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From Startup to Exit: Mastering the Art of Building and Selling a Business - Walkie Chalk

If you want to turn your product idea into a successful business that you can sell for the right price and exit on your terms, our guest on today's episode of The Harvest Growth Podcast is your best resource. Matt Damman is a seasoned entrepreneur and experienced Mergers and Acquisitions (M & A) advisor whose latest product has sold in over 10,000 retail stores nationwide. He has also helped several entrepreneurs exit their businesses at the right time - without post-exit regrets.

His newest product, the Walkie Chalk, is a pioneer in its own right - being the first sidewalk chalk holder for kids, parents, grandparents, and more to draw fun, creative designs while standing. Walkie Chalk has survived, and even thrived, in the face of several copycat products that attempted to dethrone it.

In this fun interview, Matt reveals tips for new and experienced entrepreneurs to build a booming business, win new customer segments, and adequately prepare for a successful exit.


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

  • Why pioneers should adopt a lean strategy when developing their unique product ideas.

  • Benefits of preparing your business for a potential exit, even if you are not looking to sell now.

  • Common mistakes that hinder entrepreneurs from finding business buyers when looking to exit.

  • Why the exit strategies of famous tech unicorns may not work for today's business environment or your industry.

  • And so much more!


You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Or, click to watch the full video interview here!


Are you eager to learn more about Matt’s super product, Walkie Chalk? Visit to see how it helps kids, families, and even business people find fun at home and work. You will be glad you did!

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]:

Have you ever thought about selling your business? Even if your business isn't ready to sell next week or even next year, you should start planning for that day so you and the business are ready to sell at the right time and at the right price. Today's guest has owned and run several successful businesses, and he has also helped many owners sell off their businesses, sometimes for generation changing amounts. You'll get some great advice for whatever stage you might be at with your business.

Announcer [00:00:27]:

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 [00:00:48]:

Welcome back to the show Today, I'm really excited to be speaking with a second time guest, Matt Damman. Now, he was on our show. We gotta look back at our calendar, Matt, but it was, I think, in 2019, early 2020, wasn't it?

Matt Damman [00:01:00]:

Yeah, that sounds about right, Jon, quite.

Jon LaClare [00:01:02]:

A while back, and we're gonna talk a little bit about the business that you ran back then and still run. But also I wanna keep people on the line at the end of this, the second half of the interview. Matt has been doing a lot in helping entrepreneurs and business owners exit their businesses to help them sell off their businesses. And this is a great topic for everyone to pay attention to. If you're a listener to this show, whether you're thinking about selling your business today or ten years from now, it's something you should always be thinking about because it changes how you run your business to make sure that your business is ready for that when the time comes again. It may be way off in the future, but it's a great thing to think about today. Before we do that topic, though, I want to get into a little bit of the business, one of the many businesses that Matt runs called Walkie Chalk. So first of all, Matt, welcome to the show again.

Matt Damman [00:01:53]:

Thanks, John. It's a pleasure to be back. And like you said, it's been maybe four or five years. I know you were getting the podcast going, and time flies because I remember it clearly. So it's a pleasure to the fact that we've kept in touch and hats off on your success with the podcast so far.

Jon LaClare [00:02:11]:

Well, thank you. And likewise. And you're a big part of that because we had a couple of great guests in the very beginning, including you, that kind of really put us off in the right direction. So I really appreciate that. And I'm excited to talk to you again today in a little different topic. Before we get into that separate second topic I talked about, let's talk about walkie chalk. For those in our audience that aren't familiar with it. Can you tell them what it is, what it does?

Matt Damman [00:02:33]:

Sure. Um, walkie chalk is the first, and, uh, it's not the only anymore. And I'll talk about the knockoffs that have come. But the first, um, stand up stick for sidewalk chalk. So it. It allows a mom, a child, a grandma, um, and we've gotten in other markets to. To stand up and walk around and draw with a piece of sidewalk chalk. Very easy to use and something my wife and I kind of fell into inventing almost by accident.

Jon LaClare [00:03:01]:

And it really is as simple as it sounds in terms of if someone's driving and doesn't see the video. We'll try to share some images, et cetera, on here. But check out the website or Amazon. You just look for walkie chalk. Or the website is walkie. W a l k I e. Chalk.

Jon LaClare [00:03:19]:

You can see the product, but it's. Yeah. Super simple design. Great product. And in the early days, it was meant just for kids, right? Drawing chalk on their. On their driveways, et cetera. And that was kind of how it all started. But I think it's morphed into much more today.

Jon LaClare [00:03:33]:

Is that true?

Matt Damman [00:03:33]:

Yeah. So it's funny. So. And I know we'll get this. Somebody's gonna say, well, you should have called it walkie Chalky. And for the record, we have both names. And the fun story. My wife, the original name was Walkie Chalky.

Matt Damman [00:03:45]:

And then we were trying to register that and trademark it, and there was a bump. So I had to very quickly change the name to walkie chalk. And then, of course, you know, three months later, it comes through, and we actually got both. So we own both trademarks. But, yeah, we actually invented it. It was for my wife. So we. We've had.

Matt Damman [00:04:04]:

We have three children, and my wife had to have a c section with each child. And after the third child, the older two kids were drawing with sidewalk chalk and asking her to get on the ground to draw with them. And she physically couldn't do it. So she took a rake handle and zip tied a piece of chalk to it and started walking around with it, and it was falling off. And, you know, but it. She was getting, you know, she didn't have to get on the ground. And I give her all the credit in the world because I said, what are you doing? And she's like, well, I've never seen one of these, you know, in the store, but it works. And then in a stroke of genius, she.

Matt Damman [00:04:39]:

She just came up with the name and said, what about, what if this thing was called walkie Chalky? And I'm like, oh, gosh, this has to exist. So I was sitting on the patio, and I'm checking, you know, googling things and checking names and domains, and lo and behold, I mean, it was. The domains were available, which, you know, John is, in any business, you start off, you got a name and check a domain, and these days, good luck. And, yeah. So what happened was, very quickly, just to make her life easier, I ran up to the hardware store, and my dad actually is at an ace hardware store, and we started building one out of PvC pipe, just an ugly prototype. That's kind of how you get started, right? Just start with a prototype and see if it works. And. And it.

Matt Damman [00:05:27]:

It wasn't great, but it worked. And then, you know, a couple things happened that nudge you down that path. And one of them was a neighbor friend of ours. Another mom saw it and was like, oh, my gosh, I'll give you $20 for that thing. It's like, wait, what? You're gonna. You know. And then so a couple moms see it, and so it really. It looks like a kid's toy.

Matt Damman [00:05:48]:

The kids play with it, but it's really the moms and the grandmas. As we brought it to market, the moms and the grandmas are the ones, and even the dads that are like, oh, this is great, because I could draw with my kids. I could draw a big road, and I don't have to get down on the ground and hurt my back or my knees or. Some people don't like chalk on their hands, that kind of thing. That's really how it started.

Jon LaClare [00:06:10]:

I love how you talked about. Sometimes we're surprised by who our target market might be. You think it's kids originally, then you find out it's the parents and the grandparents. And especially with kids products, we've seen that many times with the products we launch where we guess wrong in the beginning, but that's where it's good to test, right? Get out there and talk to your market and see who's buying, see who's using, et cetera, and you're going to have a success one way or the other, but which is bigger, which is easier to get to? And at its peak, it's been in thousands of retailers, is that correct?

Matt Damman [00:06:43]:

Yeah. I mean, I'm proud to say we were in over 10,000 retail doors within about two years of creating the product. So was fortunate enough at the time to be running a consumer products company. I had some good contacts in manufacturing and then also with retail sales reps and was able to move very quickly. We got retail purchase orders from Bed Bath and beyond. Unfortunately, half these retailers don't exist anymore. So it's a bit of a history lesson here. But Bed Bath and beyond was, was the first we got in Toys R Us, which was, you know, still to this day, just a neat thing to be able to walk into Toys R Us and see your product, you know, having grown up in those stores.

Matt Damman [00:07:25]:

We were at Michael's, Joann's, and then the biggie was Walgreens. We got in all 6000 Walgreens stores. And so, yeah, that was, you know, in 2020. So it was after Unite talk, 2020, 2021. And then, you know, I had, I went out on Shark Tank and I actually taped on the show. And at that point, we ended up, it was a lot to manage and we licensed it to a toy company and thought, okay, theyre going to take this thing to the next level, really get it. The biggies are obviously Walmart and target. That happened.

Matt Damman [00:08:04]:

Unfortunately, the licensing agreement didnt go so well. So you always hear the big wins. You dont always hear of the, the ones that didn't go great. But it was okay. And we ended up taking it back and we've got it now. It really, it's a great online product because you kind of have to see it and see anybody sees a little video of somebody walking with it and it's like, oh, I know what that is now and I want it. So, yeah, we're on Amazon and on our website at this point, and I, we'll see. I may take it back to retail because it's lasted this long and we've got great reviews and sales are still pretty strong online, so I think there could still be a market for it in store.

Matt Damman [00:08:45]:


Jon LaClare [00:08:45]:

And one thing I really like about it is, as you alluded to, if you see it, if you see a video or even an image of it, you get it right away how it works. And anybody who has kids or has had kids, so I've been on the sidewalk in our driveway way too many times to count. My kids are a little bit older now, although my third oldest still gets out there and draws with kids. She babysits and that sort of thing. He said it's hard to get down on the ground, et cetera. I really wish I would have had this years ago when my kids were younger. And you get that, right? So when you see the video or the image or whatever, it conveys quickly. It solves a problem that all parents are really aware of.

Jon LaClare [00:09:23]:

Call it a problem, right. But the ability to play with your kids in a way that's not going to hurt your knees, your back or whatever, and still have a lot of fun out there. So that's where I think it does well in retail and digital. It helps, too, right? The fact that it's like that instant conveyance of the problem and the solution.

Matt Damman [00:09:38]:

Yeah, we had, you know, it's funny, when we launched it, we got all, and it bothered my wife. Like, we got all this negative feedback. People like, oh, we still think kids should get on the ground and draw. And we're sitting there like, of course, this is just another way to draw, right? So kids can get on the ground, parents can still get on the ground. But if you want to draw, you know, like in our neighborhood, our kids, they want a big kind of like a racetrack drawn around the driveway where they could ride their tricycles or their little bikes. That's hard to do by hand, you know. And so that's where something like this became, you know, walkie chalk became, you know, useful. But, yeah, it's, it has kind of found all different markets.

Matt Damman [00:10:18]:

I mean, the special needs community has really embraced it. Children in wheelchairs that aren't able to get on the ground can now hold the toy. It's easy to hold. Nice big plastic handle. There's a number of folks who, from a tactile standpoint, don't like touching the feel of chalk. So it's a way to draw and then it's got commercial uses. I should have seen the pickleball wave coming because years ago, before Pickleball was pickleball, I was getting these emails from people saying, can we use this with this heavier chalk? Because we're lining what are now pickleball courts on tennis courts. And I had no idea what that was.

Matt Damman [00:10:57]:

So that was a big thing. And, yeah, there's been just a number of really cool uses. People sending us videos of how they've lined trade show floors with it and different things.

Jon LaClare [00:11:09]:

Yeah, it's great. Endless uses. Frankly, I think probably a lot of them come from maybe these people bought for their kids and then go to a trade show or their kids age out and they still, you find other uses for these products and it's really endless, what you certainly could do with it. So that's fantastic. So I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about this has obviously been a very successful business for you. You kind of mentioned other consumer product businesses that you've been involved with as well as other categories over the years, and now you can speak to it better than me. But there are, you've been involved with helping other people to get the, to help them exit their businesses. I'll let you describe better than I kind of what's your expertise in that, and what advice have you given, or how do you help people to exit their businesses?

Matt Damman [00:11:53]:

Sure. You know, it's something that I kind of started falling into years and years ago. The first consumer products company that I was part of was fortunate enough to end up running the business for about six years, and the owner was ready to sell. And I helped him through the process of selling that business. And that was prior to walkie chalk. And then through the years was in and around a few other transactions where I knew either people that owned a company and they were looking to sell the business and did a little matchmaking, connecting dots with buyers. And that kind of morphed into learning more about the process, because once you're in and around one of those processes, you're seeing all the complexities of it. And so you kind of fast forward.

Matt Damman [00:12:40]:

I've helped a number of businesses through that process and have now, for the last year, really been working what we call like m and a advisory. So mergers and acquisitions is really the title of kind of this industry. And, yeah, the idea is there are just so many business owners, whether they're smaller, medium size, who, when it comes to that process of, I'm thinking of exiting the questions of what is my business worth? Who do I talk to? Who do I need? Typically, they go to maybe their attorney, if they have a close attorney, or their CPA. And those folks may or may not know the right person to talk to. But there is really, there is a process to getting the business ready to be sold and then certainly going through it. And so that's really filling and rewarding because you get to help people. Usually selling a business is about as major of a career event, life event as you're going to have. Some people are fortunate to do it a couple times, but usually it's that one big one.

Matt Damman [00:13:46]:

So it's special to be able to really be a part of that and kind of impart knowledge and my own personal experiences through those things to people.

Jon LaClare [00:13:57]:

We were chatting before the interview started how you had a conversation earlier today giving some advice to a business owner. I think the questions they asked you is when do you sell and how do you sell? Right. And those, I think, are great questions that probably a lot of our listeners have on their minds. So what was the advice you shared?

Matt Damman [00:14:13]:

Sure, there's different things to think about in terms of the size of the business and the profitability. In the case of that call we had today, they had gotten up to a couple million dollars of revenue, but they weren't quite profitable yet. And so, sounds easier than it is, but it's like, hey, if you can get to certain levels of profitability, call it a million dollars of EBITDA or profit net income, that's going to open up more doors. 2 million opens up even more doors. So it's looking at the industry and the business that you have and what levels of profitability or growth or recurring revenue. There's different metrics that will help kind of accelerate or grow the valuation. And so it's kind of talking to somebody who understands that. And then also the second piece is preparing the business from a legal standpoint, making sure your house is in order, having good financial reporting, being able to report on whatever is important to your business.

Matt Damman [00:15:07]:

In this business in particular, they were in manufacturing, so it was having all their costing in place, being able to show kind of a p and l in terms of their manufacturing process component costs. And those things were really scattered. And so they were working on pulling that together because any buyer is going to want to see that. So we're kind of helping folks through that. It's like getting your house in order, just getting different things put together, having it in. There's a thing called a data room. When they go through a process, they'll dump all that information in well organized. So how do we build that ahead of time? And if people are thinking that way years ahead, it's just that much easier when they get to that point.

Jon LaClare [00:15:49]:

I want to talk a little about revenues versus EBITDA, which is earnings before income taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Basically profit for our listeners benefit. Revenues versus profit, let's say, because I think a lot of people, we're all at different levels in terms of our understanding, knowledge or experience, and preparing to sell a business, et cetera. But the ones you hear about in the news often are the tech businesses, and they sell for multiples of revenue. It's because a lot of them are not profitable, and they could be multibillion dollar sales for some of these big ones, we hear about the news before. They have a dime of profit. YouTube was one of the first big ones many years ago that really didn't even have a business model at the time. When Google bought them, they didn't know how they were going to make money.

Jon LaClare [00:16:30]:

Of course it's been a great success since then and they figured that out. But call it the real world or outside of the tech space is very different. And you alluded to that. Any kind of regular business, whether I'll speak to it better than I can, but I'll just briefly say, like if you're a plumber or a marketing agency or a consumer product company or whatever it might be more traditional style business selling really, I don't even know if they look much at revenues. It really comes down to EbItda or profits, right?

Matt Damman [00:16:58]:

Really does. And I think that is, maybe this is a pendulum that shifts over time. There's trends, but certainly in this market in the last year or two years, it's all about profitability, right? The days of, and in fact some of the bigger transactions that we've seen and what we call the financial buyers that come in, the private equity groups, they're buying, they're paying off the trailing years, profit, not even a forecast. And there was a time where you could say, oh, we're forecasting x and get paid on what you say you're going to do. And in this market, with the cost of capital and debt so expensive, it's really all about buying profitability. So even in a very small company, and I've been the victim of this, right, starting a business and you're upside down and you're burning cash because you're investing in it. It is how quickly you can get to profitability. And there's always an equation of investing for growth.

Matt Damman [00:17:54]:

Am I putting more money back in? And it's expensive and then how am I running a business to look profitable? And it's a bit of a balance, but in this market, theres really no substitute for profit. John, its funny you bring up what you said, YouTube, Facebook is one that is known. Mark Zuckerberg turned down a billion dollars at one point to sell Facebook and they were burning cash, they were losing money. Look at Facebook once they actually started turning a profit and once he got strongly profitable in the last year, whats happened to that stock? Even in that space, theres still no substitute for actually making money. I think thats the advice to give to any of these folks is show the profitability, show your growth and the doors are going to open up.

Jon LaClare [00:18:46]:

Thats a great point because I think even if you compare to YouTube, if they were to sell today or even a couple years after they did sell, it would have been, like you said, even much more. Profitability is king in really every industry, especially in todays economy. And its something to really focus on. Advice, I guess that learnings you've had in helping people through this process that other ways we can prepare ourselves or our businesses for the eventual sale.

Matt Damman [00:19:11]:

Yeah. So the two things I hit on are maybe fairly obvious, right? You're kind of get the business profitable, get your legal house in order, your financial house in order. But selling a business is incredibly emotional and hopefully it changes your life somewhat financially, whether it's in a nice way or a real windfall way or a generational way. So there's a lot of pressure preparation that can go into business owners are so identified by their company it's almost who they are and what am I going to do after I sell this business? Do I want to be involved? Am I selling to take some chips off the table but I want to continue to grow it? Or do I really want to sell and ride off into the sunset and being very comfortable with that, then knowing if you get a sense of valuation of hey, what do I think the company's worth working with a financial advisor to say, okay, we're going to have transaction fees, we're going to have taxes, all these things. What is the number that I really want to have at the end of this transaction immediately when it closes one year, three years out and be thinking of that plan. And it helps with expectations around what am I willing to sell the business for? Too many times we've gone through full processes, everybody's done a lot of work, great offers come in and a business owner gets stuck on maybe it's $50,000 on a $10 million transaction and it becomes a sticking point and some point sides don't budge. And really at the end of the day, after all the fees, taxes, this, this, this, you're talking real money. But it's not something that should have derailed what was a great process.

Matt Damman [00:20:51]:

And a lot of those times it's because they really haven't thought through what does it mean post transaction? So I would say think of the emotional side. What am I going to do once I sell the business? How involved do I want to be? And then also having that really financial planning and tax advice upfront. It doesnt cost a whole lot to get that advice. In fact, the wealth managers want to give it to you because they want to work with you once you sell the business. So most of the time youll get some really great free advice from those folks.

Jon LaClare [00:21:18]:

Thats good. I think you mentioned having a number in mind. Also calculating that out, whether its a loan or with a wealth advisor or whatever, that's going to help you figure out your end goal. And if you're not ready to sell today, but if it's a year, ten years down the road, what do you need to build towards from a profitability perspective to be able to sell for that? So it gives you goals to work after. I think you mentioned this earlier on, but it's understanding your industry and what the multiples might be. A marketing agency is going to sell for a different multiple of profit versus a consumer product company versus a tech business or whatever. So understanding in your category, whatever your business might be in with the standard multiple and that backs you into, okay, what do I need to build this business to, to be able to sell it when the timing's right.

Matt Damman [00:22:01]:

That's right. And then looking at the business too, of like, hey, if I'm going to sell it and I want to move on for whatever reason, whether it's retirement or something new, how am I setting up my leadership team or my co, you know, whoever's working with you to either be able to take over and run it? I mean, it depends. You know, there's a whole conversation there about who are you selling to and what they're going to do with the business. But if you start working yourself out of the business of the day to day, that's the other piece on the smaller companies, too. We see where the owner is still integral and their hands and everything, and it's like they want to go away. Well, you haven't built the business to the point where it can operate without you. That can be just another hurdle. So that's something to always be thinking about.

Jon LaClare [00:22:46]:

Well, absolutely. This has been great advice. Matt, is there anything I didn't ask that you think could be helpful for our audience?

Matt Damman [00:22:54]:

John? I think it's along this path of thinking about an exit we talked about. When do you start thinking about it? I say as you're running the business, you should be thinking about maybe not selling tomorrow, but am I doing all of these things so when I am ready or maybe an offer comes to you out of the blue, do I have my house? In order to at least have that conversation and not be completely derailed, it's something business owners should have somewhere in the back of their mind all the way through their journey.

Jon LaClare [00:23:31]:

I think every business can go through ups and downs cycle. There's always the one we read about that always goes up. But in generalities, more specifically, there's some ups and downs once you find that number too. If you were on a peak and upwards saying, hey, it's worth what you want to exit. For that you've got this plan you set in place months or years ago, then okay, now might be a good time to go because you never know what might happen next year to your business or the industry, the economy, whatever it might be. So finding those times to match what your personal goals are and going into that with something in mind. Right. So again, it doesn't have to be today, but the planning should start today for whatever business you're in.

Jon LaClare [00:24:08]:

What is your exit plan? If it's to pass on to your kids, or if it's to exit and sell off your business or whatever it might be, making sure those numbers are thought out well in advance.

Matt Damman [00:24:18]:

Yeah, got it.

Jon LaClare [00:24:19]:

Well, Matt, this has been a really fun interview. I do want to encourage our audience. You can check out Matt's walkie chalk product Or search for it on Amazon. Again, it's walk, w a l k I E. Chalk. C h A l K. I always get nervous if they spell out loud, but I think I got it right.

Jon LaClare [00:24:36]:

The website, whether you're looking at Amazon or comma, they're both spelled that same way. Again, it's in the show notes as always. But Matt, thanks again for taking the time to speak with us today.

Matt Damman [00:24:44]:

John, it's a pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Jon LaClare [00:24:47]:

Did you know 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 and set up a call if you'd like to discuss further.


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