Seeing your success come to fruition is the fun part of entrepreneurship, but it doesn’t come without facing challenges along the way. Much like a surfer paddling through the crashing waves, every business owner is going to get hit with a ton of different things, but if you can accept that and learn to make it fun, you’ll reach the big waves and make it worth it. Today’s guest, Hans Dose, Founder of Tenikle.com had success on Kickstarter and got a deal with Daymond John on Shark Tank. He shares some of the turbulence he learned from and also some of the big successes. It’s a fun and inspiring story.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
Keys to getting a deal on SharkTank, growing your customer base, and achieving your business goals.
The importance of teamwork and having a supportive spouse or partner.
Your first generation won’t be the best version you’ll ever make, but you need to launch in order to learn what improvements are necessary.
How to stay on the path in the face of challenges.
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!
Visit Tenikle.com to order this unique and versatile tripod and receive 10% off your purchase with the 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: Think of surfing. In order to catch the best waves, you need to swim through some turbulence as water crashes on top of you. Launching and growing a business is similar. You will get out to the fun part. Just know that challenges, or turbulence, is part of the journey. Today's guest has success on Kickstarter and got a deal with Damon John on Shark Tank. He shares some of his turbulence he learned from, but also some of the big successes. It's really a fun and inspiring story.
Intro: 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: I'm excited to have on the show with us today, Hans Dose. He's the founder of Tenikle, which is a really cool product. He's going to be able to describe it much better than me, but I do encourage everyone after you listen to this interview, go check out his website, tenikle.com. It's T-E-N-I-K-L-E. It's in the show notes of course. If you're driving pick it up after the show. Hans, I would love-- First of all, welcome to the show.
Hans Dose: Thank you.
Jon: We really appreciate you taking the time today. Can you tell us more about what is the Tenikle, how does it work, and how'd you come up with the idea?
Hans: Tenikle is bendable legs and suction cups that allow you to mount phones, cameras, tablets, anything anywhere. It's designed to look like or based off of an octopus, and it allows you to mount phones, cameras, tablets. It's your car mount, your bike mount, your tripod, your selfie stick, it's like an all-in-one third hand for all your devices. I guess how I came up with it, it was one of those situations where you go on a hike or you--
In this case, it was a hike. You go somewhere to take a photo and you didn't bring a tripod, because why are you thinking about bringing a tripod on a hike? Prop my phone up on some rocks and falls over, cracks the screen, so go into my car, put my phone on my car mount, and I'm thinking, "This car mount is right here. This holds my phone. Why couldn't that also have been my tripod?" Really, the first start of it is, how can I put suction cups on my tripod so that it could be both things? Then when I made prototypes and I was mixing material in the garage and physically making prototypes at my house, I would give it to some friends and family, let them try it out.
Every person that I gave it to had this light bulb moment where they thought of something totally different to use it for, that it was not designed for. People were using it for their tablets, suctioning it to a wall or a window, so they could watch things, or using fun things like holding your glass up, like sectioning it to a beer bottle and holding your glass of it. I realized it was a really fun product. It was something I just knew I needed to do because it was ubiquitous and it served so many different functions.
Jon: I love the versatility of it. I think you've shared a good point already that as we develop ideas, a lot of times we do so in a vacuum like, "What do I need as the inventor of this product?" That's great. That's a starting point but once you start that development and you involve friends and family, like you said, they're going to come up with other uses for the product, many of which you probably never thought about. Sometimes those become the primary, right?
Jon: Like, "Oh, that's what's really going to sell our product." You got a great idea. They sometimes make it better, or certainly, include in the marketing messaging. Now, early on in your story too, as I understand, you sold your home and moved into an RV to help fund the investment behind this business. Is that right?
Hans: Yes, so had to move into an RV. It was more of things aren't going so well, but I don't want to give up on this dream and I have an incredibly supportive wife. That was right during the period where I was interviewing for Shark Tank and we just thought, "You know what, why not? Let's give this another shot." I guess I could segue into what I was having problems with that forced us into the situation that we had to do that. Supply chain, it was right during COVID, supply chain. Everyone was feeling it. We had POS that were out, we had product that needed to come in and we just couldn't get the product in, so we had to air freight all this product.
The cost went up significantly, not just with air freight, but getting China, our factory there, to produce it in time. Then products still ended up late, so we lost out on good amount of dollars there, and essentially, ran dry at one point. We sold the farm. Actually, we were renting at the time, so I do want to correct you. We didn't sell our house but we decided, "You know what, we just have got to make this thing work and we're going to put everything into it," and so we moved into an RV to make it happen. It's crazy.
Jon: Shout out to you. Before we do these podcast interviews, we always do preparation beforehand to get an understanding on the question or direction we're going to go in. On the first question we asked you, your wife was a part of your answer and so just how important she is in your life. I think that's a great point to bring across for a spouse is they're significant others as we have them in our lives. If we're entrepreneurs and inventors, founders, it's so important that they're supportive. Without that, we can't succeed. They are definitely a part of the journey. Whether they're involved in the day-to-day or not, they are a part of the journey for sure.
Hans: Absolutely. I would say it makes you want to make it happen even more in that case. For me, her sacrificing as much as she did to make this happen, I knew I needed to make it happen. We just had to make it work. Having that over your head, and in some sense, having that support of someone who fully believes in you, it would definitely have stung if it didn't work out.
Jon: Absolutely. That's great. We've got a supportive spouse like that, and like you said, you've invested so much emotionally into it as well, that partnership you have. Some, they've got a lot of trials along the way. We need that support, but you've also had a lot of successes. What was the first, I would say, big breakthrough success you had as a business?
Hans: I'd say just as a business, it was our Kickstarter launch. At the end of 2017, I created a minimum viable product, it was Gen 1. Looking back at it now, it was not that great of a product, we've since improved it quite significantly, but I knew I needed to start somewhere.
I just wanted to test the market and see, do people really want this? Launching the Kickstarter, our goal was about 30,000 between Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and some online sales, we ended up doing about $172,000 in total commitments. To me, that was okay. This is successful to be able to bootstrap something and get that much out of the first go around, I just knew needed to keep working on it and here we are. I think we've sold over 100,000 units to date, and it's fun.
Jon: That's awesome.
Hans: It is hard. It's very hard, but it's fun, especially once you get those little wins.
Jon: You're now on Gen 5, is that right? That was Gen 1 in Kickstarter?
Hans: That was Gen 1, then we shipped Gen 1 and then we updated it a little bit, Gen 2, but it was still made a thermoplastics. I wanted to move away from plastics for both ecological reasons and because you could actually get better performance out of silicone so that we moved from-- By performance, I'm talking about the suction. There's a huge science behind suction cups, so that was super important to get right.
Then we moved over to silicone, and we've done a few iterations of the silicone. We had issues at one point with the metal breaking inside. We've way overengineered the actual metal that's inside now and it's indestructible, have yet to break the newest version of the Tenikle 360, B2360, which is what we're shipping currently. It's iteration after iteration to get it just better and better, better. Then the 360 has, essentially it's like a fourth arm. It allows you to rotate your device into any situation you need.
Jon: It is cool. Hans has a great video on his website that shows a comparison between, I think it's Gen 1, or an early generation, versus Gen 5, holding up a surfboard where it does a good job with Gen 1, but eventually falls off and then with Gen 5, you just cannot shake that thing. How much stronger this suction is, it's a great demonstration of that. It also speaks to, so often inventors want to wait for Gen 5. They want to wait until everything's perfect before bringing it to market. Really, in reality, there is no Gen 5, to use your example, right?
Jon: Without a Gen 1. Part of that journey is learning after you launch. It's learning because you're going to get feedback from consumers after launch, so it's okay not to be perfect. It has to be good, directionally workable, et cetera, but it's okay to have those improvements and really improve along the way.
Hans: Yes. You got to create the market first see if there's a market for it and do that, and you can't do that with the best product. You have to start somewhere, and it allows you to lower your acquisition cost as you moved down the line as well because you're always going to market better to the people who've already purchased from your first production runs. If you make it better and you talk about the improvements, then you're likely to get your fans that order those earlier ones to upgrade to the better versions.
Jon: Yes, agreed. Good point, good point. Let's fast forward a little bit. Now you got into Shark Tank a little later, as you've mentioned. First of all, how did the experience go? how'd you like being on Shark Tank?
Hans: It was incredible. I would say that part of me blacked out most of what happened. It was very much wild. My story of getting on there, maybe it's a bit too long of a story, but it was a fight. I think if there's anything really to be, I guess, proud of that whole experience is that I actually got there. It was tooth and nail to. I had my spot taken away and then I fought for it back. It was such a process with due diligence in the business.
I found all these problems with my accounting that I had to go back and redo and just be super tight on that. I had taxes, issues that I had to take care of. It just goes to show this one-man band that I had been doing for so long, you can only get so far. You really got to have your stuff organized, but you got to start somewhere, so just go for it. Yes, it was quite the experience and I would've been happy with any of the Sharks, but I will say that I had in my mind already envisioned me getting a deal with Damon, and that was what happened. It was awesome.
Jon: Yes, and you had two offers. It's a great clip by the way Google, you can find videos for all these Shark Tank hearings. If you haven't seen Hans on the episode, he does a great job. I love the props you brought out, were super energetic, really fun to see. I encourage the audience go check it out as well. Why do you think, so you had two offers, but why specifically Damon John, the one that ended up working with you and investing in you, why do you think he chose to work with you?
Hans: I think that he related a lot of his own experiences with a lot of the challenges that I was facing at the time. I think he could see that I was, how do you say it, I had the chutzpah to get it done, and my reasonings for things not going so well wasn't because of my effort. It wasn't because of what I was not doing, but it was circumstantial. Then on top of that, I think my honesty about everything, any investor in any realm, doesn't matter if you're on Shark Tank or you're just talking to your aunt and uncle or your family or your friends or a serious investor doing a series A around, they want to see that you're truthful.
They want to get in business with someone who's going to be straightforward and upfront and honest. Sometimes those hard conversations, if you can get that out the way at the first get-go and you still have them, it's going to end up being a way better relationship long term. I do think that my openness and honesty about where I was at and not faking the funk really led to that relationship to the start there and go as well as it's been going.
Jon: It's good advice. Again, not all of our listeners are going to be on Shark Tank or would want to, but that's great advice whether Shark Tank's your ultimate goal or investors, or whatever it might be and bringing partners in your business or even marketing and sales, messaging and work towards, That's a great combination you said honesty and chutzpah. I'll have to look up the spelling of chutzpah to make sure I get that right in the show notes. I've never written that down. I'll put it down in my notes, but I'll double check that to get our show notes, but great advice.
You mentioned along the way you've had some challenges too, so those are a couple of big successes on Kickstarter and Shark Tank, but like everybody else, with successes, there's a before. Successes sometimes come some challenges, so what's been maybe the biggest challenge you faced in your business or in your marketing?
Hans: I could say that it's a real tangible challenge. I think every business is going to have its own tangible challenges. I'd say the biggest one has been not straying from the path and just continuing to go forward and not losing sight of that end of the tunnel. I think so many entrepreneurs, especially solo entrepreneurs and inventors, they get started on something and there's going to be challenge after challenge after challenge. Eventually, it's so deflating. It's like, "Why am I even still doing this?"
I would say that was the biggest challenge in this was, I'm not changing the world. I have a really cool product that people love and impacts them in a small way. I really think that continuing on the path, no matter how hard things were getting, being smart about it, reasonable. I was lucky enough to have such an incredibly supportive wife that was like, "Let's do it, we're going to go for it." I don't have kids yet so that was nice to not have that other responsibility, but just continuing on no matter how hard things were getting. I would say that was the biggest challenge, is just continue going no matter what it took.
Jon: That's good advice because the challenges are different for everybody but we do know one thing, every business is going to face them. We all get challenges, especially in the early days. They stick with us, that's part of running a business. You get the fun part, you get that challenge as well and if you've got the chutzpah to keep going and continue through it, then you can really make a success out of it. What are the next steps for your business?
Hans: We are now finally getting in onto some shelves in retail. Penetrating the retail market has been a bit of a slow start because it was difficult. Actually, we just started six months ago, so not too slow, but finally entering some major retailers, and it's a lot of set up. You may have a product ready to go and a buyer would be excited to carry it in their store, but that's just the first part. There's a million other steps that come after that. We're penetrating the retail space, brick and mortar, and opening our distribution up to get it out there in the hands of people.
Jon: That's exciting. Encourage everyone to go to watch for it and retail, but in the meantime, of course, check out his website again, Tenikle, tenikle.com. Hans, are there any resources that you recommend, any books, podcasts, et cetera, that have been helpful along your journey?
Hans: Yes, there's a class that's called Invent Right. This was a pretty cool-- What they do is they, it's actually somewhat affordable too. It's pretty cheap, but it teaches you all the steps that you need to be able to license a product. From even coming up with an idea to what is really needed to get a product into retail, and their route is licensing. I actually did work with them later after I had acquired some debt. I'm like, "I got to offload, what do I do here," and I thought of the option of licensing.
I ended up not taking that route and I ended up continuing doing it the way I'm doing it now, which worked out, but it's an incredibly more-- It's a less risk, highly effective way to get any-- I know people that they built their entire business out of product licensing so they come up with great ideas, they do a great pitch, they come up with all the things needed, and they sell it to other companies to sell it for them, and they get a royalty. It's a great business model. If you think about it that way, that could be your business model.
This company, Invent Right, it has so many good resources in there. That was actually pretty helpful for me during that phase that I was doing that. Then it really helped inform a lot of my other decisions on the product itself. I highly encourage checking that out.
Jon: Yes, absolutely, I'll put that in the show notes as well. It's a good, I'm very familiar with those guys. If licensing is your goal, they're a good resource. Like you said, you didn't go down the licensing route, but still, you can still get tools and learnings from organizations like that along the way. Hans, is there anything I didn't ask that you think would be helpful for our audience?
Hans: Let's see. I'm trying to think if there is anything and I, just go for it. I'd say, not asking anything, a comment I would make is the stuff is tough, but it's really rewarding and it's really fun. I'm going to do an analogy, how's that? I surf, you can see my surfboard in the background. Growing up in the water, a fun part that was also the hardest worst part of surfing is just getting totally pounded. As you're paddling out or you wipe out and you get held under, and it's not fun, but if you change your mindset on it and you think of how do I get out of this situation? How do I just paddle through this?
I think that is a good way to look at business a little bit because every business like we talked about earlier, is going to get hit with a ton of different things. Just getting in the mindset of, "This is fun actually, these challenges are actually fun," it helps you to not think of yourself as a victim when things are going tough. It allows you to get excited about the next challenges that are going to come because there's always going to be something.
Jon: I love that analogy because you think about you've got a-- I'm not a surfer, so correct if I'm wrong in the wording I use, but in order to get out to the good waves, as you mentioned, you're swimming, you're getting waves crashing on, you got to dive under. Each one of those could be a challenge or it could be a pain, but because you surf, you know what you're going to expect when you get out there. You know there's that wave out there. With business too, you know you're going to hit challenges. If you just realize that as you start your journey, that it's not going to be easy, you don't start out in the middle of the ocean by the big waves.
Jon: You got to get out there.
Hans: You got to paddle out.
Jon: Once you do, it's awesome. It's just part of the journey. Great way to describe that. Thank you. I do want to encourage everyone, please go visit tenikle.com. If you use promo code harvestgrowth, all one-word, all lowercase, you get a 10% discount off of your purchase. Be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode, you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your own consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and be sure to leave us a review. Hans, again, thank you so much for your time today.
Hans: Thank you. This was fun.
[00:22:22] [END OF AUDIO]