A Founder’s Story – Part II
My First Tri
I was doing a lot of running. Some swimming and biking (stationary) as well. I thought, heck, that’s all 3 sports- I should do a triathlon. So I signed up for my first sprint in N. Georgia, appropriately called, “My First Tri“. Well, things didn’t go as planned. I freaked out in the water, managing to finish doing a crazy combo of back/side/breast stroke. I got on my ill fitted 10 yr old Cannondale that I bought for $800 off Craig’s list a couple weeks earlier only to get hit head on by a car in the race. Yep, guy in an oncoming pickup turned about 50 ft in front of me, I swerved left crossing over the double yellow centerline to avoid him (and the boat that he ended up trailering!) only to find a white minivan accelerating at me. Hit head-on at about 20mph, deflected off the windshield, flew over the roof and landed in the grass on the shoulder. I don’t know how I didn’t get really injured or killed– I basically walked away with a separated shoulder, broken hand/thumb and sprained foot.
Arriving home from hospital
So here’s where Stuffitts entered my life. I couldn’t really do any exercising except ride a stationary bike. Day after day of doing it, I found that my shoes were totally soaked, never drying and starting to smell. So, I went online to purchase a product to dry my shoes. I couldn’t find anything. Most shoe care products simply deal with odor, but even I knew that that was simply a function of persistent moisture. Then, I recalled a product I had used earlier, called Stuffitts. No luck. Until I found a business selling them on Ebay in large lots. To make a long story short, the company that made them abandoned the business and their inventory was available for sale. So I bought it. All of it. Sight unseen. That was toward the end of 2007.
For the next 6 months or so, I treated it as an interesting project that would allow me to go to races, hang out with runners/triathletes/cyclists/etc and hopefully make a few bucks. Didn’t exactly work out that way. It was a lot tougher than that. I was holding down a full time job, raising 2 young kids and trying to exercise more frequently. I didn’t have any investors, so I did everything myself and as cheaply as possible. I would walk around parking lots after races and give out samples in exchange for an email address. I’d email the people a survey a week or so later to learn more about the market, what the needs were, what people thought about the product, etc. I borrowed things and bought essentials off of craigslist. The home office thing was getting brutal, so I rented one. Ended up being a self-storage warehouse unit. No windows. Basically a 10×10 box. I threw in some shelves for my product, a desk that I found at a different storage warehouse and I was in business. The owner let me work out of it, using his WIFI connection for data and my cellphone for voice. It wasn’t pretty, but then again, it didn’t have to be.
Sometimes a little luck goes a long way. Things weren’t exactly humming along. That is, until I sent an email to a guy named Rich.