Re-inventing the Blanket Category with Sustainable Technical Materials – Wylie Robinson of Rumpl

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 53:08)

PODCAST AUDIO

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Intro

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl shares the process of re-imagining the traditional home blankets with sustainable technical materials and positioning it successfully in a very crowded market with a problem-solution narrative.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Building A Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Wylie Robinson of Rumpl

  • What is the startup story of Rumpl? How did you come up with the idea? What were you doing before you decided to start this business?
  • How did you know there would be a demand for this product?
  • Were there other competitors with a similar product in the market when you launched? What is your competition now?
  • Who is the target market for Rumpl? Has the target market changed or evolved since the beginning?
  • Can you share a bit about the early product design and development process (prototyping, making improvements)?
  • I read that at a certain point in your business, you had to part ways with your cofounder – what can other founder learn from your experience?
  • How did you finance the business at the beginning?
  • Could you share a bit about the Kickstarter campaign? What did you do to make it successful?
  • Shark Tank – Can you share a bit about your Shark tank Experience? What was your goal?
  • How did you get your product manufactured in the beginning? Has the process changed since then?
  • Can you share a bit about differentiating your product and brand in the marketplace and the role storytelling plays in it?
  • How did you market the business early on and get traction?
  • What does your marketing team look like?
  • What marketing channel are working best for your right now?
  • Social Media – can you share a bit about what kind of time and investment goes into taking social media photos/videos? Giveaways.
  • Paid advertising?
  • Can you share a bit about your sales channels? Ecommerce/marketplaces/Retail? Which one’s are working best?
  • How many countries are you located in? How do you fulfill orders? In-house versus outsourced? How do you make the fulfillment process efficient? Shipping strategy
  • How are you incorporating sustainability in your business?
  • 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?

Rapid Fire

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

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl

  1. Do you have any book recommendations? Business entrepreneurship in 2021? And why? (Response: The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz)
  2. Do you believe in luck? (Response: luck is preparation meets opportunity. And so if you’re not prepared for the opportunity to come, you’re just not going to get lucky)
  3. An innovative product or idea and the current ecommerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about. (Response: Envoy B2B)
  4. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend? (Response: OGSM Framework)
  5. A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things (Response: Outdoor furniture category)
  6. A peer entrepreneur or business-person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you. (Response: Peter Dering of Peak Design)

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 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 Wylie Robinson to the show. While he is the founder and CEO of Rumble, rumble creates everyday blankets and bedding items out of technical materials, commonly found in outdoor gear, and activewear. And today, I want to ask Wiley, a few questions about his entrepreneurial story and some of the strategies and tactics that he has used to start and grow his business. So thank you so much for the opportunity Wiley and for joining today. Trep Talks.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So I know I read the startup story of Rambo on your website. It’s an interesting story. So I would really, really appreciate if you could share, you know, how did you get the idea for rumble? And what were you know, what was the motivation behind it?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Sure. So the idea for Rumble, the idea being to create a blanket out of more technical materials started in 2012, I was on a ski trip with a friend of mine. And we were sleeping in our car, and planning on skiing the next day. And that night, it was the coldest night on record in this location where we were it was just outside mammoth, California. And we woke up the next morning and our car was completely frozen and wouldn’t start. So we had to climb into our sleeping bags and hang out there and wait for somebody to come and help us we were too far away. To walk into town, we didn’t have any cell service. So we pretty much had to wait around. And during that time, while we were waiting, we both started talking about how materials and our sleeping bags were just so much better at keeping us warm and comfortable than our blankets back home. So we decided that we wanted to make what we call a sleeping bag blanket. And that was kind of the original idea for the product. When we finally got out of there and got back home to San Francisco, which is where we were living at the time, we went to a local fabric store picked up some technical material and some technical nylon rather, and some, you know, insulation, some synthetic insulation that we would use for this first prototype, and created the first two what would be rebels. That was kind of the end of it. And then a number of our friends said that this is a really interesting idea. You know, I think I’d like to have one of these. So we decided to turn to Kickstarter and actually launch the product and the brand on Kickstarter. And that ended up being really successful. And that kind of told us that this was a viable idea.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

You never really started out thinking about this that you know, there could be a business If it was more or less an accident, could you share? What were you doing before starting rumble? Like what was your background? Were you always entrepreneur.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

My background? No, it hasn’t been. My background has always been in creative fields. I worked at a number of agencies before starting rebel, I actually have a degree in architecture. That was where I was originally intended to go. But after working for a couple of years in the field, I realized that it wasn’t for me and I decided to kind of migrate my creative focus to branding and graphic design. I did quite a bit of environments, design, trade shows, retail spaces, things like that. And I was working at an agency when we went on a ski trip and quit the agency to start rumble.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So you actually decided to quit your day job to start rumble? Was there any fear that, you know, if the business did not work out? You know, how are you? How are you going to manage the finances and things like that, because a lot of times when I hear some of the successful entrepreneurs, they say, you know, if you want to start a business, keep your day job, or you know, continue doing what you’re doing and started as a side thing, and then once you have like enough cash flow generating, then then then quit the job, what is your perspective on that?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

That’s definitely better advice than what I did. You know, I would say that, that there’s probably a, there’s a point at which you really do need to go all in and quit your job. I, I did that early. So I quit my job, four or five months before the Kickstarter even went live, which in hindsight, was a little bit reckless, probably a little bit irresponsible of me to do, but I was pretty passionate about the idea, and really had conviction that it was going to do well. And I was kind of burnt out at the agency, I was there for over four years and ready for something new. So I decided to focus all of my attention on building this new product and new brand. Now, that being said, I would definitely encourage anybody starting a business to show some proof of concept before quitting their day job, before you have any, you know, idea that there’s going to be traction or that there’s actual demand built up for what you’re creating, it’s good to have a paycheck and have some security. Now, once you do establish that there’s demand, you do establish that you can actually make as a business, I think that’s right when you quit your job, because if you elect to, you know, go out and raise money, or you talk to people that you know, you might want to partner with, they’re not going to take you that seriously if you’ve also got a day job. So I think that that you probably should do somewhere in the middle of what I did, which is make sure that you have a viable idea. And once that’s once that’s proven, then it’s time to quit your job and go all in.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And another thing about having a proof of concept. So for you, the proof of concept first was that your friends were interested in this product. And then when you put it on the Kickstarter, I think your Kickstarter campaign was really, really successful. Can you share a little bit about the success of Kickstarter? Was it completely organic? Or did you actually have to market the Kickstarter page and things like that? How did it get so successful?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Our first one was completely organic. My partner and I, we and this is my friend who I went on the trip with us my business partner in the formation of rumble. He and I pretty much just posted on our own social media accounts. And you know, between the two of us, we had a very, very small reach relatively very small reach, maybe a couple 1000 people, maybe we got really lucky in that we actually got picked up by some pretty major press right away. And that was largely due to just a lot of cold emails that I was sending, I would go on LinkedIn. And I would find anybody that I was, was a contributing writer to, you know, any major media and send them an email, I probably sent, you know, several 100 emails before anybody wrote back and said, Yeah, I think this is an interesting thing to cover. Of course, when the Kickstarter campaign ended up getting some traction and becoming this successful thing. More people wanted to cover it and more people became interested. So it’s sort of this snowball, where you kind of start out with absolutely no, no traction whatsoever. Totally organic word of mouth. And then once a couple of media hits happen, more press happens, more backers come through and it really just kind of takes off in that way. But starting up was was completely organic.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So when reaching out to press like for PR you know they’re always looking for an angle, right? for your product, what was the angle? What was the value proposition? How did you sell it to them? Because you know, when you think about it, if you just talk about you know, it’s a blanket, but it’s been a different kind of material. Maybe maybe it does not come across like a store story worthy thing. Sure. How did you sell it to people?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, we really went for Kind of like the classic problem solution narrative where our problem was blankets are this really dated category that have been around for hundreds of years. But very, very little material innovation has been applied to this category. And meanwhile, over in outdoor gear, and athletic apparel, all this textile innovation is happening. And none of that has flown through into this blanket category. So the problem was, there’s this nascent, age old, ubiquitous category that everybody participates in, that hasn’t had any upgrades, and it deserves an upgrade because these new technical materials will do a much better job performing than Cotton’s or wolves or whatever else. blankets are typically made out of. And the solution was taking technologies from outdoor gear and athletic apparel and applying them to the stated category.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And does this apply to like, who’s the target? Or is it like your blanket, I’m assuming it’s not like a mass product, assuming it’s not like, you know, people, generally using it at home as a replacement for their, you know, regular, you know, cotton blanket or whatever. Is there like a specific target audience for this blanket.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

So the actual primary use case for rumble is at home, it’s not on the bed, but it is at home on the couch or adjacent to the home, like in the patio or in the backyard, something like that. You know, people do use it, of course, for recreating camping, backpacking, all sorts of things like that, but most commonly it’s used at home, I would say that the target consumer is somebody that understands technical materials. So you know, somebody that might wear a puffer jacket to go grocery shopping, or just, you know, cruising around the city, wearing it wearing a puffy jacket. That is the consumer that understands that these materials actually work better at keeping you insulated and comfortable. It’s a very, very broad range of consumers.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And when you started out this technical material, this was kind of an innovation for this product. Do you have more competitors now since you started?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, we have a lot of competitors now. And they range from, you know, overseas knockoffs that are sold on Amazon, to big players in the outdoor space are now making products just like ours. Patagonia just released one. A number of companies have released products very, very similar to ours. I do think that what differentiates rumble is a couple things. I mean, first of all, we are exclusively focused on this product category. And so for that reason, we are we are really the experts and the pioneers in this category. So I think that says something to consumers when they look at the landscape of this category. Additionally, because we focus on the category and nothing else, we are able to go the broadest in terms of our print and design of anyone you know, some of these other competitors that have come out, they might offer two or three or four colors. But we have many, many, many colors that you can choose from, and prints and artists collaboration and brand collaborations and things like that. So the breadth and choice that that consumers get with Rumple is much, much broader than anyone else.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And can you share a little bit about the early thoughts? So you have this idea? You your Kickstarter campaign worked out really well? What was the next step? So having your prototype How do you bring that prototype to mass market? How do you get it mass manufactured? It wasn’t in the US? Did you go to a different country.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

We went to offshore manufacturing right away. And the reason for that is really specifically in Asia. Asia really is the experts in technical materials. That’s where the vast majority of performance outerwear is produced. They have the mills, they have the cuts. So expertise, it’s really difficult material to work with because it’s slippery. It’s got kind of that technical, you know, ripstop feel to it and texture to it, which is really difficult to actually sew in a professional way. So we went straight to Asia, for mass manufacturing. The way we found our supply chain was through some connections that my partner and I had just in the outdoor industry, people that worked as technical designers, at some of the larger companies, they put us in touch with a couple of people. If those factories couldn’t produce what we wanted, they then sent us to another connection that they might have had. So it was sort of a first second third degree connection to some of these supply chains that we ended up working with. And we’ve since switched to what is now our long term partner from what we use for Kickstarter. But those early days of figuring out who was going to make our stuff was definitely a big challenge.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And was there ever a concern because the innovation is of the material? Did you ever try to protect your intellectual property like did you ever try to get a patent on this? Things like that where you know the competitors who are coming up with similar products would not Be able to do so or what’s that number of concern.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

It’s always a concern. You know, the product itself can be made with a variety of different types of technical materials. And To the untrained eye, they really wouldn’t know the difference. So there’s very, very little that rubble can actually protect in terms of our idea of using these materials for a blanket. But we can protect, of course, as our name or logo, we do have protection over our signature stitch pattern, you’ll notice that the blankets all bear this stitch pattern, service wavy, sweeping lines, that is protected. Now, that being said, somebody could adjust that by, you know, 30 40%, or something and probably circumnavigate our protection. But we feel that that that mark is identifiable enough with rumble that it’s worth protecting. So we’ve gone ahead and done that, we have also developed a number of technologies that we have in some of our higher end products, we have a product called a nano loft puffy blanket. That’s a synthetic insulation made from post consumer recycled content that we developed from the ground up. So that is proprietary to rumble. There’s obviously tons of different types of synthetic insulation, but we believe that this is one of the best ones we’ve ever felt. So that’s another aspect that we have protected.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And just out of curiosity, when you do these kind of like, innovation in the material itself, do you work with like engineers? Or do you do specific research on materials to see, you know, what would be good for your, for your product? How does that work?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

So we have an incredible supply chain partner. And they’re, they’re a full service trading partner, where they handle all of our sourcing all of our development, all of our overseas logistics. And, you know, obviously, they charge a little fee for that. But it’s allowed us to keep our product team very, very lean. And so what we do is generally we say to them, hey, we’re looking for this type of material, we would like to accomplish this goal, can you guys help us solve this design challenge, and they’ve been really good in the past at figuring these things out. They’re, they’re based in Asia, they work with, you know, several 100, Cutco houses and Mills overseas all over the place, and actually, not just in Asia. But they’ve been an incredible resource for us to keep our team really lean on the product side at least.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So they’re really like your consultants. And I assume like when you have this kind of request, they charge some some some fees for that, or do they do they’ll have some sort of a licensing thing? Because it’s really their idea, right?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, they had a little markup on the cost of goods, what rumble is expert at is its expert at defining the market problem, and coming up with a creative narrative from a product standpoint for solving that. So going back to the original idea, blankets, for the stated category, we have this idea to introduce technical materials to this category. So we would give our trading partner some loose guidelines around what we’re trying to accomplish, what we think the product should look and feel like what it should stand for what it should represent the eyes of the customer. And then they go back and they find, you know, a whole big swatch book of materials that they show us that we’ve been approved a whole different, you know, set of installations that they think might work. And we work together on actually bringing that product to life, but our expertise is in creating narratives around those products.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Okay. I know that you mentioned your, your, your partner and co-founder, when you were talking before. And I also read somewhere that at a certain point in the business, you had to part ways. And this is all you know, I come across these kind of stories every once in a while when I’m talking to founders and co-founders. And there’s always a certain advice and you know how to, you know, because it’s always it’s, it’s kind of like having a marriage, right, you know, you have another person and you have to make sure that the values are aligned and goals are aligned and things like that. Can you share a little bit about you know, your experience working with a co-founder? What, you know, what motivated, the shift to go apart? And, and what can other founders Learn, learn from it? Sure.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

So my, my co-founder, you know, his very good friend. And he and I were we just hung out a lot before Rumble, we did a lot of mountain biking, and surfing and skiing and all these activities together, we were both designers. So we had very, very complementary personalities and skillsets. And ultimately, the vision for the company that we realized was that we really wanted to be focused on blankets. When we started out, we thought that maybe we could take this, this design ideology of taking performance materials and applying them to a whole host of home goods. You could imagine you can imagine, you know, in addition to blankets, there’s sheets and towels and slippers and robes and all sorts of things that you use in the home that could be upgraded with performance materials. And he was really passionate about this idea and really thought that that was sort of the path forward for the company. But meanwhile, the blanket sales, were just kind of going through the roof. And we had to reinvest all of our profits into making more blankets, and talk telling the blanket story and marketing the blankets. And so it was pretty clear that that’s the path that the company should get a self on, is just really focusing on this category and, and spending all of our energy there. And he and I just disagreed on that. And so we got to a point where it was like, This is the path forward, we had two employees at the time they were, they were on board with the notion of going towards blankets and focusing on blankets doing fewer things, but really well. And that’s the time when we realized that we just had to part ways. So that’s sort of like the story of how and why my co-founder and I parted ways. I think, as far as advice that I would give to anybody that needs to go through something like that. You know, as tough as this may be, when you’re in the moment, I think that it’s really important to be as empathetic as possible to what your co-founder is going through the one that’s being asked to leave. I mean, for all intensive purposes, my co-founder was equally as invested in this business as I was, he was totally passionate about it, he had left his job for it, all these things. So, you know, when you’re asking somebody to leave, when they’ve put that much commitment and that much energy into something, you really got to be sensitive to what they’re going through emotionally. When when we parted ways, there was a severance package, there was an equity buyout that took place. And looking back on it, you know, I think that that I and our legal team was was really generous to my co-founder, I think he would feel that way as well, it was a very fair agreement that we reached, based on where the company was at that time. And that was really driven for me in no way trying to, like, screw him over. In any way, when he was being asked to leave the business. It’s like very emotional thing he had been tied up with. And so that would be my advice is just to really as best you can put yourself in the shoes of the person being asked to leave.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Okay. So can you share a little bit about in the early days, I know that when you did the Kickstarter campaign, your sales took off really quickly. What was the reason? Was it really just that you had tapped into some sort of this demand in the market, unfulfilled demand? And people were looking for something different in the blanket space? And they really took to this? Or was it that, you know, the way you positioned your business in terms of story and things like that, that that that spoke to a certain segment of the market? What was the thing that you think helped you to sell? The really beginning?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

I definitely think it was the positioning and the story. And I still think that’s what drives rebels. Actually, I don’t think people are out there, you know, looking at their blankets saying, Man, I really wish I could get more out of this. Make it? I don’t think that’s a category that people are focused on thinking about at all. In fact, one of my favorite things to do when I’m pitching rumble to somebody to a potential account, or an investor or somebody we’re trying to hire, is I asked them, How many blanks do you have in your household? And they’ll count them out. And they’ll think okay, well, Wow, I’ve probably had 15 or 20 blankets in my house, my follow-up question is always, okay, name one brand blanket. And nobody can ever do it. You know, sometimes you get Pendleton. But generally speaking, nobody can name a single blanket brand. So, all this to say I don’t think that consumers are all that focused on the category at all. It’s like socks or underwear or you know, something that’s just sort of there and does the job well enough, in their minds at least, but they haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it. I think that when we created that problem-solution narrative that I was talking about, where it’s like, this category has been around forever, the materials haven’t developed at all, all this other material technology has been developed over here, why don’t we use some of that on blankets? That’s when it kind of clicks for customers? And they say, Hmm, that makes a lot of sense. I think that I’d like to try something like this to see if what they’re saying is actually true. And I think that’s what really kind of launched the launch the brand and built this awareness around what we were doing. I definitely don’t think it was the result of there being a real need at that time in the category.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

When when I go on your website, like the field that I get from your website, and when I read the copy, and things like that is that this blanket is really geared towards like the adventure young kind of crowd. Has that have your story from going from a problem solution narrative? Have you evolved the story? Or? Or is there a reason behind the kind of feel that I get when I visit your website.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

It’s definitely evolved a little bit we’ve definitely brought sustainability and you know caused based activities to the forefront of the brand. But generally speaking, the brand Foundation has been very solid over the last seven years now. And whether or not that is because it was just dumb luck or I like to think that all my time spent the branding agencies helped formulate a really solid foundation. But generally speaking, our brand Foundation has not adjusted that much. You know, I mentioned all the all the sustainability commitments and things like that, we transitioned all of our product over to 100%, post consumer recycled two years ago now. And that was a big shift that we made, really challenging thing to go through in terms of product development, and just marketplace, clarity and all that. So that’s something that is more forefront in the brand now than it was when we started. But generally speaking, the idea of upgrading the blanket category of performance materials is very much the the origin story of the company.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And that is something you know, sustainability is something that is getting very popular with a lot of the brands brands, even even the bigger brands Is that something that was a conscious choice on your part to to think from like that branding lens that you know, in the market, you know, the the story is shifting from, you know, going just for profit to to going to more more towards sustainable materials and environment, protection and things like that. Was that a conscious shift? Or did that just occur because you know, you want you’re interested in sustainability.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Both I mean, I think that, that as a business owner and I would speak for for our broader team, we feel a lot better about creating products that are that are sustainably sourced. Additionally, you really don’t have to sacrifice profits to do that sort of stuff. Our raw materials are roughly the same cost as the virgin materials we were paying for before we switched over. Now we do we are 1% of the planet members, meaning we donate 1% of all sales to environmental causes, that of course, does eat out of the bottom line. But that’s just another thing that we feel good about doing as a brand. We think it’s something our consumers care about. And we’re happy and proud to do it. And we’ve we’ve built our margin structure and our products such that we can do things like that and still have enough profits to fuel the rest of the company.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

I want to change the gears a little bit and talk about Shark Tank. I know you were you appeared on Shark Tank last year, I believe. Could you share a little bit about the background for that? Because, you know, I watched the YouTube video and I think one of them I think Mark you when asked you how much cash you have in the bank and you said, you know, three and a half million dollars. Can you share a little bit about the background there of going to the shark tank? Was it? I believe you said there that it doesn’t really financing but you are looking for help with licensing and things like that. Mm hmm.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah. So we we are actively pushing into sports licensing sales channels. And we think that the use case for the product is perfect. You know, you can imagine being in a cold Stadium, and you’ve got this really light portable packable blanket in your backpack that you can just pull out and put on when it gets cold. So we’ve we’ve for a long time thought that this is a really good avenue for us to pursue. Now challenge with with sports licensing is that it’s a very complicated, nuanced sales channel. You know, there’s there’s league minimums, there’s there’s licenses that you need to acquire. And there’s a lot of people kind of that you have to navigate. And a lot of players in that space, you have to navigate in order to get your product to market, it’s a completely different margin structure that are in line business, it’s really a completely different business. And what I said on Shark Tank, which, which is, you know, still how I feel, all that $3.5 million in the bank that’s really earmarked for growth in our core channels, that’s for growth in the outdoor channel that’s for growth and growth and outdoor jacent lifestyle type channels. We’ve got some new interesting home and patio channels that are coming online that we need to support. And so the thinking was, if I went on Shark Tank with sort of this, you know, call it call it side business within rumble of sports licensing. I could really use some growth capital and more importantly, I could use some some partnership. As I mentioned, there’s just a lot of people that that a lot of navigation and politics need to get through to get these licenses and to get sold into these leagues. I thought you know, partnering with someone like Mark Cuban would be a fast track through that door. So that’s that’s why I went on the program. And obviously a deal was not was not struck. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that or if you want your your listeners, I think

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

it was pretty clear.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, so so we got a couple of offers, but I didn’t want to take the offers. They weren’t I didn’t think that he valued the company correctly at all. And so we’ve since gone and we’ve used that three and a half million to break in in sports licensing channel. And that’s going to be launching for us this fall. So I’m super excited about it. And going on the show was a great experience, even though it was little Bit contentious at times and, you know, kind of kind of intense. I definitely enjoyed going on the program, it was a great experience for me to have. And to get on the show, did

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

you just take the approach of emailing a lot of people? Or was? Did you know someone how what was the process of getting on the show?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Shark Tank has actually has actually asked me a number of times to be on the program, not me. But Rumble, they’ve inquired about rumble being on the program a number of times, I actually went back through my email fairly recently, and I have an email from, you know, five years ago from the casting crew at at Shark Tank asking if Trump would be interested. And I always sort of thought that, that this isn’t necessarily a good fit for Shark Tank. Generally, I see companies go on Shark Tank that had some very protectable idea. And they show up with their, you know, legal protections in hand and say, I’m the only one that can do this thing, you should invest me because there’s gonna be no competition. Rebel doesn’t have that at all. I mean, rupal is very subject to parody. And there’s very little we can protect. So I just thought, you know, if I go on here, they’re gonna just completely, you know, crush me because I don’t have any protections on what I’m doing. And why can’t a competitor come in and do lower price? And the answer is, they can, a competitor could do that. So I’d always thought that it was kind of the wrong, the wrong fit for the show. But this most recent time, the casting director shared with me that there’s a lot of businesses that have become very successful after going on Shark Tank. And so now that the program is like almost as engine for companies to gain a lot of legitimacy and gain a lot of traction. And so they were actually trying to bring in more businesses that had a couple of years of positive revenues. And were legitimate businesses in advance of going on the program to further boost legitimacy of the program as this platform for other businesses to gain more traction. So I thought that positioning was really interesting. And I thought, all right, rumble does have, you know, some some good results, and I can bring these to the program and share them. And that might also interest the sharks to which it did. So the sort of the, how they positioned going on the program was, uh, was a lot more in line with how I viewed the company and what I thought would be a good opportunity for rumble. So there’s a long answer, but basically, I didn’t, I didn’t reach out to Shark Tank, they contacted me. And I went through the, you know, the usual casting process, a lot of over the phone, lot of video calls and everything with the with the casting team. And ultimately, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to make good TV, right. So if they, if they think that you’re going to be entertaining, you’re a good fit for the show. And so that’s, that’s how I got on.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

I think I think it may have also been, and I don’t know if this was the case, but in the COVID period, you know, there’s probably a lot more competition for them. Because you know, people people have a lot more choices. So maybe maybe that’s part of the reason also they want to have like tried and true entrepreneurs. Maybe. Was there like a post show? Did you see a significant boost in sales. Because of that?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

We did see a boost in sales, it wasn’t a really significant boost in sales. Okay. I’ve talked to a number of other founders and business owners that have been on the program, and they saw really large spikes in their sales after the show aired. That also, I think, could be because they were much smaller businesses before going on the show. You know, Rumple is already sort of had some some scale, not huge scale, but we’re already at some scale where the spike and the demand created from shark tank was not that drastically different than the type of demand we regenerate on a, you know, a normal week. So it was definitely a spike. We got a lot of new eyeballs on the brand, but it wasn’t like 20 X a normal day or you know, something like that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Can you shed a little bit about your sales channels? Are you ecommerce only? Or are you also in retail stores? Are you on Amazon?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, we’re an omni channel business. So we’re sold through traditional wholesale channels as well as Amazon. Right now our business is about 55 to 60% ecommerce, and then the rest is made up through us wholesale and some international distribution, Amazon and we also have a corporate custom channel so you know, if your company would want to get 50 rumbles for the employees with your with your logo branded on there, we do that as well.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So when when you started growing from the beginning, like did you from for the business aspect of it, I assume there was a lot of learning for you or did you get that by hiring more experienced people like growing the sales channels and all these different things.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

We’ve done both I would say the vast majority has been learning on the fly. We’ve definitely hired people that are more experienced before to lead certain initiatives in the company. I would say that one of the key factors to ours. Success has just been surrounding ourselves with good mentors and advisors that can that can really help us. And being open to hearing feedback, I think that a lot of people think they know everything and, and reject feedback or advice. that’s never been the case with Bravo, we always welcome feedback from people that know a lot more than we do. And yeah, I mean, generally speaking, we’ve we’ve kind of learned on the fly ourselves.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Which marketing channels work really well for you, given that you’re like 55%, ecommerce?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Well, our marketing, I mean, we have, we have marketing that serves all channels, of course. But if you’re talking about channel specific marketing, I mean, I’d have to point to Facebook, Instagram, that’s, that’s where we invest the most money, we see the best returns there. It’s a pretty essential part of our business. If we’re talking about wholesale, we have a big fixture program where if an account buys a certain amount, we give them a free fixture that secures some branded space in that store, it also does a really good job educating the customer about what the product is that they’re looking at. So we have different marketing initiatives by channel but for our direct business, for sure, Facebook, Instagram is the most lucrative and the most important.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And that would be ad or just the organic.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

That would be ads. Yeah. So So paid direct response advertising.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Okay. And that brings me to my next question, what is your marketing team look like? Is it all in house? Or do you work with agencies that do your ads and things like that,

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

a little bit about the core team is, is in house. So we’ve got a fairly lean team, there’s a if you include ecommerce and creative, which we sort of roll up into marketing, there’s about six or seven people internally that are doing it. We also manage an external PR agency, an external digital marketing agency that does all of our Facebook and Instagram and, and Google ads, and everything, all those placements. We also work with an SEO agency. And a handful of other things here and there. But the core team, that’s internal rumble is fairly lean.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

One thing that I was very curious about, you know, when I looked at your Instagram page, all the images were, you know, mostly outdoor images and in really beautiful nature, natural settings. Can you share a little bit about what that process is? Like? Do you have like dedicated people who go out, take trips, have models who who pose with these blankets and take the photos? Or how do you how do you manage that?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

So we do have an in house photographer, I I not so jokingly, it will often say that I think he has the best job at rumble. He gets to go on trips and bring product and go to amazing places and shoot photos. And yeah, we pull from a pool of talents of models that we work with on a regular basis. And, and so that’s how a lot of the content is generated. Additionally, we have a really strong UGC, engine, user generated content. So the products we make happen to lend themselves really well to people taking photos. And we often get sent those photos or tagged in those photos. And we simply reach out and ask if we can use them. And if we get approval we do. Sometimes we pay for content as well that people send us or offer to sell us. But it’s it’s been that’s been a critical aspect for rumpl is the content, whether it’s done in house or externally, or through our customers. It’s been really essential to building the brand and kind of the the energy behind the brand. And we’ve been able to establish

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

a little bit about shipping and fulfillment. Given that you’re selling in multiple countries. How much of it is in house worth is outsourced? And are there any any challenges that you face and shipping and fulfillment aspect of things?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, they’re definitely challenges we face. I mean, whether it’s sort of factors out of our control like this, this past fourth quarter, there was a huge surge in in e commerce business happening globally. That backup supply chains that backed up warehouses that backed up shipping carriers. So we felt that for sure, like a lot of other businesses did. We use a three PL to do all of our logistics and fulfillment. They also handle all of our returns. Third Party logistics for anybody listening that doesn’t know. Yeah. And so you know, a lot of the factors, a lot of the challenges that we experienced are external, sometimes their internal ones as well. If something, you know, breaks, or something isn’t entered into the system correctly, that can cause some challenges. But yeah, shipping, shipping into fulfillment is is really tough. And I would say it’s where our operations team spends the majority of their time for sure is making sure that all those Things are buttoned up and continue to work, and continually checking on them. And whenever, whenever possible, automating things, but also, there’s just a lot of manual work that goes into that. So it’s very, very complicated. And, frankly, it’s not a part of the business that that I spend a lot of time on, we have a really talented operations team, led by our Vice President of Operations, he’s one of the first employees from rumble. And he’s done a great job with that. And, you know, they’re always trying to improve and, and it’s like, it’s, it’s either working or it’s not working. And when it’s not working, it’s really a big deal. And when it is working, they probably don’t get enough credit from from the rest of the team are the customers for making that complicated system work?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

as a CEO, what? What kind of thanks to you, can you share a little bit about your mindset, your thought process, you know, running a company, growing a company? What are the things that you focus most on? And and how do you manage your personal life versus business life?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

I mean, I’d start by saying that I think this has been a big learning process. For me, I was never CEO before rumble. In fact, I had really very little experience with management at all. And so starting Rumble, and you know, now having a bunch of employees and growing the business and everything, that’s all been very, very new to me. So I’m definitely learning on the go. And I certainly don’t want to paint this picture of myself as this, like, amazing CEO that has all the answers, because I’m still learning every single day. But I would say that the biggest thing that I’ve learned over the last few years that I think has the biggest impact on the team, and the performance of the team, is really, it’s a couple of things. I mean, first and foremost, I need to be really clear with my communication. And and I need to try to do it just succinctly And clearly, so that there’s no ambiguity around what I’m saying or what I want done. I think when when I waffle between, you know which direction I want to go, that just creates confusion, and really, like, freezes any action at the company. So it’s really important, I think, for me to have a really clear and concise message to the team. That’s one another is definitely as best I can try to keep a level head. There have been times at rumble where it’s been really stressful and the results aren’t coming in the way they should and, and my anxiety about it, and my frustrations with it have come out and been more, you know, more public tonight than they should be. And that doesn’t do anything for getting the results back on track doesn’t do anything for the morale of the team, it doesn’t do anything for for anybody. So that’s been a big learn of mine is to just try to keep myself as level headed as possible. whether things are good or bad, definitely celebrate the wins, you know, don’t be like, totally, just just bland about any wins. But But make sure that when things aren’t going well that you keep a level head and you don’t freak out too much. And then a third one I would say is just really setting clear goals for yourself and for your team as best you can. That’s obviously hard to do and your business is growing. There’s a lot of different directions you can go in. But we use this great strategy framework. It’s not ours, but we borrowed the strategy framework called Oh, GSM. It stands for objectives, goals, strategies, measures. And I’ve worked really closely with our leadership team and our board to develop our objectives, which are like these big, you know, three year goals that we want to have, and that are excuse me objectives that we want to have. And then that ladders down to very measurable and specific goals that we want to achieve to get ourselves those objectives, that further cascades down into strategies that we’re going to implement to achieve those goals. And finally, from there, that that even further ladders down into really kind of like tactical measures that we try to take each week or quarter or month. And by creating that really clear strategic framework, it allows the whole company to know what’s what should be focused on. And it also allows people top to bottom throughout the company to know how their work is impacting the bigger picture. If you’re if you’re you know, the director of marketing, and you know what the big objectives are, you know, you you’re going to have a level of transparency to those objectives that maybe somebody in customer service or somebody that’s more lower level might might not totally have. So creating this GSM framework and sharing it with the team, walking them through it, having chickens on it regularly, and scoring yourself on it that really allows the whole collective team to be focused and walking in the same direction towards those objectives. So that’s been another really big thing. realize this is a long winded answer here. But I would say that the three things in summary are creating a clear strategic framework that you can share with the team so that they know what should be focused on clear concise messaging. That’s that’s not that’s sort of final without without waffling. You don’t want to create any confusion by changing your mind. And then the third is doing your best job to keep a level head when things don’t go to plan.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And and is it at least it seemed like in a lot of Communicating and sharing what, you know, a clear picture of vision and goals and things like that. Is it difficult to do that in the COVID world where, you know, people are working remotely is it has, it hasn’t been challenging running your business remotely.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Some parts of the business have been really challenging, and others have actually been easier in my experience, in my role in particular, you know, I often have to, like address the whole company, and tell them what it is we’re working on and what we’re focused on. And in a video call, there’s actually a huge advantage I have, and then I can have my notes right in front of me. And I can be reading those notes and still looking directly at everybody and presenting while toggling back and forth from the camera to my notes, which are an inch apart on my screen. So that’s been really helpful for a lot of things, you know, when we, we did we, when COVID hit, we made some some cost adjustments, we rolled out like a really clear plan for the whole team. And there’s no way I would be able to remember every single line item on that plan, if I was just going through that presentation live in person. So having those notes with me was super helpful. That’s that’s been easier, I think that the team definitely wants to, to see each other and be around each other, you know, we have a, we have a fun group of people that work at Rumble, and they like hanging out, you know, people will often go to the bar after work or go do stuff, you know, in their personal lives together. And I think definitely some of our team, you know, they miss being in the office. And then additionally, the last thing is any product development is near impossible, virtually, our product is so tactile, and you just got to get hands on it to know, if we’ve picked the right material or to look at a print and see if the print, you know, resolution is coming out correctly. So that all has to be done in person. So we do meet periodically to go go over product wear masks and do all the safety protocols and everything. But that part of it absolutely does need to be done in person.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And final question, I know that entrepreneurship is a challenging road. There’s, there’s, you know, failures and setbacks along the way. What are one or two failures or setbacks in that, that, that sticks out for you in your entrepreneurial journey? And what have you learned from that, that and and how can other founders entrepreneurs learn from those

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

I would go back to when we changed our product over to post consumer recycled. And in looking back on this in hindsight, it’s, it’s so obvious, but in the moment, we just none of us really saw these challenges that that we were going to face when we did that, the biggest of which was marketplace cleanliness. So we had all this what we would call 1.0 products, you know, product made with Virgin materials out in the market, out at our retail accounts. And when we change it over to post consumer recycled, there was still a ton of it in the market that we had to clear. So we had to do is do a huge amount of clearance activity with our retail accounts on our website, Amazon’s flooded with all this 1.0 product that that, you know, people are buying at discount and and eBay had the same issue. And that was just a big challenge for us. We it really kind of, you know, mess up our company margin, we were we were not earning the types of profits that we should have been earning at that time. And in hindsight, we should have, you know, maybe more gradually rolled out some of those changes rather than doing a hard cutoff. Now, the market is clear, and we’re selling all post consumer recycled products. And we think that it’s a great move for the brand. And we’re really proud of it. But man, there was a there was a very, very difficult, you know, half a year there were there was just a mix in the marketplace. And that that caused some major challenges in terms of messaging and pricing and all sorts of other things.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Now we’re going to move on to the rapid fire segment. And in this segment, I’m going to ask you a few questions and you’ve gone through them in one word or one sentence. So the first question is, do you have any book recommendations? Business entrepreneurship in 2021? And why?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz and in order to proclamation of why friend, these are just quick words.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Yeah, if you if you have any, if you have a reason why you like that book, that would be great. Yeah,

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

sure, for that answer for hard things about hard things. Ben Horowitz who’s one of the founding members of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most successful VC firms on earth. He just went through like just a brutal path to becoming a successful entrepreneur, just massive volatility in the valuation of his business, a lot of big moves he had to make and the challenges he dealt with and was successful in navigating make the ones that I’ve dealt with, at least in my career so far, just completely pale in comparison.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And, yeah, I mean, one of the questions that I have You know, maybe I didn’t send send this cube is, you know, do you believe in luck? Do you think that you know, some some of these people who get really, really successful? You know, is it? Is it a coincidence in their life? Or? Or is it pure, hard work?

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

There is no saying I can’t remember exactly what it is. But it’s basically luck is preparation meets opportunity. And so if you’re not prepared for the opportunity to come, you’re just not going to get lucky. There are definitely aspects of rumbles, success that have been what some might call luck. You know, in terms of partnerships, we’ve been able to strike or people we’ve been introduced to, or kind of just finding the right you know, being right place right time. But if you ask anybody that works at rumpl, they know we’re just working our butts off all the time. And that’s the preparation. So when that opportunity comes around, we’re ready for it. And so I would say that, I believe in luck to some extent, but I don’t think that you’re gonna you should ever rely on it. And I don’t think that most entrepreneurs that have been successful have done so by luck.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

and innovative product or idea and the current ecommerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

We just onboard it actually a platform called envoy b2b. This is a platform that connects you connects you on the brand side with your reps in your wholesale accounts. That’s always been a big challenge for us. And for a lot of businesses that do wholesale is making sure the accounts have the right catalogs, the right marketing support the right pricing all this stuff. And historically, it’s been like a very manual analog way of doing things where you send them physical assets, or you send them a folder of assets or something digitally that they need to use to help market your product. But this is like a full platform where you can do that in app. And it really helps communication between the brand and the account.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

A business or productivity tool, or productivity tip that you would recommend,

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

I would recommend this agsm framework I told you about that’s been totally transformational for our business. And it’s we’re not we’re not letting go that anytime it’s been it’s been amazing for us

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

a startup or business that you think is currently doing great things.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

I would say this is actually more of a category but I would say the outdoor furniture category is very ready for disruption in e commerce. There are two businesses at least that I know of that are that are really kind of leading the way here and one is called hi neighbor. And or just neighbor I guess and one is called outer and, and neighbor in particular is is built by some former tough to needle directors or leadership level folks. And they’re really tackling this issue with the same like problem solution that the whole mattress in a box revolution came out of which is like outdoor furniture is is a pain to go look at in person, showrooms are this dated, expensive model of doing things shipping is really challenging. Quality is iffy. You know, costs are way too high. So so I think that outdoor furniture is the next big category that’s gonna it’s gonna make its way into e commerce in a major way.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Final question of a peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspired a few.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

A Peter Dearing is, he’s the CEO of a company called peak design. He’s a friend. He started peak design roughly at the same time rumble got started. Also in San Francisco, he’s managed to build into a really successful business with without taking any outside money, which is really impressive, impressive in and of itself. He also has really prioritized doing the right thing from a company standpoint. You know, giving back making sure that they’re building products with sustainable components would seem he treats his employees really well. He’s got really clear vision and clear communication style. And yeah, I would say I would say Peter, a good one.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Okay, those were all the questions that I had today. Wiley, thank you so much for the opportunity and for sharing your story and for sharing all the business insights. Now’s the time if you would like to share your website, you know how people can buy your products and things like that. Please go ahead.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Sure, you can buy our products from our website, which is rumble.com are you npl.com. We also are sold in a number of wholesale accounts. You can find a dealer locator on that website. Some of the bigger ones I just like to shout out our Rei shields Nordstrom that country.com And then there’s just a whole handful of others that you can find on our website if you’re looking to get hands-on the product before purchasing.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Perfect. Thank you so much, Wiley for coming on the show for sharing your story for sharing all the different insights. I really, really appreciate your time and for coming on the show. Thank you.

Wylie Robinson of Rumpl  

Yeah, Thank you so much for having me.

Also, get inspired to Create a Profitable Online Business with Michael Chou – Creating the Perfect Ice Cream Scoop

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