PTM 028 – How to Patent a Product and Sell Truckloads with Kim Nimsgern of Click-n-Curl

Part Time Money Podcast - How to Patent a ProductKim Nimsgern is a true part-time entrepreneur, recently launching a new product to market called Click-n-Curl (a hair styling tool). She also works full-time in higher education at a Technical College as part of the leadership team.

In the interview, Kim shares how she worked with the Small Business Administration to find a local university willing to help her do a feasibility study and prototype. She also shares how to patent a product (including cost information).

Kim launched Click-n-Curl in August 2012 and 5 months later she is shipping cases out to wholesale accounts via semi-trailer. She’s still just a one woman company (with lots of help and support from her family) trying to balance this new venture, her full time job, her teenage kids and life in general.

Listen to the Podcast

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Highlights from the interview:

1:00 – Tell us why you got started with this part-time business?
5:30 – What gave you the confidence to think you could make an actual physical product vs just having a prototype?
9:00 – How Kim found her mentor, who helped her make her product.
11:15 – Kim’s first phase (ten years ago). What about things like patents? Attorneys vs Agents vs DIY.
14:30 – Using the Small Business Administration to find help in the early phase.
14:50 – Current phase (last 12 months) of the business. Professional prototype, website, trade show appearance, etc. Including costs.
21:25 – Kim shares what gave her confidence to order her first big order.

Click-n-Curl

The Click-n-Curl

24:15 – Kim talks about how to patent a product, competition, etc.
30:20 – The buyers who wanted Kim’s product and how she found them.
36:15 – Selling through Amazon.com
37:00 – Why Kim is still at her full-time job and plans for that to change.
40:45 – Kim’s plans for product 2.0.
42:00 – How to know if you’re dealing with a good sales rep.
43:15 – Talking with the full-time employer and family-life balance.

Mentioned in the Interview:

Watch the How to Patent a Product Google Hangout

Thank you so much for listening!

Non-iTunes feed for you to subscribe to the podcast. For iTunes users, you can subscribe there using the unique iTunes feed.

Transcription: Just click [spoiler]

Philip Taylor: Alright, it looks like we’re live. Welcome to the Part-time Money podcast. My name is Philip Taylor from ptmoney.com. Today we have with us, Miss Kim Nimsgern and Kim is a true part-time entrepreneur. She recently launched a very interesting product to the marketplace called Click N Curl. It’s a hair styling tool. And if you’re watching on the Google Hangout, you can see it behind her there. She’s also fulltime in the higher education field with a technical college. Kim started Click N Curl in August of 2012 as I understand it and now five months later is already doing some wholesale shipping with some companies so she’s having a lot of success early on it seems. I want to find out from her how she’s doing this. We haven’t had a lot of physical product companies on the podcast so I’m anxious to hear how she got this started and then as well, how she’s balancing this with her fulltime efforts, family and things like that. Kim, welcome to the podcast.

Kim Nimsgern: Thank you.

Philip Taylor: The first question we always ask is how you got started or what motivated you to get started doing something part-time like this.

Kim Nimsgern: Right. That’s a good question. When I was reading a little bit about your bio when I was preparing for this, you talked about how you were just a regular guy. And I say that so often when I’m talking to people, “I was just a person with a good idea,” or what I hoped was a good idea, what I thought was a good idea. Actually, I came up with the concept almost 11 years ago, so while I’m only launching it now, it’s something that kind of been percolating for a long time. My product, Click N Curl is a round brush but it has a detachable handle so you can leave the brush heads in place and keep on going. If you styled your hair it would make a lot more sense.

Philip Taylor: Right.

Kim Nimsgern: Essentially, I had a cheap brown brush and the glue would give way when I was drying my hair and the roller would sink. I soon realized if I strategically leave it there to cool, I don’t have to use my Cool Shot and I’d get good body and volume. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to get a whole set of these?” It turned out to be a cheap product. It launched the idea that I like a whole set of these round brushes for my hair to get the body and volume that I wanted. Every time, like 10 years ago, I’d two children. I have teenagers now. They were 5 and 6 years old. I was working full time in a non-profit agency. I did retail some resources that time and research through SBA and score. They point me in some directions. It was really helpful. They hooked me up with the local university where a group there was able to do a feasibility study. They did in one of their classes from one of the majors as a senior project took this on as a prototype. It’s amazing to me that a resources that are out there for a reasonable cost. The reality was, it was a lot of money even though some of them were cheap in terms of going down the spending and trademarks and some other things]. I felt I have lots of transferable skills but no relevance skills. I don’t have a background in cosmetology or hair products. I certainly didn’t have a background in designing products or manufacturing or any of the things that I’ve been trying to learn along the way to keep costs down. So I shelved it for it for a long time. But, being an entrepreneur at heart, I watched Home Made Millionaire and How I Made Millions, all of those shows and I could just never let it go. The only thing is my husband, he has his own business. He is a painting contractor, a very large painting contractor in the area, so you see that when you work yourself, the more time you put in, the more that comes back to you. Even though I love my job at higher ed, there’s always something there. If I’m going to work as passionately as I do and as I hard as I do, it would be great if that came back to me. Right now, if I work harder, longer or more at my job at Triple Valley technical college, it doesn’t translate into more income. It’s just more of a pat on the back. A couple of years ago, interestingly enough— and I understand now doing research, that this happens a lot, but when the economy kind of took a tank and my husband’s business is very dependent on the economy, I pulled this out and started thinking, “You know, maybe now’s the time to look at this and see what we can do.”

Philip Taylor: Gotcha. I love the idea of it. It looks fantastic. It looks like something very useful for women or anyone who has to style their hair in that fashion. It looks like a really neat product and it looks like a complete product in that it’s fully built out now and it’s a real thing. Just a small time entrepreneur, I wouldn’t know how to take it from the idea to this real physical product that you’re now selling. You mentioned you did a lot of research to build it out on the back end, but maybe you can talk about how you took it from a prototype to an actual physical product that you’re selling today.

Kim Nimsgern: Right. As I mentioned, I felt like I had a lot of transferrable skills. I was an executive director. I work in higher ed and leadership and manage budgets, but really, this was all new. It was just a lot of reading. Books on “Patenting Projects”, “The Inventor’s Bible.” A big one really was very instrumental and moving it forward was a book by Kim Lavigne called “Mommy Millionaire.” She really talks about bringing a product to market. That was helpful. There are lot of resources out there. Of course, the internet is a great resource as well but you can’t always Google what you want. I think the biggest thing for me really for each road block, when I come upon a point in the process where I realize that I don’t know what to do, I’m stumped. I don’t know what to do. It was really just talking to people, kind of networking, and sure enough something would develop, “Oh, you should talked to my uncle… You should talk to my next door neighbour… You should talk to somebody.” It was really that process of sharing what I was doing and being open that led me to the next step. A couple things that had been instrumental is I did find a mentor. The gentlemen who actually does all my 3D designs and that part of a CAD drawings, he’s a local and has brought a product to market. He’s been on QVC and lot of major retail stores. He’s been great. I had hired him to do my CAD drawings and my design work but he’s become a good friend and a good resource along the way to bounce ideas off. I think having somebody that you can bounce ideas off of, has been there, has been helpful. The other one has been a tough one for me—my husband and I so far have financed this project completely on our own. It’s always a balance of where and how to spend your money. I want to put most of my money into the project which is where I feel like I get the return from sales. But I actually don’t know if I need outside professional help. So I did end up hiring a consultant that worked with me for three months. That was really instrumental in keeping, you know, once I decided I was going to move this project forward, there was somebody who’s been there and done that. But that was tough and a lot of money to invest to get a consultant. Knowing it would be a helpful resource but not necessary investing in my product. Do you know what I mean?

Philip Taylor: Correct. Yes. For people who may be interested in doing the similar thing, how did you find the mentor? Was he just through a personal network?

Kim Nimsgern: It did came to a personal network, right. I’d gone on the internet to find some basic information. Like, okay, I need a prototype. I started there and I went to… Interestingly enough, we had about three companies within a 60 mile radius here that do prototyping. I went to one of the companies and said, “I want to have a prototype made.” And they said, “Do you have 3D designs made?” I told them, no, and they said, “Well, you need to start there.” They sent me to another company that does 3D designs and of course the cost was astronomical. Way outside anything that we could afford, but people do really want to see you succeed, so even though I wasn’t able to afford the services they were offering, they said, “Here’s another way to go about it.” Then through that I met this Mica who is the design person who did the 3D drawings. Now I had 3D drawings and I had to go back to the prototype place and have a prototype made. At this level, it has been personal networking.

Philip Taylor: Gotcha. That’s interesting. You mentioned that you searched generically on the internet and you mentioned, I think, Millionaire Mommy was the book?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. Mommy Millionaire.

Philip Taylor: Are there other online resources that sort of walk you through this road map to creating your own product? Or did you cobble it together with lots of information?

Kim Nimsgern: Cobbled it together with lots and lots of information. Right here, I have a whole stack of books, “Mommy Adventure Handbook”, “Open an Online Business”, “Web Marketing”, “Branding”, “The Successful Business Plan.” I mean, just right!

Philip Taylor: Okay. I was just wondering if there was any one website that might be a good resource. But to anyone listening, I’ll definitely link them to the podcast show notes— the ones that Kim has mentioned. Backing up a little bit, talk to me about those first days, ten years ago, in terms of the cost to get that prototype. I think you said you worked with a school to get it done and spend some money in some other areas initially. Talk about the cost of that initial and where you got it to that point.

Kim Nimsgern: Yes, right. So there’s three things I did about ten years ago when I first started this product. One was I worked with a patenting agent to start the pattering process and to get the patent on the product. Through research I realized that there are some several ways you can do that. You can write your own patent. You can work with patent attorney or you can with the patent agent. The patent agent is the middle cost one. Attorneys is a lot more. The agents are people who have successfully written patents before and are recognized as patent writers and eligible to submit. That was one thing. And that cost, which was about ten years ago, was still between $6,000 and $8,000 and that doesn’t even guarantee the patent. Just because you spent the money writing and submitting it doesn’t even mean you’re going out the other side with a patent. So that was one thing I did. The other thing I did through the University of Wisconsin College System here, was the feasibility study. That was done under UW Whitewater and that was about $400. So that was relatively inexpensive for a feasibility study. My prototyping was free at UW Stout class as a senior project. They took that on and took parts that they were able to buy from either the local store, Wal-Mart, Kmart and hardware store and cobbled something together that resembled a round brush with a detachable handle. Great resources in terms of both the feasibility study and the prototyping being relatively low cost and I highly recommend it. There are some challenges with that as well. First of all, they are students. They’re learning, so while the quality of the feasibility study was good enough to encourage me to continue on or to feel it’s a valuable option and to not give up, it’s probably not the quality of a feasibility study that you would pay a consulting company to come up with. Same with the prototype. The other thing is, when you’re working with students, you are working with their timeline. I can’t say I need it tomorrow or next week. It’s at the end of semester. The risk there is that they might come out at the end of the semester failing class because they never finished it. You never know what you’re going to end up with. But I just happened to luck out both times and came up with another enough prototype that I could show people what I was talking about and how it might work and store it away.

Philip Taylor: That sounds good. That makes sense, those three costs. Obviously, the agent you mentioned, people can probably just go out and find that available online? Most schools regionally would probably help out with something like that?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. I started with the SBA. The Small Business office was at one of the those schools and they were able to tell me what each schools were able to do. But it’s pretty common is my understanding.

Philip Taylor: Okay. Talk to me about the current phase. You decided last year, “Alright, let’s try this again. Let’s do it seriously.” What were the things you’ve done and some investments you made?

Kim Nimsgern: Right. Okay. Last year was when we launched. August is when I went to my first show and started showing it in public and it was for sale. September is when I actually received the product and was able to start selling it. But that process started about a year and a half before that when I took my prototype off the shelf. I talked a little bit about how I ended up with Mica. The first thing he did was just some renderings. We didn’t even start with 3D CAD drawings or going to prototype. He was just able to do renderings of what my product might look like as a whole and what it might look like in a package. Then we put together a free website. It’s kind of balancing— it’s always been challenging because it takes money to make money and I get that, but I’m still stuck spending, and you really want to spend the money where it’s really going to work. So for this initial phase, this concept phase, I just went on and opened up a free webpage so that I could download my pictures and the renderings enough that I could show other potential people that I needed to get involved in the process. Even Mica’s renderings which were just pictures, three or four pictures, were $3,000 to $4,000. That was the help to help sell the concept, just to show the concept. From there, we did go forward and got some feedback, did some focus groups. I put it out there to anybody and everybody who was interested in hearing about it and got some feedback. We did do the 3D drawings which is another of couple of thousands of dollars and then the prototype which is about $1,200. Then I hit another road block because I started going out to find out what it was going to cost to manufacture. Again, in my area here we have Philips Plastics and we have Five Star Plastics. We have lots of different companies that do injection moulding pieces. The first couple I went to were saying, “Well, this is going to be $60,000 to $100,000 just to produce the moulds.” That was second point, I didn’t have that. I did try to talk on the side to a banker friend about the possibilities in terms of getting a loan. Nothing, zero. Nobody’s going to give me money. If you’re going to pay that money, you’re going to have to come up with personal backers, and $60,000 to $100,000 for a good idea that we didn’t really know what’s going to happen, was just a little outside of our reach. Interestingly enough, again, personal networking. A friend of mine has an online party supply company called Big Pot of Happiness and they’re doing fabulous. For the last five and six years she’s gone to manufacturing all of her own products so I took her out to lunch. We really talked business, but I took her out to lunch and said, “How are you doing it?” This is what I’m hearing. She manufactures abroad. And I said, “Okay, well, how do I figure out how to do that? It’s certainly not something I have experience in.” She hooked me up with the company that she uses to oversee her manufacturing. So again, personal networking. You can’t Google, “How do I manufacture abroad?” You don’t find much. That’s where we took it next. And that process—from the time I placed my order… and that’s complicated, too because you have to minimum order. You have to fill a container to bring it in the United States. That was scary. That was when it got really scary when the numbers got big. We were talking $25,000 upfront or at least before I got the product. It was 50 percent when I placed the order and 50 percent when they shipped it but I still haven’t seen the product yet. Yes, that was when it got a little scary. From the time I ordered which was in February, I received the product in September.

Philip Taylor: So when did the business consultant come along to help you? What phase?

Kim Nimsgern: Okay. About the time that I was started to work and knew that I was going to be able to move forward with manufacturing, because manufacturing abroad was going to be a cost that I could afford, that’s when I brought in the consultant. I’m way outside my realm. I heard horror stories about manufacturing abroad, you know, that I potentially could spend all this money and have a pile of something delivered to the United States that’s totally unsellable. One of the companies that I worked with has a U.S based office as well as an office in China. So while my product was manufactured abroad, the company that I hired where I worked is a US based company. That was a sense of security for me because in terms of legalities or those kinds of logistics, the US laws apply. So that was somewhat comforting. And again, one of the things that was validated by this consultant as a good way to start.

Philip Taylor: Right. Wow, what a journey you’ve been on here. I mean, doing the thing ten years ago for less than $10,000 initially. Then recently, $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 at a time. All of a sudden, Bam! Let’s get serious, 25K, let’s do this thing. So you talked a little bit about feasibility study and the school that somewhat gave you confidence, but what gave you more confidence to really invest that 25K at that point that made you say, “Hey, if I produce this, people are going to buy it.”

Kim Nimsgern: Right. Well, interestingly enough, I didn’t have much more validation other than I thought it was a good idea ten years ago which really helped me to put it on the shelf for a while. Timing is everything. In the last couple of years, one of the things that’s become very popular in the beauty industry is dry-bars or blow-out bars. So the whole concept is really round-brush styling. These salons are doing nothing but blow-outs. When you do a blow-out, it’s always with a round brush. That’s how you get the body and the volume that Click N Curl is designed to do. As I saw that becoming more and more of a trend that was validating. Then another big thing was an online forums article about when Kate Middleton was getting married over in London—in Europe. It was ‘How to get the Kate.’ The stylist had a woman’s hair with all these round brushes, with handles and all, just hanging from her hair. The whole head was wrapped. So I started to do a little more research and sure enough I found several stylists that say the round brush styling is a common technique. They just leave the whole brush in place because—well, because they don’t have Click N Curl. So that was validating. The process wasn’t new. It was the product that was new. That was helpful. It is hard to know though because my husband is always a good reality check that way—when I’m saying, “Well, so and so thought it was a great idea. They loved it.” And he’s like, “Well, of course, they do. They’re your friends and they care about you.” So you do have to really think critically about who’s giving you the feedback and what their investment is so I’ve tried to become good at that. The people who love and care about me, of course, say great things. But to place more value on those that don’t know me at all. You know, how they view the idea.

Philip Taylor: Excellent. Well, I definitely want to get to current sales in a second and hopefully that will help us full circle in that conversation. But backing up a little bit, you talked about using a patenting agent to get the patent. You did get the patent, right?

Kim Nimsgern: I do have the patent, yes.

Philip Taylor: Okay. No one had created a patent for this idea before that point?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes, that’s interesting. When I initially filed it was rejected because there was a similar concept out there, but by working with my patent attorney—and this is one of the things I went back and forth with about how valuable is a patent really is. Because, what he explained, we just had to show how our concept is just 30 percent different to the concept that’s out there and we can resubmit and we’ll be fine. That’s what we were able to do. That was one of the reasons that slowed me down because I was thinking, “Well, if somebody has already the very similar concept.” I mean, it’s very different, but very similar in terms of the outcome the product provides to the customer—the end-user. I don’t know where they’re at in the process. It could be 6 months to market and how long is it going to take me to get there? With any new product, the first to market is the key. That was one of the reasons I put it in the shelf and just kind of watched. And over the ten years, nothing developed or came out so I just watched from time-to-time.

Philip Taylor: Was it a straight hair period? Is that what it was?

Kim Nimsgern: It must have been, yeah. Then a year and a half or two years ago when I started this venture again I actually looked up that patent to see where they were at. Because if you don’t continue to pay your fees over the years then it becomes null and void and open to the public. So that person never did come to market, never kept up with their patent.

Philip Taylor: Wow.

Kim Nimsgern: Yes.

Philip Taylor: So you still get yours in place? You’ve been paying your fees?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes.

Philip Taylor: And for the past ten years no one has put out something that you wanted to say, “Hey, that’s my concept.”

Kim Nimsgern: There are a couple of other similar products out there but their design is different. And again, it just has to be 30 percent different than mine. When I first realized that—which wasn’t very long ago, one actually launched 3 months after me, one was 6 months before me, but I’m well into the way and didn’t know. That’s the risk. I haven’t done anything with that and nor will I. At first it was scary, then it was very validating that there is a need and that other people think it’s a good idea. I’m just kind of sitting with that and so far so good.

Philip Taylor: Are you selling the product?

Kim Nimsgern: I am selling it.

Philip Taylor: Awesome. So how did you start selling these?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. One of the things that my consultant did was help me figure out how to get into these shows, these big shows. Last August which was when I launched it, I went to America’s Mart in Atlanta which is a huge buyer’s show. They have 450,000 buyers come through during this week timeframe. I never done anything like this before. I was in a building that was 13 stories high and in just my little row, there were 10 vendors. It was crazy. It was unbelievable. It was like nothing I’d ever been to before. And I was in a temp so she helped me figure out how to get in and where I needed to be. I was signed up for booth in the temporary. There are some booths there all the time and then there are some small companies like me. Not even all them are small or start up but just come and set up on occasion for shows. America’s Mart will have lots of shows in a year. Six, eight, ten shows in a year. I just went to that one and set up in one of the temporaries. I kind of felt like a mouse in a lion’s den.

Philip Taylor: Yes.

Kim Nimsgern: They all seemed giant and they were watching me as if to say, “Oh, isn’t she entertaining? Isn’t she…” And I’m feeling like anyone, at any point, could just go smash! Smash me like a bug. But they didn’t. One of the things that’s been so cool about this journey is that people really want you to succeed. I was so impressed with how helpful people were. People would talk about situations, talk to me about price points, talk to me about other shows I needed to be at, how to figure out who’s a profitable sales rep. I learned so much there. But more importantly, I sold. I sold products. People were buying it. Lots of pieces—even outside the people around me which, if you’ve never been to anything like this, they literally bring in the whole store. It’s crazy. I was selling from a 4×2 table. Everything I was working from is on the 4×2 table. All we have was my product, the Click N Curl sign behind me, and me! I was placing more orders than the people around me, so that was really pretty cool.

Philip Taylor: Awesome said. Who are these buyers for everyone out there who doesn’t know about it? Buyers for someone works for retail or wholesale outlet that purchases goes out and finds the product that needed to be on the shows, right?

Kim Nimsgern: Right.

Philip Taylor: Who are these buyers? The names we could recognize.

Kim Nimsgern: It was a combination of a lot of salon owners that were there that were looking because they have a retail area in their salons. Gift shops. Interestingly enough, hospital gift shops. I had two hospital gift shops that picked up Click N Curl while I was there. I had lots of several salons as I mentioned. Gosh, it’s been a long time now. Several of them had reordered but some haven’t. But the big one I came through was Linens and Things. You kind of wait for the big boys to come through and that was one of them. They stopped and it was like a 20 second exchange, “I like your product. Here’s my card. Call me when you get done with the show and we’ll talk about where we can go from here.” That was good. But more important than that, what was interesting was sales reps were coming through. I met a couple of key people. One sales rep works with QVC. I’m really anxious about that. We’re waiting until we have generation 2—well, I have been working with that rep, but the good news is that I’ve sold out all of my product. I’m in the process of placing a second order so we’ll be catching up with QVC with the second generation of Click N Curl. But the reason I’ve sold out is the sales rep that I did end up going with does direct marketing sales, catalogue sales. And several catalogues have already picked it up, my biggest selling one is in AmeriMart catalogue called, “Time for Me,” that I’ve been featured in and it’s been going gang busters. They just asked if they could put it on the back cover because it’s been selling so long in their catalogue which is unbelievable at this stage.

Philip Taylor: Wow.

Kim Nimsgern: I know. So essentially they have a purchase order for all of my remaining products that I have in stock and that will take us through the end of May for their sales.

Philip Taylor: That’s great.

Kim Nimsgern: I’ve just got to get my next order in and get more product here as soon as possible.

Philip Taylor: In terms of revenue you’d made so far from Click N Curl, what are we talking about in total revenue?

Kim Nimsgern: Oh gosh, I didn’t really prepare for that question.

Philip Taylor: What does it sell for? $35?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. Different retailers sell it for different amounts. On my website it sells for $39 which is what most retailers are doing. Some will sell a little bit less. Some will sell it for $49 or $50. It depends. But most all of sales have been wholesale, so I’ve more than doubled my investment in terms of what it costs for me in manufacturing. I get about 2.5 percent. So if I paid $5 to manufacture, I’d get $12 per unit.

Philip Taylor: I got you. Two and a half times?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. Two and a half times.

Philip Taylor: That’s great. So considering you invested $25,000 to $40,000, you may be close to $100,000 in sales?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. It’ll cover all my costs. And again, keep in mind when I say that I keep my overhead very low. I’m still working from home. My Click N Curls are in my basement when I shipped out. I’ve kept my overhead very low and I try to do as much as I can on my own.

Philip Taylor: Right.

Kim Nimsgern: So it will cover my own costs and still have enough to cover 50 percent of my next order.

Philip Taylor: Does the manufacturer handle packaging for you as well?

Kim Nimsgern: They do. Yes. When I get it, it’s retail ready. It comes out of the box and it’s ready for me to send off to whoever purchased it. Mica and my designer actually design the packaging. We send over the content but they box it and package it. It’s retail ready by the time I receive it.

Philip Taylor: Are you selling through your website?

Kim Nimsgern: I do. I sell some through my website but I haven’t paid any money for marketing at all. The sales on my website are relatively low, whereas it’s going gang busters on Amazon.

Philip Taylor: Nice… on Amazon?

Kim Nimsgern: I do sell retail through Amazon as well. I’ll sell upwards of 12 units a day.

Philip Taylor: Nice.

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. Again, with no marketing. I have not spent— well, it depends on what you call marketing. Obviously, my cost to go in a show and some of the other things like that.

Philip Taylor: I guess you consider the cost of whatever Amazon’s cut is by putting it in their marketplace. What do they take from the cut?

Kim Nimsgern: They take 2.5 percent, I think.

Philip Taylor: Yeah, that’s not bad at all.

Kim Nimsgern: Yes.

Philip Taylor: So you’re making a pretty good deal there. What’s the cost to make per kit?

Kim Nimsgern: My cost is $6.75.

Philip Taylor: Okay, and that’s awesome. Wow, that’s really great. Is your husband thinking about shutting down his painting company anytime soon?

Kim Nimsgern: No, but I was thinking about giving up my day job because I still work full time and…

Philip Taylor: Yeah. Let’s talk about that. You’re doing a full time thing right now. Any plans to stop doing that?

Kim Nimsgern: You know, that’s a really precarious position to be in because—really, John and I have been able to fund this ourselves and the income from my job and his job obviously are what’s doing that. Yet, you only get out of something what you put into it. So that’s my concern. I need to keep my day job to keep funding what I’m doing, but as long as I’m working full time at my day job that doesn’t leave as many hours as I’d like—that I probably need for this venture. I’m worried that I’ll be able to grow it to its potential if I’m still working full time. Every couple of weeks we have a conversation about, what’s the cut off? At what point do we say, “Okay, we’re going to make the full leap and…

Philip Taylor: Do you want to do that?

Kim Nimsgern: This venture has been so exciting but I like my day job. I really like working in higher ed a lot. You know, I’m good at that. Like I said, I still feel like a mouse in a lion’s den. Like, it’s all good right now, but at any point in time, I still feel like I could still be squashed like a bug. That’s part of the risk too. I know I’m good with my day job, and I’m learning every day with this venture, but it’s challenging.

Philip Taylor: Yes. Well, maybe I have to bring in some help at some point. Some point or something.

Kim Nimsgern: I think that’s what we’re looking at doing, is keeping the cash flow and bringing in help to cover what we want. But the other challenges— when I set out to do this, it’s always the grand dream, right? To quit my day job and work for myself and make lots of money. That would be awesome. And, to have more time with the family. I know you said you’re a husband and a father too. Well, that’s my first priority too. It is being a wife and a mom and having that time. Right now, I feel like I have two full time jobs. I work all day and I come home and start all over. That’s a little challenging too, figuring out how long I’m really going to be able to manage this and live the quality lives that we want to as well.

Philip Taylor: Yes, I feel you there. That’s going to continue to be a challenge. It sounds like you’re going to have more success with this, with more orders coming. And it sounds like expansion to the second line or second production— second line?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. We’re going to make some changes. We’ve got some really good customer feedback. Right now, it comes with a set of five rollers. We’re going to add a sixth roller. We’re working on adding some additional items to the line in terms of clips and carrying bags. And upping the quality a bit. But, like I said, that’s been my challenge the whole time because I’m still funding, I want to spend what I need to so it’s quality and retail ready and customer’s want to buy it, but also keeping the cost reasonable so I can bring it to market. Now that we’ve come this far, my next step won’t be $6.75 per unit. They’ll be a little bit more. I think it’s a good move. But if I’m able to order more, then my prices will go down again too.

Philip Taylor: I can naturally see you having a professional salon quality product and then more of a consumer product that doesn’t have to be as durable or as sleek as the salon model.

Kim Nimsgern: Right. That’s what my current model is, a very consumer friendly product designed for consumers.

Philip Taylor: So was that trade show enough to propel you right now, to this point? Or do you have plans for further marketing?

Kim Nimsgern: No, I will continue. When I get to generation 2, then I’ll hit another couple of shows next summer and in the fall again. Hopefully, we’re going to be presenting to the buyers at QVC. Hopefully, some of those things will help. I’d like to not have to go to shows all the time. But that really is the main way sales come about, from the shows.

Philip Taylor: Gotcha. So I heard on Shark Tank before, that sales reps can often make a lot of promises to you about what they can do. So maybe you can share some insights on how you’re dealing with a quality sales rep that’s helping you sell your business.

Kim Nimsgern: Right. When I came back from the Atlanta show after having met a lot of sales reps there, that was the first time I realized I needed friends in high places in my side. The first thing I did when I got back was get myself an attorney to run everything by. Again, you’re learning from some of the horror stories that my new friends from the show were willing to share. That’s one of the things, to make sure you get in with reputable people and you don’t sign a way that things you didn’t intend to when you read the contracts. So having an attorney has been a key to review those with. Because I’m small, a lot of the sales reps that were attracted to me are also smaller groups and organizations. So they’re growing and building, too. That’s been nice. I feel lucky. I came across quality people who care about the product and want to see it succeed. So far, so good.

Philip Taylor: That’s great. Have you talked to your full time employer about this situation? And if so, was there a negotiation about, you know, this venture encroaching on their time?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. I switched jobs during this timeframe. I was at one institution for ten years and now, just a year ago moved back to Triple Valley Technical College where I’m at now. For whatever reason, I didn’t think I should share it with my employer at my last job. It kind of grew and became exciting and of a sudden it’s a big thing and I hadn’t shared it with them. I felt really bad and awkward and uncomfortable about that. But I didn’t know how they’d take it or what the reaction would be. So when I moved to my new employer that was one of the things I did right away. I was just upfront and open about it and they’ve been great. They’ve been really good in terms of being supportive and hoping that it goes well. And the expectation is—and I try to be ethical person about it, is that when I’m there, I work and when I’m here then I’m doing Click N Curl stuff.

Philip Taylor: Gotcha. But that’s hard, though.

Kim Nimsgern: It is. Sometimes my mind is in another place. That’s for sure. I know I’ve had my cell phone at my work and it’s ringing and I’m sure it’s about Click N Curl, and I won’t take those calls. Then I’m worried about what I’m missing out on, what momentum or opportunity maybe just slipped through the cracks because I have this full time job.

Philip Taylor: So how are you balancing the time? What are some to the tricks you’re using or advise you can give people?

Kim Nimsgern: Yes. Well, luckily, I have a very supportive family and my kids are a little bit older now. They’re teenagers. They’re excited about the product too. Whenever possible I try to incorporate them. Sometimes we’ll have relay lines or conveyor lines going like, “You do this,” stuffing instructions and quality checking the product before it goes out. All of them now can box up a package and ship it out on their own. Even though I’m working, they are helping me out and we’re spending time together. But the bottom line is, family first. When my kids are sick and they need help with homework, Click N Curl goes on hold until that’s taken care of. If that means a little less sleep in some weeks or some nights but that’s just the way it is.

Philip Taylor: That’s cool. That’s awesome. So is there anything we didn’t cover that you felt we should have?

Kim Nimsgern: No, I think we covered a lot.

Philip Taylor: Okay. That’s a great story and I’m so happy for you with your success. It sounds like it’s going to be a great 2013 for you with new sales and new orders coming in.

Kim Nimsgern: Yes.

Philip Taylor: You’ve got a good approach to your balance. This is just exciting. Maybe I’ll see you on Shark Tank pretty soon.

Kim Nimsgern: Thank you. That was great. Thank you.

Philip Taylor: Where can people find out more about Click N Curl?

Kim Nimsgern: Sure. I have a website at www.click-n-curl.com. That’s where all my information is. If people are interested for wholesale reasons or to see what our product’s all about, or to buy our product, that would be the best place to go.

Philip Taylor: Very good. Well, thank you again for being on with us and sharing your inspirational story and educational story. Again, we’ll have all the links, the show notes and links to Kim’s site there as well. That’s it. Thanks so much, Kim.

Kim Nimsgern: Thanks, Phil. Nice to meet you.

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About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. successfulWT says:

    ptmoney hi there, how are things going?