Ideas to products
Business View Magazine interviews Evan Dash, Founder & CEO of StoreBound, as part of our focus on best practices in American business.
StoreBound is a product innovation company that develops branded housewares including small appliances and home innovations, and then distributes and manages their performance through top-tier retailers like Crate & Barrel, QVC, HSN, Target, West Elm, Urban Outfitters, and many more. The company’s platform is a fully integrated model of design, manufacturing, quality control, technology, sales, marketing, and customer service.
StoreBound’s 30+ employees work out of its main office and headquarters in New York City, as well as satellite offices in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and China.
Recently, Business View Magazine had an extensive conversation with Evan Dash, StoreBound’s CEO and Founder. The following is an edited transcript of that discussion:
BVM: Can you talk a little about your background and what prompted you to start StoreBound?
Dash: “I started the business in 2010 after an almost 20-year career working for major retailers. I had worked only in large organizations and gained experience in almost every product category offered in a department store. My previous job before starting StoreBound was Senior Vice President of the Home Business at Macy’s where I ran a $2B business across almost 800 stores.
“For most of my time working in retail I was most interested in the product side of the business and always loved working with creative people who were developing great new innovations. I felt, after going through a decade of retail consolidation, that I wanted to move back into the product side of the business and create a company that could help ordinary people get their products into the market, and to help manage the product performance and keep them out of harm’s way when dealing with large companies.”
BVM: Where do your new products come from?
Dash: The new products largely come from internal concepts, ideas or needs from the retail community, or a network of inventors. We have people soliciting us from our retail packaging that they see, our website, word-of-mouth, or some media events that we’ve done. We were also recently featured on a CNBC show that led to an outpouring of invention leads.”
BVM: If I’m an inventor with a new product and decide to come to you, what would be our relationship?
Dash: “Typically, what we like to do is cut a deal with the inventor and get them back to their day job as quickly as possible. If the inventor has some unique skill set that warrants them being involved in the process, then we keep them involved. So, there is no one-size-fits-all deal that we offer to the inventors. What we try to do is work as open-book as possible; help them understand what their options are in the industry today, and then give them an idea of what their potential earnings could be. We help them make an informed decision, so that three or five years down the road, they don’t feel as though they’ve gotten duped. Unfortunately, the inventor community seems to be pretty accustomed to service providers that have bilked them out of money. So, we do everything transparently and above board in a way that gets the inventor coming back to us when they have the next great invention, or certainly spreading the word that we’re upstanding, honest people to deal with.”
BVM: Do you ever buy anything out right or do your arrangements generally involve royalties or a split of the profits?
Dash: “We’ve done all of those things, but we typically do royalty-based deals. That way, there’s an upside potential for the inventor and there’s downside protection for us.”
BVM: How and where do you place these products once you’ve chosen them?
Dash: As we commercialize a product and go through that entire process, concurrently, we’re working with our retail community to figure out the right venues to launch the product, and then, eventually, to roll it out to wider distribution. Today, we’re selling to almost every household name retailer in North America and a number of other retailers in Asia, Europe, and Australia.”
BVM: Say I’m a major retailer, and you come to me with the latest and the greatest; how are you going to convince me to put it on my shelves?
Dash: “That’s actually the easiest thing that we do, because when we have something great, we don’t just go in and say, ‘Here’s something great; you should buy it.’ We go in with an approach that resonates with the buyer. We make is as easy as possible because everybody here on our business team has sat in that buyer’s seat and we’re able to walk in and say, ‘We understand your business; we understand your pressures; we understand retail.’ We’re all pretty well-known in our industry and we don’t just try to sell them the product, we offer them a solution; we help them understand how it fits into their overall assortment; what maybe should go away to make room for it and how they can clear space for it; how it should be marketed; how it should be priced. And, at the end of the day, we try to make the proposition one that helps them achieve their goals from a financial standpoint, rather than working against them like a lot of the bigger brands do.”
BVM: Are there any other companies that do what you do and, if so, how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Dash: “I think there are a lot of companies that are trying to bring ideas to market, but I don’t know that there is any company out there, today, that seems to be doing exactly what we’re doing. We set ourselves apart by being nimble and responsive to the market and by the expertise that we have as a team. So, we’ve got a very good sense of what products will perform and then how to get them placed and how to manage their performance at the big retailers around the world.
“As a company focused on innovation in a category where rarely little exists, we have a stringent process that we follow to ensure that the consumer is getting the best possible products. I’ve assembled a team of industry experts whose collective knowledge provides us with a competitive advantage. We also rely on our large social media following, as well as tools like crowd funding, to ensure that what we’re developing is on point to meet the rapidly changing needs of the consumer.” So, StoreBound is sleek and agile, social media savvy, innovative, and forward-thinking with the expertise to deliver.
“Another way that we differentiate ourself in the market is that we’re working for the long term and focused on ‘winning hearts.’ So, whether it’s our retail customers, an inventor who brings an idea to us, or, especially, the consumer, we want them to feel like they got a great value in every dealing with us so they will spread the word about how their experience has been. That word-of-mouth, and the online reviews of a product or a business, are more important today than they’ve ever been. For example, when was the last time you went on Amazon and saw that it had a two- or three-star review and went ahead and bought it?”
BVM: Have you had any major hits over the last several years?
Dash: “We’ve been fortunate; we’ve had a lot of really big hits. We have two products that we launched this year that have proved to be extremely exciting and well-received. The first one is called Sobro. It’s a smart coffee table that takes your ‘dumb’ furniture and puts a modern, useful twist on it. Our coffee table has built into it, Bluetooth speakers, charging for a laptop and smart devices, ambient lighting, and a refrigerator. Another one that we just recently launched is a rapid cold brew coffee maker. Cold brew is one of the fastest growing consumable trends that we’ve seen because it allows you to make coffee with very little acid, so it’s much smoother and milder tasting for people who may have stomach problems or sensitivity to coffee. Normally, cold brew takes between 12 and 24 hours to make; but our machine will be the first appliance that can make it in around five minutes.”
BVM: I noticed on your website that you’ve also commissioned the PancakeBot. I’m curious. What was the conversation when you decided that the world needed a 3-D pancake maker?
Dash: “We certainly never looked at a 3-D pancake maker and said, ‘The world necessarily needs this.’ What value we saw in the 3-D printer wasn’t so much the overriding sales potential as much as a way to get kids involved in technology in a way that they could really love and understand. I’ve probably been a little bit over the top in terms of trying to encourage my own kids to learn about and adopt new technologies, and I really had them on my mind when we decided that this was the right type of product to move forward with. When you see a group of kids gathered around a machine like this, absorbing the premise of 3-D printing and how it works – the learning aspect of it and the wonder with which they approach it, made it a stand-out product that we have loved launching.”
BVM: So how is the product doing? And how many people are going to spend the $300 for it?
Dash: “It’s interesting. For a 3-D food printer, it’s very inexpensive; for a kitchen novelty, it’s in another stratosphere. So, we’re kind of in this no-man’s land with the pricing, and we’ve had to look at interesting markets for it. We have appealed to the maker community and hackers who like to tinker with products. We’ve built it on an open-source platform that allows people to get in ‘under the hood,’ and we’ve seen people actually build their own, or modify their own version of it, to be able to do multiple colors or to do things with similar viscosity to pancake batter that could produce a different end result.”
BVM: So, speaking of pancakes is there anything else on the company’s ‘front burner?’
Dash: “We’re expanding extremely rapidly. We have growth from almost every avenue in front of us; our existing retailer base, new retailers, and we have tremendous international growth potential as well. Right now, in addition to the new product launches, we’re building out our infrastructure to allow us to continue to deliver with excellence and keep our retailers and the consumers happy. We’re focused on building the business intelligently, with a responsibility to the people who work here.
BVM: Do you ever watch the TV show, Shark Tank, and do you call the people on it who don’t get funded if you like what they’ve created?
Dash: “I watch the show from time to time, but I’ve never tried to pick up somebody who didn’t get a deal on Shark Tank. I was on the CNBC show, Make Me a Millionaire Inventor as an Investor. That’s the show I really like because it’s much more about the inventor’s story and it builds up the innovators, rather than reducing them to a product and trying to get the best deal that works for the ‘shark’ versus the right deal that works for the inventor. Some of these creative people who don’t have another avenue are being taken advantage of.”
BVM: What are some of your company’s long-term objectives or priorities?
Dash: “Our focus in firmly based on winning the hearts of our retailers and the consumer. And we’re going to continue to do that product by product, retailer by retailer, one consumer at a time. We have bandwidth to devote a tremendous amount of focus to a wide array of unique products. We’ve got great brands to pair with products and I think, say five years from now, we will be a much larger company and a household name with many of the brands that we’ve created. I know we’ll still have a great team because that’s what gotten us here, so far, and that’s what been the most important to me as we’ve built StoreBound out. I would also expect that five years down the road, we will still have tremendous growth potential in front of us for our innovations on the global stage.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHAT: A product innovation company
WHERE: Headquarters in New York City, New York
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