Here We Go

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Hi.  I’m Heather.  A mom, a runner, a person who saw a problem that needed fixing and went for it…finally.  I’m developing a running belt to assist parents who run with strollers to run hands-free.  It’s called StrollRunner, and I hope you’ll check it out.

I’d like to share my journey with you.  Maybe you, too, have an idea that you want to get out to the world, maybe you just have a Shark Tank addiction and will find this funny, sad and inspiring.  Whatever your interest may be, I hope to spark something in each person who chooses to read this… or not.  I’m also just happy to get it out for myself.

I remember the first time I ran with a stroller.  So excited to multi-task and get exercise, fresh air and get my daughter, Avery, out of the house.  What a freaking awful experience that turned out to be!  It was hard, uncomfortable, absolutely unenjoyable.  I’d like to say that was the moment that my idea for StrollRunner came to me, but it was more like the moment I swore off running with a stroller…ever. again.  It actually took seeing other people and their awkward stroller-running to bring on the idea.  To the lady that I passed on the bike path in Colchester, VT, years ago running daily with your stroller – I told you I was working on a better way – well, here you go!

Here is my story.  Bits and pieces coming at you as I take my idea from concept to household item.  My journey from a so-so running mom to making my mark on the running world.  And if you have an idea you are passionate about, please for the love of God, share it with the world!

 

 

Crowdfunding is done…now what?

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Crowdfunding was a trip.  As is true with each new endeavor, I learned a ton, and if I ever choose to raise funds via that method again, there is so much I would do differently…like build awareness of what I’m doing BEFORE I ask people for money.  That would definitely be numero uno.  All in all, it was a fantastic experience that brought me many new connections, and we raised a whopping $6,690!  I call that a win.

Now it’s back to the basics, with my Asics… Time to focus on fixing the four key areas I want to hone in on before the beta testing units are made and I hand over my baby (I am loving these puns) to others moms and dads to try using with theirs.  That’s when the fun really begins – getting the feedback I’m oh-so-curious to hear and can adapt into my product before we finalize the patent (that deadline is approaching) and start making these available for purchase.  Pre-ordering is an idea we are contemplating, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I’ve taken this month off to really focus on StrollRunner and the need to make these available for purchase as soon as possible.  It has my complete focus.  Just when I think there isn’t anything else I can possibly be doing to move this along, I have a meeting with a mentor, or speak with another entrepreneur, or have a brainstorming sesh with @vtsbdc or @lcrcc – and I’m off again with a full list and mega-motivation.

Now that the crowdfunding event has concluded, it’s back to the story where we left off before… concept proven and onward.

 

Concept Proven

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I left off with Scott having given me a list of items to research and purchase.  I was CLUELESS!  I understood, as much as I could, the concepts of each item he wanted me to look for, and what it would do, but I didn’t know where to look for these or what they may be called, etc…  Ultimately, the more I searched, the more lost I felt.  The internet is home to so many options.  When I would find something I thought was what he wanted me to locate, I would then email it to him to see if I was on the right track.  Back and forth we went until we finally arrived at a few parts that seemed like they could work, and determined actually producing the others would be the best bet.  Scott had a full shop and (have I mentioned before?) the mind of a genius, so what didn’t exist, he could make.

My first purchase was a Fox Racing belt – the kidney protector used by many motocross riders.  We figured that if we could find things that already existed and repurpose them to our needs we would save time and money not having to reinvent all the parts.  The belt, when worn backwards, provided a comfortable attachment to the runner and also a platform to add to.  We then fastened two aluminum poles to the front that would serve to connect the person to the stroller.  Scott machined the fasteners for the poles to the belt; we used clamps for the tubes to connect to the stroller.  What we needed to do was prove the concept and find a way to get it good enough to try running with.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was finally real!  I think Madonna would have been jealous of my new accessory – it really reminded me of something she would wear.  Next, we took it outside with the stroller and it was time to try it.  This was a big moment.  Best case scenario it would work; worst case, we would have to start over.  It also represented the moment when the idea I had been carrying around for so long was an actual thing.  A real product, not just a concept.  We hooked me up, got the phone set to video and off I went!  A very short distance being that I was in a parking lot, but it was the BEST run I’d had thus far in my life!  IT WORKED!  When I came back by Scott and he stated, “concept proven!”, I almost cried.  This was the first big moment for StrollRunner.

Where I Am Today

IMG_2087Crowdfunding is WORK.  I can honestly say I wasn’t prepared for the amount of emotional exertion that would go into running a campaign; the highs and lows, the successes and failures, but I have also loved it.  A lot.  While not prepared, I was forewarned – throughout building this business I have been a sponge, so I listened intently to all of the advice given to me by my coaches at iFundWomen, quietly monitored the #slack channel inclusive of other crowdfunders, and planned via the “Coaches Playbook”, as suggested.

I picked a launch date, started making fun graphics on Canva, set aside time in my schedule to be ready to “work” this once we went live… and then, a bit of a surprise hit – I was asked to participate in the Governor’s press release about iFundWomen coming to Vermont.  This fast-tracked my plans as I was given an amazing opportunity for free PR and needed to get my campaign live, or at least have a landing page, so that as people heard about what I was doing, they would have a legitimate place to go to contribute to the campaign.  Oh yeah, and I need a website.  Anyone looking me up needed to be able to see that my business existed.  No small feat for this learning-as-I-go techie.

This all began in August.  I recall sitting with friends days after learning of the upcoming press release (to happen THAT Friday) and feeling so excited that it was really going to happen.  I wasn’t nervous at all.  I just wanted to get my message out to the world and make it real – to share what I’ve been working so hard towards and see what kind of reaction I received.  I was also completely shameless about beginning to ask friends and family to contribute to my campaign.  On the one hand, asking people you know for money can be very awkward, but it is also very necessary, and the latter point far trumps any negative feelings around the ask.  No ask, no money, no business.  Self-funding can only take you so far, as I’ve learned.  Whilst shouting from social media that my campaign was going live ahead of schedule, I neglected to realize that I wasn’t actually supposed to be “launching” the campaign just yet… it was supposed to be in what we call an “incognito” stage – that where the page exists but can only be found if you share the link with others.  It’s not searchable.  Oops.  I may have blasted this private link to my entire social family.

After that faux pas, I went quiet for a couple of months.  I worked at having more of a social presence, but via informative posts on running, fun quotes, snippets of videos and photos from the past year.  I wanted to build an awareness around my area of interest before re-launching the campaign.  I also traveled to NYC and shot a real-deal video about why I’m crowdfunding.  I took Avery out of school to come with me so she could be a part of the experience – we had a blast!

Fast-forward to today, and we are halfway through the REAL campaign, and are currently at $5,350 of our $35,000 goal.  That $5,350 has allowed me to reconnect with my original engineer and work towards the prototype that we plan to have ready for our beta testers!  This is the part I am most looking forward to!  As we continue to increase our contributions through friends, family and the community, our next action will be to make the prototypes and begin getting them out to the testers.  With their feedback, we can then finalize our product and begin selling.  I am so excited to hear what others think and take their ideas to make this an even better accessory!

We have less than a month to go and about $30,000 to raise!  If you have already contributed, you are AWESOME and I thank you for being a part of this!  If you have not, please consider doing so – every dollar helps no matter how big or small.

You can find my campaign here.  Would you do me a huge favor and share this with 5 of your friends?

Running parents – get ready to reclaim your run.

 

Much Love,

Heather

Get the Nerve

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October 2017 rolls around and I’ve been hanging with my good friend, Michelle Russell (@comfortandhome), and she introduces me to a book that will change my life forever, You Are A Badass by @jensincero.  If you have not heard of or read this book, go get it.  Seriously, right now.  It’s amazing.  This book is all about getting off your ass, reigning in your positive and badass/kickass mindset, and getting the “fuck on the fuck”.  Basically, recognizing the power you have within to make anything happen, and to GO DO IT NOW.

So I’m all feeling the vibes and decide to take a super-scary step and tell someone about my idea.  Someone outside of my immediate family (besides Michelle who has been pushing me to go for it) and someone that I believe has the brains and ingenious ability to actually take my concept and make it a real thing.  So I took the leap and reached out to my good friend and mastermind, Scott Roth (@rothspeed).  Scott was co-owner of The Auto Shoppe (now he owns Roth Speed) and a friend and customer of my fiancé who owns a Snap-On Tools franchise (@jghtools).  Scott creates some of the most incredible custom cars I have ever seen – look him up, it’s ridiculous.  While what he does is nowhere in the realm of running accessories, Scott has the amazing ability to look at a mechanical “issue” and create a solution in his head.  If the part he needs doesn’t exist, he makes it.  I figured that since he had been working so hard on the Splitray car he was getting ready to take across the country for shows, he may enjoy a mental break from that where he could focus on a different type of creativity.  I also couldn’t think of a better person to help me assess whether or not my idea was something that could be produced.  I have the creative idea type of mind, not the engineering/craftsman type!  I needed help.

Scott invited me to meet him at his shop at 7pm one evening.  I wish I had thought to capture the moment when he was getting ready to hear me out… He jokingly told me that he had to get ready for “Scott Tank” as he donned a tie made out of duct tape and told me to go ahead and pitch my idea.  Even though I knew him fairly well, and had spent time with he and his family over the years, I felt like I was about to make a fool of myself; like he was going to tell me I was crazy and it was an idea not worth putting time into.  I was excited to maybe be taking a first step towards making this real, and sick to my stomach that my idea was about to end right here.  Put your big girl pants on, Heather, and get the nerve to take a step towards changing your life.  Just say it out loud.

Scott was enticed.  I explained that I thought if we could create a running device where you could hold handles and push the stroller at the same time, you could swing your arms and run more naturally.  You see, this was my first idea, and how I quickly learned to not be married to any one idea, but be willing to go with the flow of creation.  Scott told me to KISS – keep it simple, stupid – if the main idea is to swing your arms, why not take the “holding” out of the picture all-together?  What ultimately mattered to me, and what Scott could pick up on, was the swinging of the runners’ arms.  He pulled out blank pieces of paper and began taking the ideas already forming in his head and putting them out for me to see.  Scott’s brain works very quickly, and in there he understands everything he’s coming up with and how it all will mechanically work together.  Me, not so much.  I am sitting on the edge of his office couch trying to keep up, excitedly watching him pull idea after idea together, and hoping that he will let me keep the drawings so I can possibly remember even a fraction of what he is saying.

We end this first meeting with me having the homework of looking online and trying to find a parts from a list he has given me to see if we can use what already exists to put together a first prototype.  With this, we will see if my concept is proven.  I’ll have to save where that goes for my next post, but please stay with me for the ride.  It gets really good.

Launching in T-minus 7 Days!

Launch Announcement

What is Crowdfunding and Why Are You Doing It?  Crowdfunding is a platform that allows a start-up business to fund the furthering of a service or product, via small to large contributions that add up to a whole lot of help, usually given via friends and family.  About a year ago I decided to take a leap and make a go at creating the running belt I’d envisioned that allows parents to run with a stroller hands-free.  No small undertaking.  Think about this – have you ever backed a trailer with your car/truck?  Now try doing so by pushing it in front of you, and not having it swerve all over the place!  It’s a tricky task that I have worked tirelessly to perfect… and I’m not quite there yet.  I quickly realized that I needed the help of minds more adept at the engineering of my belt, so I’ve hired two thus far.  I also hired an attorney to help me file a provisional patent.  The next steps will be to have betas tested so that I can gain the insights of those that will be using the belt, and perfect this even further.

Crowdfunding not only helps to fund these next steps, it gives my friends, family and community members a chance to be a part of this great invention!  Every bit helps to move this product further towards market, and those that contribute can say they were in on helping at the very beginning.  I don’t know about you, but I like feeling like a part of something; like I’m doing something that matters deeply to another.

I chose iFundWomen after learning that they are female-focused when it comes to helping women to launch their businesses.  In 2017, only 2.2% of venture capital went to women-owned businesses.  That’s an astonishing statistic.  Partnering with a platform that focuses on making sure women get their businesses up and launched is paramount to me.

I have come so far but still have a ways to go.  Please consider contributing to my campaign when I launch on November 1st – you’ll be a big part of helping this momma make some big changes for others!  And please know that every bit counts and helps, no matter what size!

XO