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From Idea to Impact: How This Doctor is Reinventing Closets and Breaking into E-Commerce


In this episode of The Harvest Growth Podcast, host Jon LaClare interviews retired physician and successful serial entrepreneur, Rick Chesbrough. Rick is an ingenious inventor and healthcare entrepreneur, whose career has been marked by the creation of innovative medical products that have made significant impacts on patient care. Today, Rick shares his journey of inventing the Space Cadet Closet Organizer, a unique product designed to solve the problem of an unorganized closet.


Drawing from Rick's triumph with his consumer product sensation, the Space Cadet Closet Organizer, they uncover invaluable insights for swiftly achieving profitability and steering clear of common marketing pitfalls that plague many startups. Listeners will gain insights into the process of bringing a new product to market, the need for ongoing marketing efforts, and the patience required for a breakthrough in an innovative product's visibility. Tune in now to uncover the lessons and strategies behind Rick's entrepreneurial journey.




 

In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:


  • How to win over potential buyers who are unfamiliar with your product and its benefits

  • How to successfully transition from product inventor to entrepreneur

  • The need to diversify digital marketing and revenue streams amidst today's volatile business landscape

  • Accelerating business growth and sidestepping marketing pitfalls by collaborating with seasoned marketing experts

  • Key performance metrics essential for orchestrating successful marketing campaigns across your website and external platforms like The Grommet

  • 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!


 

Need a simple, time-saving solution that transforms your closet from a disorganized mess cluttered with clothes to a spacious showroom of your beautiful clothes? Then you’ll need Space Cadet. Visit www.spacecadetcloset.com now to learn more about how it works and why people love it.


To be a guest on our next podcast, contact us today!


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 [00:00:00]:


Today's guest is a retired physician and successful serial entrepreneur that has licensed several medical products over the years. So when he had the idea for a novel consumer product, he assumed he could easily figure out how to market and grow that business as well. In the story he shares today, it proved harder than he expected, but now you can learn through some of the hurdles he had to overcome.



Announcer [00:00:22]:


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 LaClare [00:00:42]:


Welcome back to the show. I'm excited to talk with Rick Chesbrough today. He is the inventor of the Space Cadet Closet Organizer, a really cool product you may or may not have seen before. We're going to talk about the product, a little bit of his background, and some great learnings he's had along the way. But first of all, welcome to the show, Rick.



Rick Chesbrough [00:01:00]:


Thank you, John. Pleasure to be on Harvest Growth.



Jon LaClare [00:01:04]:


Well, thank you. Let's first talk about your background. So before you invented this product, you've invented a lot of other ones and then had a career before that as well. Would you mind sharing a bit of your background?



Rick Chesbrough [00:01:14]:


Sure. Yeah. I'm a trained medical doctor. I'm a radiologist in diagnostic radiology. So lots of time. Put in in college, med school, and then internship, residency. It takes a long time, but I enjoyed it immensely. Along the way, I invented some medical devices that I needed for my daily practice.



Rick Chesbrough [00:01:38]:


Things like biocompatible tissue markers, little clips that go in after a biopsy to mark the site to help the surgeon localize that area, particularly when you're looking for breast cancer. So those little clips were some of my early inventions. I did develop a software program to help prevent abnormal test results from falling through the cracks. Sold that to a publicly traded company in Los Angeles, and that's used around the country to help just prevent people that might have an abnormality on an x ray from not getting acted upon. Hard to believe, but that happens all the time. The clips I mentioned are sold around the world. That's been going on for 20 years. And then I've developed a bunch of other medical products still working on a few devices.



Rick Chesbrough [00:02:36]:


And then along the way, about two years ago, I decided to try some consumer inventions. And that's where the Space Cadet came in again, trying to solve a problem of just the unorganized closet, and you spend a lot of money getting matching hangers, and you have nice clothes, but the closet always looks disorganized. So that was kind of the genesis, the idea for Space Cadet.



Jon LaClare [00:03:05]:


So let's talk about the Space Cadet Closet Organizer. I think you've got one. You can maybe show our audience that might be viewing this, but of course, explain it for those that are listening or hearing. What is it exactly? How does it work?



Rick Chesbrough [00:03:18]:


Right. It's not rocket science, but it comes in a box that says Space Cadet, a white box with black letters and a, and a blue hanger. And you get five sleeves per box. Now, a sleeve is about 20 inches long, which is half a meter because that's how we get them from the manufacturer, half meter lengths. It's a corrugated polyethylene that is very flexible and has kind of a metallic sheen to it. So for the viewers that can see this, this is one of the five sleeves that you get in a box, and it's designed to have grooves in it where your hangers, all different types of hangers, will fit right in the groove. It's slit longitudinally so it can pop right on over just about any type of closet rod. And then you can rotate it so the seam is in back, puts your hangers with your clothes on there, and it automatically transforms.



Rick Chesbrough [00:04:21]:


An old looking closet with that tired wooden closet rod suddenly looks beautiful, and it stays organized. The whole thing takes less than ten minutes to completely transform your closet. And we're selling them for $29.95. I think they might be on Amazon for a little bit more. But the idea is that with five sleeves, you can do your whole eight foot closet for under about $30. And really for people that want to have a beautiful looking space. And if you move next year, you can take the whole thing with you. So that is kind of the idea behind it here.



Jon LaClare [00:05:09]:


Yeah. It's like, I think the last time we talked, we talked about it being an inexpensive closet redesign. Right. You can spend thousands of dollars redesigning your closet, and of course you're going to get shelves. It's not, you know, this doesn't do everything that that redesign would do, but it's, it's a step in that direction. For a very inexpensive price is an easy way to make your closet really look a lot better. And I find, too, that in my normal closet over the years, and probably you and a lot of our audience, I'm looking for a shirt in the middle, and they're all bunched together. I'm pushing this really heavy all the hangers across, trying to get to it or whatever.



Jon LaClare [00:05:44]:


It just makes the use of the closet a lot easier as well as what I found. So I love it. It's a fantastic product. Let's talk about the installation you mentioned how, I just want to describe a little bit more how easy it is because that's often a concern when people think about any kind of diy or organization product. You've got construction involved, and you mentioned it briefly, but literally, as I understood it, you just pull across, pull it open, slide it right on top. You don't need to remove your rod from the wall or anything like that. And then once it's there, it's there forever.



Rick Chesbrough [00:06:17]:


That's right.



Jon LaClare [00:06:18]:


Yeah.



Rick Chesbrough [00:06:18]:


You start at one end and work to the other end, putting it on the closet rod. It just kind of fit it over. Just kind of gently massage it over the closet rod. Now you have to measure it ahead of time and you can take regular scissors and cut this to fit. So each closet with the closet rod has supports to hold it up. So you're going to want to measure that distance. Cut your Space Cadet to fit and then fit that on there from one end to the other. Just kind of working on, there's a video, a couple of videos, I think, on the website Space Cadetcloset.com.



Rick Chesbrough [00:06:56]:


We've had some people run it, run the device under hot water to make it even more flexible. I think one person put it in the microwave for 10 seconds to loosen it up a little bit, but it's designed with the additives to make it more flexible. So it's pretty flexible. And so I think most people will find it's quite easy to put in place and it's not something you have to do very often. Fit it to your closet one time and you're good to go. It'll last as long as you have that closet. As I say, if you're living in apartments like I did for the early part of my life, and you're changing apartments every year, then you get a Space Cadet with some hanging shelves, some matching hangers, maybe you get a few accessories and you have a nice looking closet that's very functional for under a couple hundred dollars. And when you move to a new place next year, you take it all with you.



Rick Chesbrough [00:07:58]:


Unlike the Home Depot, the IKEA, the shelving systems that you install, you know you're leaving those behind when you move. And so that was kind of the thinking behind a portable closet transformation that looks really nice at a budget price.



Jon LaClare [00:08:18]:


I've got a question for you on your background. So you, as you mentioned, are a retired physician. And our audience, of course, a lot of our clients are product marketers. Some are companies that have been around for a while. Some are inventors doing their first product launch. And we've been doing this for a long time. So we've gotten to know, of course, our clients, but also a lot of our listeners to this podcast. And there's a surprising number of physicians, either current or retired, that invent products and oftentimes are unrelated to their or not directly related, at least to their field.



Jon LaClare [00:08:48]:


Right. So you mentioned a few inventions you've done over the years which were directly related to what you did on a day to day basis. But what are your thoughts? Why are there so many physicians that become successful inventors? It's in some ways seems so different, and I've got my own opinions, but I'd love to hear yours. Why do you think physicians do so well at inventing and bringing out new products?



Rick Chesbrough [00:09:09]:


And I actually do some coaching of physicians on licensing because most of my success has been licensing products. Space Cadet is really the first time that I've tried to build a whole company and learning all the challenges of doing that and selling on a website, selling on Amazon. But yeah, I think physicians as a group tend to be reasonably intelligent people. They know how to concentrate and get through all the exams that we have to do. But I think many also have a creative side, and so they have that right brain activity. They come up with ideas typically in their field. And as I think I started out saying, my early inventions really solved problems that I was having. So as an inventor, I think that's always a good motto.


Rick Chesbrough [00:10:08]:


Scratch your own itch. If you're having a problem on a daily basis and you talk to your colleagues and they're all having the same problem, that's the beginning of a good invention. Possibly. So I think physicians are, they're the end user of a lot of these products and they know what they need, and sometimes they're just not out there. Why physicians come up with ideas in other areas, I don't know, except that we all have active minds, active imaginations, and yeah, there's just a lot of creativity out there.



Jon LaClare [00:10:47]:


And I would add, I think that's all exactly what I was thinking as well. I would add to it or maybe clarify my own words. A curiosity, right? So there's physicians that I've known and worked with over the years. There's a true intellectual curiosity. Right. So you're looking for problems to solve, whether it's in your field or outside of it, because it's really what you do on a day to day basis, whether you're a radiologist or whatever your field might be within medicine, you're constantly solving new problems and oftentimes in new ways. Right. It's, you have to figure things out.



Jon LaClare [00:11:18]:


There's no, there's no, there are textbooks, right. But there's not an answer for everything in textbooks. You really have to figure a lot out. And I think, to me, that helps me understand why the curiosity starts it, but it's also a shared, there's a lot of shared traits I see between successful inventors and physicians in general, whether or not the inventors are physicians. And it's, you know, part of it comes down to curiosity, but it's that ability to solve problems, because every business, as you know, right. When you start a business, there's a thousand problems that you never expected and no one could have ever coached you on fully. Right. Every business is a little bit different and it's being able to adapt to solve problems along the way, I think, is some traits I've seen, too.



Jon LaClare [00:11:58]:


So I think for our audience as well, a lot of them, whether they're doctors or not, right. There's a, there's that trait of being able to solve problems, being able to think creatively, not just to bring out the idea, but to get it to market and to grow. So in that, guys, let's talk about the product a little bit more.



Rick Chesbrough [00:12:14]:


The marketing of the product just add to you. I think you're absolutely right, John, for physicians, that if you think, I never thought it this way, but every patient is a puzzle. Every patient is a puzzle. And so if you're used to kind of solving those diagnostic dilemmas, then that is that curiosity, that creativity. So to your point, I agree with you.



Jon LaClare [00:12:37]:


And let's talk about your journey with e commerce. So now that you've started this business different from everything else you've done before, talk to us about what you've learned in the process of launching Space Cadet, Closet Organizer and where you've gone from there.



Rick Chesbrough [00:12:52]:


Sure. Well, I was pretty naive, and normally I think I'm a reasonably bright person. But then when you go to launch an e commerce business on Amazon, you realize, I realize how dumb I really am because it's not so easy. I really thought that we'd put this out there, make a few videos, do a little advertising on Facebook, TikTok, and it would just sort of grow organically. But that's not the way things usually work, I'm told. And so that's been the challenge is I'm an inventor. I can come up with ideas, I can get patents, I can work with engineers, get the product developed, put the money in to have molds created for, for a corrugated pipe like this. That's called extrusion molding.



Rick Chesbrough [00:13:48]:


So I learned a lot about that and different types of plastics. I can get all of that done and come up with the product. But then you turn to the next phase, which is how are we going to market and brand this thing? And so that's been the challenge for me because we don't learn that in medical school and I'm not very good at it. So I've hired some marketing people to help and that's been helpful. But I think if I were to do it again, one thing I would counsel inventors is know your strengths and weaknesses. And if you're not very good at marketing, get somebody involved in that early on in the process. Or maybe you partner with somebody who is a trained marketer, somebody who knows how to get the message out. And maybe they've had some experience dealing with building websites, e commerce sites.



Rick Chesbrough [00:14:48]:


Hopefully these days you really have to have a lot of expertise in Amazon. That's a whole graduate course in itself, learning how to work on seller central. For example, about two months ago, we changed some of the key words for Space Cadet to say that Space Cadet separates the clothing so it reduces wrinkling and reduces mildew. That word mildew triggered some kind of algorithm at Amazon that suddenly labeled us as a pesticide and they thought we were selling a pesticide. And so it took the whole site down. It took about six weeks to finally get through to these people that, no, it's a corrugated plastic sleeve that separates clothes hangers. It's not a pesticide. And we finally got reestablished.



Rick Chesbrough [00:15:43]:


But that's just a glimpse of some of the challenges that you deal with working with Amazon. So I think that is something every inventor needs to think about. If you're not good at marketing higher your weakness.



Jon LaClare [00:16:02]:


Yeah, and it brings up a good point on Amazon or whatever your primary marketing channel might be, where if you've got all your revenue in one channel, it could be Walmart or a store shelf, whatever it might be, it can be so risky, it's important to spread your ability to purchase from you in as many ways as possible that work that are profitable. So when you've got these, and it happens to everybody, Amazon can be very fickle, like a lot of marketing channels. It's Facebook can be the same way. They won't shut down your website, but they will shut down your ad campaign. Right. And that can limit your income overnight and it can take weeks to get resolved. So it's one good reason to think about having additional marketing channels. So you've got Amazon and your website, and we'll talk about the grommet in a minute as well.



Jon LaClare [00:16:46]:


So there's a good variety that your business can survive hiccups like that that are bound to happen. As you mentioned, it's like a, just like a patient, it's a puzzle. And the problem with running a business is the puzzle changes every day. Right? What's going to work one day may not work the next day. And I like how you shared about working with people that are experienced with whatever your weaknesses might be. And that's why my company exists. All we do is launch and grow product businesses and service businesses. So we've been doing this a long time and there is a science behind it.



Jon LaClare [00:17:17]:


And so many people think, like you said, it's very common. Like, hey, I just go on Facebook, I'll put an Amazon listing up and my business will take off. It's like the old thought of, hey, if I put my website on Google, everyone's going to find it. There's a science behind it to really, over time, figure out what's going to work and really build up your revenue, but also your profitability over time.


Rick Chesbrough [00:17:39]:


I think the noise factor, maybe 1015 years ago, you could put a product out there and people would find it. You could make some TikTok videos and they would sort of go viral. But fast forward ten or 15 years and there's so much content out there, there's so much noise, and your little signal is not going to break through the noise unless you really have some skilled marketing. And I think it's something that business people just have to be prepared for, that you're going to spend a certain amount of money, maybe whether it's $2,000 a month or $5,000 a month or more, you're going to spend that on marketing every month. And it's really never going to stop. It's just going to be a cost of doing business. That's just something to be prepared for. Marketing is critical and it, it's not a one time thing.



Rick Chesbrough [00:18:40]:


You're not going to put some ads out and then sit back. It's an ongoing process.



Jon LaClare [00:18:46]:


Agreed. And the goal really is to turn that corner. Whatever you're spending on marketing on a monthly basis, eventually getting it to pay for itself. Where you spend money and you're generating more revenue than you're spending, well, that's where the long term success can come in, as you know. I'm just explaining for our audience's sake as well. It's about turning that corner to make your media dollars each generate more than you're spending. And when you do that now, you can afford to spend forever because the business is truly paying for itself.



Rick Chesbrough [00:19:14]:


And that brings us to Gromit, which we did have this, what they call return on ad spend. So Gromit is a, if you want me to talk about that now, but that is an e commerce newsletter, basically an email blast that goes out to, I believe they claim to have 2 million people on their email lists. These are people that have signed up for the Grommet before. The Grommet originally was a website, I think, that sold products for small business people, makers. Creative people could sell their products on there. And so they acquired kind of a following and some of the grommet closed down, but they kind of reorganized and opened up again as more of just an email launch site for new products like space Cadet. So, yeah, we spent, I think we spent a total of maybe $3,000 over the course of a few months on the grommet. It was very economical and we sold lots of products, several hundred boxes.



Rick Chesbrough [00:20:26]:


So we made two or three times what we spent at Gromit. So I think that is a one place that new companies, new products might consider. Try a couple months on the grommet. They'll put out an email blast to all those subscribers and you'll get some takers.



Jon LaClare [00:20:52]:


Yeah, no, great advice. It's a great platform to test out a new product for a relatively small investment. You can get listed sometimes or accepted on there even before spending the money on email lists, although their model is changing now. So that may change, but it's a great way to do a relatively small investment to hit a huge audience of people that are very interested in new products that are looking for this. Their list is very active. And we've had a lot of our clients and guests on this show that have had a lot of success with the grommet over the years. So it's a great avenue to test out as part of your marketing, right, of one channel in addition to what you might be doing on Amazon, on Facebook, et cetera, to grow your business. Well, Rick, is there anything I didn't ask that you think would be helpful for our audience?



Rick Chesbrough [00:21:37]:


No, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and to showcase Space Cadet. It's been a fun journey and I've learned a lot. And I think maybe the only other point I would make to wouldbe inventors who become entrepreneurs is that it does take time. And a lot of us, myself included, are looking to always have things happen so quickly. We're not always as patient as we should be. And I think part of building a business is, as you well know, John, it's just the fundamentals doing it every day. Keep plugging away and give it some time because launching a new product, developing a new brand, something like Space Cadet is a good example. There's really nothing else like it that's out there.



Rick Chesbrough [00:22:34]:


So I have a utility patent on it, I have a design patent, I have a trademark. I have a great moat of intellectual property so nobody can get near us. It's going to be hard to have a direct competitor that looks anything like this. That's the good news. The bad news is nobody's out there searching for a sleeve to fit on their closet rod that separates their hangers and makes everything look nice. It's a novel product that's really never been done before. So I have to be patient to let it kind of break through for people to sort of begin to hear about this new thing. As I said before, particularly renters, people that they want that nice looking closet, but they don't want to spend $2,000 when they might be moving next year.


Rick Chesbrough [00:23:28]:


But when you come up with a new product that's never been done before, it's a little tricky to get to be found on the search engines when people aren't searching for your product. If you come up with a new type of a dog chew for your puppy, that's great. Lots of people are looking for that. That's going to pop up on a search. You just have to pay to get up to the top. But if you have something that's never been developed before, that's a little trickier.


Jon LaClare [00:23:58]:


Agreed. That's a great comment to make. And we've launched hundreds of products over the past 17 years and a lot of them like yours, very unique. And it is a challenge. And what it does is it makes Google and even Amazon very difficult in the beginning because people can't find you if they don't know to look for you. Right. It's a great idea, great product. It's going to solve.


Jon LaClare [00:24:20]:


It solves a need for a lot of people, but they've got to know it's out there, they have to know what to search for. And that's where what we call interruption marketing can work so well, as you've done on Facebook, on TikTok sometimes as well, obviously tv and our background with national tv infomercials we've done for so many years as well. But getting videos in front of people when they're not expecting it, finding that audience, maybe it's renters, right? Or whatever the audience of our, of our audience might be, to find that audience and get a message in front of them that's going to be important and meaningful to them, it makes a big difference. So I'm glad you brought that up at the end. I do want to encourage our audience. Please go to spacecadetclauset.com if you're driving. It's in the show notes as always. But go there and check out this great product.


Jon LaClare [00:25:04]:


You can search for it on Amazon as well. And finally, did you know that you can meet with a member of my team absolutely free for a 30 minutes strategy consultation? We've launched and grown hundreds of products since 2007 and learned some of our strategies while growing Oxiclean back in the Billy Mays days. We're here to help. So please go to harvestgrowth.com and set up a call if you'd like to discuss further. Rick, thanks again. I really appreciate it.


Rick Chesbrough [00:25:30]:


Thank you. John. Pleasure.

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