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Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/13/2011 13:58:46 MST Print View

William,

I think you are doing a pretty gutsy thing trying to start up this business. I agree the web site could use a lot of improvement, and there are lot of good suggestions in this thread.

But I'd be particularly interested in when you think you'll have some of the tyvek rain gear ready to sell.

Richard

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Wow on 12/13/2011 14:18:19 MST Print View

Wow that got long in a hurry! William you're being gutsy starting your own business good for you.
Here's two ideas once you get the website fixed up.

1. You also want to start working the kinks out of your products early. The last thing you want is for someone to review your products and put out the word that there's a mistake you could have avoided. I don't know how much you get out but if your time is limited maybe you could enlist a couple people to help you. This also gives you the benefit of different perspectives.

2. You want to increase the profile of your stuff. Right now everyone knows about MLD and SMD. Once you're really confident in your gear perhaps you'd want to give BPL, Backpacktestgear.org or someone a free pack or whatever to review.


.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Wait till it's right on 12/13/2011 14:21:00 MST Print View

I would have to echo the comments that you need to take the website down until it is as close to perfect as it can be. As you have already seen here, the purchasing public can be quite brutal when the find mistakes.

You NEED LOTS of pictures.

I also like detailed specs, but just give the average weight. If the size makes a difference list a size and it's weight. Pictures are more important that detailed specs.

AlterEgoGear is a great name. AlterEgoBackpackingGear is not. It's way to long and the backpacking part is not necessary.

Those who succeed never give up. Remember that.

Good luck.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Wait till it's right on 12/13/2011 14:28:34 MST Print View

Just "Alter Ego Gear" might not be the way to go because that's already the name of motorcycle apparel line by Joe Rocket. I don't know how close you can come before it can become a problem.

William Zila
(Ultralightwillinn.m) - MLife

Locale: Albuquerque
Alter Ego Gear on 12/13/2011 14:44:51 MST Print View

Eugene nailed it there is already a Alter Ego Gear. I will take the site down till I have it up to par. Eugene smith offered to take professional pictures for me, since he is in N.M I will take him up on that. The weight variance of products is for different materials. I will post exact weights for each item. Yet again thank you guys and gals for all the suggestions.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
first in line on 12/13/2011 15:08:16 MST Print View

I was watching his blog and was going to order right before he took it down so I definitely want to order one now.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Alter Ego Gear on 12/13/2011 15:18:51 MST Print View

I don't know about New Mexico, but in some areas you can do a fictitious business name search over the Internet. There are only so many large cities in New Mexico, so those would be the places to look for a business with your target name.

Also, pick out a few other small companies making this kind of gear, and study the photos on their web sites. The really good ones will have a lot of consistency from one photo to another. Sometimes they are outside underneath a tree, but often they will be inside with a white background. Study the one company that you think is your prime competitor.

--B.G.--

Adrian MITCHELL
(adie.mitchell)

Locale: Northwest Mass
Re: Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/13/2011 15:50:29 MST Print View

"The design went through four major evolution steps, which each had a dozen sub-steps, resulting in about fifty prototype packs until the final design was deemed good enough for retail."

That's the number of prototypes that went into the huckepack, a great looking pack. Gives you pause, doesn't it?

William Zila
(Ultralightwillinn.m) - MLife

Locale: Albuquerque
Prototypes on 12/13/2011 16:09:23 MST Print View

I'm at about 30 prototypes for the assault. It's amazing how long it takes to get it just right. Especially with packs there is a lot of different aspects to them.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Name on 12/13/2011 16:37:56 MST Print View

Naming a business / website is a tough one. It doesn't seem like a big deal at the time, but it's something that's very hard to change once your business is established, so you don't want to be 5 years into this and regretting that your business name is way too long.

If you really want to keep Alter Ego Backpacking Gear, you could still choose a shorter web URL like AlterEgoBG.com, AEBGear or AEBG.com

Another option is to switch Gear to something else, like Alter Ego Equipment or heck even Alter Ego Research

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/13/2011 17:21:49 MST Print View

I kind of disagree that your website has to look super professional, and I'm a professional web developer. I have purchased lots of products from some of the ugliest websites out there, mostly because they were unusual, cottage-industry products. Websites with rainbow colors and fonts, the tacky spinning animated gif mailboxes and rotating stars. Stuff like that. The key was that it was a homemade product I was buying. Sometimes if a website looks too professional but the product is supposed to be homemade, the vibe is all wrong. I'd say your site can definitely use some improvement, but it doesn't have to look any better than say, Jacks R Better's website . (Not that his is the ugly one I was referring to. Those were from musical instrument and pet clothing companies.)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Name on 12/13/2011 17:30:08 MST Print View

"Naming a business / website is a tough one."

Yes. You need to jump back and forth between your locality's fictitious business name registry and a domain name search on the Internet. Of course, you don't really have to have your own domain name if you are simply a garage shop operation. On the other hand, it does add quite an air of professionalism, and it tends to work better for search engines. So, you almost have to try to decide, in advance, how you want to appear a year or two or three down the road. This is where the business plan comes it, as somebody mentioned earlier. Whether it is a relative that is loaning you $100 or a venture capital firm that is investing $100M, they want to see a plan. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it does need to be realistic.

--B.G.--

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Name on 12/13/2011 17:34:50 MST Print View

There's no need to get the website name locked down right now. Multiple domain names could be purchased. They could all mirror the same information, forward to a single domain, or only one of them can be active while the rest are held so that no one else can use/abuse it. It does burn extra money though, so you have to decide if it's worth it to bleed more money while getting your business going.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
site name on 12/13/2011 18:05:13 MST Print View

The actual domain name is not important.

Most of your traffic will come from search engines, the important thing is that people searching for alter ego backpacking gear find your site.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/13/2011 18:12:31 MST Print View

William, keep up the great work. There will be many of us out there willing to look and possibly buy your gear. Kudos to you for taking the leap. Don't get discouraged as the hard work is still to come

Actually William, if I can be a tad critical. You might want a different type of a website. What you have is for blogs and really won't work with what you are doing. Try to invest a little money and time or hire someone that can make a page for you.

BTW, your packs look great

Edited by kennyhel77 on 12/13/2011 18:15:37 MST.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Changing Domains on 12/13/2011 18:16:35 MST Print View

The bummer with changing domain names is that you can spend years building up credibility for one domain (ie. getting links to it, establishing a track record of key indicators) so that it ranks well in search engines. If after 5 years you realize that you should have chosen a better name to begin with, then you'll take a huge hit in the search engine rankings if you switch, which can mean a huge loss in customers if people are finding you through search engines. Even if you registered the other name at the same time, the real URL that you are actually using is going to establish much more of a reputation than the one that is sitting there as a re-direct.

I'm actually in this boat now myself. I started a website for fun about 3 years ago where I was writing articles on a certain topic as a hobby. It was just for fun, so I wasn't too concerned that my website used basically the same name & URL as another website. I knew about the other website (.com) when I registered my domain name (.net) but I didn't think much of it because the other site was terrible (no attention paid to it in years, virtually no traffic) and my site was just a non-profit hobby.

Fast forward a few years and my site has really taken off. After 2 years of creating content for fun and getting a lot of traffic, I decided to get some advertising on it just to pay for the hosting costs etc. These ads worked way better than expected and now I'm making almost enough to call it a full time job. So now I'm really in a pickle because technically the guy who registered the same name before me using .com owns the trademark to the name, and he could sue me and/or force me to give up my URL which would destroy my site.

I'd love to own the name, but if I contact him and ask him to sell his URL he might ask an obscene amount or just file a complaint/suit and grab my domain. Thankfully that guy hasn't visited his own site in years it seems and I doubt he knows I exist, but I still don't like being in this situation. I'm really not sure what to do besides either let it ride and stress for years, or take a risk and see if he'll sell instead of sue.

Rakesh Malik
(Tamerlin)

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Re: Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/13/2011 20:57:13 MST Print View

"I kind of disagree that your website has to look super professional"

It doesn't have to be flashy and high tech like the one for the company I'm freelancing at right now (they're a huge ad agency), but it does need to look good. This could be the mom & pop shop equivalent of a web site rather than Nordstrom's, though.

I'm glad you found some photographers you can use, William; if I'd been local to you I'd have offered, but I didn't want to make you send your stuff all the way across the country to do it. :)

The offer to help you with your site text still stands, though. If you would like, I'll ask around to see if I can find someone who might be interested in helping you with a logo.

One thing you might want to consider is to put up a "coming soon" page that shows a teaser image.

Also, don't try to launch a lot of products at once. That will doom you. Getting one solid product out there will serve you a lot better than several products, because you won't be able to handle the logistics otherwise, since you simply don't have the staff. When the time comes, start looking at outsourcing whatever you can (e.g. accounting).

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/13/2011 23:18:10 MST Print View

William,

Good to see you seem to be taking all the feedback as positive advice and not personal.

Some thoughts...

First off, I think education is important. So the following is not meant to slight its importance. However, a diploma or degree is no guarantee for success. Since I have been involved with small businesses most of my adult life, I can tell you that success is the result of drive, hard work, innovation, and tenacity; formal education helps, but cannot be substituted for these qualities. Grammar will not improve your gear, and ultimately the quality of your gear is much more important than how well you write.

About 50% of small businesses fail within the first 3 years, and over 70% within 10 years. Not to discourage you, but if your business does not make it, a good education will help you find something. Diplomas and degrees may help you get your foot in the door, but you still need to prove yourself. Hopefully you will not be one of the 70%. And I applaud you for your effort, especially at your age.

So what is important for you right now? Probably to define what you do best and concentrate on those strengths/skills. If it is gear design and/or building the gear, concentrate on that. Get help on the other stuff if you can.

Okay, the site needs work. That is fairly easy. Even if you clean it up yourself, the site is not the most important thing at this point of time. There are some successful cottage manufacturers with not-so-good sites. They sell most of their gear via word of mouth, such as testimonials on BPL.

Now, lets talk about what you do best -- your strengths. Is it designing/building gear? Are you really good at the wide range of products you offer? Most cottage manufacturers specialize in one type of gear, maybe two. They are really good at one, maybe two things. Then after time, some expand their offerings after perfecting the base offering. Some never expand their line, just refine the product over time. Even some of the large "mainstream" manufacturers started out with one product. So analyze what your offerings are. And know why someone should buy gear from you, not a competitor.

Go for your dream and good luck.



Lastly, what differentiates your product from the competition? Why should someone purchase gear from you versus someone else? Value, price, convenience, unique or innovative?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/14/2011 00:18:32 MST Print View

Nick wrote "About 50% of small businesses fail within the first 3 years, and over 70% within 10 years."

And the primary reason for failure is undercapitalization (not enough cash).

--B.G.--

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Alter Ego backpacking gear update on 12/14/2011 00:54:37 MST Print View

"And the primary reason for failure is undercapitalization"

You got that right. Also many people just don't know how to run a business. They just turn a hobby into a business and end up working for minimum wage or less.