The Build Cycle Podcast #002 – Feedback Sports’ Doug Hudson

When I approached Doug Hudson about telling the Feedback Sports story, I had no idea he had also launched Chrome, a very popular and iconic brand of messenger bags. That story’s good, basically two surf/ski/mountain bike buddies launched it out of college, and the financing of that business informed Doug’s method for launching Feedback, too. We also discuss how he came up with the product ideas -some were his own, others were refinements of other people’s products through acquisitions- and what kind of staff, design work and testing is required to launch a new product. And how the heck do you even find a manufacturer in Asia? It’s all here.

DISCUSSION TIMELINE:

  • 01:18 – Doug tells the early days of Chrome, the apparel and bag company he started with a friend. And why just out of college is the perfect time to start a company.
  • 04:50 – Where in the world did two ski bums just out of college come up with the money to launch an apparel company?
  • 07:20 – Where was the first batch of goods made and how did they find a supplier?
  • 15:00 – Maybe keep a little bit of equity before leaving a company you co-founded.
  • 19:00 – Document management sounds boring but can save the day.
  • 20:30 – The origins of Feedback Sports, and the details of getting their first product made.
  • 28:30 – Feedback buys Ultimate Support and takes their bike products to the next level.
  • 32:30 – Consolidating manufacturing and growth triggers.
  • 36:40 – More acquisitions grow the line by taking advantage of each company’s strengths to create an even better product.
  • 38: 40 – How can a small company afford to have two full time engineers on staff? Why not outsource that effort?
  • 43:40 – It’s tool time! Feedback jumped into premium tool kits, which is a far more crowded market than work stands, so what sets them apart? Why do it?
  • 50:37 – How did they know the tools would sell? What did it cost to launch them?
  • 59:05 – Doug’s tips and ideas for anyone starting a “parts” brand.

POST GAME ANALYSIS:

One of the lessons Doug offers isn’t for the faint of heart. He suggests using any equity and credit you’ve got to fund the launch and growth before turning to investors or partners. This gives you complete freedom and reduces the likelihood of things going south if peoples’ expectations are different. Another lesson I found interesting was how he justifies hiring two full time engineers rather than outsource that effort once the design is done. The reason? It allows continuous refinement and running changes to make the product the best it can be. Each of those little tests and tweaks would be billed and take time, so bringing it all in house means they don’t have to choose between racking up bills or improving the product. It also speeds up the process considerably. Interestingly, Doug has the opposite opinion than Marc (from Podcast #001) about established companies using Kickstarter to launch a product. His reason? Because it can slow down the launch if you’re otherwise ready to go but just using it for funding…which is why he’s a fan of using quicker sources of money, like credit cards, to launch fast.

Doug crushes a run up during a cyclocross race.
Hanging with the IAM Cycling professional cycling team, which Feedback sponsors, at the Tour de France

LINKS & RESOURCES:

  • Feedback Sports – Doug’s company, which focuses on bicycle work stands, storage and tools.
  • Chrome Industries – His original company, now owned by others.
  • Alibaba – The giant online list of primarily Asian manufacturers

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