“Selling to the Masses” is a Consumer Product Accelerator that Helps You Get your New Product into Mass Market Retail.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Clapper’ regarding his company “Selling to the Masses”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Selling to the Masses” is all about?
Most new products fail. Between the moment when you get a great idea and the moment when you breathe a sigh of relief that your product is successfully launched and selling, there are so many individual points of failure that it’s a wonder any products make it to market.
Selling to the Masses is the brainchild of a group of experts in mass retail. We know how to get consumer goods from concept to successful roll-out because we’ve done it — but more than that, we understand mass retailers. We know all the steps along the way, from design to fulfillment to marketing and promotion. We know where the pitfalls lie and how you can leap across them.
Selling to the Masses consists of three elements: webinars and weekend trainings that help entrepreneurs figure out where they want to go with their new consumer product ideas; mentors from Fortune 500 companies and major universities who work directly with entrepreneurs; and a product incubation lab where we bring our network together to support the most promising products.
2. When has “Selling to the Masses” been founded? And what stage is “Selling to the Masses” currently at?
Founded in 2011, Selling to the Masses is still in its early stages. We have our mentors on board, our research is has been done and our training materials are completed, and we’ve held one weekend workshop as well as several webinars.
We’ve been able to identify the people who can benefit most from our trainings and mentoring, and to fine-tune our message. We’ve identified the strategic partners our clients need in order to get from idea to shelf, and we’re building our list of investors.
Obviously a project of this size takes a lot of work and preparation. Fortunately, we have the background and connections in place.
We’re currently working on getting the word out to the inventors and entrepreneurs we want to serve.
3. What is “Selling to the Masses”‘s business model and how does it work?
We provide low cost and free webinars to identify innovators with ideas that have a good chance of success. We encourage those individuals to proceed to the weekend trainings.
While the weekend trainings are profitable for us, we see them primarily as an opportunity to nurture ideas and entrepreneurs who will benefit from our incubation lab.
We benefit as trainers and as investors when the companies we mentor attain their goals.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Selling to the Masses is a project of 101 Ventures, a team of former Walmart executives and entrepreneurs working in the consumer product space.
We were discussing the work of Harvard’s Dr. Clayton Christenson, who estimates that of the roughly 30,000 new products that launch each year, 95% are doomed to fail.
We could see that some of the failures were the result of poor design, a lack of follow through, or a weak idea. But we could also see that some product failures were the result of a lack of knowledge.
Working with mass retailers like Walmart requires a lot of specialized knowledge — it’s not just common sense. An entrepreneur will have to work with and within a huge system. For many, it’s like having grown up on land and having to learn to work underwater. Without knowing how the system works and how to thrive within in, an entrepreneur can end up failing horribly right at the threshold of success.
An older company of ours, 8th & Walton, is the #1 training company for Walmart suppliers. We realized that the people who weren’t yet ready for mass retail, but needed to get there, needed to be served just as we served those suppliers.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
There are other business incubators, but they don’t focus on consumer products to be distributed through mass market retail.
Companies that support inventors and innovators who want to create new consumer goods tend to see them through getting their products to market.
Getting on the shelf at mass retailers like Walmart, Home Depot, or Target is the eventual goal for these companies, but going about that goal wrong can mean failure beyond just failing to meet that goal. The investment required just to get an appointment with a buyer can put a small company out of business if they don’t make it — and an unprepared company that makes it into Walmart can be destroyed by a failure there.
We grew up in the Walmart vendor community, a very specialized neighborhood. We know exactly what it takes to make sure that an entrepreneur is ready for mass market retail. We have the top-notch trainers who can convey that information well and experienced mentors who can support entrepreneurs through the process.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Selling to the Masses” achieved so far?
Since we’re less than a year in, we’ve seen phenomenal growth — from zero.The main work we’ve done so far has been setting up the network of training and support for innovative companies.
At this point, we have not only the training materials and the mentors, but we have also identified the resources our clients will need. For example, we’ve found fulfillment houses with the capacity and flexibility to serve this specific population, and tech companies with the specialized skills innovators in the consumer goods space need.
Our first weekend training was successful, giving participants a good start in moving toward their goals, and we’re currently working with several innovators to bring them to the next step.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Selling to the Masses”s competitive advantage over them?
As a business incubator, we’re not really in competition with other incubators. Our direct competitors are probably product coaches like Matthew Yubas or Lambert and Lambert.
These coaches tend to focus on patent issues and on the details of manufacturing. Sometimes marketing and distribution channels are considered. These topics are certainly very important. However, it’s easy to put a great deal of money into product development and exploration of distribution channels — and then have to redo a lot of that work when you decide to go with mass retail.
We focus specifically on those products destined for mass marketing. That means that we can help entrepreneurs make sure that their packaging will work for Walmart, that their logistics plans are realistic for mass retail, and that they have the business systems in place that they will need to have in order to succeed.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Entrepreneurs invariably face challenges — and that’s how we like to think about them, as challenges rather than obstacles. A challenge, we figure, is something difficult and exciting, while an obstacle is a problem.
Our challenges included the need for extensive and intensive research, the need to identify and then persuade a strong network of mentors and strategic partners, and the difficulty of reaching serious innovators in the consumer product space.
We overcame and are overcoming those obstacles with hard work and persistence.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Mass market retail is more complicated than people think. When you read about how a company was destroyed by a mass retailer, it’s usually really a story about an unprepared company that flung itself into mass retail without the necessary knowledge.
We have a national business fairy tale in which a nice person with a great idea becomes hugely successful almost by accident. That makes a great movie, but it’s not much use as a blueprint for entrepreneurs.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We’re going to succeed because we have something people need. It’s a knowledge economy today, and we’re fortunate enough to have some very specialized knowledge, including not only the how-to, but also the network.
We also have good ways to share that knowledge with the people who need it. Because we’ve already established a successful training company, we can use the lessons learned there to succeed in this new venture.
11. If “Selling to the Masses” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We plan to support innovators in the consumer product space in many different ways. In fact, we already do.
As we work with companies in the mass retail space, in areas ranging from training to promotions, we notice unmet needs. If we can identify a good way to meet those needs, we put those plans into action.
At the moment, a way to get effectively from idea to mass retailer shelf is the unmet need we’re focusing on.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Selling to the Masses” based on?
About 95% of new products fail. In an uncertain economy, that awareness is bound to limit innovation. We see even large, established companies hesitating to make investments in new ideas.
And yet it is in new ideas that our nation will find increased strength and prosperity. That by itself is a good reason to help innovators succeed.
We believe — based on experience — that we have what it takes to support innovators in the consumer products space.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
So far we’ve seen that there are a lot of people with great ideas, and a lot of people whose ideas are not good candidates for mass retail.
We’ve seen that it’s hard for people who have great ideas to figure out which group they’re in.
We’ve seen that there are a lot of fears acting as barriers to entry for consumer products, and that people usually think their lack of funding is their biggest problem, even though it isn’t.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
It may be too early for us to make that prediction. we haven’t run into enough problems yet to be able to go beyond basic risk assessment to real prediction.
Like most start ups, we’d like the answer to this question to be something like, “We’ll be so overrun with terrific clients that we will need additional parking and a new building.”
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Getting a product into mass retail is the biggest thing that can happen to a company in the consumer products space. It can be the best thing, the thing that leads to wealth, or it can be the worst thing, the thing that leads to ruin.
The support of Selling to the Masses can help entrepreneurs determine whether they’re more likely to succeed in mass retail or to fail. If they have a good chance at success, our training and support can make it much more likely.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Our customers have mostly found us through our website, through word of mouth (including social media), and through referrals.
We’ve been featured in some major publications, including The New York Times and Inc. magazine, and that has also helped us to spread the word.
Finally, we do some email marketing.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our current customers are divided between inventors with new concepts that haven’t yet been produced or finalized, and small companies with local distribution who are ready to work toward national distribution through mass market retail.
We’re probably most helpful to the latter group. Innovators who have had some success in specialized retail and are ready to go big are ready for what we have to offer.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We have some visibility in the Walmart supplier community, and that probably increases the number of people who choose to work with us. Of course, the mentors on our list also have fans who come to us for the opportunity to work with them.
We think that once we get some momentum going, we’ll be able to rely primarily on word of mouth.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
There are two common responses.
The first is that the experience is eye-opening. People go into the consumer goods innovation process with so many misunderstandings about retail, mass marketers, customer behavior, and how buyers work with suppliers that the first conversation with us can be transformative.
The second is that we’re truly helpful and supportive. We’re tough, it’s true — we don’t want to give people unrealistic expectations or jolly them along when we think they’re not going to succeed. We’re not about improving anybody’s self esteem. But that very thing is what makes us helpful.
When people finish our training, they have a whole new set of actions steps and a realistic set of goals.
20. How are you going to scale?
We’re not planning to set up little incubation labs all over the country. We plan to keep our weekend training program open for everyone who’s willing to make the investment of time, money, and attention — and to keep the incubation lab highly competitive.
We plan to scale our trainings by adding facilitators and venues, possibly going to distance learning for some aspects of the program.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
This was a little bit of a surprise for us. We found that people were coming to us from companies that already had a preliminary deal with a mass retailer — they had been picked up by Walmart.com or Amazon.com, for example, or had their products in a few stores. It was only at that point that they realized that they needed some support.
We decided that we were best able to meet their needs in a different company. We really want Selling to the Masses to be for people with a new idea, not for those who are right on the verge of major success.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We’re open to people from other countries right now, though we haven’t yet had contacts from overseas.
In today’s flat world, we don’t see a reason to get too focused on location. I should mention that we do already have international involvement with some of our other companies, and we have team members who have specialized in international business, so it’s probably easier for us to say “Yeah, no problem” about internationalization than it would be for many other companies.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We’re in the center of the mass retail universe here in Bentonville. I think a lot of people have been astonished at what’s been happening in our little Arkansas town, and we’re ready to be astonished by what happens with this company.
One of the things we see on the horizon is a boom for Northwest Arkansas, perhaps comparable to the boom Silicon Valley experienced in the 20th century. We hope to be part of that boom.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We’re not currently hiring. We have a wonderful team of mentors, and our standards for those mentors are very high.
We also have, through our parent company, 101 Ventures, a great support staff.
Staffing is often one of the biggest challenges for a start up, so we’re thankful for our excellent team.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We certainly welcome investors — not just for our idea, but also for the entrepreneurs and innovators we’re supporting with Selling to the Masses.
Our primary clients are the innovators who are developing new consumer products, but we think we’re also providing some great opportunities for investors.
We have a special page at our website for investors:
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
It’s easy to become focused on ourselves as entrepreneurs and think about what we want to get out of our idea, instead of what our customers will gain — but that’s really the important thing.