Plan for an exit. Even if you don’t plan on selling your business in the future, you should build your business as if you were going to sell it. If you get into this mindset, you’ll focus more on what matters like ensuring your business has a strong EBITDA and net income, clean financials, and great branding. Having these elements ensures a profitable, well-run business.
As a part of our series called “Meet The Inventors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Romero.
Craig Romero, has built leading skincare brands for more than two decades, and today serves as the co-founder and CEO of Admire My Skin. His expertise in online marketing and business strategy has given Craig the opportunity to combine his passions for exploring new ways of developing brands and helping others achieve personal health and wellness. Prior to launching Admire My Skin with his wife, Amy, Craig helped launch and develop numerous companies, including OZ Naturals, Seoul Ceuticals, and Search Engine Corp, where he served as CEO for each of these organizations. In four years, he has grown Admire My Skin from a small 180 dollars investment into an industry institution with a valuation of 40 million dollars. Craig’s knowledge in leveraging data trends to connect customers with meaningful products and experiences helped grow its brand into an industry powerhouse, each of which remains highly profitable and successful today.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up on a small, rural farm in New Mexico, where I learned the value of hard work at a young age. We didn’t have a lot of luxuries but we had what we needed. I excelled in school and was a member of the National Honor Society. I attended college on an academic scholarship but ended up leaving in my third year.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite work-related life quote would be “You get what you work for, not what you wish for”.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
In 2003, I read Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion really helped me to understand the link between web copy and sales conversions. It was because of this book that I began to see success from my marketing strategies.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What was the catalyst that inspired you to invent your product? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
My catalyst was data. In 2010, I helped develop a marketing software tool that generated search volume data and content from keyword phrases. In 2011, I noticed the search volume metrics for terms related to “natural skin care” were continuing to increase at a dramatic rate. After conducting competitor analysis on Amazon.com, I found there to be massive demand with almost zero competition. This was my “ah ha” moment.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Once I realized the massive opportunity in front of me, that was enough to make me take action. Having access to the data related to my idea really helped me calculate ahead of time the efforts that would be required to get the idea off the ground and the reward waiting on the other side.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
I would recommend using data tools and platforms to gauge consumer demand and competition. Nowadays, there are dozens if not hundreds of tools that can help you do this. Google Trends is great, as well as the multitude of SEO keyword tools and Amazon seller tools available. Run your idea through these types of tools to see if there is a sufficient audience willing to buy your product. You’ll want to see what the competitor landscape looks like as well. If the market is saturated, can you come up with a version of the product that’s better than what’s currently available? Read your competitor’s reviews and look for opportunities to improve the product.
Did you have a role model or a person who inspired you to persevere despite the hardships involved in taking the risk of selling a new product?
My wife. She’s been so positive and inspiring throughout this journey. Her encouragement keeps me going when I’m feeling overwhelmed or up against a wall.
For the benefit of our readers, can you share the story, and outline the steps that you went through, from when you thought of the idea, until it finally landed on the store shelves? In particular we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
Once I had the data that confirmed my idea was viable, I simply used Google to search for suppliers. You can use search terms like “my product manufacturer” or “my product suppliers”.
After visiting supplier websites, I made a list of suppliers that fit my criteria and got on the phone with them to determine if they were a good fit. I narrowed down the list after receiving price quotes, lead times, and product samples for quality. Ultimately, I chose the best-quality product that fit my budget and allowed me to hit my margins.
My products don’t benefit from a patent but a trademark is really important, so I worked with a trademark attorney to secure the necessary brand trademarks.
A great way to get your products into retail is to become successful on Amazon. Amazon is like a massive focus group. If your products excel on Amazon with high rankings and great reviews, often, buyers from retail stores will reach out to you.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I wish some of my mistakes would have been funny but I think all my mistakes were pretty frustrating and either cost me money or time. However, a mistake is a learning experience and if it’s costly enough, I’m pretty confident that same mistake won’t happen again.
The early stages must have been challenging. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” after making your invention, when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Fortunately, the product was an immediate success. We were profitable from the beginning because we developed a product that had extremely high demand with almost zero competition. This is the great benefit of doing proper research before selecting a product to launch. The internet has spawned so many data research tools that make it easy to qualify a product or idea before spending a lot of time and money on it. Proper research only ensures your chances for success and mitigates your chance of failure.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Invented My Product” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. I wish someone would have told me to hire a trademark attorney. I made the mistake of applying for a trademark on my own and I wasted six months because I didn’t know what I was doing. My first trademark application was denied because there was a similar mark that had already been approved.
2. I wish someone would have told me to be prepared to work 100-hour weeks. If you’re bootstrapping, which I highly recommend, you’ll end up wearing many hats. This is really time consuming but it will enable you to know every detail about your business, which in turn, will be invaluable when hiring people to work for you because you’ll intimately know what it takes to be effective in those positions.
3. Start an email list. I waited almost a year before implementing an email marketing strategy and it cost me thousands of dollars in lost sales. Email marketing is one of the most valuable forms of marketing because it’s cost effective and it helps build relationships with your customers.
4. Write SOPs. Once you have systems in place that are working well, you should document those systems as SOPs. Doing so will allow you to duplicate those processes with better efficiency and performance, while mitigating mistakes and miscommunication.
5. Plan for an exit. Even if you don’t plan on selling your business in the future, you should build your business as if you were going to sell it. If you get into this mindset, you’ll focus more on what matters like ensuring your business has a strong EBITDA and net income, clean financials, and great branding. Having these elements ensures a profitable, well-run business.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Use Google Trends and an Amazon data tool like Helium 10, to see what consumer demand and the competition look like. You want to make sure your product has sufficient demand. The higher the monthly search volume for your type of product, the better. I wouldn’t launch a product that didn’t have at least 3,000 searches per month and that’s a minimum. Ideally, search volume of 10K per month would be a safer bet. I would also stay away from products that are already saturated with competition unless your product has a major benefit or differentiator over the competition. If most competing products on Amazon have over 1,000 reviews, this is a good sign the niche is saturated.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I would try to strike out on my own first. The internet is the greatest research tool known to man. You can use it to qualify your product, find suppliers, launch a website, and find ecommerce platforms to sell your product. If you hit a wall on your own and you’re not able to continue forward, then hire a consultant.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My wife and I are avid donors to amazing organizations that provide for children’s health and animal welfare.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Chuck Esserman, CEO and Founder of TSG Consumer Partners. Chuck and his team are the authorities when it comes to investing in CPG businesses and taking them to the next level, so lunch with him would certainly be one of the highlights of my career.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. Thank you!