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Mike Wood: “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Founded ViperSharp”

I want to inspire others to create. I want to inspire others to think creatively and to recognize that they have a divine innate power within them to be a creator. God put us on this earth to do great things. There is room for all to succeed. There is room and resources enough for […]

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I want to inspire others to create. I want to inspire others to think creatively and to recognize that they have a divine innate power within them to be a creator. God put us on this earth to do great things. There is room for all to succeed. There is room and resources enough for every person on this planet to be wildly successful. I think that is what I hope to teach. I want all of my fellow human beings to know that they can do all that they want to and more.

We can create great things if we believe and then go to work to do it. We can create good things if our focus is love and hope and faith. If we leave fear behind and work simply to love and lift up we can all become greater than we have the ability to understand. This is what we are on this earth for. We are here to be industrious. To lift and to inspire. I would love to help each and every person recognize their own ability to see solutions and to create amazing things.


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Wood.

Mike Wood has been an online business owner for 21 years, selling on Ebay, Amazon and websites. He has been mentoring others to do the same for 16 of those years. Creating his own product was a natural step for him, partly because he loves to have a challenge and partly because he has the drive to improve things when he sees the need. He started with the idea of the ViperSharp in late 2014 and with the help of another local business owner and 3D designer, he had his first prototype in January 2015.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve carried a knife for as long as I can remember but I’ve never been very good at sharpening them. A friend introduced me to a guided tool that made the job easier but there was a limit and sloppiness to it that I didn’t like, so I set out to make an aftermarket product to improve it. Initially, I was looking at one aspect that needed a fix.

Before long, I realized there were other limitations I didn’t like, and so I set out to design a completely new precision sharpening system. I had no idea at the time that there was a high-end market for such a device. I just knew I could make something better than what I was familiar with. The challenge of creating my own product was addicting and I’ve enjoyed the process and continuing to improve it. I’m certain other renditions will be seen on the market in the coming years.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

When I started the process of creating a product I had no understanding of the costs involved in creating prototypes. This was a real eye-opener for me! Even after discussing the fees with a machinist, it didn’t seem to sink in until the bill came. Suddenly, I realized I needed to spend more time developing and testing in a cheaper method before having parts machined.

Working on a bootstrap budget, I had to take funds from wherever I could to pay for prototyping this new venture to get it ready to take to market. I’m grateful I had the knowledge of selling online so I could raise money as needed but of course this created a challenge of time. I had to juggle the time spent on my Ebay business and job and family while giving time to my new idea and working to develop it.

Another big challenge for me was not having the skills to do my own 3D design. It was difficult to wait for others to have time to help me with this work, so I decided to teach myself how to design. I found a software available to start ups and started watching tutorials and spent several hours trying to teach myself how to use it. Before too long I was able to create the basic parts I needed and over time my skills slowly improved. I’m still far from an expert at 3D design but at least I can do the work I need and that helps a lot.

My dad taught me a great lesson when I was younger. He was talking about fixing cars and he simply said, “You either learn how to do it yourself or you make enough money to pay somebody to do it for you.” I’ve listened to that advice many times over the years and honestly, that has been a big part of my drive to run my own business. If there is something I need done but I don’t want to do it, I like knowing that I can afford to pay somebody to do it for me. I guess I applied that advice in a way here and decided, I would take the time to learn how to do some of the work myself. Incidentally, I don’t fix my own car.

Doing the 3D design was one challenge with prototyping but it was not my last. The next expense I saw was the cost of having prototypes 3D printed for testing. It didn’t take long for me to see that having my own 3D printer would be an asset to my business. Buying a 3D printer for $1,000 would be far cheaper than spending the amount needed to keep testing the design. That printer is running right now making parts for my business.

I had some skills for marketing and promotion from my experience with online sales so that was not as tough for me when it came time but I’ve found that there are still things to learn and I certainly don’t know it all. I reached out to those who could help with promoting the new system and by April, 2016 I had launched on Kickstarter and funded within hours! I was off and running and over the first weekend, I had raised over $31,000 in pledges. Then my next big hurdle hit.

The Tuesday after starting the campaign I received a cease and desist letter. Another large company had gotten wind of my work and they have a patent on a system that used magnets, which mine was using. I had to shut everything down and remove any videos and images that showed that original design. It was a very difficult blow after all the momentum I had built up. I’ll admit that was a troublesome day and I spent a little time feeling sorry for myself. But then I picked up and went back to brainstorming. I spent a 6-hour brainstorming session with my good friend, Mikhail Merkurief from Emberlit and we managed to come up with a new, improved and very unique design. Within a few months, I was back and managed to raise $42,000 to finally bring it to life.

I think one of the bigger challenges is knowing when it’s time to turn an aspect of the business over to someone else. Even when I know how to do something, if I can hire it out and focus my time on other aspects of the business, I’ll see progress faster. This is one of the challenges of starting and expanding a business. Knowing when to pay someone else to do the work. Of course, that can sometimes bring in an added challenge of making sure the quality is up to par but that challenge is also surmountable.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

What else would I do? I’m certainly not going to give up and go back to life as it was. I started these challenges to improve life. I know my mindset is a bit different from others but when I am faced with a challenge, it just makes me that much more determined. When I hit a wall I get stubborn and keep working at it until I find a way over, around it, or through it if I must.

I know much of it came from lessons my mother taught me as a kid. I feel that she instilled in me faith and a desire to make anything happen. She taught me that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything.

Challenge drives me and I love the thrill of great accomplishment and that simply doesn’t come from giving up. There is no great person in history we have ever heard of who got there by quitting so that simply isn’t an option for me. I want to succeed and so I do whatever is necessary to succeed.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Today, I see consistent sales. I hear feedback from customers about how I can improve and I take every idea and look at it until I can determine if it is viable and most are. I still have daily challenges. That is part of the business but I’m learning to hire things out and let others take part of the load so I can focus on growing and building. I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks on mindset. This continued mental food is vital to keep pushing forward.

My audience is pretty loyal and it is a thrill to know that I’ve created a product that is loved by so many. I continue to look for ways to improve it and even come out with other desired renditions. I have more up my sleeves that will be revealed in the future. ViperSharp is here to stay.

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?

Well, I did chuckle a bit after the shock of costs wore off from the first machined prototype. The design seemed so solid and in my head it made sense and I was so excited to finally have the system in my hands. I clamped a knife in and set the clamp in the system and it teetered off to one side. It did not work as I thought it would. I had just spent over $1000 and the design did not work! Frustrating but funny at the same time to see my error.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Tenacity. I don’t back down. I do what it takes and I find a way. There will always be struggles in life. There will always be things that just don’t go our way. That is not something that stops ViperSharp from innovating. I have created multiple other inventions to assist me in creating the vipersharp. If there is a faster way to do things, I’ll figure it out and make the change so that things run smooth and the product improves.

ViperSharp will continue to improve and innovate in the sharpening industry. That Will always be at the heart of the company. I want to hear how my customers think the system can be improved or if there are add-ons desired that will make the overall experience better. We will continue to innovate.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

If you feel the burn out coming, take a break. That is how my improved patented stone clipping system came about. We took a break for a moment to let our minds relax and the solution presented itself. I think the other big part of that is to be open-minded. Allow and enhance creative thought whenever possible. Meditate, do some Yoga, pray. Do whatever you have to do to clear your mind and let inspiration in. You were meant to create so let creation happen!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Absolutely! There are many who have influenced me along the way but with the ViperSharp journey, I would have to say that My good friend Mikhail was my inspiration. He was my designer in the beginning and was willing to work for peanuts. He helped because it is who he is. He loves to help and wanted to see me succeed. I can say quite literally that without him there would be no ViperSharp. He inspired me because I knew he had created his own product and he helped me believe I could do it.

He stood by me many long nights and helped design the first renditions of the system. I believe he was the one who told me about Kickstarter and got me started with that path to raise funds. That late-night we spent brainstorming in his office was incredibly helpful. I was feeling defeated and wanted a way around the problem. He gave hours of his time trying to brainstorm with me and we worked and worked late into the night and then the early morning. It was Mikhail who recommended the much-needed break that brought the solution.

He saw the burnout and felt it himself, I’m sure. We just were not getting anywhere to create a new design. He suggested we take a break and went into the other room to get his new “toy” to show me. He brought in a new rifle he had purchased and set it in front of me and handed me the magazine which had a cover over it. I held that in my hand and played with it and as I pulled the cover off the top of the magazine, the inspiration came. We looked at each other and knew that we could use a similar method for connecting my stones to my system. We went right back to work and it wasn’t long before he had the design in front of us on the computer!

He connected me with manufacturers to help get the first design started. He stood by me as a friend when I needed to complain and he helped me see things in a creative way so that solutions came. Mikhail is an amazing inventor and business owner who I am very grateful to know.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Obviously, I’ve created a valuable product that can give back much more than the cost. This is a vital part of creating something useful. But bringing goodness to the world must go beyond a product and a company. It is a personal thing. Bringing goodness in my opinion is more about who you are as a human being and how you help your fellow man. I look for opportunities to serve. I use my income from this business to give back to those in need.

I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and tithing has always been a part of my life so 10% of everything I make goes back to God for the lifting up of mankind. My church also teaches service in other ways including a monthly fast where members are asked to forego eating for 24 hours and donate the funds that would have been used to those in need. I’ve enjoyed carrying this mindset of service further and so when abundance and success comes my way, I look for opportunities to share it with those who don’t have that same abundance.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Use Cheaper Prototyping

I think one of the obvious ones is I wish someone would have been more clear about the costs involved in developing a product and to start small. I know some of this was shared but it didn’t sink in, I guess. I decided to create 10 prototypes with my first run because it was more cost-effective to do that and I was confident with my design. I think not only knowing that you should start with one prototype but perhaps it would have been nice to know about cheaper options for prototyping. A $50-$200 3D print job would have been preferable to a $1,000 machine job! That would have been nice to know.

Focus

The next big thing I wish I’d been told was the importance of focus. Here again, I may not have listened as good as I should but when I launched my product on Kickstarter I added more than just the system to the campaign. I had T-shirts and Firestarters and my edible plant book. I tried to wrap far too much into the campaign to address all the little peripheral things I was interested in. It is so much more beneficial to focus on one thing and do it well. The time I had to put into all those other little parts was a big strain and pulled me in multiple directions when it was time to fulfill. It made life far more stressful than it needed to be. Focus on one thing at a time. Do it well and once it is moving, then move on to the next big thing.

Mindset Brings Success.

I think this is something that I’ve had for many years in my life. I guess it’s not so much something that I wish I was told, because I understood it to a degree but perhaps it would have been nice to have more understanding of not only the power of mindset but the need to foster a positive mindset continually. Don’t be so proud to believe that you know something so completely already that you don’t need to improve. Be willing to sue a mentor for your mind. Read good mindset books such as Secrets of The Millionaire Mind by T. Harve Eker and The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles. There are many books and many who can give your mind the boost you need. These resources are extremely valuable to help one think the way they need to think in order to create success.

Do Your Research

I didn’t do a whole lot of research when I started to design and develop my system. Mikhail mentioned once after the fact that we built the ViperSharp in a vacuum. I did not know about the industry a lot when I started. I was not aware of the innovations already out there. I did a little research as I got started to find out what people didn’t like but I think the more I delved into the industry, the more I understood about the needs of such a product. Spend some good time, possibly weeks, possibly months learning about the industry your product is for so you know what is already there, what people want and how you can improve.

Use What You Have

I think one of the biggest benefits we all too often overlooked as a human being is that we all have resources that will help us. We all know someone who has a skill that can help us create what we want. We may know someone who knows someone. We all have people around us who are eager to help and who are willing to give their time and knowledge. Be willing to ask friends and family. Use what resources you have as you start and recognize that you may have more around you than you think. One of the biggest helps for me getting ViperSharp going was the fact that I had income coming in from selling on Ebay. Many of the items I have sold on Ebay over the years are things that others were throwing away or items that were just available for no cost. Looking for creative avenues to fund my new venture allowed me to stretch my mind, increase my skillset and ultimately bring a new product to the world. You likely have more at your disposal than you give yourself credit for so take inventory, talk to those you know and don’t discount anything. Oh, and be nice. You never know when someone you help might be able to help you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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 want to inspire others to create. I want to inspire others to think creatively and to recognize that they have a divine innate power within them to be a creator. God put us on this earth to do great things. He is not a vengeful being who watches us as playthings, enjoying seeing us suffer. On the contrary, He desires that we use our talents to help one another and to lift each other up. There is room for all to succeed. There is room and resources enough for every person on this planet to be wildly successful. I think that is what I hope to teach. I want all of my fellow human beings to know that they can do all that they want to and more.

We can create great things if we believe and then go to work to do it. We can create good things if our focus is love and hope and faith. If we leave fear behind and work simply to love and lift up we can all become greater than we have the ability to understand. This is what we are on this earth for. We are here to be industrious. To lift and to inspire. I would love to help each and every person recognize their own ability to see solutions and to create amazing things.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I have created multiple social media accounts for different interests as I’vebuilt the different businesses I run. I have an inspiration and business website and Facebook page for those who want to learn how to build an online business. The website is http://MyCoachMike.com and social media pages can be found from there for business and inspiration info.

Those interested in following my ViperSharp journey can follow me through my Facebook and instagram pages listed here:

https://www.instagram.com/vipersharp

I also have my page teaching about Wild Edible Plants here:

https://www.instagram.com/wildUtah.Edibles/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

You’re welcome. I enjoyed the interview very much.

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