Springfield, MO

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Startup Corner: Eric Jones and Tim Hendrix, United States of Apparel LLC

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Minimally viable product …
We went forward with a blended idea from two viewpoints. It’s very informal in how we get feedback. We create what we like, we ask some friends and family, research online and try to avoid the common trap of cramming too much into a product. Less is more and selling a shirt that you can land a plane with was not our goal. A quality, comfortable, long-lasting product with a simple, straight-forward message is what USOA is all about.

Problem solving …
Every time you buy something, you’re ticking mental boxes of the things you want. Well, a USOA purchase ticks the following boxes: 1) American made. 2) Support American companies/workers. 3) Support two children’s charities. 4) Quality, comfortable products at affordable prices. 5) A company that encourages getting outdoors and spending time with loved ones.

Seed money …
One-thousand dollars and lots of man hours. The fire service is a good job, but you won’t get wealthy working in civil service, so the seed money was what we could scrounge up. We did have time in the evenings and weekends, so we did a lot of work that might otherwise be hired out.

Hurdles overcome …
Reliable suppliers and shipping – that’s been the most frustrating part. Getting that squared away to where you can begin to predict the behavior of that process was time-consuming and frustrating.  

Next phase …
Getting the brand name out there. We’re trying to team up with other reputable companies, radio/TV stations, sports teams, athletes, etc., to help charities and assimilate into the local business culture.

Biggest mistake …
Beginning the marketing machine too late. Marketing seems like it would be easier than it is, but it’s a deceptively complex and very expensive beast.

Food for thought …
At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker; start it up. If you keep waiting for the perfect opportunity to make a go of your business idea, it’ll never happen. Also, keep trying things. It’s frustrating when things don’t work out but keep trying. Failing fast is hard to do when you’re throwing everything at your business to make it succeed.


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