Updated: Mar 29
Moving from retail to eCommerce helped FlipFork grow from $15k per month to over $3mm per year… in the very first year! In today’s episode, learn how video and digital marketing helped grow this business so quickly. We speak with Joseph Lerario, the founder of MyFlipFork.com. FlipFork is an innovative product for grilling with a great story behind it. Joseph provides vital advice for marketers, including how not to get discouraged during the process, how to build relationships with your customers, and so much more.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
How to scale your business from $15k per month to over $3mm per year
Ways network can be the best resource for improving your business strategies
How quality education about your product with direct-to-consumer marketing directly leads to sales
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, watch the full video interview!
FlipFork is the 5-in-1 fork, meat tenderizer, spatula, bottle opener, and knife edge. It's one grilling tool that does it all!
For the listeners, go to MyFlipFork.com to learn more about the ultimate grilling tool and get a 20% discount off your purchase by using promo code “harvestgrowth”
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: Moving from retail to e-commerce, how can this brand grow from $15,000 per month to over $3 million per year in the very first year. Learn how video and digital marketing helped grow this business so quickly.
Welcome to another episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their consumer product businesses. Today I'm excited to speak with Joe Lerario, who's the founder of MyFlipFork.com a really cool product that helps grillers out there. Great product, but also a great story behind it. I encourage you to pay attention to this interview. Joe, welcome to the show.
Joseph Lerario: Thank you for having me. It's great to be here.
Jon: Likewise. Tell us about the product. For those listeners that aren't familiar with MyFlipFork, if you can describe for them what it is, what it does.
Joseph: Well, it's a 5-in-1 grilling tool made to make everyone's life easier when they're out grilling. It's really simple. I have one in my hand actually. I don't know if you can see it there.
Jon: Some of our audience will be listening, some will be seeing it. If you could describe it, that'd be great.
Joseph: It's got a spatula, typical special, but what I did was I combined the fork and the spatula together. You have your fork and your spatula, bottle opener. This edge here is sharp. It's a knife, actually, so when you're out there, you want to taste a piece of meat, you can cut it. It's a versatile tool. You want to know a little bit about how I came up with this product?
Jon: Yes, exactly. That was going to be my next question. How'd you first come up with the idea?
Joseph: I have a grill. I own a restaurant. It's called Spears Bourbon, Burgers and Beer. I love to grill. One day I was out grilling in my backyard with my father-in-law, and I kept on calling my wife saying, "Bring me this. Bring me a fork and bring me that." She came out and handed me a spatula, and then a fork. Actually, she brought me this little fork that you eat pasta with and I'm like, "What am I going to do with this thing?" I threw it across the lawn. Of course, we're Italians, we're a little bit passionate about what we do.
I just yelled out something. I said, "Where the hell are all my tools?" She said, "Why don't you just take them and tie them all together so you don't lose them," and then kind of gave me an idea. The next day I was in Home Depot. I own a construction company as well. I was in the Home Depot, and I was looking for some materials for one of my crews. I said, "You know what, I need some new grilling tools." I went into the grilling area and they had just-- they have a whole aisle of grilling tools. I'm like, "The hell, what am I going to do with all this? Why can't they just make it one?"
I took a fork, and I took a spatula. I go, "How can I put this together?" Sure enough, I went home, started thinking of some ideas. I brought it over to my welder. I said, "Hey, take this, cut the fork off," welded to the spatula, and I had my first prototype. When I did that prototype, I'm like, "Okay, what do I do now?" I went to go visit a patent attorney. I wasn't going to do it. I'll be honest with you. The patent attorney, I gave him a deposit. I guess you have like a year. You can apply, but then you have a year to actually move forward.
I forgot the process. It was a little while ago, a few years ago. He called me the day before it was going to expire. He said, "Joe, I actually paid the government already. You can't blow this thing off." I'm like, "Wow, this guy's pretty serious." I go, "Well, do I owe you anything?" He goes, "You don't owe me any part of it." He goes, "Just what I paid into it because you have to do it." Long and behold, I move forward with it. I got a patent and God, it's been a crazy, crazy ride. I was looking all over the place where I'm going to get this thing made, how I'm going to get it here.
I'm trying to do all this while I'm running my restaurant. More importantly, I'm running a construction company. That takes a lot out of me. God, when I think back to the journey, it was the ups and downs of it.
Jon: How did you manage? I get that question a lot, because a lot of inventors and product marketers start off obviously with a day job, something totally different. They come up with an idea and bring it to market and go through the slog of making that. I get that question like how do you make that transition to really focus on this enough to make it a success while you're running a really successful construction business, and a restaurant as well? Well, any advice for that, that you've learned from this experience?
Joseph: You got to work your ass off. Excuse my French, but really, you have to be passionate about it, you have to be focused, and you just got to work hard from morning to night. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, and I get home after my construction business. Obviously, during my day while I'm running my crews, I'm working, I'm focusing on the FlipFork, but I get home at night and I go sitting in my office and I just pound away and figure out how I was going to get this thing done, and network, and meet people.
You have to put forth the effort. That's what it comes down to. It's all about effort and taking action. You hear about Tony Robbins take action, take action, take action. That's the only statement I remember from listening to Tony Just take action, anything that you're doing, take action because you could sit there. How many people come up with an idea and never do anything about it? You know how many ideas I've come up with? When I was a kid, I was about 18, 19 years old, I wanted a bike. My father thought I was nuts.
I came to him, all kinds of like, I wanted to buy a van, and I wanted to put videotapes. I don't know if some people can remember that far back. I want to put videotapes inside the van, and have people call and order a video and deliver the videos to them. You pick any video you want, and instead of driving to, whether, I don't know, blockbuster. I'd imagine blockbuster was around back then. I would deliver the video. I was the first Netflix, but I never took action. I thought of so many other things, I just never took--
Then finally on this one here. I always said to myself, it was funny because I always told my wife. I said, " I'm going to invent something for in the kitchen. There's something about the kitchen that I love, and I just have to make it more efficient." I'm lazy by nature, I really am. As hard as I work, I'm lazy, and because I'm lazy, I try to be as efficient as possible in everything that I do. Does that make sense?
Jon: Yes, it's great advice. I think the take action piece too, for any listeners out there, lots of my friends come to me all the time, just, "I've got this great idea." They see some big success like any product. Like, "Oh, I thought of that years ago. That could have been mine." Well, yes, but you just got to take action at the end of the day. When you have those ideas, if it's obviously a good idea, and you have the passion behind it, because it does still take work. You've got to start down that path, takes time and effort, but you've got to do something to move it forward.
You can't find success without pushing something forward. I've done I don't know, almost 100 of these interviews on this podcast, talked to 1000s of vendors over the years, we've launched over 500 products now in the market for clients of all different categories. At the end of the day, none of them are successful on day one. There's always something to figure out. You got to learn. It's not just like, "Okay, I've got a great product, let's just have people come to me and buy it." You got to make it happen in some shape or form for sure.
Joseph: You have to make people come and want to buy it. No one is just going to want to buy it.
Jon: Yes, exactly.
Joseph: It's just like the construction company, just because I have a sign out that says driveways, it doesn't mean that somebody is going to come to you and say, "Oh, I need a driveway." You have to let them know that you're there, and you can provide them with that service or that product.
Jon: Very true. We had talked a little bit before this interview, I know some of your stories. You started in retail first and then made a shift with more of a focus on e-commerce just in 2020, so fairly recently. That's part of what really helped propel your business in a very big way or into this hyper-growth phase. Can you talk about how fast did your business grow once you made that transition?
Joseph: We started in August of 2018. We went on Amazon, but we didn't go hard on Amazon. I was just learning the business, but I met a gentleman that had relationships with some nationwide retail stores. He loved the product, and he said, "I can get you into--" I don't know if I can mention names but just some various nationwide retail stores.
Jon: Yes, great.
Joseph: It worked out. I got orders at the beginning, but we didn't get reorders, and so I went home. I actually jumped on a plane, flew down to Texas because one of the retailers was big in Texas, and I actually went and visited stores in Dallas. All in one day, I'll never forget this. I drove from Dallas to Waco, to Austin, to San Antonio, to Houston. I just went into probably 20 of their locations, just to see what was going on. Talking to the clerks, just to get an understanding of what's happening.
It brought me to a realization that, you know what, I have this box sitting on your shelf but you don't know what the heck it is, you don't know what it does. The only way people-- people aren't familiar with the brand. They don't know what FlipFork is. They know Weber, they know the Green Egg, but they don't know what FlipFork is. By the end of 2019, I recognized that the only way people understand what this product is, is if they see a video of it, or a picture of it, more importantly, the video. That's when I would recognize that you know what, retail wasn't going to work yet.
We have to build a brand and the way we were going to build a brand is we have to get really strong on our e-commerce marketing. Oh God, in 2020, my goodness, Jon, I was thinking of ways, oh God. I had loans out, I had a ton of inventory, I was paying for storage. I wasn't selling anything, but I just kept on digging, right? I talked to so many people that said they can do this for me, they can do that for us, they can just, you know how it is, you just got to weed people out.
The most important thing, as hard as it is to say you can't get discouraged, you do get discouraged, but you got to wake up the next day and say, "Today's another day and you just got to keep on. Just keep on grinding. They say you're going to get a break one day where you create your breaks. You got to go out there and create your break. If you think that you're just going to be sitting around and a break is going to come to you, it does not happen, you have to create your breaks. How do you do it, you just keep working, just keep looking, just keep working, keep talking to people.
In May of 2020, well, I talked to an agency, we started doing some internet sales ourselves but we stopped it, we finally got the right agency involved with us. They took us from doing, I think from January to April of 2020, we sold about $60,000 worth of product and we finished off 2020 with $3 million in sales. At this point, now we're just 100% focused on e-commerce sales. We'll build it up that way. We'll just continue to develop it and then people will get, hopefully, what our thought process is. You'll get brand recognition, and then we can revisit retail, if we even have to do that.
Jon: Yes, that's it. It's a proven approach and strategy that predates the internet, exactly the path you're following can be very, very effective. Back in the day, the early '80s, '90s, and forward from there, TV infomercials were the way to do this. We've been doing those for a long time and that works for sure. They're expensive. You got to buy national TV media. To do this, you got to create high-level or very premium ads in video format, there's a cost to it, et cetera. E-commerce has come in and done something very similar using video.
Sometimes they're still very premium, sometimes they're very easy and organic type videos, et cetera. What it does, is the similarity, I think, between TV infomercials, and what you're doing with e-commerce or digital videos is education. Often, you've got these great ideas. It's an amazing product, but no one knows about it, they see a box, they're not looking for that, they don't know what it is. Maybe if they're lucky enough, they pick it up and read it and they're sold. Otherwise, they're walking by so you got to create that awareness.
That's where your approach ultimately is genius because you're making money while you're building awareness and now, eventually, the retailers come knocking down your door. It's great take on that extra revenue. You're going to sell a lot more because you've got an automatic awareness-building machine behind it, you've already started down that path.
Joseph: I'm just trying to think of, makes me think that we have it pretty easy now because we do have the internet. What did people do they invented something 80 years ago, 70 years ago, 50 years ago, door-to-door salespeople knocking on doors, "Hey, [unintelligible 00:15:01] vacuum cleaner, let me show you this FlipFork, let me show you how it works." If people aren't familiar with a product, they have to be educated just like you said [unintelligible 00:15:11] [crosstalk]
Joseph: We're pretty fortunate, but you just got to know how to work e-commerce.
Jon: For sure. Are there particular marketing channels or strategies that have been particularly effective for your business that have really helped you to spawn this growth?
Joseph: Well, obviously, Facebook and Instagram. The Shop Now, the Learn More. We've spent a ton of money, and we invested a lot of money into those types of ads. More importantly, now what we're doing is because we're building, we've had so many sales, we've developed a great e-mail list. Now we're starting to capitalize on that e-mail list as well. I've noticed that a lot of companies, if you're looking to eventually sell your company, one of the things that these companies look for a potential buyer is what's your e-mail list look like.
I've heard of companies where they don't make any money selling with this particular agency, but what they do is, they use them basically to develop e-mail list. They're making their money from their e-mail marketing program because it doesn't cost them anything.
Jon: I'm glad you shared that, I think that's great advice. You think about, so if you're selling in retail or Amazon, you don't know any of your customers. Amazon, you can get to if you look up each individual order, but basically, they own that customer data, you don't. In retail as of course, you're completely separate from it. Even Facebook and Instagram, yes, you couldn't connect to them through pixels and retargeting, but at the end of the day, if they shut you down, you lose everything in terms of connection to your customer.
It's some kind of connection to-- Great advice, I think, to give product marketers to make sure that they're not just using one marketing channel, especially if they don't have ownership of who their customers are. The e-mail list is a great way to do that. As you're saying, it gives you the chance to really grow the total lifetime value or revenue per customer simply by being able to reach back out to them. You're doing, obviously, all the right things. That's great advice.
Joseph: Absolutely. More importantly, when you develop that e-mail list, as you develop that e-mail list more, and you develop other products. We have a 5-in-1 FlipFork, in fourth quarter, we're coming out with a 6-in-1 FlipFork. We'll be able to retarget our current customers with a 6-in-1 FlipFork, we're excited about that. Like like you said, you need to own that customer, you need to own that and owning that e-mail list is the key to that.
Jon: Yes, for sure. Perfect. I like to ask this question of my guests, are there any resources that you found to be really helpful for your business as you've built this? A book, or podcast, or seminar, any course maybe that's been really helpful as you've developed your own business?
Joseph: I don't think it's really been a course or a podcast or anything like that. I think it's been more of just talking to people, just networking. That that's been the most important thing, hey, you talk to this person, and this person knows that person, and you're just asking the right questions. I think that that's been the key to our growth, is just talking to the right people networking.
Jon: Great advice. You feel so alone, sometimes you're sitting atop the company. In your business, when you're at the top, you in many ways, are alone. There are many other 1000s of people out there in a similar situation, even though their business might be completely differently. Being able to talk to them, and talk about the challenges that they're going through can be definitely invaluable.
Joseph: Absolutely. 100%. I see, my son is actually, for the most part, he runs the day to day of the business, my son and my daughter. I'm fortunate because I have two great kids and they're really invested in the FlipFork. He's in this office, he's in here by himself because my daughter runs my construction companies. The office of my construction company. then she comes here afterwards. He's in here and he's alone.
I tell him, I said, "Listen, just get on the phone and just talk to people. Just kept on talking to people and meet more people. Go on Facebook, get into these different investors and inventors groups. Just meet people and just brainstorm with people and pick their brains. You give them some information, they get some information from yourself, but just keep on learning, learning, learning." He just started a digital marketing class at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Business. Just telling him, "You just got to keep on learning and keep on meeting people and that's how you're going to continue to grow."
You can't become complacent. You have to keep on growing. You have to keep on developing products. You have to keep on developing channels, marketing channels. Whatever it may be, you just have to keep going.
Jon: Great point. Joe, this has been a great interview. I think really, you've shared some great insights for our audience. Is there anything I didn't ask that you think could be helpful?
Joseph: How did you handle your tough times?
Jon: Great question.
Joseph: There's going to be tough times. You're going to sit there and you're going to get evenings, nights and mornings. You're going to sit there and think to yourself, "What am I doing? What have I done here?" Oh, god, there's been times but you just have to believe in yourself. Believe in your product and keep the naysayers away from you and just surround yourself with people that believe in your product as well. I had some guys that believed in my product so much, like my attorney, like Tony Shyrone.
Again, does all my designs. The guy 75 years old, I just went out was going through tough times I go, "Tony, let's go for lunch. Let's go for breakfast." I was having breakfast with him almost every day but just keep just believe in yourself. Believe in your product. Keep working hard and you'll get through it. There's no question you'll get through it.
Jon: Yes, and as an inventor, if you're looking for naysayers, those are easy to find, no matter how good your product is. Finding that supportive group behind you, your friends and family are key to that, of course. Growing the number of people around you that really are supportive and can help in hard times can be a big driver of support, for sure. I definitely encourage our audience, please go check out Joe's product at MyFlipFork.com. The URL is in the show notes. If you're driving go check it out later and actually, he's provided a discount code.
Anybody who enters in the discount code, harvestgrowth, one word all lowercase. As usual, you'll get a 20% discount, which is very generous on this great product. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowthpodcast.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you liked this episode, you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show, and leave us a review in iTunes or Google Play. Thanks again, Joe.
Joseph: Thank you, Jon. Have a good one.