How many times have you been sitting around with family or friends and thought, ‘that’d be a great idea for a business’? Well, imagine if you actually went through with it! For Tiffany of RND Power Solutions, the idea became a reality when her group of four friends began selling chargers and accessories for their smartphones.
We interviewed Tiffany and spoke about how they got the company off the ground, what it takes to keep it running, and what the future might hold for her and the business. Oh, and this story involves Chihuahuas.
So, tell us about RND. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
The company was started by 4 friends: Marc and Derek, who are brothers, Adam who is Derek’s best friend since grade school, and me who has been best friends with Derek since middle school (I also ended up marrying Marc much later ;) We named the company after our Chihuahuas – who are also brothers – Rusty and Dusty (RND). Occasionally they even make cameos on our Instagram page.
We started the company because we all jumped on the smartphone bandwagon and were having problems keeping our phones charged all day. We started by selling extended batteries – remember those giant things? It was big business at the time, but we have evolved into selling lots of different types of items that help to keep devices charged and connected.
How did you break into the industry?
I feel like everyone wants to own their own company at some point in their life. It was a hard step to take, we had an idea of something that was necessary in the market at the time, but to take your own money and put it into something and not know if it is going to work is always scary. Not to mention the time commitment – Derek was about to become a dad, everyone had full time jobs, and I was in Nursing School full time. It was definitely a hard decision. But we all just jumped in and used all of our free time and energy to grow our company – something we are still doing.
Marc and Derek are both computer programmers and Adam has a lot of experience selling on various Marketplaces. With programming and marketplace and website knowledge, we were able to automate some of the business and we had a good place to start. Each marketplace that we have sold on is different and they all have different ways of doing things – each one needs to be learned (and sometimes re-learned when things change). In the beginning we jokingly referred to selling on one marketplace as a game because you need to figure out all the different ways to use their platform to your advantage – and we are still trying new things to this day. So, I would say we are knowledgeable people learning as we go for many things.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate, so why do you love what you do?
I think part of it is just loving the company that you started. Something you have nurtured and watched grow over the years, it’s almost like a child, it’s something that you grow attached to and it becomes a part of you in a way. I know for the guys, they always wanted their own company so they are in some way living their dream. For me, it’s less about a lifetime achievement and more about not giving up, once I have committed to something I am going to give it 110%.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
Owning a business is never smooth sailing. We were lucky to get into the business at a time that allowed us to grow quickly. But there is always something that needs to be addressed. It’s like Hydra at times – if you cut off one head, two grow in it’s place. But we are moving in a positive direction with the help of our awesome team.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
In the beginning, we were working from our garage. One day we got a boat shipment that was supposed to be 3 pallets, for which we had barely found the space. Then the truck showed up with 5 over-stacked pallets, and the only person available to take care of it was someone on their lunch hour from their “real” job. Needless to say, we got some storage units to supplement our “warehouse” space until we finally got our own real warehouse.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
With 2 new babies under a year and 5 kids under 5 between the owners, I think you can imagine what our “free” time looks like. When we all hang out, which is actually pretty often, it inevitably turns into RND talk. Hopefully when the kids are older we can start traveling a little more like we used to.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
We used to use Facebook a lot for our business a while back but then they changed the way that people see your content and even if people “like” your page they don’t actually see your posts. We are JUST starting to get back into using social media including Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram in order to connect more with our customers. We love to show our products in action through stories by using them in our everyday lives.
Why did you realize that you were going to embrace ecommerce?
We started in ecommerce, and it just makes sense for our company. It allowed us to have access to potential customers with minimal advertising in the beginning, and it has allowed us to grow. Our customers are global and the only that is possible is by selling online.
How did you find Shopify and why did you decide to try them out?
The reason we switched to Shopify originally is because they are rated as the number one turn-key website solution currently on the market. they also have a better credit card solution than what we were getting from the banks that was already implemented into their system and required no extra programing or work to use. We also went with them for their plug and play apps to enhance our website and SEO content. We found their features above and beyond what other turn-key solutions offered with a price that was better than the competition. I would recommend Shopify to everyone new to the eCommerce business.
What does they enable you to do as a small business owner?
Shopify gives us the freedom to modify our website without it having to be completely custom. It allows us to share more information with our customers in a way that makes more sense and it is mobile-friendly, which is very important for everyone selling online– especially us since we sell accessories for mobile devices. The apps that are available have allowed us to connect to different marketplaces and marketing sites without having to start from scratch for each one. That is helping us to streamline our business. It saves time, and allows us to spend more time doing the things we want to do, like developing our product line and growing our business.
How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
We donate to local schools and charities, but a lot of our focus has been to decrease our impact on the environment. Having products shipped all over results in a big carbon footprint so we pay the extra money to offset our footprint when we can, using recycled boxes and packaging, using reusable water bottles in the office, etc. We want to do more – our biodegradable bubble mailers are no longer available and we are looking for another supplier. So if anyone knows of a great company, we would love to know!
What does the future look like for you and your business?
There have been a lot of changes for people selling on marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay and others. There is minimal control available on marketplaces; people can hijack your product and sell an inferior product until you get them kicked off, which leads to poor reviews because of knock-offs. The marketplaces are more saturated as well so it is hard to differentiate yourself from others. No one can tell that our product is well made vs. the cheaper ones that are less well made – I have noticed this not only as a seller, but as a customer. It’s also sometimes hard to sell our products for the prices we need to in order to maintain the quality. Because we won’t sacrifice quality, we are working hard to expand in other ways. Fortunately, we do have a following, people who will only buy our brand of cables or phone cradles, people who know that we have the good stuff!
A big part of our future is going into growing our website business. We want our customers to continue to get great prices and free shipping, without the middleman. This will enable us to maintain high quality manufacturing and great customer service without having to compete with people who are just trying to swindle the customer with fake product, and will give us more control over the content that is made available to the consumer.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Think about the pros and cons, make sure you are willing to lose the money that you invest, and be ready to invest more if you start to succeed. It is helpful to have support from your loved ones, because its hard on everyone involved, especially in the beginning. It is great to be in control of your destiny, but I have not gone on any trip since starting that I did not have to work while there. It’s not like a 9-5 job that you can go home and forget about, it is a part of your life that you might be doing on top of your 9-5. If you are okay with all of that, then, jump in with both feet and keep running with it even when its hard and you might want to give up.