Know your customer: who are they, what do they want, what is important to them, and how will their life be better after they use your product. It will help you connect if they feel like you “get” them. Your product will sell much better if you can “speak” to them.
As a part of our series called “Meet The Inventors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Regina Gomez, founder of Badass Moto, is an avid motorcycle rider, aviator, and outdoor enthusiast. She has always valued quality products that take the hassles and hurdles out of her favorite motorsports. That is why she founded Badass Moto six years ago: to develop unbeatable products at affordable prices, and that is exactly how she continues to run her company today. The company is a tribute to those who work hard and play harder, and to those who want to get maximum enjoyment out of their vehicles no matter how they use them.
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 was an only child living in a very rural area of New Hampshire and grew up mostly on an almost 400 acre former dairy farm, tucked away in a beautiful hidden valley, literally in the middle of nowhere. I had a really happy childhood.. I just think my “normal” was a bit unusual.
My mother developed breast cancer when I was five. She passed away when I was nine years old. During those years, she was away so much for treatments I rarely saw her, so I really wasn’t raised the way most girls are with “normal” maternal influences and guidance. As a kid, while many other young girls were playing with barbie dolls and trying on their mom’s clothes, I behaved more like a “Tom Sawyer” character climbing trees, playing with our dog, or roaming around our fields, woods, streams, entertaining myself a lot. I think growing up with my Dad as my primary influence led to a more masculine outlook on life in general. He always looked on the bright side of things and tried to encourage me to be an independent thinker, and was never one to say or do things just because everyone else said or did them. My mother was originally from Germany, so my Dad arranged for me to spend occasional winters there with her side of the family, and I even got to attend school there for a few seasons. That allowed me to grow up as a natural bilingual and experience travel and other cultures of the world from a bigger perspective, for which I am very grateful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Since I was just talking about my childhood, I’ll add that I learned this quote from my father. He always found his own path, was never one to take no for an answer if he really wanted to do something, and no matter what the obstacle or missing criteria was (and there were ALWAYS naysayers), he would find a way to accomplish what he set out to do. I’ve lived a lot of my life doing things that most other people don’t seriously consider doing, simply because I didn’t know I couldn’t. Until I was an adult, no one told me “you can’t do that”, or that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, didn’t meet some criteria, shouldn’t, or that this or that was impossible because…, etc.
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?
I wish it weren’t so — but in today’s social/political climate I see so many things from all sides that remind me of 1984, by George Orwell. I’m revealing my age…but I read it in school before 1984, and when the year 1984 came around I remember thinking how glad I was that life wasn’t anything like it is in the book. Now I see more and more parallels every day. Not just in politics but in social media and technology, too. It’s incredibly challenging to have anything resembling a truly private life. We have phones and TVs that listen and watch us all the time. Behavioral data is harvested about us 24/7 it seems. Because I remember the way life was “before”, I know what we risk losing. Young people just growing up now will never know what it was like to not be constantly connected and observed so they don’t know the freedoms and privacy they have lost. It’s like our species is slowly transforming into a hive. For an only child who grew up with very few people around, I often find it intrusive. It’s ironic that I run an internet business and love technologies like automation but I do think there are huge potential benefits of interconnectivity to humanity and the world. I just hope as we advance that we will be careful and can successfully manage the risks of abuse and figure out how to be responsible with it all.
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?
I like to solve problems and to make people’s lives easier or more fun, especially my own. My single biggest source of inspiration for creating products or innovations comes from being a personal user first and drawing on my own frustrations of what’s wrong or missing with the products that I’m already using.
If I know what I want my own user experience to be, and know what’s currently not working for me with other products, it inspires me to bridge the gap and think “what would it take?” to design something that works really well.
Our ratchet straps & tie downs are a good example. From wintering in Florida and summering in the Northeast, I’ve towed a lot of motorcycles thousands of miles up & down the U.S. over the last 20 years and have had a few scary moments on the road.
One particular trip comes to mind. It had been about a year after I started this business so I already understood the possibility of creating a new product. We had tried so many tie downs on our trips. I was fed up with making do with the jumble of store-bought ratchet straps that we had accumulated in our garage from previous trips. Some used narrow grips with sharp edges that would hurt your hand & were especially hard to operate in the cold. (Of course it always seemed to be my luck to travel in cold weather.) Other tie downs with so called “ergonomic” grips used flimsy plastic covers that would literally slide right off the handles during use and then the metal bits would pinch your hand anyhow. Most had hooks on the ends that were considered “S-shaped”, but in reality had ends that looked more like a rounded “z” and I would worry constantly that if I hit a serious bump that caused momentary slack in the line it could just slide off and unhook itself. The stitching that was used to sew the hooks onto the ends was often minimal and just looked flimsy; the webbing was thin and would fray easily or unravel after just a few uses, the mechanism would loosen enroute, or sometimes they just didn’t have a high enough load rating to have confidence in towing heavy motorcycles on an open trailer over long distances.
I realized it didn’t have to be that way. I was frustrated at how few tie downs were well suited to towing motorcycles when it seemed like it wouldn’t be very hard to make something that just worked easily and comfortably.
I thought that everything I wanted out of a ratchet strap tie down should be do-able. If I feel this way, then other people must have all the same frustrations and want a better result, too. So I set out to make ratchet tie downs that I would want to use, myself, when I tow our bikes and a new product line for us was born.
We designed a tie-down series that was exceptionally soft and strong, made them Hi Vis orange for additional safety, gave the ratcheting mechanism extra wide comfortable rubber hand grips that feel good in-hand, work well, and are built-in, so the rubber will never fall off. We used hooks that go securely all the way around whatever you are looping them on with a full 180-degree turn in the hook-end for security. We added about 900% more stitching at the seams than regular tie downs to make sure they would never unravel on the road, and all around came up with a product that is easier, safer, and much more pleasant to use. I feel good knowing people can haul their expensive toys with confidence.
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?
I love this question. So many times I see businesses that make me believe somebody thought it was a great idea, but didnt think through the demand side and most likely will never get it off the ground. It’s as though they just put something out there and hoped enough customers would somehow just appear.
I think I avoided a lot of trial and error by following the advice and formulas of people who have succeeded before me, and a big part of that was doing relatively simple but thorough research into what consumers are looking for — the demand side of the equation.
The Badass Moto brand started out selling exclusively on amazon, which is a great platform for product development. Customers looking for products like ours were already shopping there with high intent to buy, so I didn’t have to worry about finding them. There is a lot of Amazon search trends data — so it was easy to figure out if there was existing demand for my ideas. Data is great!
It’s a big risk not to find out ahead of time if customers think there is a genuine need or desire in the market for a new product or service. It helps so much if there is already demand. I can have the best widget in the world, but if not enough people are actively looking for a product like mine or if no one has the problem that my product solves, then it will not be very successful. It’s so much easier to succeed if you develop a great product and bring it into a market where there is already proven demand — or at least a real need for the solution your product provides.
If there is already competition in our market — before I invest in full development and launch, I also analyze where other products are lacking in features, quality, appearance, or performance to make sure our product will have an advantage. Amazon is great for this, too. You can learn so much about what is important to customers just by reading reviews of other products.
I tend to start my design research with what I already think is a good idea based on my passion for our niche, but I always look at the market before making final production decisions to make sure there is enough opportunity and sufficient demand. If it’s something customers want, it’s relatively easy to get your product in front of people on Amazon, so I had confidence that there would be solid interest in our product before I launched.
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 think it’s actually good to consider ideas based on products or ideas that already exist. I don’t mean steal someone’s specific idea or design, NEVER do that. But it’s great if you can find products that are already selling well, but not quite addressing a need that you can measure in some way. Then, go out and create a design of your own that works even better than the competition, to serve that need or solve that problem in a unique way.
I may make substantive improvements to types of products that already have strong demand, so we can better serve the needs and desires of our market. For example: I didn’t invent the concept of ratcheting tie-down straps but we created tie downs that have better handles, better mechanisms, better workmanship, more adjustability, better hooks, etc. more ease of function, etc. We look at everything that we can think of to better serve the customer in the long run.
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?
There are so many people in the space that have inspired me. My biggest inspiration comes from meeting other people that follow a similar business model to ours, especially those that have already been through some of the same growing pains we are experiencing. I currently belong to a group mastermind called Titan Network with about 700 members at all stages of developing and growing their physical products businesses and brands, and it’s been so uplifting and powerful to network with so many other like-minded people. We share what we are doing that is successful in our businesses, and help each other overcome the frustrations and challenges of developing and launching new products. I would recommend that anyone join or form a mastermind to help them succeed. It can save years off your path to success.
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.
I try to keep it simple. My designs are experience-based because I’m not an engineer. I often start the concept by harnessing frustrations from my own experience with a product type, (or lack of a suitable product for what I want to create). Then, I figure out what I would ideally want that product to be/have/do/look like/feel like/be made from, etc. in as much detail as I can think of.
Next, I look at the market to research to see if there is enough demand for a product like mine, and look at what other people like or don’t like about other product options that serve a similar purpose to mine and why.
I follow that up with a data-based expectation of how many units I should expect to sell once my product is established. I also look into how much my competition is selling, and what I think it will require for us to launch and build sales momentum and accumulate enough customer reviews and credibility in the market for this product. This sets an expectation upon which I can have meaningful negotiations with manufacturers.
Finding a great manufacturer is one of the more tricky parts. I start this before my design is final because often they have design teams that can help turn my concept into workable reality. They are also more familiar with material or component options, durability, and costs. I usually start with a Google search for manufacturers of whichever product I’m creating. There are also some good sourcing agents out there that can help with this process.
For me, it’s important to get pricing, lead times, and samples from more than one manufacturer. The whole process of getting the sample tells me a lot about how they operate, how reliable they are, and how easy it is to communicate with them. It also gives a better idea of the available cost ranges.
In our case, we use the Amazon platform extensively, so I can’t speak to how to get products into retail stores. I think Amazon is one of the easiest ways to bring a product to market. Essentially, the steps include signing up for an account, learning the platform rules and the packaging and labeling requirements, etc., and sending them your product. They take care of the rest. It costs a little more in handling, and it does require creating compelling listings and advertising on the platform to grow consistent sales, but it takes away the whole issue of wholesaling to stores or distributors. Of course you can still do that. And I think it will be much easier to find retailers for large-scale distribution if you want to, once your product has some social credibility and proven sales performance.
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?
Get someone else to help you do the stuff you aren’t good at as soon as you possibly can.
I often think I’m technologically challenged. The first time I ever had to import a product shipment to the USA was a nightmare. My first product was Made in the USA, so it was easy to bring to market, but the second product had to be imported. I had to learn the ropes from scratch and at first, it was so confusing to me.
I had a special, discounted quote from Fedex that for some reason required me to create the labels myself from my end, rather than having Fedex or my supplier initiate them. I wasted so much time. I spent a whole day trying to figure out how to get the Fedex labels correctly filled out and transmit them in a way that would go through with my new account and get that special rate. It seems like it should have been easy but it just kept crashing and not working. Now it takes me all of 5 minutes to set up a shipment and it’s done online or by emailing my freight forwarder who handles the whole thing. The lesson is work on your strengths and delegate that which you don’t do well or don’t enjoy. Others can do it better and you will be more effective in the higher-thinking roles in which you are best suited. It will also save you money in the long run. Time is money and you aren’t making good decisions when you are frustrated.
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?
When I tapped into the power of words. We are still working on improving this for our brand. I don’t think it will ever stop. I think the tipping point in our success was when we really began to tune in to who our target audience really was and speak to them in language and terms that they used and to speak in terms of how the products would make their lives better, based on the results and specific experiences that they wanted. The lesson is: the more our customers can personally relate to what we are saying about the product because we use the same language they use, our conversions go up significantly.
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. Know your customer: who are they, what do they want, what is important to them, and how will their life be better after they use your product. It will help you connect if they feel like you “get” them. Your product will sell much better if you can “speak” to them.
2. Do your homework and make sure there is demand before manufacturing a product or making a big investment into the design phase.
3. Have enough money to launch your product AND make the next order. If you plan on actually selling the product yourself, you will need starting inventory. Not just enough inventory to make the first sales. If you are successful you will need enough to pay deposits on your next orders and have them arrive before you are out of stock on your launch inventory. Running out of stock is a real bummer and you lose so much momentum, especially on platforms like Amazon or e-commerce in general. It costs even more time and money to gain that momentum back.
4. Don’t select a manufacturer based solely on low price. Think of it as a marriage. You want a really good relationship. And you want them to do well also. I tend not to haggle too much on price as long as it offers the margin I need. I have a manufacturer that once shipped 200 defective units into Amazon and we had several hundred units already in stock. Once we discovered the defect, the faulty units had been mingled into our existing inventory and there was no way to isolate the good units from the bad ones. I ended up removing my entire inventory. Well, that manufacturer voluntarily remade and replaced my entire inventory of almost a thousand units at no cost to me so that I could avoid sending 200 people a faulty product. I really respect that. They are a keeper.
5. When you start negotiating with suppliers, ask for pricing based on a large quantity production, not a small test order. If you ask for pricing on 1,500 or 10,000 or 20,000 units, depending on what your ultimate sales volume is going to be., you will get a better price. If you start with “ I want to place a test order of 100 or 300 units,” it will be very hard to get a drastic reduction in price when you later want to order that 1,000 or 5,000 piece order. Of course you will still place that test order anyhow and it may cost a little more per unit, but it will be discussed after you know the volume price.
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?
Figure out who the customer is going to be; aka, know your avatar. Who are they, what do they want?
Identify the problems or needs it solves. How will it make their lives better?
How are you going to reach your customer? Direct? Through a platform? Through social media or advertising? Figure out where your customer is and how to reach them.
Have a plan.
Have an idea of where you would sell it and make sure there is demand for your type of product. This can be done by studying other products that may serve their need, or by checking out forums and social media groups that are based on your ideal customer.
If you plan on patenting your design, I recommend hiring a professional to research your idea. It’s much more likely to be a successful application if you have done your research ahead of time.
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 think it depends on your end goal. For me, it was about reaching individual consumers in a niche in which I am very familiar. I was comfortable doing this on my own. And it was easy and inexpensive. I have used manufacturers as additional design resources. Once you get into patent territory I think it’s beneficial to hire an expert to help you.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
It depends on your personal criteria and what makes you happy.
When I started this, I bootstrapped in the beginning. Not so much because I had to, but because the business model was new to me and I wanted to test it first. My first product investment was only 300 dollars. I did this to test my business model’s validity and my ability to execute it with relatively low risk. I started slow and did everything myself. Once I had proven to myself I could make it work to my satisfaction with one product, then I was willing to invest more as I went along. I was lucky in that I was able to grow at a pace I could handle as a solopreneur for the first few years. If you are looking to go right into the big leagues, you may want to consider venture capital, but personally, I did not want to give up control at such an early stage. Every person has to figure out what is best for them and what fits their business model.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Of course we donate to worthy causes and organizations, and we minimize our product’s environmental impact by avoiding excessive or unnecessary packaging on our products, and by recycling packing and waste materials when possible, etc., but I really like to think our most important impact is that we are making the world better one person at a time.
We accomplish this by taking some stress out of people’s lives. We make them happier by giving them more fun time or by removing some of the specific frustrations or problems they may have been having that were limiting the enjoyment they received from their motorcycles, Jeeps, and ATVs.
When people simply have a product that works like it’s supposed to, and if people can enjoy the bright side of life more when they use our products, or use the products to solve some recurring problem or hassle they were having, it makes them happier. That may seem small but I think it’s contagious, like ripples in a pond. If they are happier, then they will be kinder and more pleasant to the people around them. They will make better decisions because they are happier. They will get more fun out of their toys. That is enough, in and of itself, but often they will feel even better about themselves for making the decision to buy the thing that made a difference. I like that, it’s so much more personal that way.
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.
I think now more than ever we would benefit from a Pay Kindness Forward movement. We live in times when it seems like our natural instinct is to not just see, but also attack what is wrong with other people. We may be a divided people in terms of our opinions and values, and that can be difficult to reconcile sometimes. But what if we just make it our business to simply be kind in how we treat people. Even if we don’t think they agree with us on important things & even if they weren’t kind to us first. It costs us nothing and can make all the difference in the world.
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.
Richard Branson. He starts whole new businesses more easily than I can figure out some minor detail on a new product. He accomplishes so much yet he still prioritizes family and life balance. I am so in awe of that.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.