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Huh, there are some big names behind this. Doc Vail is one of the big success stories for microbrands, so he's likely to have real advice to give.

$1,250 doesn't too wild like what some of those business or get-rich scheme seminars can ask for, but it's not low enough for me to say I'd jump right away. Plus, no travel or lodging expenses are included.

As you say, it sounds like a pretty good opportunity, especially for someone who's thinking about starting out on something as risky as this. Can't say it's not worth some serious consideration.
 
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In Germany you can join such courses - ok, no that VIP loaded - at the local crafts council.. no big show .. no far travel, but much information about setting up your own business... I think 1250bucks is a sum you 'd previously would have to know what the content is.. and know the basics to be able to follow the speakers.. otherwise its just an expensive meet and greet.

I had such an event once - related to an automotive project. Good show, but at the end less than 20% rather matched the reason why I joined this... and for 3600 bucks+ environmental costs. And years after boring calls and advertizing for other similar events... I'd keep it small but focussed on the first structural steps like a business model instead of listening to speakers which sometimes had the luck of an easier highter demanded or less speculative branche than watches are or a better or worse time to join tbe business. As long as you would not be be a highly established and solid state brand, but a fragile and rarely established newcommer without a fix base on selling. Rather no reliable customers and litte trust of the market what you are doing... but thats just me.. information is a good thing as long as you have the knowledge background to filter what's good for jour case and which information is not. I personally don't believe in a manual for success. There are too many non - Billionaieres out there..
 

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Very interesting opportunity!! Don't think the price is too high and love the expert opinion served at the event! Looks like a great use of time for an up and coming Micro Brand!!
 

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I had exchanged a few emails with the founder of a microbrand, and I found it interesting that he was able to pursue a government loan in his country to help start that type of business. I can only imagine the time and red tape, but that kind of measure could help with the risk.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I had exchanged a few emails with the founder of a microbrand, and I found it interesting that he was able to pursue a government loan in his country to help start that type of business. I can only imagine the time and red tape, but that kind of measure could help with the risk.
Wow, yeah that sounds like quite the opportunity with a government loan. I wonder what the terms would be though...a loan is still a loan. I hate owing people money.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Well, I ended up taking the plunge here and attending the workshop put on by Chris Vail, John Keil, Joshua Irons, and John Tooher the week before last.

I believe they plan to do more in the future. My recommendation for anyone out there who might consider: DO IT! If you were considering going and decided not to, you missed out. Since I made the decision about 2 years ago to pursue this dream, I’ve attended several conferences, paid for webinars hosted online, and was even accepted into a 10-week Startup Accelerator program at Penn State University. I don’t have anything negative to say about those experiences, I actually learned a lot from them, and I think they enabled me to ask smarter questions when I went last week. But, the value I received from these 4 guys last week, specific to launching and running a microbrand rather than just a small business in general terms, was extremely valuable.

Every other instructional program I attended previously was taught at a broad “here’s how to start a business” perspective. I went to school for Industrial Design, they didn’t teach us how to run a business in my classes. So, while the general business instruction was super helpful for me in some regards, it didn’t always translate. Having instruction specific to this industry, from guys who have actually done it, who have made some mistakes along the way, but have ultimately been successful, was way more applicable and valuable.

I am definitely thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of this, and would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about starting a brand. Looking forward to applying the knowledge, and hopefully I’ll see you guys again soon with new prototypes.

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Discussion Starter #12
When do you plan to launch Rothrock? Can't wait to see you put all your learning and hard work into action!
Thank you! Sorry I can't give a better answer at the moment, all I can say is "as soon as possible." I had previously made 2 rounds of prototypes, both of which were severely lacking in quality. I brought on an extra team member after that debacle. He's an American living in China, and has experience working directly with factories. We've been making a list of factories we would like to check out, and starting next week he will be meeting with them, touring their facilities and checking out the quality of their product. So, the launch date really depends on how quickly we find all the right suppliers, and get new prototypes made. I'm hoping by fall. Working with the last place cost me almost 18 months, so I'm extremely impatient to get going...but I need to make sure we're working with the right people, who we trust, and who can consistently deliver a quality product. It takes a lot of time and money up front, but I'm hopeful that determination will pay off once we are into production.
 

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What topics were covered by the course? How was it structured? Without giving the exact details away (you paid for this knowledge, after all!) - what were some of the key things you learned/took away form the course? I've considered it, but being in the UK it'd be a big cost/expense for me so I want to know more about the course from a non-affiliated participant.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
What topics were covered by the course? How was it structured? Without giving the exact details away (you paid for this knowledge, after all!) - what were some of the key things you learned/took away form the course? I've considered it, but being in the UK it'd be a big cost/expense for me so I want to know more about the course from a non-affiliated participant.
Absolutely understand the cost/ expense concern. One of the guys actually flew in from Tokyo, 2 others from California and Florida...so you would not have been the only one making a trek. I was fortunate enough to be within driving distance, about 4 hours. About 3/4 of the way down this page (https://workshop.microbrandu.com/) is the Agenda. They covered everything from strategy on product development, branding, pricing strategy, marketing, manufacturing, QC, distribution, and other things to think about and plan for.
 

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Wow, seems super comprehensive and worthwhile. Hopefully, they were the ones that connected you with the new team member agent on the ground! Sounds like you already have experience enough to share on your own after the last 1.5 years!

I'm sure you saw this list, but just in case. Looks like these were somewhat vouched for watchotaku.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/swr/pages/1638608/Design+and+make+your+own+watch

The debacle factory isn't on that list, right?!
 

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Wow, seems super comprehensive and worthwhile. Hopefully, they were the ones that connected you with the new team member agent on the ground! Sounds like you already have experience enough to share on your own after the last 1.5 years!

I'm sure you saw this list, but just in case. Looks like these were somewhat vouched for watchotaku.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/swr/pages/1638608/Design+and+make+your+own+watch

The debacle factory isn't on that list, right?!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Wow, seems super comprehensive and worthwhile. Hopefully, they were the ones that connected you with the new team member agent on the ground! Sounds like you already have experience enough to share on your own after the last 1.5 years!

I'm sure you saw this list, but just in case. Looks like these were somewhat vouched for watchotaku.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/swr/pages/1638608/Design+and+make+your+own+watch

The debacle factory isn't on that list, right?!
I was actually introduced to Taylor through a mutual friend about a year ago. I had already been working with him previously on getting my packaging manufactured, and decided to bring him on board for the watch as well after things with the other place fell through. I had seen the watchotaku list a couple years ago, but thanks, I'll have to take a look at it again and see if there are any that I missed!
 

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So...I'm Chris Vail, one of the coaching team for MBU workshop. Just found this thread tonight, after telling someone to Google the MBU workshop.

Sincere thanks to Zack for starting the thread, and for reporting back here with the after-workshop review. I figured I'd speak up, and offer to fill in some details with an ad hoc FAQ's:

What's covered?

A lot. We have four coaches on the team - me, John Tooher, Josh Irons, and John Keil, each with his own focus, yet all overlapping (we interrupt each other a lot, to chime in)...

John Tooher is my business growth coach. I was lucky to find someone with a background in manufacturing, which he has, in spades, having worked at a high level for both GE and 3M. John led an organization which launched 22 products in Europe in 2 years, and was CEO of a US-based manufacturing business he was able to grow from $12M to $60M.

Making watches can be insane sometimes, or make you insane. John's consulting practice is focused mostly on the processes which drive value in a business, but because of his specific background in manufacturing, he had a huge impact on my business, by helping me fix a lot of what was broken in our new model development process.

Prior to starting my watch business, I worked in financial services, and owned other businesses. I kind of have a head for business numbers, so a lot of what I do in the course is focused on the economics of the business, because I see many microbrands are pretty messed up, financially. I discuss pricing, cash flow, inventory turnover, navigating some of the financial hazards of the business, taxes, and managing risk. I literally open up the books on my own business, and show workshop participants the numbers.

Because most of my experience is sales-focused, I also get into product/marketing strategy, communicating with customers, competitive analysis, and other stuff which I believe is critical to sales success, but which I believe many brands don't think enough about, if not completely overlook.

Josh Irons is my de facto Chief Marketing Officer. Josh is the former COO of a digital marketing agency which twice made the Inc magazine list of 500 fastest growing companies. Josh was instrumental in taking my business from where it was - 3 straight years of 10% growth - to growing it 50% in one year.

We did that in spite of reducing our advertising budget all the way down to $0. I'm serious. We don't spend a dime on advertising any more. I was wasting $30,000 per year on ads that weren't working. Josh fixed that for me.

Within our course, Josh focuses on branding, differentiation, brand and new model promotion, marketing analytics, and, again, a lot of stuff a lot of microbrand owners don't do, but should.

John Keil is a former US sales manager for Chronoswiss, a former manager of a luxury brand AD, a blogger, built a software package AD's can use to efficiently exchange inventory, has worked on several uber-exclusive co-branded luxury watch projects (he led the development of a Louis Monet designed watch celebrating the Ford GT, a 25-piece LE commissioned by Bill Ford, CEO of Ford Motor Co), and now runs Watch Gauge, arguably one of the most successful, rapidly growing multi-micro-brand ecommerce stores in the US, if not the world.

Keil and Watch Gauge have been integral to the growth of my business, just as I and my business have been integral to the growth of his. John gets into aspects of working with retail partners, brand strategy, avoiding common industry pitfalls, relationship management, etc.

The agenda for the course is co-created. By which I mean - all four coaches decide what we think is important within our respective areas of focus, but we also push participants to tell us what they want to accomplish and learn over the two days. We put each agenda item they raise up on the white board, and make sure we cover all of them before we're through.

What's included?

Not travel or hotel. Maybe 2/3 of the food, and almost all of the booze.

We had four coaches there for two uninterrupted, focused days. We brought food in so we could do a working lunch (we paid for lunch), and took all the guys out for dinner and drinks the first night. The second night, we took the guys who hung around out again (just drinks, because, Friday).

Prior to the course, we sent out several value-add messages. We had all the guys complete a new model pricing exercise, and do a broad-strokes summary of some critical economic health indicators (markups, margins, returns rate, development costs, etc). We provided links to several solid online sources for market trends and data, customer demographics, crowd-funding metrics, and probably some other valuable resources I'm just forgetting.

John Tooher and Josh Irons get paid for their time, so they both agreed to give participants one hour each of their time, following the workshop. John Keil and I don't charge for our time, so we both agreed that we'd make ourselves available to all the participants, within reason.

We created a FB group for all of us, coaching team and participants alike, to stay in touch and continue to provide support and encouragement. I can't speak for Keil, but I'm pretty sure I've spent 6 or 8 hours dealing with the workshop guys one-on-one since the workshop ended, between emails, phone calls, and participating in the FB group.

One bit of constructive criticism we got - we didn't send participants home with anything physical. For the next and future workshops, we plan to provide participants with a binder of all preparation materials and course content, on the first day. It will have all the slide decks, spreadsheets, and whatnot, so participants can take their notes right in the binder, and the workshop flows more smoothly.

Why does it cost so much?

Seriously, we're raising the price. It's worth more. You've got two jam-packed, uninterrupted days with four experts in their fields, free lunch both days, dinner/drinks on day one, and if I'm feeling good (and when I'm drinking, I'm feeling good), I'll probably pay for drinks on day two.

We're results oriented. This isn't pie-in-the-sky, get-you-high, rah-rah talk. We want to teach workshop participants what they need to know to hit $300,000 in annual revenue quickly (it's realistic, trust me), and then get to $600,000 or more. It can be done, faster than you think. If I knew when I was starting out what I know now, I'd have hit $600k in year 2 or 3, instead of year 5. We'll be approaching $1M this year, and we're selling out of everything faster than we can produce.

Josh can show you how to save $30,000 per year in wasted advertising. I can show you how to avoid pricing and production mistakes that will cost you tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over your first few years in business. John Tooher can save you months of wasted time and tens of thousands of wasted dollars, every year. John Keil can show you how to accelerate your cash flow and avoid brand-killing blunders.

Everything we're doing with my business, which grew 50% last year, and is set to double this year - we show you how to do it.

The course is worth way, WAY, WAAAAAYYYYYY more than we charge for it.

There's no college course for starting a microbrand. There are no other successful microbrand owners doing anything like this. We offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee.

When's the next workshop?

Mid-October, the 10th-11th, in Washington DC, to align with the DistrictTime event, in what we're calling "DC Watch Week."

We're working on getting a courtesy rate on a block of hotel rooms. As soon as we get those details worked out, we'll post the link for booking on the MBU website, which is currently being re-done, and close to launch.

Why don't we deliver the content online, so it's easier for people far away to participate?

A. Baselworld is in Basel. The Hong Kong Show is in Hong Kong. Those shows don't come to you, you go to them, because that's how this works.

B. 3 of our 4 coaches live in Philadelphia. We did the first workshop in Philadelphia. We're doing the next one in DC, to align with DistrictTime. Get here. It's worth it. Keil's driving in from NY.

C. This isn't content we can deliver in a static way, online. It's interactive, delivered in real-time. Part of the value of the course is the interaction you get being there, face-to-face with the coaches and your peers. We can't tailor the agenda to an online audience. We can't stop people from recording and distributing it. We can't encourage or enforce accountability.

D. We're not looking to make a small difference for a lot of people. We're looking to make a huge difference for a few people, the ones who are committed enough to get here and be with us.

E. I don't give a $hlt about making things easier for people who want things to be easy. F**k easy. This is a hard business. You want easy? Go do something else.

You're considering risking tens of thousands of dollars on producing a bunch of watches you might not be able to sell. You might be thinking about a $5k-$10k advertising budget, which will probably be wasted. You'll probably fool yourself into under-pricing your product, which guarantees you'll end up over-worked and underpaid, and miserable.

You have no idea how long it will take you to launch, what your defect rate will be, what shipping and customs will cost you, or how to plan for anything this business will throw at you.

Don't cry to me about spending $1500-$2000 to have 4 experts teach you how to be awesome. Don't bltch about whatever it costs to fly here and stay in a hotel for two nights. We had a guy fly in from Tokyo. He was totally into it. I love that guy. Suck it up, Sally. What are you going to do when the $hlt hits the fan in your business, and you have a REALLY expensive challenge?

I'd rather you quit now if you're going to quit that easy. Don't waste my time. I want to invest my time in people who are serious enough about their own success to get up off their a$$ and get here to be with us, and focused, for two days. I'm trying to make you and your business awesome. Whinging about the travel costs tells me you're not cut out to be awesome.

We guarantee satisfaction. We put our money where our mouth is. All you have to do is show up with an open mind, ready to learn, and ready to work. We give you everything you need to be successful. We don't have time to put it up on YouTube, if you don't have time to be here to see us deliver it live.

Hope that helps explain, and puts it all into its proper perspective.
 

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For anyone interested, the MBU website now has a blog.

Most of the posts are adapted from discussions we've had in the private group we maintain for workshop participants, to continue their ongoing development as brand owners.

Hopefully the content is thought-provoking, and gives you a sense for the topics covered in our MBU workshops.

Everything is about a 1-3 minute read. Nothing requires a degree in business or extensive knowledge of horology.

https://www.microbrandu.com/blog
 
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