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Startup Talk Toronto’s Startup Podcast with Kevin Truong cofounder of Hedgehog Umbrella

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Craig Major

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Discussing building an unbreakable Umbrella with Kevin Truong cofounder of Hedgehog Umbrella on this episode of the Startup Talk Podcast Toronto’s Startup Podcast with The Startup Coach

Hedgehog Umbrella – Hailing from the west coast of Canada, in the rainy city of Vancouver; we like many others were frustrated by the endless cycle of broken umbrella after broken umbrella. While living in a city that rains 9 months of the year; we went through countless umbrellas breaking them in every single way possible. Whether it was due to poor quality construction, weak hinged joints or even from flipping inside out from the wind; every single umbrella we used ended with the exact same fate.

Going back to basic engineering principles and leveraging automotive design processes, we defined a new architecture, new mechanisms and improved product life. We had to redesign almost every single component. In the end, aside from making the strongest umbrella, we believe we have created the most versatile umbrella. An umbrella with a fully carbon fiber architecture, interchangeable canopy capability, and an automotive inspired suspension system to combat even the most chaotic winds. Truly a product proud enough to declare the last umbrella you will ever buy! 

About Kevin Truong

Kevin has journeyed through a decade in the automotive sector working at multiple OEMs to Tier 1 suppliers through a diverse set of roles from design and development to supply chain and manufacturing. Over the past 4 years, Kevin has embarked upon an entrepreneurial venture developing the world’s most durable and wind resistant umbrella! The award winning Hedgehog Umbrella is loved by thousands and used over 50 countries worldwide.

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Here is the transcript of the interview with Kevin Truong of Hedgehog Umbrella

Direct from The Six, world renowned Canada’s largest city with Canada’s biggest thinkers, visionaries, and hustlers. This is Startup Talk featuring the founders, funders, innovators, and community leaders who have led Canada’s startup ecosystem right here in Toronto. You will hear the challenges, the failures, the successes. Toronto’s Startup podcast gives you the full story direct from the entrepreneurs and influencers who have made a difference. Now the host of Startup Talk, the founder of Toronto Starts, The Startup Coach.

Startup Coach:

Welcome back to Startup Talk, it’s the Startup Coach here. And with me today is Kevin Truong of Hedgehog Umbrella. Welcome.

Kevin Truong:Thank you.

Startup Coach:What is Hedgehog Umbrella?

Kevin Truong:At Hedgehog, we build umbrellas that don’t break and don’t flip inside out. How Hedgehog started where I used to be a team of mechanic engineers that essentially worked primarily in the automotive sector and living in rainy city of Vancouver, we broke a ton of umbrellas and we thought we can make a change. We kind of took the same ways or design and build cars and translate the same type of principle into the everyday umbrella to make a very durable and long lasting product.

Startup Coach:So this is not the umbrella you would normally find in the mall?

Kevin Truong:Definitely not. Although we are trying to get into several stores in the mall.

Startup Coach:Fair enough. So let us start at the beginning. I like to get into the mind of the entrepreneur and talk about who they were when they were growing up. Were you a handful for your parents? Were in the music, sports computers? What were you into?

Kevin Truong:I was mostly into computers and a very techie type of kid. I always loved technology. In high school I used to be on my high school robotics team. Always loved to make and build things. As a kid I used to play with Lego and then eventually you start building robots for competition. And I loved to really see the autonomy of this and it’s really amazing to build something and watch it in action. That is why I went into an engineering field.

Startup Coach:How long ago was that when you were building robots?

Kevin Truong:High school, that was mid-2000’s actually.

Startup Coach:On a side note, how far do you think robotics have come?

Kevin Truong:It’s really far.I still volunteer for competitions. I volunteer as a judge, I volunteer as team leads and stuff like that. It’s really insane to see how much the advancements have gone. Not only just the technology but the reach of STEM in general, reaching kids at such a young age and how immersible this has become in their lives.

Kevin Truong:I worked down at the CNE Innovation Garage, emerging innovators pitch competition. You were there a couple of years ago. Were they doing the robot competition when you were there?

Startup Coach:Yeah, so on the other side of the fields, so that’s actually first robotics. So that’s the way I did high school and I still continue to be involved in whether or not so much as any more as mostly volunteer for competitions. But during my university days used to help mentor teams as well too. They, especially ones that are around the university. I still really enjoy that aspect, but now kind of work on a startup. Most of my times got dedicated towards that. But I still find time to volunteer at the competitions.

Kevin Truong:Yeah, I was just curious because it’s an exciting time to go down there and look at those high school students from all over Canada and Ontario competing and it’s pretty noisy. It’s funny because we’re part of the pitch competition down there every year and I counsel a bunch of the startups who are pitching say someone’s going to get up there and start pitching and as soon as their start that air horn for that competition is going to go off and you’re going to lose total concentration of where you are and be like, ah. And it happened to a couple of people. So it’s interesting.

Startup Coach:So you were into robotics and when you were young, where did that take you?

Kevin Truong:Robots kind of led me to engineering in general. So I went to school as a mechanical engineer. I was educated in that and that kind of took me to mostly work in the automotive sector. Back then working at an automotive companies was kind of like the mechanical engineering type of goal, like working for, at least back then when the big three were much bigger like GM and those guys. Those are the more pinnacle of mechanical engineering type careers. So I worked at GM, I worked at Daimler and I worked in a lot of tier one automotive companies for the majority of my professional life. And then that kind of brought me to Vancouver while working at a lot of tier one automotive suppliers, Turner Fuels, and then live in Vancouver I broke a lot of umbrellas and kind of how it kind of led me to this direction now.

Startup Coach:So whose idea was it you or your co-founders to say let’s do an umbrella? I’m just curious as to where you got.

Kevin Truong:I can’t pinpoint whose ideas it was, but we’re both in the mentality where we like to build and hack away at things. So what kills my coworker at the time. We both worked that same team and we both like problem solving, diagnosing issues. And then I always had a fascination with Kickstarter because I always love to just build cool products. I always liked to hack away at things. Umbrella was not our first product that we kind of built together. We hacked away at a little small type of projects but nothing really came out of them as to prototype or to build took quite a while or even conceptualize. But then the umbrella was a problem that you always hear about.

Kevin Truong:Every day you come into work. You’re grabbing coffee. Someone likely has a broken umbrella. Living in Vancouver umbrellas, a problem that, occurs to every single person living there. And then that became a common occurrence and then essentially surrounded by customers. So it got really easy to get feedback eventually, Hey, maybe we could solve this problem. We first tried to begin by building a really small compact umbrella that was more for pocket size use, but eventually veered off to what customers were looking for. They started asking me what, what would you like to see with umbrella. What features you want and then kind went to the more robust design. How can we prevent from breaking, how can we prepare for flipping inside out?

Startup Coach:And that sounds like a great process. Now I want to ask about you and your co-founder, it sounds like you guys decided you were going to do something together before you figured out it was the umbrella. How did you know this was your co-founder. It’s a delicate relationship.

Kevin Truong:I would it say like this. I know this is the person I want to work with. We were friends first before we became co-founders. I would say like we’re really good friends outside of work. We enjoy being around each other. We go on vacation together. That’s when you know you have that cohesion. If our company doesn’t make it, we’ll still be really good friends. That’s the type of, it’s almost, it’s like once you get into someone as a co-founders, it’s almost like a marriage if you have to be compatible for that person from a friend sense before even from a work standpoint because you are going go through a lot of ups and a lot of downs. If you’re able to bypass all the things, you’ll have a really good team.

Startup Coach:A lot of times people avoid going with their good friends because they can’t necessarily challenge them or it will affect their relationship. What kind of things in science did you know that that wouldn’t be an issue with your co-founder?

Kevin Truong:As long as you’re transparent with each other, then it’s easy to go through issues. Basically we’ve worked together for about seven, eight years now. If you could include basically working at a company together, so to our current venture. As long as you’re transparent on everything. Dude this past five years it wasn’t all rainbows. There’s a lot of difficult times and a lot of ups and a lot of downs. At times that he will push me and at times I would push him but then you have to be understanding of certain situations calls for certain directions and the end we both have a common goal of how to build a company versus how to build ourselves.

Startup Coach:So you had to try a lot of things before you got to the umbrella. Can you tell us a little bit about a failure along the way and what you learned about?

Kevin Truong:Yeah, definitely. We, we played around with different projects before. I wouldn’t say the failures because it couldn’t get to a point where it could be deemed a failure cause it never got past the drawing board. We looked at a couple problems that we both faced and how can we solve them. One of the projects I was kind of vested into was how we build a better roof box. Something that’s compatible to be usable cause living in Vancouver, I enjoy going camping a lot and I literally enjoy the outdoors. So we always try to find a way that we can transport our gear, especially if we have a car full of people. It’s usually in the trunk space or we’re in the back, there’s not enough space for everybody. So in any classical roof box is always like a more fabric type material and it’s easy to pierce.

Kevin Truong:It’s not exactly sturdy. Anything solid was very large in size and living in Vancouver we’re very limited by how much size that we have in our condo.

Startup Coach:Fair enough.

Kevin Truong:So we were trying to build something that was collapsible and can be easily stored and that was one of the first products that we’re kind of looking at. And then eventually we had a couple of designs in mind, but then looked at how easily can we prototype it and what will the costs be? And eventually it didn’t really make sense from a cost perspective to go this route. Then we started looking at other more things that we can easily prototype and perhaps get to market.

Startup Coach:And it sounds like you hinted on some of the idea of validation as you were working on the umbrella, you started with the compact umbrella portable and then you started working with customers to figure out what they wanted. What was that process like?

Kevin Truong:We asked ourselves what do we want? Okay. Something that’s easily transportable. Something that we could carry around all times. So we always thought that size would dictate that. Now we start asking customers, what would you like? But especially if size was the top priority. Size would be nice feature to have but durability was a top priority. People will recall, I hate when my umbrella broke this one time or it flipped over while I walked in the street. People recall those moments where they have a lot of frustration and those are the pay points that hit them on a personal level. And those are the things they want to see in a product they want in the future. I want umbrella that doesn’t break and doesn’t flip inside out. That resonated with almost every customer we talk to versus somebody like I want to be a pocket sized product. If it’s big and it doesn’t break, they’ll prefer that over much more to something small that will break.

Startup Coach:So when you say customers, I assume when you’re talking to them a lot of times they’re potential customers.

Kevin Truong:Yes.

Startup Coach:How did you find them? How did they find you? How did you start these conversations?

Kevin Truong:To be honest, they just began as just chatting over coffee in the morning at work cause if you see someone coming walking to totally wet something happened to them and then eventually once you start talking about umbrellas or Hey well what are we, when we started kind of penciling features out, what would you think if this was in your umbrella, would you care about umbrella has this and this and this? Then it’s easy to get a lot of feedback right away, especially on the design of the product. Then eventually you start asking them, Hey, how much will you pay for this product? If you had a durable umbrella, would you pay X amount dollars this and then they will probably, yeah, I can see myself paying this because that’ll mean I won’t have to buy five of them within a year or something like that.Startup Coach:And so you’re talking with coworkers and expanded it out. And at what point did you say, yeah, this is good. People would pay a hundred bucks or whatever for an umbrella. And this was well worth us prototyping,

Kevin Truong:I would say it kind of happened where we would start penciling through designs. We worked outside of work at a local HackSpace so basically there we had tools, we had a lot of prototype tools. We started designing and prototyping. So we started building kind of features and then people around have to start checking out what we’re doing because we’re originally hogging all the printers, hogging all the machinery. We were always building the random stuff. But people were always interested. Then we start explaining the features and what we think for a product. So during the six to eight months we’re working on HackSpace. We had a lot of feedback day in day out, just people coming walking by to see what our product is and a lot of that was gradual too.

Kevin Truong:So let’s say if someone saw us a prototype two months in for someone saw a prototype, six months in they saw the evolution of the product and then they became heavily invested into the design process as well too. So we got a lot of feedback that way. Eventually when we started testing, showcase the features, that kind of sparked up, this actually works. I actually want this even though it’s just a prototype.

Startup Coach:How long did it take from idea to get in the prototype that people really liked?

Kevin Truong:It took about a year of designing, conceptualizing, prototyping and really ability to demonstrate how the features work and how they’ll perform in certain scenarios that they’ll face, like high winds scenarios, heavy wind scenarios.

Startup Coach:And how did you test those high winds? In.

Kevin Truong:We actually went to Home Depot and bought the two most powerful blowers we found.

Startup Coach:That sounds like a very creative solution

Kevin Truong:And then we went to a garage and we set up a test rig just to showcase how it worked.

Startup Coach:Awesome. And obviously got some video and whatnot.

Kevin Truong:Yeah, it was honestly, it was the most ghetto test video that we ever made and in general over 30,000 views. It actually looked like a really ghetto engineering video, but it showcased the features really well. We were just actually really surprised. Originally that video was just meant as a family and friends sake, but then it started getting shared with press and then press start picking up. Oh wow. Our wind tests were still our Kickstarter page and then, but you see it is funny how rugged it is. Considering I was filming in a really poorly lit garage and how someone was using a handy blower to kind of blow it.

Startup Coach:It’s funny how these startup stories happen. So you’ve got this prototype, you’ve done this video. Did you do the video for the Kickstarter campaign?

Kevin Truong:Oh no. The Kickstarter campaign was more of say more professional video had a lot of more, it was the more to showcase how people like using it, but also showcase some of our engineering testing as well too. The Kickstarter video got done more professionally by some people who are more specialized in that.

Startup Coach:So when did you decide you’ve got the prototype, you’ve done your video in the garage, you’re saying, Hey, let’s kickstart this.

Kevin Truong:When we started the project, we aimed at around October launch. So basically if we were to build this all the way through this is probably about three months in, okay. How can we monetize this Kickstarter seemed appropriate route. Let’s say if we aim for October launch, we’ll need to start working on the campaign probably three months out. So that’s when a final prototype will need to be done to start building more hype for the product.

Startup Coach:And was it Kickstarter used?

Kevin Truong:Yes.

Startup Coach:Was it Indiegogo? Okay. Just wasn’t sure. There’s a lot of crowdfunding campaigns out there and any advise for people launching crowdfunding campaigns? I’m going to ask you how you did in a bit, but any advice?

Kevin Truong:I would definitely talk to a lot of people who’ve done it before. Everybody will have different types of advice for you depending on your product. I was suggested reaching out to people who have successful Kickstarter campaigns. That’s what we did. We reached out to almost 20 to 30 people that did successful Kickstarters. I remember about 10 of them got back to us. He jumped on calls with them and was able to learn all the things they did right all the things they did wrong, what to put time into, what monetize wall for you, what converted well and all that was really good basically, and they’ll tell you all the tools they use to make it way more efficient because running a Kickstarter campaign is almost a full time job what we learned about in the end because for how many days had to wait 30 days or two months.

Kevin Truong:If your campaign is thriving you’ll be constantly working on it whether to generate new content, follow up with press, follow up with any customers cause you’re on a timeline. The clock is ticking. There is an end date and you have to make sure you reached there as efficient as possible.

Startup Coach:And then how did your Kickstarter campaign go?

Kevin Truong:We raised about $83,000

Startup Coach:Nice. What was your goal?

Kevin Truong:$50,000.

Startup Coach:Excellent. And people do underestimate how much work, like you mentioned a Kickstarter campaign is a real full time job. To engage people. You got to send content out there, you got to remind people he got this project going on all the time.

Kevin Truong:Exactly.

Startup Coach:How far into it did you realize how much work it was?

Kevin Truong:We knew it was going to be a lot of work, but the moment day one is your business day and that will usually, you’ll face so much impact from a press standpoint, from customers trying to find out more about the product. Even for us, we still build up a little bit of hype before that, so we contacted press about three to four weeks out to try to build some engagement, basically build up our mailing list, try to get people to know about the product and that helped us feel that first day of success

Startup Coach:And it’s important to get a lot of sales on the first 24 to 48 hours to help the make the algorithm kick in and work on your behalf.

Kevin Truong:Exactly. People say you should be about 30% funded after day one and two.

Startup Coach:That’s the golden rule of crowd funding.

Kevin Truong:Yeah.

Startup Coach:That you need to have 30% or you will fail. The algorithms know that.

Kevin Truong:Technically because all of a sudden if you don’t hit that Mark, Kickstarter will deem you as an unpopular project.

Startup Coach:Yeah, and they put you at the bottom of the list. If you make that mark, it looks like you will succeed.

Kevin Truong:Yeah.

Startup Coach:They’ll start promoting you, put you at the top of the list, you’ll start getting attention.

Kevin Truong:Exactly.

Startup Coach:It’s kind of how it works. Yes. It’s good to know that going in and it sounds like you did a lot of homework so there you are. You raised $83,000 what happened next?

Kevin Truong:After that we’re still working full time at the time so doing the Kickstarter was all more for show. That’s all marketing piece. Nothing has to be finalized. All we have the prototype and then now we’re at the stage, now we have to make this thing.

Startup Coach:Yeah.

Kevin Truong:We worked for a little while longer until though we actually need to, we need to do this full time. We ended up quitting our jobs. We actually ended up moving from Vancouver to Toronto. We ended up setting up a office at Velocity.

Startup Coach:And how was Velocity?

Kevin Truong:It was really good. We were there for about two and a half years so Velocity helped us develop the hardware quite a bit, provided us a lot of resources that helped us a lot. The hardware startup space in Toronto is much more, Toronto, Waterloo corridor, it’s much more vast than it is in Vancouver. And especially at the time there was a lot more opportunities for funding, a lot more opportunities to really build a company in Ontario.

Startup Coach:So where did that take you? You’re at Velocity. Approximately what year is this?

Kevin Truong:We, we moved mid 2016.

Startup Coach:Okay. And so what happened from the two and a half years you were there?

Kevin Truong:During our entire time at Velocity was how to make this product. So we spent about two years developing, designing and trying to build up a supply chain. Our first six months to eight months at Velocity we were trying to build this locally. So trying do manufacturing in North America, whether it be Canada, U.S. So we did a lot of that design development for that purpose. But in the end we couldn’t scale that product locally. So then we started to start looking overseas, basically made in China. So a lot of Velocities companies have been through the hacks program where I have worked in China a lot. And those same connections helped us to kind of begin our initial search and find the correct suppliers that we needed to work with. And then we started working with our overseas supply chain and early, sorry, late 2016 early and then kind of went into kind of building the product from there on. We released and shipped out our first product to customer late 2017 early 2018.

Startup Coach:And so late 2017 is I believe when we met.

Kevin Truong:Yes.

Startup Coach:We were kind of trying to figure out exactly the timeline and we had a pitch competition that you are in the pitch competition.

Kevin Truong:Yes.

Startup Coach:Right after a healthy pets one the one before. And so 2017 you came out, I believe you won that pitch competition.

Kevin Truong:Yes.

Startup Coach:And what’s happened since then?

Kevin Truong:technically we haven’t shipped a single product yet. We have sales, but no customer has received the product. So I believe after shortly one that’s when we started fulfilling orders. Shipping our first product to customers. As most people know, your first product is likely not a great product likely a lot of stuff has got to happen to it. A lot of failures and you kind of allow when you try to build an unbreakable umbrella, lots of people out there will purposely try to break it.

Startup Coach:Of course.

Kevin Truong:So our first product we encounter a lot of design issues, a lot of quality issues and we start experiencing literally the first three months we were in warranty hell we’re like oh my God just at first basically we stopped shipping products for the first three weeks, some people breaking them like what the hell is happening?

Kevin Truong:Is this is a design issue is a quality issue. And then first thing was we’re solving all these problems like is just fighting fire after fire, while I’m trying to sell a product that we’re trying to tell people this is actually a really good umbrella. Not sure what some people are breaking, but I’m not sure how it was. Eventually we started diagnosing a lot of these issues and we redesigned the product quite a bit, so redesigned a lot of items basically. Mainly all we had a lot of stem failures. We had a lot of people breaking parts of different areas and we had a lot of people using it in cases that we didn’t expect to, certain ways that interacted that would cause a problem to break. And we thought like one on one example was we made our handle interchangeable so it’s easier to screw on and off.

Kevin Truong:We made it so you could take it on off without any tools or simply just you twist it on and it’ll kind of hand-tighten place. That was one of the biggest failures that we found was people would over-tighten this to a point where it broke other components. So it’s like the analogy we like to use is like when you pump your car for gas, you turn the gas cap. There’s clicks. My parents will click it like 10 times just to make sure it’s fully locked. All you need to hear that one click.

Startup Coach:Yeah.

Kevin Truong:Some people thought that our umbrella behaved in the same way that you need to hear. For some reason we started getting this comments like, Oh I tightened handle, I heard a click. I thought a lot like there should never be a click.

Kevin Truong:Click is something not only if you plan on breaking it. It’s those type of things, we started with solving a lot of issues and then we had to really, we spent the next year from end of 2017 to end of 2018 redesigning it and then retooling for our gen two launch.

Startup Coach:And you launched into at the end of 2018?

Kevin Truong:We start shipping our gen two product just last year, so early 2019 so our official launch is definitely January, 2019 of our, our second gen product.

Startup Coach:And when did you go on Dragon’s Den and how did that happen?

Kevin Truong:We went to the audition the year before in 2018 but then we decided to not go to the actual filming cause all the problems that we have with our product. We wanted to bring our better product on, especially our gen two product, which we knew was coming out.

Startup Coach:Yeah.

Kevin Truong:So we delayed that. So we ended up doing the actual filming last year around March I think. And from there we present our product to the dragons. They found the product to be really robust and durable. They’re just shocked at the price value. They were wondering who would buy a $99 umbrella? We showcased our numbers but they’re still kind of skeptical about the actual market for this product.

Startup Coach:And so how did you go about finding investors and working with our capital to make you grow?

Kevin Truong:It was very difficult to try to raise money for us. Especially, we try to raise a seed round around late 2017 early 2018 but then that was marred by all our warranty issues and we were reluctant to continue selling at that point. We didn’t want to do another production run because we knew of all the warranty issues that we had in place and that caused our C round to fall flat and then all that time we also decided to stop selling product and focus on the redesigning and redevelopment. And then we haven’t actually tried to raise money since. We’ve actually mostly been focused on selling and we’ve kind of got funding through pitch competitions, through government grants and now we’ve got funding through for example, Clearbanc for all our needs for marketing

Startup Coach:We see a lot of advertising for Clearbanc on LinkedIn and different places. How have you found working with them?

Kevin Truong:Very simple like Clearbanc is a company that base all decisions really on analytics and customer relations. Like they always want to hear a really good founder story and they want to know how you’ve been doing on your own and if they could fuel that growth further.

Startup Coach:And so how long have you been working with Clearbanc?

Kevin Truong:Almost eight months now.

Startup Coach:And how has your growth happening since then?

Kevin Truong:Oh, we’ve been growing quite a bit. Throughout 2019 our month to month sales have probably been growing around a 20% clip on average. At least during the duration we’ve been working with Clearbanc, we’ve seen our ads been a lot more effective, especially as we’re able to run a lot more different tests, do a lot of our iterations. Our digital ad span has been growing as well too, but our return, our ROAS has been really, has been growing very effectively.

Startup Coach:Yeah. Return On Ad Span for ROAS for those people. Can I ask around when you’re talking about a lowering, your costs and doing a bunch of experiments to find out what work at your peak count, many advertising experiments were you doing at the same time?

Kevin Truong:We’re probably running probably about 40 to 50 different sets simultaneously. You’ll be running a lot of experiments. You’ll be tweaking small things and just really AB testing on different landing pages. Different audience sets, different even conversion points and you’ll be as long as you have the structure set up or you have a top of funnel type of as middle funnel ads and bottom funnel ads, you’ll always get a nice healthy prospect of traffic coming through and you’ll be retargeting them from different levels, whether it be Facebook, retargeting, Google display retargeting, various levels.

Startup Coach:People when they look at it, they don’t realize how much work it is to really niche down and figure out what messaging works, what your target audience, what your landing page for each value proposition needs to look like. I teach this in a lot of my classes. When I say you need 10 plus landing pages, people eyes are all, what do you mean?

Kevin Truong:People don’t understand that it’s simply just actually there’s a lot of work. Once you started looking into the digital ad space in terms of every factor matters, you want to gain that small uptick in conversion. You need creatives that display that value whether it be gender related, interest related or age-related. The different landing page can guarantee different success, different creatives and different copyrights on your ads with generally various levels of success.

Startup Coach:And we talked a little bit about, well a fair bit about the unbreakableness of the umbrella, but we really didn’t talk about how stylish it is. How when you were building it, when did you start leaping from functionality to fashion?

Kevin Truong:I will say more so during our gen two redesign. The moment people receive our first gen product. A lot of them, we receive a lot of critical feedback as well too on the quality, the aesthetics and stuff like that. And we’ve talked to our customers a lot to really get the feedback, what they want to see different, how they want the product to evolve and how can we better it for them. So we took a lot of the low hanging fruit and really designed around those needs. So basically the aesthetics of it. So improving the aesthetics overall, adding more chrome type to components, adding more of a stylish finish and even the overall quality of some of these components too just a couple of things that I’ll point out. We’ve really tried to address that factor. About a year ago we were working out of the fashion zone space on a Ryerson too. So right now we’re around more fashion oriented companies that provide another point of view on our product and how we can market the product more effectively.

Startup Coach:Yeah. And if people haven’t checked it out, you can actually change the canvas up. Not only are you available multi-colors and patterns, but you can in a few minutes, just pick another one. Hey, it’s a springtime, I want yellow or I want red.

Kevin Truong:Exactly. Our mindset was, if we create an unbreakable umbrella, how can we keep monetizing and further what if people want to change colors, change patterns. Eventually we want to create such a platform where you could design your own almost like a custom t-shirt where you could put a logo, put a pattern, anything you like, customize it, print it and install it.

Startup Coach:Yeah. I’m talking to you about trying to get this on the umbrella of our logo here. I think opening it up and seeing the big umbrella while it is wide open is a perfect advertisement and a good thing and it sounds exciting and like you can’t go and do this with other umbrellas.

Kevin Truong:No, you can cannot. That’s one of our features that it’s really just one of the innovative features that only we have. We have the umbrella only with the interchangeable canopy that’s portable. The only time you can find an umbrella with an interchangeable canopy is a patio umbrella.

Startup Coach:Yeah. So if you want the umbrella to match your outfit, you just buy a couple of different canopies and they’re not expensive.

Kevin Truong:No, they’re not. We sell spare canopies for $10 each and one of the major things we found was we thought that this will be a feature that will be more attractive to females. Basically trying to match their outfits, something to customize. So even the bag they’re wearing, but what we’ve kind of found with male customers was normally guys do buy umbrellas they buy very monotone colors like your gray or black your navy blues. But then we found even some are more brighter exotic colors. We actually had more male customers purchasing it. Like one of our colors. We have this really Amber Bright orange. This is kind of funny when we saw that majority of customers buying this was actually male. Then during a customer interviews were wondering, Oh we saw you bought a black umbrella plus an orange umbrella.

Kevin Truong:We’re curious, why did you buy that color as well too? Then they start coming back at us, normally I will only use a black, but then for outside I would never buy an orange umbrella or any exotic color because that’s the price of umbrella. But the fact that I can just buy a campy, I could swap out to it. Even if I may only use it once or twice versus the black umbrella we use like 90% of the time this purchase is really easy to make versus I have to buy entire umbrella where that physical rollout I will only use very little. But now the canopy is that what I will be using very little.

Startup Coach:And it’s a great opportunity for you to up sell when people are buying and say, Hey, you know when people bought this umbrella they bought three canopies.

Kevin Truong:Definitely.

Startup Coach:And I look around, I specifically looking for similar red to our brand color. So when I buy a mug or buy this or buy that, I’m looking for that color. So I’m looking for, you’ve got a nice red that seems to align. I’m looking at that umbrella. It looks great. So that’s the kind of thing because I want to know my stuff is red, it stands out. If I’m in my colors it just makes sense.

Kevin Truong:Yep.

Startup Coach:So what’s next for Hedgehog Umbrella?

Kevin Truong:Right now we’re still focused on growth. 2019 is actually is the first year we actually actively started selling and actively marketing. Before that, because of 2018 we had a lot of quality issues we actually never really sold the product. We never marketed the product. We just sold off the inventory you had from our first gen production and then kind of redesign and reiterate the product. So 2019 was actually our first year of actively marketing, actively selling and we understood how to do as effectively like throughout the year and we kind of saw that growth in sales we hope 2020 will really be all just a continuation of that and continue growing further and ideally hopefully to launch more products as well, too.

Startup Coach:You’re selling mostly into North America, U.S. and Canada?

Kevin Truong:Yes, North America, basically U.S. and Canada are two major markets, but for some reason, we do get a lot international sales as well too, even despite doing no marketing outside of North America.

Startup Coach:Interesting. So where can people go find out more about you and Hedgehog Umbrella?

Kevin Truong:You can go to hedgehogumbrella.com to learn more about us.

Startup Coach:Thank you very much for taking the time to be on Startup Talk today.

Kevin Truong:Well thank you very much for having me.

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