Live Validation: Marine Safety Subscription Part 2

I failed.

My idea of starting a subscription for boating supplies got killed in one day.

I honestly thought this was going to be a hit. (I even took down the post for a few hours because I didn’t want the idea to get out.)

Here’s how it happened:

I called a captain friend of mine who said he could get me 4 paying customers that day. Idea validated? Check. People will pay for this idea.

Next, I had to find a supplier. Turns out this was the easy part.

I wanted to sell stuff on boats that expires. Like flares and fire extinguishers. So I found the guys who make my flares and called them. http://www.orionsignals.com/

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I called their hq and asked to speak to someone in bulk orders or wholesale. (I was nervous and probably sounded like a total rookie.)

They connected me to someone. I told them, “Hi I’d like to ask about wholesale.” They just what state I lived in, and gave me 5 phone numbers for their distributors. So far so good….

I called the first one.  I asked to speak with someone in sales/wholesale prices.

Done. Then I asked them:

Can you ship direct to my customers? Yes.

Perfect. What discount can you give me? How many orders do you need?
Uhhh…. I dodged the question because I only had 4 customers and did not want to get hung up on yet. So I asked her… well this for a new online store and I want to ask a few more questions before I decide blah blah blah..

Here’s where the idea got shot. They told me the flares I wanted had to be shipped HAZMAT. Meaning hazardous materials. So it would cost not $8 for shipping. But $28. Ouch.

So my customers would have to pay $28 dollars in shipping for a $19 product. Not awesome.

But maybe there are customers who’d gladly pay for the connivence.

Nope. Turns out HazMat products need a signature to be delivered so I could forget about offering – Save money and we’ll take care of everything service. If they’d have to be home and pay more than double in shipping – there goes my offer.

Game over.

But here’s what I did not do:

  • Waste hours building a website.
  • Buy a domain that I’d never use.
  • Spend a dime validating this idea.

I failed. But I failed fast. On to the next one.

Live Validation: Marine Safety Subscription

Thinking of starting a business? Great. But don’t invest a single dollar or an hour of time into building your business until you validate your idea.

Validating your idea – or getting 3 paying customers – will reduce of risk of starting your business.

Validate your idea before you

  • build a website
  • get business cards
  • get an LLC
  • hire
  • quit your day job

This weekend I came up a fun idea to test. But instead of letting that idea die in my moleskin journal, I’m documenting this idea on ebookmuse. I will have 3 paying customers in 3 days (Wednesday, July 16) or I’ll kill this idea and move on. If I do get 3 paying customers in 72 hours, I’ll move on to the very next step required to get my next 3 paying customers.

So what’s the business idea? Marine Safety Subscription.

If you’ve got a boat, you’ve got to have these safety products on board:

  1. A fire extinguisher
  2. Signal flares

They each expire every 2 years.  So that means running out to the store (if I remember) every 2 years. I’d like to have this mailed to me so I don’t have to worry about remembering. And so I won’t get a $300 ticket from the Man for not being prepared.

How I will validate this business idea

Goal: 3 paying customers by Wednesday

I first need to find out if other boaters are interested in this. Then I’ll ask for them to sign up.

So I’m reaching for the low-hanging fruit to get my 1st 3 customers. I’ll ask my dear old dad and 2 boater friends of mine. If you’re asking, “Why are you asking friends and family? That’s too easy.” Then consider these 2 things: I’m not asking if they like the idea. I’m asking them to pay for it. And second, if I can’t get them to buy, how the hell am I going to get a stranger to buy?

This is step 1. And it’s okay to start small.

The details:

I’ll find out how much it costs to buy the flares and fire extinguisher at retail. I’ll add that price to the shipping cost to get my price. (I’ll make a profit by buying at wholesale prices.)

I’ll call my friends and dad to find out how/when they order. I’ll ask questions to see if this is a problem worth solving.

Then I’ll ask for them to purchase. “Just send $35 via paypal and tell me when your equipment expires to sign up.” That’s how I’ll ask…

When they do sign up, I’ll just order the stuff online for them. (I won’t make a profit until I set up my drop-shipping and wholesale buying.)

What I won’t do:

I don’t want to lose focus on worrying about anything else other than getting my first 3 customers. So I’m not going to

  • Do competitor research
  • Buy ads
  • Contact wholesalers
  • Worry about someone stealing this idea

Is this a profitable idea? Stay tuned…