is, uh, Hamdi [00:49:00] Luka, the founder of Chobani.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Okay. Uh, I listened to his, how I built this podcast interview. Okay. And it’s a phenomenal story that’s really inspiring of how Chobani came to be. So I think that’s currently the, the one that’s at the, for. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Cool. I mean, I, I’m surprised you didn’t say Elon much given that you from engineering broad background and building products, 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: but yeah.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Fi, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: final question. Um, best business advice you ever received or you would give to other entrepreneurs? 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Uh, that one is tough. I think, um, sort of in line with my book choice, I think the, the thing that really helps me the most is. Um, you know, and I’ve heard this from so many different people, but you know, starting a business is hard.

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: It’s a lot of work, and inherently, if it was easy, then someone would’ve already done it or, you know, you wouldn’t be doing it. So, yeah. Uh, I think it’s important to keep that in mind that, you know, things will be hard, things will go wrong. Um, but don’t be discouraged. You know, uh, it, it’s, it’s worth it because you’re doing something you’re passionate about and, and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and keep a level head and keep working hard and, and solving problems and making solutions.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. And final question, how much time do you get now to play guitar? 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Or you, you know, less than I would like and less than you would think, uh, for having hundreds of guitars. Uh, I think probably on average I’m now playing about one to three hours a week maybe. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Okay. Cool. That’s awesome. Well, Adam, those were all the questions that I had, uh, really enjoyed speaking with you.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Thank you for your time today. Thank you for sharing your, uh, very interest. Business story. So thanks again for joining Trip Talk and uh, yeah, really, really appreciated your time. 

Adam Klosowiak of KLOS Guitars: Yeah, thank you. Great.

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