Today we talk with Greg Amundson, a trailblazing inventor and entrepreneur whose story will inspire you to keep working hard when all the chips are down. Greg began his company, InstaTrim, in the midst of the 2008 housing market crisis and grew it into a multi-million dollar business.
"The idea came to me in the middle of the night," he says, "And when I woke up, I immediately made a prototype of the product idea." The market feedback was positive, signaling that his product had commercial potential. What followed next was the start of a company that has today become a successful business. But Greg's success story is more than just the invention of a great product. It's also about how he constantly failed and learned on the job intelligently, found unique advantages where others failed, and worked hard to improve InstaTrim's marketing.
Greg's experiences will keep you motivated while unveiling insights on entrepreneurship, business, and marketing for both new and seasoned entrepreneurs or product marketers.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
How InstaTrim started manufacturing their products locally, instead of in China.
The value of networking at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey.
The importance of failing quickly, and failing on a small scale.
Why it is essential to believe in your product.
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, click to watch the full video interview here!
Are you tired of using messy caulks on home improvement projects? Then visit www.instatrim.com to get great deals and discounts on Greg Amundson's InstaTrim, the bestselling trim solution on Amazon. You can also order a sample kit to try it out before buying.
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare: Today's guest built a multimillion-dollar business out of his garage and figured out how to manufacture in the US, giving his business flexibility that drove much of his revenue growth. After years of e-commerce success, they are now growing into brick-and-mortar retail. He discusses how his online marketing prepared his business for an easier transition into retail.
Male Speaker: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know. Harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now, here's the host of The Harvest Growth Podcast. Jon LaClare.
Jon: Welcome back to the show. Today I'm really excited to be meeting with a good friend of ours, Greg Amundson. He's the president and inventor of InstaTrim. You can find out more about this product at instatrim.com. In a second, we'll go through exactly what the product is, in case you haven't heard about it, and their great story of growth over the years in a consumer product marketplace. Greg, first of all, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us today.
Greg Amundson: Thanks, Jon. It's a pleasure to be here and looking forward to our discussion.
Jon: Likewise. For our audience's sake, please, can you describe what is InstaTrim?
Greg: InstaTrim is a product I invented about 15 years ago and it replaces caulking. I was a contractor for 25 years and caulking always frustrated me because very few people could do it right. We can get more into the details of how that started. It's a caulk-replacement product. It's also a flexible trim product. It could be considered a decor product as well. Anywhere that there's a corner in your home or business, you can apply InstaTrim products to.
Jon: Very cool. Corner caulking as opposed to a flat wall or floor is the difference that this comes in. Can you describe the process of installation? Because one of the great things about InstaTrim is how easy it is to install. For anybody who has done any caulking in their homes or anywhere, their place of business, whatever it might be, it could become a pain, especially to make it look good. It's probably easy to do, it's hard to do well, but InstaTrim makes that process so much easier. What is the installation process?
Greg: Well, our goal from the beginning was to keep this very simple. We wanted to solve a problem, and the goal was to provide a solution to caulking and for trim that literally anybody could do. That was our motto from the get-go. We have a product that literally anybody can peel off the back liner that's already got adhesive on it and apply it into the corner.
This solved a lot of problems for a lot of people that had a caulking project they didn't want to do. They've been avoiding it for years or maybe they didn't have the skill set to do it. That was a big win for us. Then about a year ago, we came out with pre-finished corner pieces. That was one problem the consumer had was splicing the corners. With our pre-finished corner pieces, it literally is one and done.
Jon: I've got to really echo that sentiment, how easy it is. I am not a DIY person. I enjoy it sometimes, but I'm not good at it. You can always tell the projects that I take on and work on myself. In my home, as my audience knows, we've done many videos over the years, TV infomercials, many digital videos as well. Several years ago, I hate to say that it's been that long, we added some fake mold, as it were, on the grout lines in one of our kids' bathrooms. Then did a before or after kind of thing, took some videos in there, and showcased this product.
Very different from yours, but it was a cleaning product, and ever since then, it's left some staining on the bottom, right where the trim would go. To be honest, I can't remember what I used. It was probably a Sharpie or something back in the day to make it look black along those lines. I'm like, "Oh, I'll just put this on here and I'll re-caulk it afterwards." Of course, years go by because I don't use that bathroom very often, it's my kids. I don't notice it, and it has gotten to be forgotten, and it's kind of a pain, as you mentioned, to fix something or re-caulk.
I was super excited when we first started talking to get my own sample and put it in there, and it took less than 10 minutes. Super easy. Most importantly, you can't tell that I did it because it looks perfect, it looks great. Where had I caulked it, it would've been messy. It would've been uneven, that sort of thing. I can echo that statement, how easy it is to use. I know there's many out there, not just in our audience, but across the country, frankly, that could use a product like this to do simple remodels. You've used that phrase I think before where you can make your bathroom look new again with this simple adjustment that can take minutes really to install.
Greg: That's, I think, one of our biggest selling points is that within 30 minutes, you can refresh your countertop. You can cover that nasty gap under the toilet base. Maybe you put in your own flooring and you've got a couple of gaps next to the base mold that you're not sure what to do with. Instead of digging out the saw, the nail gun, and some wood trim, you can just apply InstaTrim in a matching color, cover that up, and it's done. We test it nonstop. Our house is kind of a circus. There's pieces of InstaTrim everywhere. Not any finished places, just little pieces, different colors, different sizes. It's kind of a mishmash of our testing zone.
Jon: You mentioned, I think, some of the most common areas that consumers yourselves probably have used it, and the ones that come to mind, so showers, countertops, where the counter meets the wall, around a toilet, around baseboards on the floor. Have you heard back from customers, or maybe even in your own experience, really unique ways that InstaTrim has been used?
Greg: Yes, we get those periodically. The latest one was a company in California that placed a very large order. Whenever that happens, my shipping department sends me their information because I do a little research, and this was a company in California that raises insects for agricultural purposes. They used our product to seal up the cracks and corners to keep the bug in.
Jon: Very interesting. It's not something you would think about by doing market research in the very beginning. It's great that you follow up and talk to these customers, especially on big orders because you'll get new learnings. Sometimes there's a learning you can take in like, "Hey, we should go down in the business-to-business route." It might be something very specific like that if it were a bigger market or it might just be thinking about business-to-business in general to seal things in that you maybe hadn't thought of. That's great that you follow up and talk to your customers.
One of the things that I find really interesting about InstaTrim is the fact that it's 100% manufactured in the US which is so difficult to do. I work with and interview a lot of founders, inventors, and product marketers, and almost all of them really would love to manufacture in the US, but it's difficult. It can be cost prohibitive sometimes, or just difficult to find a manufacturer that works in the field that has experience.
By default, many of them end up going overseas even though they don't want to, which-- anyways, there's pros and cons on both sides, but again, we would love to manufacture in the US. How did you do it? How did you accomplish this where you can now manufacture your product completely here in the US?
Greg: It is always a little bit dumb luck, stars lining up. That was our goal, in the beginning, was to have this be a USA-made product. Fortunately for us, we've got a product that does not have a lot of labor costs associated with it. We were essentially extruding some PVC and the prices for that in China versus here are pretty competitive once you consider the shipping and the delays.
We are so thankful that we are USA-made, given what's happened over these last couple of years in China and COVID. That could have put us out of business. Long delays in getting products. That was one of our early goals. We're proud of it. Some people care, some people don't. For us, the big benefit is we can [unintelligible 00:08:54] still a very large order within six weeks.
Jon: Yes. If you can imagine, we work with a lot of clients that do manufacture in China and other places overseas. You get a big order that comes in, you're out of inventory. It can take months. It might be what you can do in six weeks that might take them six months or sometimes longer. I like how you mentioned the freight cost. A lot of times that's not factored in, we contact-- if you've got a small business, you're just starting out and you reach out to a Chinese manufacturer, their piece rate can be very inexpensive, and sometimes you have to, depending on the market, some things they just don't make here in the US, and there's no factors in place for it.
If there is the ability, that freight cost can make a huge difference. Even today, a couple of years ago or even as recent as a few months ago, the shipping costs were tremendous, 10 times what they used to be. It's come back down a little bit, but still, that cost in dollars and in time to have products come from overseas to here should definitely be factored in and may make a big difference. That's great, you've been able to figure that out for your business, and have that flexibility.
Greg: I agree 100%. For us being a smaller business, being able to get product quickly is really important because we don't have millions of dollars of inventory sitting here. We try to keep things lean and mean as best we can, so for us, having our manufacturer literally two hours south of our warehouse is great.
Jon: Absolutely. I know a good percentage of your business is done through brick-and-mortar retail channels. That's where it's important if anybody listening has that as part of their strategy or maybe their current business or growth plans for their business, that time of manufacturer needs to be factored in. If you've got to wait months for something to come in from overseas, for example, you got to pay for that oftentimes in advance and sit and wait, and you don't get paid by the retailer until many times after they receive goods.
If there's a months-long separation, like you said, it can sink your business or certainly detract from it. It can definitely be a hard thing to deal with, so that flexibility is really invaluable. Let's talk about the marketing side of your business. What has worked well? You've been around for quite a long time and had some great years in building this business. What marketing has worked really well for your business?
Greg: As you're well aware, Jon, marketing is a very deep abyss, and we have certainly gone through numerous partners in the past that literally weren't as smart as we were, but we didn't know what we were doing. We reached out to a lot of people and learned a lot of lessons. Currently, right now, we are strictly e-commerce, and we're about to break in the brick-and-mortar business next year, but we've been e-commerce only for about 13 years, and we've done very well.
I think one of the big benefits for us is we can control the narrative. The reason that's been so successful is, of course, marketing. We do a vast majority of our business on Amazon and we spend a lot of money on Amazon advertising. The bigger picture, top of funnel, as you are well aware, is getting eyeballs. We need people to see our product, and if they see it, they generally will buy it, and that's how you and I connected about six months ago.
The appeal of on-TV advertisement is potentially huge. When we're ready, that's something we probably will pursue because you supply eyeballs, many, many hundreds of thousands of those people, and that will sell our product. Until that time comes, we do a lot of social media. I've mentioned Amazon. We have a website that we're very aggressive with. We like to run various promos throughout the year. This mixture that we have, the ingredients of a soup, we've gotten to the point where it does very well. Across the board, our ROAS, which stands for return on ad spend, it's been generally at least four, which we're very happy with. Every dollar we spend on advertising, we're getting a $4 return on sales.
Jon: Which is fantastic. The higher that return is, the more flexibility you have in your business to be able to scale up, to be able to pay for resources, employees, et cetera. It makes the growth much easier. You talked about how retail is becoming more important, as [unintelligible 00:13:32] becoming strategy for your business, and again, for our audience's sake, Greg, I know you understand this, the importance of marketing, we think about it, it's really easy on the e-commerce side.
We know we've got to get people to the website in order to purchase. We've got to have some kind of traffic campaign that drives them there. Or if it's within Amazon, picking the traffic up that are searching for something similar to your product. It's equally important to drive eyeballs, to drive traffic into retail stores as that happens. Continuing that marketing effort and finding ways to really expand awareness of what your product is as you prepare to really enter a lot of retail stores in the coming months for your business as well. Again, I know you know that, it's just a great reminder for our audience as well.
Greg: I don't know, you could call it a science, you could just call it throwing darts against the dartboard. I think that's where experience comes in on what is effective and what's not. That takes a few years to get nailed down. I know for us stepping into the brick-and-mortar environment next year, that's going to be a totally different animal. Our goal was to work through a distributor which we are, so that allows us to ship to them, and they take care of the retail store, which your profit margin takes a huge hit. For us, it's worth it because we do not have the staff to manage that retailer.
Jon: Absolutely. It takes quite a bit of staff and experience, it's a different world than you've been in, and it's great to have a partner that understands that and can help drive it more quickly. You talked about experience. You've been doing e-commerce for a long time and had a lot of success. Retail is relatively new to you, but so far, the success you've had in your business, what do you wish you had known when you originally started the business in the early days, that would've been helpful to you starting out?
Greg: Boy, that's a loaded question. Unfortunately, I think being an inventor, a lot of it is fail, fail, fail, succeed. It's just putting your head down and keep going. You're going to make mistakes, you have to fail. That's the only way you learn. A lot of people don't have the [unintelligible 00:15:54] in their reign of being able to take that risk, and being able to fail and get up and brush your pants off, and go at it again.
Like I said, we have been through many, many companies that the vast majority were not able to help us. It's just sourcing the people-- once you learn from past experience, you get a much better idea of what you need. Being able to focus and look for those specific people is part of the maturity of your business, and as long as you've got some smarts, you're going to get there.
Jon: You use the word "failure" and it's something that entrepreneurs are scared of. We don't want our business to fail. Of course, that's not a goal for any of us, but it is important. Somebody coined the term years ago, talking about failing quickly, I would add to that failing small too. I think failure is a part of business, you've got to learn no matter-- even if you've got years of experience doing this, at 15 years in, you're still going to make mistakes.
We all do in our business, but learning to fail small and fail quickly, and as you said, learn from those. Move on, get that failure behind us, "Okay, that route didn't work. What's my next step in my business?" It's an important part of the business, and a good thing for really all of us to remember.
Greg: There's very few inventors, specifically myself, that really did not know what I was doing. I essentially started in my garage, I was the traditional garage inventor. When I look back on those days working in the garage, it was a farce. It's funny, and how we've developed and evolved over the past 15 years, it's a long journey. It's the hardest thing I've done in my life, without a doubt, but the rewards are huge. The rewards don't come as fast as the failures. It's the proverbial three steps forward steps, two and three-quarter steps back.
Jon: That's a good way to put it. Greg, are there any resources that have been helpful to you on your journey?
Greg: I think the number one thing is networking. Networking with people to see if they can connect you with somebody else. That's how we found you guys, Jon, was a networking attempt. As you get smarter and your business matures, you can focus more on what kind of help you need, but I think networking is huge. Mentors. We've had some amazing mentors over the years that really wanted to see us succeed because they had previously succeeded.
These mentors have helped guide us so much. I think reaching out to people that you know or maybe don't know, I think you'd be surprised how many people generally want to help. We're in the same boat. We very much want to pay it forward. I love talking to inventors that are at the beginning stages of trying to develop a product and try to help them avoid some of the pitfalls that we fell into. That's a very rewarding part of being an inventor for us.
Jon: You're exactly right. Anybody who's made it or been successful with any business, but in the consumer product space especially, they realize the failures they had to get through. They realize how difficult the journey was and they realized they didn't do it alone. As you said, paying it forward, many others are willing to do the same as well. It just takes reaching out and respecting their time et cetera, but they want to help you. This really is a journey we can't do alone or we can't do it well alone. Being able to reach out through networking, through mentors, I think, is a very important thing to remember.
Greg: It is, Jon. Considering that I started 15 years ago, I was a general contractor when the housing market died in 2008, literally laying in bed wondering if I was going to have to file bankruptcy. This thought of solving a caulking problem came to me in the middle of the night, and the next morning, got up, made a prototype, and it's like, "Wow, this might work.'
From that point until today, it's just an amazing story that literally anybody can embark on if they want to. It's a very challenging journey with the family, with your finances, stress level, but if you've got a partner or spouse, Betsy works with me here, we're equal partners in the business, she benefits my shortfalls, and hopefully, I benefit some of her shortfalls, but we work together 24/7, and we're best friends. We still have fun together, and I'm just so fortunate that this has gone down this path.
Jon: You do. Whether it's a spouse, a friend, or everyone needs somebody in their life to not be alone on an entrepreneurial journey because there are hard days with running any business. It's part of it. That's great that you've got that in your life too. Greg, is there anything I didn't ask that would be helpful for our audience?
Greg: Nothing comes to mind other than if you don't really believe you've got a legitimate product, and that's not asking friends and family if they like it because they will always tell you they love it, you're so smart, but getting outside input is a really big part of the initial steps. At least if you can get to the point where you really truly believe you have something of value, literally putting your head down, just going for it.
I think the single hardest part about bringing a product to market is just not giving up and some people won't make it. I think the percentages are very, very small. One other thing I wanted to throw in there too, early on, we made the difficult decision to file patents, and it was a tough decision because they are very expensive, but just last year they proved their worth for us and saved us a very big copycatter, and that could have put us out of business if we did not have any IP protection.
Jon: That is good advice. Greg, this has been a lot of fun. I do encourage your audience, please go check out instatrim.com. It's a great product. I use it personally in my own home. If I can do it, frankly anybody can do it. [laughs] I do encourage everyone to check it out, but also just to see some of the great work that Greg's done. It's a great site. You can check out their Amazon listing for the product as well and learn about the successes of this business. Greg, thanks again for your time today.
Greg: Yes, thank you too, Jon, and if I can help anybody, just send out an email.
Jon: For the listeners, please go to instatrim.com to learn more, and be sure to check out www.harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode and you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show, or you can set up an appointment right from our website to speak directly with a member of the Harvest Growth team and a free consultation to learn the process that has worked for hundreds of businesses since 2007.