ChipmunkBags is the laundry bag that is much more than just a laundry bag -- this bag does it all, whether you're sailing, camping, or traveling. There's only 3 days left for their Kickstarter campaign so get yours now! Below is our interview with Cooper Golding, the founder of ChipmunkBags.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Lake Tahoe, CA and have always had an interest in the outdoors and an active lifestyle. I’ve also always had an interest in entrepreneurship. My first entrepreneurial adventure was selling used golf balls on the side of the local golf course. I’d tread through the marshes, collect balls, clean them, then set a cooler on the side of a fairway with a sign that said “used balls for sale”. I’d pick the cooler up at the end of the day with my earnings. $500 in a summer for a few hours of work wasn’t bad – especially for a 10-year-old.
Tell us about ChipmunkBags
Living in San Francisco without a washing machine in my apartment meant for countless trips to the laundromat. I’d carry my laundry in hampers, suitcases, and trash bags. After one back-breaking trip, I decided I needed a better laundry bag. Realizing there wasn’t a product on the market that fit my needs, I decided to make it myself. They say necessity is the mother of invention. I guess this is true.
How did you get the word out about ChipmunkBags when you first launched?
When I first launched the brand, support naturally came from friends and family. It took a few months for word to get out beyond my inner circle. I remember the first time an order came in from an unknown name – I was thrilled!
The most successful approach to getting the name out has been in person. Hanging out at laundromats, going to pop-up events and flea markets. It’s much easier to create a connection in person than through a computer screen. It’s the connection and story that sells.
You're running a Kickstarter campaign for Version 2 of your bag but you didn't run one for Version 1. This seems to be the opposite of what most people do. Why did you decide to do this?
I wanted to learn about my business before diving into Kickstarter. People can get into trouble on the platform. If you don’t know all your costs, if you don’t know how to make your product, all of a sudden you have a successful campaign and end up in the red. I’m glad we waited. We were able to get feedback on our product, learn all parts of the business, and prepare to release the brand to a larger audience.
Kickstarter’s just a tool in the entrepreneur’s toolbox. Use it when you’re ready, have a successful campaign and build off of it going forward. I feel like we’re at the point where we can do this.
Any tips or advice for people looking to start their own brand?
Identify the true purpose of your business, and use it to guide your decision-making and leadership. Yes, we make laundry bags, but a laundry bag is just the form in which we are delivering our purpose. Our purpose is to make people’s lives easier.
The whole reason ChipmunkBags started was to make my life easier – it’s really quite simple. This purpose can be applied to every aspect of our business. Make a quality product. Why? Because if the product falls apart you’re not making customers’ lives easier. Deliver exceptional customer service. Why? Because if you don’t, you’re not making customers’ lives easier. Every important decision you make, run it by your purpose. I’ve found by doing this that tough decisions become much easier to make.
What was the biggest mistake you made and what did you learn from it?
Oh man… I’ve definitely made a few. In the early stages I was completely overwhelmed with where to start. Everything was foreign. I didn’t know how to make a product, how to design a website - I really didn’t know how to do anything. I ended up hiring a website development company to build the website. They didn’t complete the website in time for launch so I stayed up the night before making a Shopify site. It was a blessing in disguise because Shopify works great. I just wish I didn’t hire developers in the first place.
The lesson? Attempt to do things on your own at first. Don’t hire someone to do the task just because you’re overwhelmed. There are a TON of tools to help young entrepreneurs these days. Figure out what they are and take advantage.
What is the biggest challenge of owning your own business? What do you love most about it?
The biggest challenge is that the business becomes part of you as a person. It’s part of your core, it’s part of your DNA. This is great when things are going well, it’s tough when things are not. You have to keep an even keel through the ups and downs – don’t get too excited when things are going well, don’t get too deflated when things are going poorly. This is definitely easier said than done.
That being said, this is also the best part of owning a business. The sheer fact that the business wouldn’t exist without you is exciting. You have your business to be proud of, you have your business to show the world.
What’s next for Chipmunk?
We’re getting to a point where we can start experimenting with different designs and products. The goal is to continue finding pain-points in people’s lives and creating products to solve these pain-points. My goal is to always make products I’m proud of, products I want to use myself. If we always sweat the details, prioritize quality, and make products we’re excited about, Chipmunk has a bright future.
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