Hanafi Fraval tells the story of an initiative to fund WSA
Some years ago, my wife, Levana, picked up an aluminized solar-reflecting cap for me at a trade show in Texas.
I started wearing it outside on sunny summer days and discovered that it kept my head cooler than any other hat I'd worn. Initially I didn't think the cap was particularly attractive, but Levana told me that she noticed others' reactions and that nearly always their expressions were admiring.
Eventually I got the message. In fact I can't believe how many times people say, "I like your hat!” Not only did this cap keep my head cool, but others thought it was cool, too. Who knew! So I never went outside without it! I wore it daily because I walk in the sun for half an hour every day, and for much longer on weekends. It was the only hat I could wear in the sun that didn't bake my head.
When it finally wore out, I went back to the company from the show and got their last two caps. But once I was down to the last of those, I found that they were no longer made, that the only way to keep my supply going over the years was to have them made myself. Suddenly a little lightbulb went off in my head....
Tepesco Inc. And MyCoolCap.com
That little lightbulb…
Last year, I contacted 36 people to ask for their financial support for WSA. It was a hard slog. I had a target in my head of $100,000. I raised only $20,000. I thought to myself after this exercise that this was not the way to do it. I wanted a new way to do enterprise, one that worked both for the entrepreneur and for Subud.
Many of us have played around with various models for enterprise but have had difficulty coming up with anything that really delivers serious money to Subud. So now, we have created a new model which we hope will deliver both incentive and benefit to the entrepreneur as well as a serious revenue stream to Subud.
In this model the gross profit is split 50-50 between the entrepreneur and, in this case, WSA. The vehicle we use is a nonprofit business. This 50-50 divide works until WSA receives $100,000 a year. After that, as the business grows, the formula is adjusted. Also, Subud USA and other Subud beneficiaries can be included.
Of course the model's success depends upon having a successful product. We are currently focused on developing a effective sales channel, and adding other products to that sales channel as we go. In this case, that channel is Amazon.
Noxgear and MyCoolCap.com
Over the past three years, Noxgear’s Simon Curran and his partner Tom developed a product and started marketing it on Amazon. Both Simon and Tom are engineers and they did a great job of producing a product in an attractive, robust, and reliable format (see www.Noxgear.com). Initially they raised their funding on kickstarter. They pre-sold sufficient units to get them going. In fact, within the first two years the company went from zero to $2.2 million in sales. During the process, Simon and Tom went through an intensive learning experience, gradually understanding how to have a product manufactured in China without losing one's product, business and everything else; how to effectively market, using social media; how to work with Amazon and its gigantic fulfillment machine, and much more.
I approached Simon as well as Susannah Rosenthal with my plan to productionize MyCoolCap. Simon loved the idea and thought it should fly. He shared with me that if you sell on Amazon and have a bad product, you usually don't lose money, as long as you have a sufficient level of margin. So while we have to pay 22% to Amazon for their services, customers have confidence in products that are listed on the Amazon site. In addition, the benefit of Amazon's incredible fulfillment process is huge. And with this kind of product, it is possible to achieve very steep growth rates over a matter of just a few months.
Over the first six months of 2017, I developed the product for production based on my original, rather crude, baseball cap – the one I had been wearing all these years.
I worked with ten companies in China, gradually whittling it down to three. I obtained samples from six companies, and eventually settled on one of them. Of course this was in tight liaison with Simon, who was extremely helpful. Simon has a "factory" in China and travels there frequently. Knowing the ropes of how to do business in China is the difference between life and death for a new enterprise.
Simon steered us through the minefield and went through the last part of the process of ordering and securing delivery of the product to specification. This may sound trivial in the context of the US, but when you source from China nothing is straightforward. At one point, Simon suggested that I read Poorly Made in China. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone thinking about securing product from China. If you don't know what you're doing, you could easily find that your final product hardly resembles the spec sample that the Chinese factory originally sent!
In the end, we achieved quite a number of product improvements, and now you can benefit from this unique cap, too. You can see from the photos and graphics that this simple product contains many great features that, taken together, are significant to the wearer. It's a great cap if you're going to be outside and hate your head feeling hot and steamy. Cool air circulates through mesh side panels, and solar radiation is reflected off the remaining panels and visor.
We have designed the cap with an immeasurably improved style, so you can look cool and feel cool — yes, they do keep your head cool: Simon measured between 3°F and 18°F cooler, depending on the sun's position and whether the measurement is made at the front, back or side.
Once we had the product delivered to Amazon, our task became an entirely different one. Now we were looking for the right kind of person to manage the business.
We attended two congresses. Simon and Susannah went to the national congress, where they showed and sold MyCoolCaps. I went to the regional congress in California and did the same. Our main task was to find competent hands to take over the product and start a new business. Without going into the long process, we talked to five people and eventually chose Andrew Morgan to head up the business. Introduced to us by Susannah, Andrew is a talented young man with lots of web-building experience and an understanding of business and entrepreneurship. We are delighted to hand this great task to him. With this new model for enterprise, he could do very well for himself, while at the same time generating significant money for Subud.
In the future, expect to hear reports from Andrew. Simon, Susannah and I are members of the board of the not-for-profit business, Tepesco, but it is Andrew who is running the business, innovating, developing, and promoting. Our job is to support him in every way we can, but he is in the driving seat.
In the past, Levana and I headed up SES USA for six years and had always struggled to find visibility for SES at congresses.
This time it was different.
We began to notice an apparent (and unexpected) trend. Daniel Ko offered to make a MyCoolCap video to show on one of his social media sites. With 100% of the profits going to WSA, offers of help came in from all kinds of people. Miraculously, we were given good presentation slots — two of them really well attended — at the congress. The word has gotten out about MyCoolCap.com. And I have a feeling that there will be many further offers of help if we can demonstrate the success of this project.
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