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Jeni Huelskamp, left, David Messner and Adam DeVizia, co-owners
Photo provided by Manly Cans
Jeni Huelskamp, left, David Messner and Adam DeVizia, co-owners

Startup Corner: Jeni Huelskamp, Can It LLC, dba Manly Cans

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Minimally viable product ...
Gift cans for men. Men are hard to buy for and convenience is always a plus when it comes to shopping. We provide an easy-to-use online store that provides great gift cans with various product sets for men.
Problem solving …
After nearly 10 years of owning another gift shop [Edible Arrangements] and having countless people ask if we had anything more for men, I decided to see if we could create something.
Seed money …
$88,000 from The Bank of Missouri.
Hurdles overcome …
Product development and inventory, as well as market awareness. The initial loan helped me get inventory going. As well, I worked to create strategic partnerships with various businesses at a wholesale level and leverage their relationships with suppliers. I partnered with Beyond Creative to help us develop our new brand and website.

Next phase …
We are just launching more of a national campaign with Frontier Media to do digital ad placement on social media and Google. Digital marketing will be the main way. We also are looking for as much earned media as we can get.

Getting others to talk about our product has always driven sales.
Biggest mistake …
The first location in Highlandville was a bust. It had no mail delivery or internet options to the physical location.

Best advice …
Go slow. Use current networks.

Worst advice …
“When launching, you will not have room for this in your house.” So I rented a location and that was a bad move.

Greatest need …
Wholesale partners for product, working capital and mentors who have done distribution and purchasing before.

Food for thought …
1. It’s going to cost more then you think.
2. Figure out what you want your reputation to be before you launch. Your character will take you farther then you realize.


1 comment on this story |
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Bill Smillie

I liked your advice, worst advice, and food for thought . I experienced many of the same dilemmas when I opened my store 25 years ago. If you think you need 100,000 dollars to start you better get 200,000. Use free advice from SCORE or MDI @ MSU. Best to you. How is Ben?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
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