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Running Against Odds: How this Entrepreneur Defied Predictions, Mastered MVP Launches, and Won Over NBA Teams


In this episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we discover how Jim Cooper, President and Co-inventor of the fast-growing DorsiFLEX®, grew his startup into a thriving business despite predictions of an unsuccessful product launch from consultants and landed superstar customers like NBA teams and Olympians. Jim came up with the idea for DorsiFLEX while suffering a severe case of bilateral plantar fasciitis, a lower leg injury that no conventional health method could treat, during his days as a world-class Olympic runner. Using his knowledge as a trained mechanical engineer, Jim studied his foot to find the problem.


The solution he designed became DorsiFLEX®. His journey from building the minimum viable product (MVP) and proving the concept to launching on Kickstarter and using social media to build appeal is an exciting story you'd love to hear. Despite lacking prior marketing experience, working on a limited budget, and receiving a doomsday prediction from an external marketing team, Jim persevered and found success. How did he do it? Join us to find out.



 

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


  • The value of launching your new product on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

  • Why entrepreneurs should prove their product concept with an MVP before investing further.

  • How to market your product without marketing expertise or a big budget.

  • 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!



 

To learn more about DorsiFLEX® and its rapid impact on reducing foot pain, visit www.thedorsiflex.com. DorsiFLEX® is a quick and effective therapeutic solution to leg and foot injuries.


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 has a consumer friendly medical device that has been a game changer in my own life. He shares how he got this business off the ground with a low budget in the early days and how today he has NFL teams, NBA teams, Olympic athletes coming to him to buy his product and to happily endorse it.


Announcer [00:00:18]:

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 [00:00:38]:

Welcome back to the show. I'm really excited to have Jim Cooper. He's the president and co inventor of the Dorsiflex, which is a product I've got here sitting on my desk. If you're watching the video, you can see it. It'll make a lot more sense in a minute, what it is. But I will tell you, I'm a user of this product. I don't like just to talk about it. It's been fantastic for me.


Jon LaClare [00:00:56]:

I have a lot of foot problems, and I have for a long time, for whatever reason, probably because I'm getting older, but Jim's product has really helped me to solve those problems. He'll explain how and what it does, et cetera, but I wanted to bring that up. It's a fantastic product we're talking about today and some great stories that will be helpful to you and your business as you listen or watch this video as well. Jim, welcome to the show.


Jim Cooper [00:01:17]:

Hi, Jon. Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's good to be here.


Jon LaClare [00:01:20]:

So, yeah, thanks for taking the time. I know how busy you are. Can you talk about the Dorsiflex? So what is the product and how did you come up with the idea?


Jim Cooper [00:01:28]:

Yeah, the Dorsiflex is a device I came up with because I had a problem that just would not go away. Earlier in my career, I was a world class runner, top 20 in the world, ran in three Olympic trials, alternate for one of the Olympic teams. And in 1988, late in my career, I had a severe case of plantar fasciitis in both feet. I did everything the doctors told me. I got the orthotic, I got the shot, I did the stretches, and nothing worked. I'm a mechanical engineer by training, and out of desperation, I started looking at the position my foot was in when it hurt the worst. And I came up with this idea, which is treating the foot for what it truly is a six lever mechanism, hinged at the ankle and the toes, operating at different angles, different planes, in a weight bearing fashion. And this is what I came up with, and it chased away my problem rather quickly.


Jim Cooper [00:02:25]:

After suffering for a year and a half, in a month, I was fixed and decided to commercialize this product because there are so many other people out there hurting.


Jon LaClare [00:02:36]:

Yeah. And like I said, I am a user of it also. And it's been really remarkably helpful for me with all my foot problems I've had over the years. Various problems for whatever reason, probably too much running with too much fat above my feet. It makes it a little harder on the body. Can you talk a little bit more about the kind of how it works? And again, I'm holding one up. We can talk a little bit about it with this in front, but realize some of our audience is listening. But you can explain the difference between stretching your feet with this product versus trying to do it on your own or against a wall or whatever it might be.


Jim Cooper [00:03:07]:

Right? So, you know, it goes back to the premise of how the foot functions. One of our taglines is engineered through the exact specifications of the human foot, the human foot. The toes bend upwards at varying angles when you're walking, when you're running, when you're going up a stair, when you're jump roping, when you're playing tennis, when you're playing golf, when you're pitching a baseball. But it also operates at angles, lateral angles, sideways, while also the ankle bending forwards and bending backwards is called dorsiflexion, and that's where the word dorsiflex comes from. So my objective was to give you a device that could position your foot in any method, in any form and fashion in which the foot functions, so that you can stretch all the muscles in the arch of your foot and the back of your leg simultaneously to engage and stretch all the muscles that may be causing your problem. I wanted to make it infinitely variable at varying angles, because if you look at most products out there, they only treat the foot as a single lever mechanism and no adjustability. So I wanted to make this the somewhat the swiss army knife of foot problems for foot positioning so that you can address and find the muscles that are causing the problem for you, which might be different from me. So it's incredibly versatile in that regard.


Jon LaClare [00:04:30]:

And, you know, I've, with my foot issues over the years, I've been to podiatrists and gotten some recommendations from physical therapists on stretches to do etcetera. And most of them, you're either using, like, a ball, a tennis ball below your foot or against a wall or a stair or something like that. And as you said, they're just not variable. Right. So it's. It's better than doing nothing, but it's not as good as it should be, really. And this is so customized. What I love about it is you can change the angle of your toes.


Jon LaClare [00:04:55]:

Could be, you know, just your side of your big toes versus the side of the smaller toes, et cetera, up versus down. And, man, I just feel a huge difference on my, with my own stretches, and it's really helped, overall the health of my feet. So I've been really appreciative of it.


Jim Cooper [00:05:09]:

Well, I won't tell you the patented feature are those, what we call them, the elements up there that incline upwards anywhere between 20 and 50 degrees, but also laterally, between three degrees to 55 degrees laterally. That's the patented feature, and that's the feature that makes it so much, so unique and such a breakthrough product for problem that you've talked about. Because, you know, if you don't engage your toes biomechanically, you're not stretching muscles that are deep in your leg, that connect from the back of your leg all the way to your toes, that form the arch and affect the arch. So if you're stretching just flat footed and not engaging the toes upwards at any angle, you're only stretching about, you know, half, 40% of the muscles in the leg that probably need to be stretched that are causing your problem. That's what's made the dorsal flex so unique and so beneficial to people that are just long suffering and can't find a solution.


Jon LaClare [00:06:13]:

Well, personally, I am grateful for it. And as you can see, anybody who's watching this, you can see how the. I'm sorry, what did you call this part of the product?


Jim Cooper [00:06:21]:

They're the elements, just the elements.


Jon LaClare [00:06:24]:

So the elements, how they go up and down, lock in place at different heights and different angles, et cetera, man, it just has made a huge difference for me. So I've been so grateful for it. I want to talk about the business side as well. So the marketing and how you've had success with this business. One of the first things that you did is it was launched not that long ago, but launched on Kickstarter originally. I remember you told me a story about how you worked with a Kickstarter agency and came back, and I think the results, you can explain it better than I can, but the results of the test, that they did before doing a launch were either inconclusive or said, this isn't worth launching, but you proved them wrong. So I want to dive deep on that a little bit. Can you first talk about what was done? What was this sort of pretty kickstarter or pre crowdfunding test?


Jim Cooper [00:07:05]:

Yeah. So we met in 2012 for this, for the current version of what we're looking at now in 2012. And we got the patent for the product now in 2016. That's when we decided to do a proof of concept phase where we ordered 250 of these things made out of cast aluminum and machined metal parts. And it looked really rough and we thought we had a really cool product and ready for market. But we did a proof of concept phase to figure out how we're going to market 250 of these things and get the feedback from the customer, you know, the voice of the customer to find out just, you know, do they agree with what we thought we had? And we did that and we found out that we were really not very well versed in marketing at all. Didn't know what we were going to do. I had 250 of these things in my garage or the room above my garage.


Jim Cooper [00:07:57]:

I didn't know I was going to move them. But we proceeded forward with the proof of concept phase and found out three things. It worked great. It cost too much and it weighed too much. It was five pounds. And so we decided to move forward with a Kickstarter, but we had to redesign it and come up with something that was a bit more commercial. And so we spent most of 2020 and half of 2021 going through the redesign being out of the metal product. So somehow we survived not having a product for the customers out there and then came up with the product and then did the Kickstarter.


Jim Cooper [00:08:44]:

I went, worked with the people who did my Kickstarter campaign and they did the, the advertisements and the seeing who would sign buy it and stuff. And we had like 2500 people that said that were on the mailing list. And I was told going into it that we really might want to hold off until we had 10,000 people on the mailing list. And my people who were doing it told me they didn't think it would be successful. I thought about it for about a couple days and then I called him back up and said, let's go forward. I got to know if it doesn't work with Kickstarter, I don't have to order these things and I just refund everybody their money and I'm out of the Dorsiflex helping people with hurting feet business. But I decided to do it just because I believed in the product, but I really needed to know. And so we did.


Jim Cooper [00:09:44]:

The Kickstarter started in June of 2021 and ran it for 35 days, and we sold roughly 1000 of them and did $98,000 in income gross revenue, and then did an indiegogo on demand to continue going on. While I was waiting for my inventory to arrive to be able to fulfill the orders. I missed it by a month, I'm really proud to say. I told everybody we would ship, we would have them ready and ship them out by the end of October of 2021, and we had them all shipped out by Thanksgiving of 2021. So I missed it by a month. I'm really proud of that because apparently fulfillment in the Kickstarter crowdfunding world is not always quite as organized as it should be or could be.


Jon LaClare [00:10:38]:

For sure, we don't do a lot of Kickstarter ourselves, but we've had a lot of our clients that have. They start there and then we do kind of a quote, unquote real launch right as the inventory comes in and we hear all the stories both from them and of course, just seeing it as a user of Kickstarter. I mean, a month late is a year early compared to most, right. Most of them are a year behind and they have run into manufacturing issues, et cetera. So it takes a lot of work to hit that. And that's a tight window, too. I mean, to be a month late, it's not like you promised a year and it took you 13 months. I mean, to launch this in July, July or June and be ready in October, that's a really fast window in November, I guess, when you actually ultimately ship.


Jon LaClare [00:11:12]:

So that's fantastic. It speaks to your ability to drive the business side, not just have a great idea behind it. I wanted to mention something for our audience as you talked about Kickstarter, and the agency originally said, hey, don't launch this. We don't have enough people on the list. Kickstarter is such a funny animal. When you talk about launching products, it can be a good proof of concept. All right. It's a great place to hopefully not invest too much, although you still have to spend on marketing videos and media and everything else behind it.


Jon LaClare [00:11:40]:

But you don't need to spend on the inventory, so it saves you that part of it. But it's a very different audience as well. It's an audience that buys a lot of their stuff specifically from Kickstarter. They're not necessarily representative of the audience as a whole. So then, as you have success there, it's a fantastic way to use those funds to bring in inventory and then move on to your quote, unquote, real launch your long term business. Right? Kickstarter starts it off. Okay, now how do we get to the long term business? I know you've had some success in the early days, or since the early days, specifically on Instagram. Can you talk a little bit about how social media has helped you with, in the beginning, a relatively small budget to still find sales and still find success?


Jim Cooper [00:12:22]:

Well, I mean, as you all know, advertising is the key. Marketing is the key. I mean, you can have a great product, but if you don't convey the right message and don't reach enough people, it'll die on the vine. All that costs money. I was warned that, you know, with all I've spent to design the product and buy the molds and get the production and the inventory and delivery and the third party logistics and everything else, he says, you're about to spend equal amount of money on marketing. And not being a marketing guy, I could not appreciate that until I got into it. So, like most things with marketing and with anything as a startup, you have to wear the hat yourself. And, you know, I didn't know about production and I didn't know about third party logistics.


Jim Cooper [00:13:16]:

Well, I didn't. I especially didn't know about marketing, but I had to start somewhere. And I found out the importance of, and learn the importance of instagram and hashtag and regular posts and frequency of posts without terrible concern about content. I just had to get something out there for people to see it because it's so unique and so different. There's no other product in the world like it. It is patented here in the United States. And, you know, with the hashtag and the sending out of people and having, we think, good keywords that might catch people's eye has led to a lot of people from all over, from professional sports players and professional athletes and physical therapists and doctors and such, inquiring about it and trying it out.


Jon LaClare [00:14:10]:

Yeah, as we said, it sort of started the journey. And I think you talked about how the video quality in the early days when you've got low budget isn't necessarily up to par or what you eventually would like to have, but you still saw success. And that's an important point to realize, is it does take money. As you said, to do marketing, you've got to buy media, you've got to have collateral or creative assets, videos, images, etcetera. But in the very early days, you can do so with differently than it used to be 20 years ago. You can get started with some shot on your phone, video, very simple things, and still find success to get you going. And then of course catapult your growth from there with premium videos, et cetera, getting the full story. But when the funds are in house, once you've got the business grown to that level.


Jon LaClare [00:14:57]:

You mentioned too, how this has been used, the product by university players for big basketball schools, by NBA and NFL teams as well. And it's a great boost to credibility, especially because some of them, including, I think you said, 18 Olympic trial athletes, used it and posted about it on their own social media. So you and I were talking about this before the show. What's the secret, right. Is the question. I'm sure you get a lot of. Okay, how do you get so many athletes, celebrities, in this case, celebrity athletes. Right.


Jon LaClare [00:15:31]:

To use the product and to post about it and to talk about it. And I think you mentioned to me, there is no secret, but I want you to share with our audience. So how did that happen? How did you get connected to these teams and players and athletes?


Jim Cooper [00:15:45]:

Yeah, there is no secret, John, at least none that I'm have identified. You know, it's grinded persistence and. But with that, everybody's reached out and found it that has reached out to me on these. And because cold calls by my, from my end, two people have resulted in nothing, nothing recognizable in sales. So all these orders and sales and inquiries have come from people on the outside seeing the product, seeing the uniqueness of it, and seeing nothing that's ever been done like this before in positioning your foot in adjustable and variable positions in a weight bearing fashion. And I think some of it is touching on the fact that there is an epidemic proportions of people out there suffering with bad feet and they're looking for anything. And here is something that's new and innovative and different that's caught their eye and that they're willing to reach out and try out. I've been pretty generous with the Olympic quality people because I came from an Olympic track and field background and suffering feet is no way to go.


Jim Cooper [00:17:00]:

But yeah, we had 18 people at the last Olympic trials and ten of them made the Olympic team. I had a fencer from Canada who tore a calf muscle fencing and she, she got one. I've got a number of NFL teams using it now, a couple NBA teams using it, corfball in Europe using it. I've got some professional soccer people use it. So a lot of people, not nearly as many as I'd like to be using it. As always, you always want more, but pretty satisfied with how it's progressed so far with the steady growth, with a very limited budget and limited assets, as you said. But going back to that, what you were talking about, you can do marketing with an iPhone or with, you know, it's not, you know, the highest quality stuff, but there's a lot of less quality stuff out there that's making an impression upon people. So you got to start somewhere and, you know, as your funds allow you, you can improve the quality of those products.


Jon LaClare [00:18:11]:

Absolutely. Yeah. Well said. And speaking again about these athletes, it's for our audience's sake. It's great to have credibility. You can pay a celebrity or an athlete to endorse your product. The more well known they are, the more expensive it will be. But you can tell the difference between a paid endorsement and somebody that found you, started using your product, started posting about it, the real incredible experiences.


Jon LaClare [00:18:36]:

And so that makes a huge difference. And it speaks obviously to the quality of your product and to the innovativeness that you've got in this, that there is nothing else out there. Because no athlete in their right mind, professional athlete especially, is going to use a product to help them to rehabilitate or to avoid injury unless they trust it, right? So they get the science, they deal with their own trainers, etcetera. So it's a huge credibility boost to have that. And every product, no, not every product or person that's listening as a product or service that resonates with athletes, but whatever that might be, finding the expert in the field, that can leave a real endorsement, testimonial, etcetera, can add great value to the business. Well, Jim, is there anything I didn't ask that you think would be helpful for our audience?


Jim Cooper [00:19:18]:

We've touched on a lot of stuff, but the question I get most often is, how do you keep going, you know, from a. From a perspective? Because, you know, as a startup and a brand new product, there are ebbs and flows in the emotion and the success and your energy levels and your things, but nothing comes without a lot of belief in the product and persistence and grit and a great deal of luck, you know, and that's what I would have to convey to anybody out there that goes on a journey like this. You better believe in your product, but you need to have the stored inventory of grit and perseverance and belief because there are going to be some great highs and some really deep lows along the way as you attempt to fulfill a vision that you have.


Jon LaClare [00:20:17]:

That's great advice and a great way to end today's interview. Jim, I really appreciate the time. I do want to tell our audience, please go to thedorsaflex.com with an x on the end, thedorsaflex.com. you can search for it on Google as well, or we'll put it in the show notes. So if you're driving and can't write this down, of course when you get back to your place, go to harvestgrowthpodcast.com dot. You can find this episode or on YouTube, of course, wherever you might have seen this and have the dorsiflex URL in there for you to go check out. Well, Jim, thanks again. I really appreciate it.


Jim Cooper [00:20:48]:

Thank you very much for having me, John, it's been a real pleasure.


Jon LaClare [00:20:51]:

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 harvestgrowth.com and set up a call if you'd like to discuss further.


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