Inventing the perfect Ice Cream Scoop – Michael Chou of Midnight Scoop
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 44:46)
INTERVIEW VIDEO (ADBRIDGED VERSION) (Length – 28:08)
Sponsors & Partners
Michael Chou, an Aerospace Engineer by profession, engineered the perfect ice cream scoop to solve a problem for himself and created a business out of it.
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Michael Chou of Midnight Scoop
- What is the startup story ofMidnight Scoop?
- What is the value proposition?
- How did you know there would be a demand for this product?
- Who is the target market for Midnight Scoop? Has the target market changed or evolved since the beginning?
- Were there other competitors with a similar product in the market? Do you have competition now?
- How did you finance the business at the beginning?
- I know you ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the idea. Can you share a bit about the campaign, how did you make it successful?
- Can you share a bit about the early product design and development process (prototyping, making improvements)?
- How do you protect your design from being copied? Is the design patented?
- How did you get your product manufactured in the beginning? Have the manufacturing process/suppliers changed since the beginning?
- Can you share a bit about your sales channels? Ecommerce/marketplaces? Which one’s work best?
- Retail strategy
- How did you market the business early on and get traction?
- How did you get Press?
- What marketing channel are working best for your right now?
- Paid advertising
- How many countries are you located in?
- How do you fulfill orders? In-house versus outsourced? How do you make the fulfillment process efficient? Challenges?
- Shipping strategy
- How do you think about loyalty and customer satisfaction? Referrals?
- What are some of the Ecommerce tools that have worked well for you in terms of growing the business?
- What does your team look like right now?
- Where do you go from here? What next?
- What has been 1 or 2 of the biggest mistakes you have made since starting your business? What lessons can others learn from your mistakes?
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Michael Chou of Midnight Scoop
- One book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs/business professionals in 2020 and why? (Response: Shoe Dog. The Nike story)
- An innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Virtual Reality (VR) technology)
- A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend? (Response: Jungle Scout)
- A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things (Response: E-commerce Fuel)
- A peer entrepreneur or business-person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you. (Response: Andrew Youderian)
- Best business advice you ever received or you would give. (Response: Perseverance)
Sushant Misra: My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep Talks. This is a show where I interview successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses. And today, I’m really excited to welcome Michael to the show. Michael is the founder of midnight scoop and also an aerospace engineer by profession. Midnight scoop is an ergonomic ice cream scooper for hard ice creams. This ice cream scooper has a curved handle, which allows you to push into the ice cream, using your arms and shoulders for more leverage and power. And in turn, this makes it easier to scoop the hard ice creams. And today I want to ask Michael a few questions about his entrepreneurial story. And also some of the strategies and tactics that he has used to start and grow his business. So thank you so much for joining me today. Trep Talks, Michael. Yeah, thank
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: you for having me.
Sushant Misra: So I know that you have such an interesting and we were just talking about you know, aerospace and engineering. What you must, you must really like ice creams, like what motivated you to start this business.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Um, it was when so I’ve always scooped ice cream in a certain way that complements our ice cream scooper. So I’ve always I’ve, I have I seem to have like, more weaker wrists. And I’ve always used ice cream scoops in a pushing motion to kind of protect my wrists to keep them straight. So I would push into the ice cream with a scooper. And there were there was never I couldn’t find a product out in the market that allowed me to do that. So basically, I, I invented one. And that’s how I kind of came up with the midnight scoop. I called it the midnight scoop, because, you know, as a day job, I’m still an aerospace engineer. So I would, you know, work a lot of the business at midnight, you know, through through the night or whatever, whenever I could, basically in order to try to get the business off the ground. So I called it the midnight scoop. So, from there I still I still I’m still an aerospace engineer as you as you said. And I love doing both and I can’t let go of either
Sushant Misra: definitely I think both both are interesting and yes, aerospace engineering is definitely very interesting. So what kind of skills like do you apply from engineering to to building the school because you know, ice cream scoop is such a wide widely available product like you could have, you know, you can buy it anyone pretty much anywhere. How what was that product improvement process like how like what kind of skilled engineering skills Did you apply to make the or improve the design? Yeah.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: So it started with the shape of So when once I, I figured out that I needed to, to design a handle to allow me to push into the heart ice cream. So I use my CAD skills as a aerospace engineer to first design it in 3d CAD. And then when when, when we decided that we needed to move on, we would then make prototypes from the 3d CAD and we do 3d printed parts. And just to make sure that the field was good, and then we would choose the right material to make sure that the material is going to the actual product will last a long time. So I took an engineering approach and, and started from concept to prototype to then production and like, iterative, iterative process. So we, we did go through a few different types of materials, and we settled on a stainless steel material. And we believe that now it’s an heirloom product, and now that it’ll basically last forever. So that’s what we’re pretty excited about.
Sushant Misra: So stainless steel, could you have also done this is just purely out of curiosity, could you have made it out of like aluminum or something? Yeah, so
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: we started with aluminum. And initially, we wanted to we we explore, we, initially I thought that aluminum would have been the best, too, because aluminum actually, pound for pound, it’s actually stronger than steel, pound per pound. But, um, we had difficulties with the finish with aluminum. So in order to get a good solid finish, you either tried to analyze it, or you would have to plate it, and we didn’t want to go through any type of plating process, just because it would eventually wear off, you know, whether it’s in five years, 10 years, we wanted really, our products to last forever, we want you to just buy our products once. And that’s it. So we felt stainless steel was the best way because it has a good, nice natural finish. And a lot of like, surgical instruments are stainless steel, so we know it’s ultra safe, you know, you don’t, there’s no doubt about it, that it is the safest material in for for contact for human contact. And that’s why they use those, that material for like surgical surgery and that kind of stuff. So we just felt like, that’s the best material that we can use. And that’s why we just went with that. We didn’t want to take any shortcuts, and our niche is just our niche market is just high, you know, no money, no money spared luxury products. So that’s, that’s kind of like what we’re trying to do.
Sushant Misra: So it’s one thing to as an engineer, you know, you have a need you you found something that you know, design that you could you can improve. But how do you go from there to, to, to creating a business out of it. So while you were creating the design, were you also researching on the other side? You know, would there be a demand for this kind of a product? Because at a higher price point? And yeah, you know, a lot of substitutes available in the marketplace? How did you think about creating a business out of this?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, that’s a good question. To be honest, like, initially, I didn’t, I just, I made the product because I felt like I would want something like this. So I was, you know, and I felt like, in you know, like, if I want it, maybe a lot of other people would would want it to this is when I first started it, you know, I’ve obviously learned learn some lessons along the way to approach it differently. Now that we’re more like, involved in industry. So, you know, I was just sick and tired of using the ice cream scoop in a standard ice cream scoops in a way that I didn’t want to use it. So I just did it. And I thought to myself at the time, you know, like, hey, if I made I know, I can sell 100 or 1000 of these, you know, I don’t care. So I made it, I designed it. And you know, I just started and i when i first when we first when I first released that I put it on Kickstarter, just to see, you know, to see how it would be received. And, and it just blew up from there really, and everyone you know, that seen it or really excited about it. Anyone that uses it really likes it, and then it kind of grew up from there. So I didn’t really too, you know, research just think that you know, it’s not out there. I did try to search for a scoop that, you know, but I couldn’t find one. So that’s kind of how I went about it. Yeah, I want to, you know, to go on from that a little bit more is that our next product, which we want to kind of, we want to basically grow a line of kitchen tools. So our next product, I did do some research to see, you know what type of products people were in demand for. And then I created a product. And we’re so we’re actually about to release that in a couple months, and it’s going to be a pizza cutter.
Sushant Misra: Okay, and you’ve you redesigned that also, you’ve improved the design for that correct?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, I approach that in different way where I research where, where there was a need for a product, and then I and then I, you know, and then I tried to perfect. redesign the product and perfect.
Sushant Misra: So one thing that you mentioned was, you know, in terms of when you think about a business, the first step is thinking about, you know, some of the financing aspect of it. And you said that you put the product on Kickstarter. And did you have to do any marketing when you created the Kickstarter page? Or was it just that the idea just made sense to a lot of people that they that they wanted to invest in it? Yeah,
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: I think so. I think it just made sense, I think there was a little bit we did get a little bit lucky. And were when we were out. And Kickstarter, obviously, a lot of my people that knew me kind of supported it to get it, get it a little bit off the ground. But there was somebody that found out
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: product on Kickstarter, and wrote about us, and start and wrote about us. And that kind of kick started. And that kind of helped kickstart us really, that from that article, they wrote, they wrote about how, you know, it was a unique ice cream scoop and designed by an aerospace engineer, and it kind of rolled from there.
Sushant Misra: So I think I think, you know, when someone says aerospace engineer, I think that makes a good angle for the story. So So did that. Did that come just organically? Or was there like, did you reach out to people to create that story?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: No, no, the kind of the person, the first person that wrote about it kind of conjured up, you know, like, just interviewed me, and because they like the scoop, and just started answering questions, and they found this unique angle, and they kind of went with it, when they wrote about it, then a lot of other people kind of wrote about it. And that’s how it kind of came about. So it was a little bit lucky. I think, you know?
Sushant Misra: And was there any personal investment that went into it also? Or did you just use all the funds from the Kickstarter? And that was sufficient to get the manufacturing going? and things like that?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yes. Yeah, it was just, it was all from the Kickstarter that was able to get Get, get going with the business. I didn’t, we didn’t do any ads or anything like that, at the time. So I was able to, I was able to use the funds to to make more production tooling, and then go from there. So it was very helpful with Kickstarter.
Sushant Misra: So one of the interesting thing with a product like this is because the innovation is in the design, wouldn’t would it be easy to go copy a product like this and just release a release an alternative? Or did you actually go through the process of getting, you know, protecting your IP and things like getting patent and things like that?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, yeah, I think, you know, our, with our product, it’s a unique shape. So we did do a patent for it. So and I would say it’s probably pretty easy to copy. So and we did have just actually recently, somebody did try to copy our product, and we were able to get it shut down pretty quick because of our IP that we have. So we do have a patent on it,
as well, that was that gets in the US or who copied the product.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah. So I was it was through. It was a Chinese company that was trying to sell it through Amazon. So I found it deep down, somebody found it and forwarded to us and and we were able to just shut them down. Actually, we didn’t. It was probably I would say we saw it three weeks before Christmas Day. And because of the timing. I didn’t want to really raise any complaint to Amazon up until Christmas until after Christmas because you know the days leading up to Christmas is very critical for products products selling especially through Amazon, you know, we we that holiday season. For us, because our product is so giftable. It’s very critical. So if I were to say like, you know, to Amazon, hey, you know, like somebody’s copying us copying us, can you look into it? They might pause our listing and their listing while they figure it out, like who’s the real owner, and then like, you know, and then figure it out. So we didn’t want to risk risk that and we knew that they weren’t getting very many sales anyway, so we waited until after Christmas. And then that’s how and then we and then when we did tell Amazon about it, we showed them our patent and everything. And they took care of it within like, 10 minutes. It was like, super quick. So I guess we should have just started earlier, but it doesn’t matter now.
Sushant Misra: No, I think good, better safe than sorry.
Sushant Misra: So So what? So what happens when you you ran the Kickstarter campaign? And it was successful? What is the next step? How do you get this product mass produced? Did you do that in the US? Did you create it overseas? Yeah, we
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: created overseas, and we actually had to go through a few manufacturers, because it’s a little bit difficult to produce. Because it’s we wanted, we didn’t want to take any shortcuts to it, I mean, we could have just made the hand a lot of plastic and, and put on a, you know, metal front tip, and then try to make it as cheap as possible. But instead, we didn’t want it all one material we wanted all, you know, at the time, it was all aluminum. But now that it’s now it’s all stainless steel. So that lends itself to being electrically a little bit more complex, if you’re going to use one material, one solid material. So we had to go through a few manufacturers to get it right. And, you know, it’s just a learning experience along the way, but it’s just it’s part of it, it makes it a little bit more difficult to to grow quicker. But we were, were able to get work with a good supplier now to make it. So
Sushant Misra: I think we’re any any lessons in terms of finding suppliers manufacturers overseas? What was your experience? Like in terms of finding a manufacturer? Were there any minimum order quantity requirements that you had to meet? And those kinds of things? What can you learn from your experience?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, not to not to, we didn’t really run into too much as far as like minimum order, we found that a lot of people did want to try to work with us. So it’s, you know, you want it’s, I think the, it’s almost like you want to, you have so many, so many options, you have to try to filter out as much as you can, you know, you try to do your due diligence and see how big they are, look at their company presentation, figure out how long they’ve been around. Those are kind of important things, and then really how well you communicate with them. Because you’re going to be communicating back and forth for a long time. You know, if how responsive they are how well they are to work with, you know, you can get a lot of their personality, just you know, by talking with them, or even through email. It’s pretty important just embedding them and filtering out all the suppliers, you probably end up with like two or three that are your favorite ones. And you kind of keep going keep going up to a point where you have to eventually choose one and and that’s how you go. And for us, you know, we chose the wrong ones. A couple of times, we had to change two or three manufacturers for these. So I mean, it takes a lot of work. So you know, there’s no, there’s not. There’s no real shortcuts to it.
Sushant Misra: I would say, Did you did you have to travel overseas also for that? Or? What do you think? Yeah,
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: yes, we Yep. Yep, we have? Um, yeah, that’s, that’s that helps to meeting meeting, you know, the supplier and everything. Just to gain that trust, make sure they they actually exist or something like that, you know, I would say it’s always best to, you know, try to get them to make some prototypes for you, or something first, you know, before you go into full production, you know, see how it goes, see what kind of quality you’re going to get for prototypes against check their responses, you know, to see how how well they respond to you. You know, it’s a it’s a it’s a working relationship. So you have to be comfortable throughout the whole process,
Sushant Misra: and the prototype process. I’m going to ask one or two more questions about this manufacturing aspect of things, because I’m very interested creating the prototype, do they? I assume, because it’s not they would have to create some sort Have a mold or something for creating this? Did they charge you for that? Or did they do that, because, you know, you had signed a contract with them, and they knew that they would be the one
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: now, they usually would charge you for the tooling, you know, either for like a prototype that there’s prototype tooling involved, they would usually charge you, but they probably would try to charge you their costs. You know, so and if you’re gonna depends on the complexity of the part, you know, sometimes you can negotiate like them to take on more of the cost of the prototypes. But you know, they want to, they don’t want to lose money, but they’re, they’re probably willing to break even at least until, until, you know, you go into production, you know, for sure, you’re, you’re paying for the full production tool, but they don’t want to lose you at the prototype phase, usually.
Sushant Misra: But but then you would own that too, right? You would own that mold, or,
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: yeah, you would, you would for sure, yeah, you would own that tool. And, you know, it’s sometimes I’m not too worried about like, ownership of the tool as much as really just protecting myself from protecting the business from us having our patents, you know, I’m not too worried about the tool, like, if they need to make sometimes, if now that our orders are more higher, like, you know, they’ve been creating multiple tools. And I’m not there like counting which tools are what I just made sure that no one else is selling our product without us knowing, you know,
Sushant Misra: Would you share a little bit about the supply chain aspect of it? So, so because the manufacturing is overseas? How do you and given that this is, I would assume this is a bit of a heavy product, given that it’s, it’s solid steel and things like that? What is what has been your experience shipping this item? Like? Did you ship it? Do you ship it? by air? Do you ship it by ship? Do you work with some specialized companies, freight forwarders and things like that, that help you with this broad? Like? Can you share a little bit someone who’s getting started? Like where how, what what what would be your advice if someone is trying to ship an item from overseas? Okay,
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: so, for production and larger volume, definitely have to ship by sea. So as as, as you know, we have like a pretty like our scoop is about a pound. And I would say our box is like a inches by three inches by four inches. So one of those scoops if we slip, ship it by sea, it’s about $1 for us to get each. Okay, from from overseas, if we airship it, it smell $3.50 each. So that that, that that’s a big difference in cost. Especially like your cost of goods. So we definitely will try to ship it by sea as much as we can. If we if we were talking prototypes, definitely, we would ship by air because it’s a lot, you know, a lot quicker. So by air, you’re looking at about five business days from overseas.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: We,I would say definitely work with a freight forwarder. And give them the dimensions the weights of the product, and then they give you quotes as far as like, how much it cost now. So a little bit also depends on the season. So if you’re getting it from overseas, like right before their trainees right before Chinese New Year, shipping costs are probably see shipping classes will be like 50% more, a lot of times, because everyone’s trying to get out at that time, and everyone’s just filled with Macs. So, you know, take that in consideration as well. And definitely work with a freight forwarder just give them the dimensions and the weight. And they’ll they’ll tell they’ll give you a quote exactly how much you would pay. So you add about you had about six to eight weeks for you to receive the product if you’re if you’re if you’re setia
Sushant Misra: did COVID had an impact on the on the supply chain on getting produce?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, yeah, it did. Because initially, initially, nobody was see shipping. Nobody was shipping at all for like a month, a couple months, you know? And then all of a sudden there was a backlog. Everybody had you know, you know first started in Asia, so in China, so they were shocked. They were stopped producing And then they had a backlog to write when they got back to work, they were just going as fast as they can see, you know, and so the ramp up was was very, was very steep. And a lot of these shipping companies almost couldn’t keep up and they still they’re still struggling. And up until just this Chinese New Year, I would say it peaked at that point. So seach. So shipping costs have been rising, you know, up until a few weeks ago. So that’s where we’re at fulfilled channels.
Sushant Misra: So I know you mentioned Amazon, and I know that you have a website. Also, when you started out, did you go directly to Amazon? Because, you know, they already have the traffic? Or did you start out with a website? And now, are you also in retail stores? Yeah, so
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: we, when we start, so we started off in Kickstarter. And then right after Kickstarter, we had added on our website, which did pretty well. But like, one thing about Kickstarter is Kickstarter has its own community of people. And after Kickstarter, you know, we thought that we were like, really popular, you know, we thought it was like, Oh, you know, everyone’s gonna love it. And after Kickstarter was over, like, no spill, nobody knew about us, you know, that, you know, it’s like, it’s like, almost like starting over again, after Kickstarter. So we, you know, we put it on our website, and, you know, it was doing okay, moderate, you know, but we wouldn’t be able to survive, we just kind of stayed from there. So then that’s when we said, okay, you know, we gotta definitely gotta go on Amazon, because with our product is kind of unique, where nobody’s thinking, you know, nobody’s really doing a search for all, what’s the best ice cream scoop on Google, you know, it’s usually, if somebody needs an ice cream scoop, they’re going to go on Amazon, they’re going to search for a scoop, and they’re going to look for like, the best rated one or something that catches their eye. And, and when we started with Amazon, that’s when we knew that, you know, we are we can be successful after Kickstarter, you know, Kickstarter were successful, then we were scared a little bit after Kickstarter. But once we got onto Amazon, you know, we started to see more sales more and more sales every every year. And that’s how that’s how I think it’s more to to our unique product, though, you know, it’s more of a you go on Amazon to search for an ice cream scoop type of thing, you know,
Sushant Misra: and I know, I know that Amazon has its own algorithms, like in terms of search and things like that. Did you have to do anything special to get your product on in their search? Or was it more described the read the lifting curve from keywords? Yeah,
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: yeah, exactly. Just just right. Our listing has some good keywords, um, you know, we did have a copy writer to help us write the listing just so that it reads better. Um, but, you know, you know, we know, we know, some of the keywords, I mean, everyone just really scooted searches for ice cream scoop, you know, on, on, on Amazon, so we knew that we had to convert really well, and, you know, have some good pictures, have some good description, nice and clean. And, and, and really just rely that makes sure that the product was good. And the product is good, that’s, it helps a lot. You know, you can get away with doing, you know, stupid stuff, you know, you get more, more more margin, you know, but if it’s, you know, if you’re just trying to squeeze out, you know, your, your return by by optimizing everything, and it’s, it’s hard, it’s harder that way, it’s nice that we’re Our product is unique, you know, we’re very different from the other products. So I think that helps.
Sushant Misra: So it’s, I guess, you know, if you have a great product, that that overcomes a lot of things, if people really like it, if it solves, if it’s solving a problem, then then I think it does a lot of the thing itself.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, exactly. Yep. Yep. And then, you know, we can, we don’t have to have the most optimized listing, you know, in that that way, so we’re not, we’re not stressed in that in that regard. Although, you know, it would be nice, we should probably do a little bit more like a B testing to try to optimize our listing to just get it like, convert like, as best they can. And I think we we we will soon, especially after we launch her our next product we’re going to do you know, both products at the same time and, and really optimize our listing and that I think that’ll help a lot, especially our website, too.
Sushant Misra: When I when I did a Google search of your product, I saw that the results also came into like some of gift shops and wedding wedding Kind of ecommerce shops and things like that. Yeah. Is that are those retail stores or their online store that are getting
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: online stores we were, we were in Crate and Barrel and we have been in like, Bed Bath and Beyond before. So but nothing. So far nothing’s really been like how much sales we have through Amazon.
Sushant Misra: So, and I guess I guess the last year hasn’t really been the greatest time for retail shopping. Yeah. So. But But retail is never was never really a big grid journal for you even before that.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Correct? Correct. For Yeah, for whatever reason, you know, I think we, I think we could have pushed it a little bit more. But having only one product is a little hard to get into retail. It’s nicer if we had like a line of products. So we’re gonna try once we have our pizza cutter out as well. We’re gonna try to push more retail and trying to balance out and just be more balanced, you know?
Sushant Misra: So, so Amazon is your primary journal? Are you do you do any marketing to drive your product sales also? Or is it really?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, we do some sponsored ads through Amazon. So if somebody searches for ice cream scoop, we would we have some ads for that. That’s about it, though. Nothing, no real banner type ads or anything yet. We are doing some ads for the launch of our pizza cutter. So we’re trying to get some contacts so that we can once we launch on Kickstarter for that, then you know everyone can be notified. Okay.
Sushant Misra: How many are you? Are you just in the US? Or are you selling like globally?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: We are selling globally. Now. We actually globally through through Amazon, which is actually really nice. One thing that’s kind of stopped us as that Brexit type thing, but you know, we had we had our supply in Amazon, UK and about you, and they would Amazon UK would be shipping scoops out to other European countries like Italy, Germany, France, so that like UK was the hub. But now that now we now we have to have a hub probably like in Germany or something like that. So that’s taking some a little bit of time to to try to develop or open, open up
Sushant Misra: that channel. So basically, you you ship out the product to different Amazon warehouses, whether it’s US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and they do the rest. So all you have to do is basically ship out the product, then everything is with them. They do the customer service. So you’re pretty hands off with that. Yeah, yeah, they
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: do the shipping, you know, so I’m pretty hit. We’re pretty hands off of that. Yep. Yep, that’s, uh, you know, we, you know, we, if it if there’s any type of complaints, we would definitely still, like, try to work that out. If if we can from us, you know, we always we have something in the in the product that like a contact card in the product that says, hey, contact us, if you have any issues, you know, there’s always like a, you know, a low percentage of product defects, probably, you know, like, Hey, you know, no, no questions asked, let us know, if you if you have some issues, or send you a new scoop, no, you know, not a big deal.
Sushant Misra: But it seems like your business is quite streamlined from an operations perspective, do you have like any team members that in your business, or it’s pretty much on autopilot, or all you have to do is, you know, when you have to order, create new supply, you just, you know, get in touch with the manufacturer, they create the shipment, it’s out and it’s everything is pretty much on autopilot, you’re just monitoring it.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yep, exactly. I’m just monitoring it. I do have a couple couple of colleagues that help make sure that everything’s streamlined does the customer service, the ordering, you know, we’ll meet and figure out like, project, how many how many, you know, how many products we would need for the year for whatever upcoming season and figure out what we need to order but pretty much it’s very streamlined as far as I think it’s basically because our main channel is Amazon, we just have to make sure we supply you know, the the warehouses with enough scoops that goes through the holidays, really.
Sushant Misra: So your business is truly a would you describe it as a passive income generator.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, I would say so. I would say So, I think it kind of needs to be if I’m, you know, if I’m still an aerospace engineer, you know, that’s kind of like my, my, my main my main thing, so I, I need it to be.
Sushant Misra: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. What the, throughout this journey, were there times where, you know, you thought that you’ve made a mistake or something went wrong? And it was a learning experience for you. Could you share any any of those instances and what other entrepreneurs can learn from it?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, I would say the, probably the moment like after, you know, a few weeks after Kickstarter was over, you know, I thought, all of a sudden, we were only getting like, you know, a few sales a day, you know, and through Kickstarter, we were getting hundreds of sales a day. So, you know, it’s like, you know, what happened? What did we do? You know, what did we do? How do we get back to where we, you know, came from, and I think the learning experience is just, you know, that you have to be able to pivot quickly. You know, you have to recognize the signs, you know, like, if you need to change something, do something. And never, you know, like, like you said, it’s like, you know, right now it’s like, seems very hands off. But, you know, you always got to look for look for the opportunity to try to optimize it more, if you can, you know, and you got to, you got to make sure that you guys got to keep a good eye on, on the numbers, make sure, you know, why, why all of a sudden, our sales are dropping, now what, you know, what happened? What’s, what’s different? Where are people going? Where are they buying stuff from, you know, there’s always going to be some, something new, I would say, you know, like, I we, you know, even though now, with Amazon, it’s like, you know, the right way to do it, you know, but things can change really quickly. And I think entrepreneurs just kind of have to be on their toes a little bit, you know, and keep keep their eyes open.
Sushant Misra: Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s one thing. Like, if, if one is, if your if your main channel is Amazon, if they change their, you know, anything? Yeah. And that starts affecting your business, like, do you have a backup like view? Yeah, dude, are
Sushant Misra: you building like, your website kind of thing for sure that you have your own business, your own customers and things?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Exactly, exactly. Yep, we have our, we have our own website. And we do have, you know, we, whatever we sell on our website, we have their contact information, which kind of helps with, you know, growing our brand and our product to like, so our next product would be able to at least contact all those people and say that, hey, you know, we have a new product, you know, through Amazon, you you don’t really have that, you know, have a contact list like that, you know, I can’t, I can’t go to all those people and say that pop through Amazon, say, like, Hey, we got a new product now, you know, it’s just, it doesn’t work that way. So, for sure, we, you know, we’ve got to try to do our best to do you know, to grow the brand, really, you know, and any, any opportunity that I see, like, Hey, you know, this can help us, we explore, you know, or like, Whoa, let’s see this, see this new channel of sales, you know, like, Hey, we, I think last year, we just started to get on wayfair. You know, like, but you know, we should definitely try it and, and see how it goes. You know, right now, for sure. It’s not as good as Amazon, but you never know in the future.
Sushant Misra: So now we’re going to move on to our rapid fire segment. And in the segment, I’m going to ask you a few questions, and you have to answer them in one word or one sentence. So the first question is, would you recommend a book in 2021 a business or entrepreneurial related book to two people?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Okay, I like shoe dog. The Nike story, okay. Yeah. Yeah.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: To explain why all right. I’m, it’s not like a really new book. But to me, I just finally found the time to read it. And I think it’s good for entrepreneurs because, you know, you can he started, you can read the whole journey of how he built Nike from, you know, from from nothing to a billion dollar corporation. You know, and, and there’s a lot of stories, a lot of struggles, a lot of pivots. A lot of, you know, like, really just kept the lesson really, I learned is just, you know, just putting your head down and busting through, you know,
Sushant Misra: an innovative product or idea and the current ecommerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: I would say VR I think that’s, yeah, I like that. I think it’s a good, a really good future, to be honest. You know, it’s I guess I can see it happening. You know, we’re definitely early from it. But, you know, if I was to tell my kids, you know, like, to something to invest in now that maybe they’ll eventually, you know, the PII affected by their lives, I think that’s what it would be, you know, who knows, they, they might be going to colleges, colleges through VR, or something like that, you know, all through their house or something, you know, they’re at home, and they’re going back to school VR, you know, I mean, it’s,
Sushant Misra: yeah, it’s not too far fetched. Yeah.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: I mean, no sound too far fetched. You know, why? Why have you Why go into AI? Why go into a classroom when you can just be, you know, literally, me virtual reality,
Sushant Misra: a business or productivity tool, or software that you would recommend?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: or? Yeah, I like so when we I kind of Jungle Scout to be sure. Jungle Scout here. And that one
Sushant Misra: is an Amazon tool, right? It’s Yes,
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: it’s a tool to search Amazon products and that and we use that for the pizza slicer. So we use that to see demand for a product. And we found that there was a good demand. And then we designed a better pizza cutter, because we knew that there was a demand, and we designed a better product. And then now we’re releasing it. So I think it’s a very cool tool. Well, so
Sushant Misra: it actually works. Yeah, so
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: hopefully, we haven’t launched our product yet. But it works as far as finding, finding some demand. Yeah.
Sushant Misra: a startup or business in e commerce, retail or tech that you think is currently doing great things.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: I like this company, like called e commerce fuel. And it’s kind of they he he does, he does podcasts, you know, somewhat like interviews like you do. But he kind of has like a group of, he has a group of entrepreneurs, ecommerce entrepreneurs that do at least like a million dollars in sales a year. And he has this group, and it’s like, he has a forum on it. And, and a lot of them kind of share ideas and learn from each other. And I think it’s very cool thing that they’re doing.
Sushant Misra: Yeah. Yeah. Do you want to be part of that forum?
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, no, I am. We are in your okay. Yep. Yep. Yep. I just thought it was like a very cool idea. You know, he, he used to have a couple of e commerce websites. And that’s kind of how I kind of found him and you wrote about it, and how he grew, how he grew one, optimize one and grew it, and then he sold it. And he documented everything, how he sold it and everything. And then he kind of grew this following. And then he started making podcasts and educational stuff. And then he formed this group, a forum for message board for all these entrepreneurs. And you know, now it’s like, if I have any questions, or if I can answer any questions, I would and, and just all bunch of a group of entrepreneurs that were, you know, pretty successful and you know, that need to need help.
Sushant Misra: A beer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Um, I would say that so that person would that does that e commerce fuel is and what’s his name? Andrew, you Darien? Okay. Yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, that’s pretty, it’s pretty happy, you know, with with that whole group, and I think it’s very cool what he’s been doing.
Sushant Misra: And that is, Mr. Joy, you know, what’s that?
Sushant Misra: That’s an invite only group.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, I think it’s, um, you know, you can go on to the site and learn and have a lot of learning, there’s a lot of learning stuff that, you know, he has for free and stuff. But the group of entrepreneurs, it’s, you can apply for it kind of thing. And once you reach a certain amount of sales in your, in your e commerce, then he kind of lets you in, because, you know, they want to try to keep it so that everyone’s kind of an expert, they want to try to find experts in the field and, and that way, it’s very, like rich in information.
Sushant Misra: Okay. Finally, best business advice that you have ever received, or you would give to other entrepreneurs.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: I would say, really just perseverance, you know, like, entrepreneurs always have in any in anything. There’s always like, struggles For everything, you know, it just gotta keep persevering. You know, nobody’s nobody’s road was was easy. It’s always, you know, failure at any given moment. So you just got to keep, keep going, keep pushing. You know, if you if you love doing it, then you know, you you, you end up pushing hard and whatever roadblocks there, isn’t it? You know, it gets knocked down
Sushant Misra: for sure. Perfect. Those were all the questions I had today. Michael, thank you so much for sharing your story, sharing your insights.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Thank you for having this.
Sushant Misra: This is the opportunity if you want to share your website, or you know, where people can buy midnight scoop and things like that. Please go ahead.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Yeah, so it’s midnight kitchen. tools.com. Yeah, we’ll be we’ll be launching our second product and probably about a month and we’re gonna have a Kickstarter for it. It’s going to be a pizza slicer. Basically, just like our ice cream scoop. It’s going to be ergonomic and easy on your wrists, and you’ll be in the quality of that will be there. So it’s an heirloom giftable product, and it’s going to be awesome.
Sushant Misra: Perfect. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Michael, for sharing. Thank you for sharing all their business insights. I really, really appreciate it. Thanks for joining me today.
Michael Chou of The Midnight Scoop: Thank you. I appreciate it as well. Thank you. Thank you. Bye
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