This week Series W spoke to the founders of BeachSpoke, a company started in FIELD 3 that sells fun, oversized blankets perfect for the beach, picnics, or the mountains.
Tell us about BeachSpoke.
BeachSpoke sells fun, oversized beach (or picnic) blankets. They include four spokes (with cute tassels!) in each corner that keep the blanket from blowing away and getting sandy. We’ve seen our customers use them everywhere, from the beach to the park to the mountains. We sell at www.getbeachspoke.com, and they make an awesome gift for friends and family this holiday season!
How did you come up with the idea?
We were looking for a physical product that we could make with little manufacturing prowess and sell online. We considered reselling products but actually making something new was very appealing.
The idea for BeachSpoke was actually inspired by my mom. Fifteen years ago, mom was given a beach blanket as a gift that had similar features to our BeachSpoke. She still uses it today, and strangers on the beach continue to stop her all the time to ask where she bought it. Unfortunately for them, the beach shack in the caribbean where it was purchased had stopped selling them. Fortunately for us, they fit our criteria of simple to manufacture.
BeachSpoke was started in FIELD 3 – how did you form your team? What advice would you give to RCs on forming teams?
We actually didn’t even have an idea at the start of FIELD 3, and instead optimized for team fit. Our three criteria were:
- A similar perspective on FIELD 3 (Priority 1: launching something cool and learning a lot, Priority 100: getting a 1 in FIELD 3)
- A general agreement on the type of business (for us, a consumer product that we could sell online and stress test our marketing muscles)
- A strong team (We all had a history and interest in startups and also complementary skills. Two of my teammates were section mates that I didn’t know well, but had long admired for their startup experience and wanted to get to know more. Interestingly, two of my teammates were (and still are!) good friends. We’d talked a lot about startups in the past, and I wanted to test working with them. Although this was highly discouraged by our professor, if you’re serious about startups and you’re considering working with friends, this is a good time to test that out.
Tell us about the process of using FIELD 3 to prove your idea. How did the idea evolve over time?
Although as a team we agreed early on that launching and learning was our priority over producing the best FIELD deliverables, we saw the class as a great opportunity take advantage of the HBS resources (including free investment in our idea!). We spent a lot of time up-front brainstorming different consumer products, prioritizing, surveying friends and family, and we eventually landed on BeachSpoke.
Then we used spring break as our first major target for shipping BeachSpokes. We wanted to get our first run of blankets in the hands of HBS students going to far away places (not recommended by FIELD). This turned out to be crucial, not only for the product feedback (our blankets were too small and the spokes rusted), but because it created pressure early-on to ship something. We had friends in other groups still struggling to get a complicated product or service ready in time for IPO day, and we were selling out of our third run. After team, my biggest advice to future FIELD 3 subjects: keep your business very simple.
What was your WFIO (we’re f***** it’s over) moment?
Once we decided on our idea, we had a moment of panic when we thought we wouldn’t be able to find fabric at a price that would let us make money. We visited a bunch of fabric stores and searched online, and everything was either way too expensive, had a 5-week delivery window, and required tax IDs to get wholesale pricing.
In the end, we bought discount fabric (meaning we could only make 5 or 6 blankets in each pattern). This worked well for our first two runs, and now we’ve switched to wholesale fabric at half the price.
What’s been the most exciting moment so far?
Presenting in Burden Auditorium was pretty great. We definitely weren’t expecting it (or I probably would’ve worn something different), but it’s a great experience to have at least once while at HBS. Other than that,selling to customers who are really excited about their purchase is awesome. And when they come back 2 months later to buy 5 more, well that’s the best.
Post FIELD 3, which HBS resources have been most helpful?
We’re doing an IP with our TEM professor and we were also accepted in the Rock Accelerator, both have been really useful. The most important thing for us though was to keep the momentum over the summer. We all had internships, but worked in our free time on BeachSpoke, and that put us in a great position at the start of the semester.
What’s your favorite BeachSpoke pattern?
That’s a tough call because I choose the patterns, so I obviously love all of them. Right now, my favorite is the Cancun.