2011 – The First Update

Wow.

Where did the time go? I find it hard to believe that my last posting was November 23rd.

Here’s a quick update about both my personal and professional life.

First – The Personal Stuff.

Our beautiful daughter arrived on December 19th, 2010. Her name is Avalon Kate Fleming. She’s amazing. Seriously though, what a life altering event. Nobody can truly prepare you or explain to you what parenthood is actually like until you experience it.

So without further ado, I’ve included a picture of Avalon and yours truly.

My wife is doing fantastic. She felt great shortly after the birth and has settled comfortably into being a mother. She seems to be a natural.

The Biz Stuff

After spending a day with Seth Godin back in September, I arrived home energized and ready for a challenge. After all Seth, doing what he does best, provoked me and posed a challenge to me. Could I go home and ship something new this year? (Shipping is used metaphorically… it’s the art of creating something and actually getting it out into the world.)

I met with my friend Derek, who’s a crazy home-beer-brewer. He’s been brewing beer for over twelve years, and we wanted to see if we could turn that hobby into a business.

The business we decided to launch was TheBrewersMarket.com – The concept is simple. A website selling a small batch of all-grain beer. It’s a brewing system for folks who want to try making their own real beer – not like a Mr. Beer where you add water and turn on a machine; but the real deal. It will mean mashing grains, extracting sugars, and using real hops and yeast. Essentially, you follow the same process as your favorite beer maker on a very small scale. I knew nothing about making beer at home until I met Derek.

Our first official meeting was on October 5th. We sat down and filled out Seth’s Ship It Journal as our unofficial business plan.

The most important aspect of the Ship It Journal comes when you set a date. This is a date that’s set in stone and you’re basically saying, come hell or high water, we’re shipping to the world on this date.

We set a goal to launch a full-blown business within a month. November 1st was our date. Now, keep in mind, I’m talking about a full-blown business. We had one month to go from literally nothing to something special.

For example, and not limited to the following,

  • Building a website from scratch
  • Creating a marketing and launch plan (the goal was to be, not just shipping on November 1st, but making money on November 1st.)
  • Sourcing inventory and figuring out various logistics such as packaging and shipping
  • Setting up bank accounts, merchant accounts, wholesaler accounts and relationships.

The list goes on and on. When we told people about our plan, the first words were always along the lines of, “that’s impossible.” I’ll show you a few pictures of the Ship It Journal at a later date. We also used Basecamp to track our daily progress.

Anyway – skipping forward, this gives you a good idea of why my last post was somewhere in the middle of November and the one before that was in mid-October.

So how’d we do?

The business launched on November 1st as planned, but only after numerous sleepless nights. That was our first major success. At that point, I kicked into gear on an intensive marketing strategy.

This is when things got really interesting.

On December 15th, our business was featured in two major Canadian newspapers. We managed to finagle our way into The National Post in a big way and secured a mention in The Toronto Star. It was totally coincidental that they both happened on the same day. The two newspapers have a combined circulation of around four million people.

This contributed to a spike in sales almost instantly. But even more exciting was that because the story ran in The National Post, which is owned by PostMedia Network, the story was also syndicated to nearly every other major Canadian daily in nearly every major Canadian City. We assumed this meant the story would show up on their various websites. No. To our surprise, it ended up in print in literally dozens of newspapers. Our business was exposed to millions of Canadians in a single day .

A great start. But then the real magic of the Internet kicked in.

The following day, while my wife and I were driving, my iPhone started going bonkers. Taking a quick glance, I noticed these email were notifications of sales coming from the popular website Etsy. I’m talking one after another, after another, after another.

A week earlier, I was invited to write a blog post for Etsy. I carefully crafted our message and sent in the posting. I had no idea what to expect from it nor any idea if it would actually be used.

As it turned out, the post I’d written was featured on the front page of Etsy.

THEN… things got even more interesting when only four days later, my wife and I were in the hospital, smack dab in the middle of having a baby.

I can’t thank my business partners enough who kept their cool and ensured the business ran smoothly at time where my involvement and help was minimal at best. After all, I’m not Gordon Gecko, and my family comes first. Derek and Laurie had to fulfill, literally, hundreds of orders only days before Christmas.

Needless to say, one month to launch an insanely successful business, and it’s just getting better and better by the day.

You can do the same. This is the year folks.

Enough blabbering – lots of exciting things planned for 2010. I’m going to be changing up my blog in several ways and creating a whack of new sites and products. I’ll keep you in the loop.

As for my goals in 2011, I want to be a great father and keep shipping.

Cheers!
Noah

P.S. Last but not least, there are a few people I’d like to thank who helped tremendously in the successful launch of TheBrewersMarket.com.

Josh Stipancic – Josh handled all of the branding and design for our business in a very short time. We gave Josh an idea of the look and feel we were hoping for. When he returned a short while later, he had totally nailed it. Thanks Josh. He also designs some pretty amazing stuff. I’m sure he could help you too.

Shawn Veltman – Shawn is someone who’s at the top of marketing and copywriting game in Canada. I worked with Shawn on a website a few years back offering coaching and consulting servers to the chiropractic industry. He’s around 30 years old and pretty much retired. He’s good at what he does. Shawn helped me craft press releases, write blog posts, and tweak landing page headlines for optimal performance. If you ever need advice in any of these areas, contact Shawn.

Brandon Scott Photography – Brandon is a local photographer who, my partners just happened to know, and I believed he owed them a favor. He came through to help us with product shots that didn’t look like total crap. (Starting a business in a short time gave us a great opportunity to call in favors.)

Larry Cornies – Larry is a guy who knows the newspaper industry inside and out. He offered valuable advice on how to make sure our story got to the right people. His advice was spot on.

Seth Godin – Thanks for challenging me in September to go home and ship something new and exciting before the year was over.