Author: So I'm That Guy

The Fuel Can – Building a Website

IMG_0787

So even though my main business is an online retailer, http://www.onesmallchild.com, I have never really put together a website. I have a web designer for that. With the simplicity of the product I have to offer with The Fuel Can, I decided this would be a good opportunity for me to try my hand at putting together my own site. It was not quite that easy, but I will walk you through the process.

First I thought it would be easiest to put together a WordPress site with an e-commerce theme to give me the functionality of selling a tangible product. I did some research on Youtube, and it looked easy. Because of some of the recommendations on the internet, I decided to try the e-commerce plug-in call WooCommerce.

After installing WooCommerce, I spent about two hours fumbling through settings and trying to give the site the look I wanted. I went at it some more the next day and still I was not getting anywhere near the look and functionality that I was looking for.

On the advise of my wife, I decided to check out Shopify. I realize they are really different models and after going through the pros and cons of the two platforms I decided to try the free trial and see how easy the design process could be on Shopify. To make a long story short, it took me about an hour and a half and I was done! The site is now live at www.TheFuelCan.com. It is very simple, but I think it turned out great.

My conclusion is, for someone with little experience with web design, its hard to beat the simplicity of a Shopify site.

The Fuel Can – Production

Rockstar

So when I received the prototype of The Fuel Can from the 3D printer, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was incredibly exciting to see the idea turned into reality. It also brought me to the next crossroads. The printed prototype cost was almost $200, therefore to bring it to market, I would have to adapt the design to mass production and find a factory that would produce it in a cost effective, high quality manner.

I started my search with no preference on whether it would be produced in the US or another country. I do prefer US made products, but if the market won’t bare the price, I realize some things are more effectively produced oversees. In this decision I took several factors into consideration that I have learned from importing products for my other business:

Foreign production:

Pros

-Generally lower cost.

-Higher quantities are generally more easily acquired.

Cons

-Language and cultural barriers to communication.

-Difficulty in traveling to see facility and check up on production.

-Payment terms place most risk on purchaser.

-Perception of quality by vendor is not the same.

-Perceived lower quality in the market.

-Timeframe involved in product production and development.

-Shipping/importing, time in transit.

-Import fees/duties.

Domestic production:

Pros

-Communication with company is generally easier.

-Travel to visit facility is easily done.

-Payment terms are more convenient. Credit cards can sometimes be used.

-Perceived value in the market is better.

-Generally lower lead times from ordering to delivery.

-Many times, lower quantities are possible to start smaller.

Cons

-Pricing can sometimes be higher. (customs, duties, and freight should be considered)

-Some vendors charge a premium to “inexperienced” customers.

So I started the process by reaching out to several (about 15) Chinese vendors through Alibaba.com and about the same number of domestic producers that I found through a Google search. I received responses from about 5 foreign and 5 domestic vendors.

It was interesting that of the foreign contacts, it quickly narrowed down to two vendors as some said they could not produce The Fuel Can. One vendor immediately put forward a price. This was somewhat suspect to me. It was a low price and either they were not taking all things into consideration or they just really understood what it would take to produce the can, but it didn’t feel like they knew everything they needed to in order to quote that quickly.

The US vendors were even more interesting. Two stepped out saying that it could not be produced. Two said that it could be produced and they threw out wildly exorbitant prices for molds and finished products. There was only one US factory that took the time to really understand the product and put out a number that was significantly higher than the Chinese vendor, but seemed reasonable taking into consideration the benefits of working with a US company.

I decided that if this would work, I would prefer to work with the US company. I set up and appointment and the next week I got on a plane to visit the factory in order to hash out final design requirements and verify that the vendor was legitimate.

The visit went very well and I took the rest of the weekend to discuss the offer with my wife and decide if it was a fit for us. Two days later, after talking with some other manufacturers and determining that the pricing was inline, I accepted the vendor’s offer and moved the project forward.

That brings us to today. We have finalized design requirements and are moving forward with mold production. Upon completion, we will receive prototypes from the molds. If all is good, we will move forward with the initial production run.

It has been interesting to me that this decision has been the hardest part of the process. In the past leading up to this point, the investments have been significant, but spread out over time. This was the first time when we really had to dig deep inside and decide if this was going to happen, or if it would be another unfinished idea. That moment where you have to put a significant financial amount on the table to see your product come to life is a hard one. From that point, the commitment level changes. It no longer is a “will this work” situation. It turns into “this will work, how do we make it happen?”

I have a lot to learn in this process and journey. I hope something I share here will inspire and help someone else who is trying to make something happen. I hope I can use this to make sure my decisions are sound and that they are moving us towards seeing this project through. I will continue to document the decisions and steps I am taking to do this.

The Fuel Can

Coca Cola

 

Sometimes I just see things differently from other people. I was that kid that ran with scissors, swam immediately after eating, and played too close to the electrical outlet.

So, now I’m that guy always looking to use things in a way other than their intended use.

I was with a church group of teenage boys helping a neighbor clean up a fallen tree in his yard. As I looked at the gas can for the chainsaw that was being used, I had a brief glimmer of clarity, and that is when The Fuel Can was conceived.

I jokingly laughed with the boys as we imagined people drinking out of gasoline cans. As far as we were concerned, we might as well have just discovered penicillin. The thought of seeing this at car races, car shows, air shows, and similar venues was fun to think about.

It easily could have ended there. How many times have you had a really good idea, and said to yourself, “maybe someday I could do that”? That night I decided to follow through on this one. I wanted to show the boys what it looked like to carry an idea like this through to finished product. I wanted to show them that when there are obstacles to your success, you plow through them and find a way to make it happen.

I am an entrepreneurial type of person. My wife and I own and operate a couple of businesses. We manufacture and sell infant special occasion clothing (christening gowns) on our website http://www.OneSmallChild.com, and I run a general contracting business in our town. My passion in these businesses is developing something from nothing. I enjoy making things happen. When I come up with a new idea, it is difficult to redirect my thoughts. So you can imagine her reaction whenever I start a sentence with: “So get this…” This was no exception. She kind of dismissed the idea at first and I dropped it for the night. I had a hard time sleeping that night and I could not let it go. The more I thought about it, the more I saw the path to make it happen.

The next day I was on the phone with attorneys trying to figure out if I could patent the idea and insurance agents to see if it could be covered by a product liability policy. After each call, I was more excited and determined to make it happen. By the end of the day, I had a clear path to put together all the legal details and I had hired a freelance designer to develop the first design for prototyping. Now all I had to do was convince my wife.

With a few conceptual conversations and getting her input on the design, she was in. I had her blessing to move forward and make it happen. A week later we had the design and 45 days after that, the patent was filed with the U.S. Patent Office. Another week and a half went by and I had a 3D printed prototype in my hands. It was an amazing feeling seeing a tangible result from the crazy idea that sprang up as we were busy helping a neighbor.

Now with pride and hope, I am presenting this product to the world. My hope is to see The Fuel Can in the hands of millions of people like me across the world that look at things just a little bit different. Please help me bring this dream to reality.

P90X 3 + Running + Gluten Free + Sugar Free = Healthier??

P90X3

From my early teenage years, I have always struggled with pudginess. In later years I have discovered it to be in part due to a medical issue, I have a pituitary tumor, more specifically a prolactinoma. We affectionately like to refer to it as “Petey, the Pituitary Tumor.” The effects Petey has on my endocrine system make it more difficult for me to maintain my weight, so I have to work harder. The challenge I have is balancing family life, career, church and community service, and somehow fitting in time to exercise and be active.

In recent years I have done a lot better managing my weight and fitness. In the last six years, I have gone from 250 pounds and out of shape, down to 180 pounds and running marathons. Currently I am a little over 200 pounds and if I were being chased by a mountain lion, I could maybe squeeze out a half marathon.

My goal now is to get back down to about 180 pounds without going to the extreme of marathon running. Don’t get me wrong, I do love running and the challenge of pushing my known limits. I love the feeling of finishing a 20 mile training run, the satisfaction of pulling off blackened toe nails. The feelings associated with finishing a marathon are irreplaceable, but they come at a cost. I’m no scientist, but I have learned through trial and error that there was an effect on my metabolism, and not for the better. When I was running and logging lots of miles, my weight stayed stable, but when I stopped, even for a few days, the weight would come back very quickly.

I was always careful to try to pack most of my training miles into the early morning hours, but on weekends, the 3 hour training runs definitely took me away from family time that I should have been spending with my wife and kids.

So here’s the new plan:

1. Eat better: My wife and I have challenged each other to a sugar fast. Until the New Year we will not eat or drink anything with added sugars.  We have planned 3 cheat days a month to get us through the holidays. As if that is not difficult enough,     we also decided to go gluten free for five weeks. There is some evidence that “Petey” will treat me better with a gluten free diet. If I complete the challenge, I get an Apple Watch next year.

2. P90X 3: So they got me at a weak moment. It was 3 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. While flipping through channels I saw the    infomercial for P90X 3. It looked easy enough so I bought it with three easy payments. I have actually found that I like it a lot. I am currently on day 50 of my first round and I like that the workouts are only 30 minutes. Good job Tony Horton, you’ve done it again.

3. Running: I don’t want to lose all the gains that I have made in running. I want to be able to participate in the occasional                          10K or maybe even a half marathon here and there, so I am running about 20 minutes every morning after the P90X 3 workouts.

4. Rigorous Family Activities: This is something my wife and I really want to work on this year. It gives us exercise, helps our kids get out and active, and we get to spend time together. We plan to get out with the kids and go hiking, biking, skiing, etc…

I just want to acknowledge none of this would possible without my beautiful, smart, funny, multi-talented wife to help me eat right and stay on track nutritionally.

Trading Sugar for an iWatch

apple-watch

My wife and I issued each other a challenge last night. The end goal of the challenge is to be healthier, but in essence it is a “no sugar challenge.”

So, for the final quarter of 2014, we have committed to abstain from added or excess sugar in foods and eat more home made whole foods and vegetables. We have also pledged to exercise at least four times per week.

Maybe we’re not that committed or maybe we’re just realistic, but we decided to allow ourselves two “cheat days” a month, mainly on date nights. We also realize with the holidays coming throughout the challenge that it will be very difficult to maintain so we’ve agreed that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day are also “cheat days.”

To motivate ourselves to complete this challenge we each chose a prize that we will receive at the end of the year to reward us for doing what we should be doing anyway. I will be receiving an Apple iWatch, and my wife chose to reward herself with laser hair removal in her under arm areas. I’m pretty sure I came up with a better reward, but she seems motivated too.

So, now the challenge begins. This is where we separate the strong from the weak. We have successfully done this challenge in the past and found that the hardest part is staying on track during family events. With the holidays, this will be somewhat more difficult. In making this public announcement, I hope to have some outside motivation to stay strong and maintain the commitment.

In the end, the true reward we are looking for is to be healthier and have a better quality of life overall. I have gone from the extremes of being obese to running marathons. I know how it feels to be on either end of the spectrum. Right now, I am somewhere in the middle, and I know that I will be happier and feel better by exercising and eating healthier. And the iWatch sounds pretty good too.

Let the challenge begin!!!

Foreplay Starts in the Kitchen

So I’m that guy that thinks it’s cool to do the dishes.

The road to happiness.

Disclaimer: This post may be a little controversial and get me into some trouble, but this is one of the most important things that I have learned in the last 12 years of marriage to my beautiful wife.

Early in our marriage I read a quote that hit home for me. More or less, it goes like this, “Happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and  well-being of one’s spouse.”

My wife and I have taken that quote to heart and made it a priority to focus on each other’s needs, rather than always thinking about our own needs. When each of us is focused on the other, our own needs our met and we see each other as equals partners. That doesn’t mean that we do the same things and that our roles are interchangeable. We each have strengths and weaknesses, but when we work together we make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Every marriage is different, but this is what our marriage looks like. I work and my wife stays home with our four children. She also works very flexible hours from home, but mainly she focuses on the children. I see her role as equal to mine, in fact most times I feel like my 8 hours at work is a vacation compared to the war zone at home. When I get home I help with the kids, help make dinner, help clean up dinner, and help to straighten up the house. We both have demands on us through the day so I try to share equally in the responsibilities that come at night. I change diapers, do bath time, put kids in pajamas, and help put them to bed. It is all in my job description.

We take turns waking up late at night to feed the babies. This is the hardest part because it is hard to remember whose turn it is at 3 a.m. when there is a baby screaming.

So some guys may be asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?” I am sure at some point you have heard the statement, “Foreplay begins in the kitchen.” I have found that to be true, need I say more?

The overall lesson I have learned is that I truly want my wife to be happy. My taking responsibility for some household duties makes her life easier. In return she is focused on my needs and it all comes together to make an awesome marriage. It may sound bizzarre, but I really like doing dishes.

Time Flies

Tempus fugit - Il tempo vola - Time flies

Last night my boys and I were shuffled out of the house to make room for a “make up” party that my wife was hosting. At first it seemed like an annoyance to be forced out of the house on a Thursday evening. It was up to me to figure out what to do with my sons for the hour and a half that they would occupy our house.

We ended up going to a park near a small lake about 2 miles from our home. The boys played on the playground, ran up and down the hills, and played near the water’s edge. As I watched them, I was grateful for the excuse to go out and spend time with them. They are a lot of fun to be with and I realize daily that they are growing fast and I need to make the time to be with them and develop our relationships.

I never thought I would say this, but Thank You crafty, over-priced, makeup sales Lady, for giving me an excuse to spend time with my boys. I may rethink that statement when I see how much the makeup costs.

Happy Birthday: 10 Years Has Flown By

So I’m that guy, watching time slip by and his daughter growing up too fast.

number candles

Yesterday was a fun day for our family. My oldest child, our daughter, turned 10 years old. For her birthday she was able to plan all the meals, and choose an activity to do that she would enjoy. Her meal choices were pretty fun, she wanted biscuits and gravy for breakfast, lunch was not too important as long as there were artichokes to eat, and her dinner request was barbequed meat from Dickey’s Barbecue. She also asked to be able to go out in the evening with just me and her Mom to go to dinner and shop for some school clothes.

So Grandma came over to babysit the other kids and we took her out on her birthday date. I really enjoyed the evening we had together. It was a lot of fun spending time with her alone. We have not done that for a while. I think sometimes older siblings get lost in the chaos as younger children require a lot more attention and care at the early ages.

It struck me that somewhere along the way she had turned into a beautiful, funny, smart, silly, playful, responsible young girl. I took a mental snap shot as we laughed and joked around throughout the night. We had a great night together and I will treasure that memory.

Time seems to fly by, the last 10 years are a blur, and truly it will not be long before she is a teenager. Nothing in life has given me more pride and satisfaction than seeing my children grow up and develop into the people they are becoming. I am excited for the future, but at the same time I want to make the most of the present and live in the moments we share together.

It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since she was born, but I think it is even harder to believe that I am old enough to be the father to a 10 year old.

Balancing It All

So I’m that guy trying to find balance in chaos.

Health Work Career Friends Signpost Showing Life And Lifestyle Balance

I’m sure everyone is just like me in thinking that life is chaotic. The hardest part for me is trying to find the balance in all the different aspects of my life. The ambitious part of me would spend 24/7 working on my projects and developing my businesses. The family man in me would love to stay home with my kids all day and develop those relationships.

I grew up with less than perfect examples of balance. My father is a farmer and in that profession the demands of the farm generally take control. There is no way to maintain a 40 hour work week throughout the year because the needs of the farm are much greater during certain times. He did try to balance that by involving us in the farm labor and spending more time with the family during less demanding seasons.

My mother is a business owner as well. She started her business when I was 3 years old out of our basement. Through the years it has grown into a business with about 30 employees that I currently manage. It has always been a big part of our family. My mom even likes to refer to it as one of my siblings. Unfortunately, as we grew up, it was the favored sibling and it received much more attention and care than the rest of us.

As a result of my childhood and role models, when I reached adulthood I had no concept of balance. Throughout my childhood, the careers of my parents came first and on many levels I can’t fault them for that. It taught me how to work hard and I had many opportunities to grow through working with them in their businesses. But looking back on that, I want to live a more balanced life.

My roles are many, I’m a husband to a beautiful wife, and we have four children ages 10, 4, 20 months, and 5 months. Professionally, I’m a part owner and general manager of the business my mother started when I was 3. I also own a general contracting and real estate development company, and I try to fit in selling some products on Amazon on the side. Civically, I serve on a board of trustees for a public charter school in our community, and I’m a volunteer leader in my church of a group of young men ages 14-16. Sometimes I feel like I have A.D.D. as I switch roles throughout the day. There is always a problem that needs attention, or a challenge to overcome. With all the demands on my time, it would be easy for me to focus solely on my work and neglect the important parts of my life.

To overcome my tendencies and maintain balance, I try to schedule out my day and structure it to meet all the needs of myself, work, community, and my family. I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and focus on myself and my personal development. I meditate, read and write. Exercise is also a big part of my morning. I’ve found that if I don’t get it done in the morning it won’t happen.

When the family wakes up, I usually have my personal things done and I’m able to help my wife prepare the kids for the day and we sit down together as a family to eat breakfast. I help clean up and I leave for work at around 8 o’clock.

At around 12 o’clock I’m usually able to come home and eat lunch with my family. Then I’m back at work until 5:30 when we have dinner together. My office is close enough to my home that my commute is generally walking, so throughout the day I have the chance to see my family and sometimes we all load up in the car and go run errands for work together. Some evenings I have activities with my youth group or board meetings for the school, but most are spent at home with my family. Saturdays are always reserved for family activities or work projects around the house, and Sundays are set aside for church and visiting extended family.

This schedule has been working well for us and I think it is helping maintain the balance in my different roles. I’ve found that the most important part of the scheduling is living in the moment. For example, when I’m with my children, I can’t let my mind drift into work. I have to be present in every moment whether it is with my wife and children, at work, or in a board meeting. If not I’m neglecting another part of my life and losing the balance that I’m trying so hard to maintain. I’ve found that being present is both the key to balance as well as the hardest part.

In the end, what is really important? At my funeral, I don’t think anyone will talk about how great I was at business or how many houses I built. What they will talk about are the relationships that have been developed. They will talk about the fun vacations we went on together. They will talk about the lessons they learned through example and conversation. They will talk about the memories of eating meals together as a family and spending time together.

Life is too short. Children grow up fast. Providing an income and meeting their physical needs is an important part of being a father, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of spending time together. Finding balance between these roles has been one of my greatest challenges, but I have found that it is also very rewarding.

Miracle Morning

So I’m that guy that figured out a way to add another 2 hours to his day.

Man on the beach

When I’m doing work that doesn’t require a lot of thinking I like to listen to podcasts. I learn a lot from them and it brings new ideas to think about as I’m working. Recently I was listening to an entrepreneurial podcast where the author of a book was interviewed. His name is Hal Elrod and the book is called, The Miracle Morning.

Some of the things they talked about got my attention and I decided to read the book and see what it had to offer. The book encourages people to wake up earlier than usual and start the day with a period of meditation, reading, writing, and exercise. I’ve never considered myself a morning person. The only time I’ve consistently woken up early was during the times I have been training for marathons. It has always been the hardest part of the training to drag myself out of bed and start the day early and head out on a run. But this seems different. The main focus is to get up and get your mind in the right place before the stresses of the day distract you from what’s important.

I decided to try it for myself. I was actually kind of excited to take control in this way. I’ve always felt that I’m at my laziest at that moment when I’m trying to get out of bed in the morning, and this seemed like it gave me a purpose to get up. The first day I tried it was June 9th. It has been almost 2 months since then and I can say that with only a few exceptions while on vacations, I’ve been able to wake up and start every day with a miracle morning.

I’ve seen some significant differences in my life. I’m excited to wake up every morning and start my day in this way. I’ve been able to continually do things that I’ve always thought I didn’t have time for. I’ve been more consistent with my exercise goals. Ideas have come and I’ve been able to follow through on them. This blog, for example, is a result of the extra time I have in the morning to think about what’s going on in my life and write it down. I feel that it has helped me to be more focused and proactive in my business dealings.

I’ve had to cut back on my sleep somewhat. I’m used to getting a little over 8 hours, and now I’m getting a little under 7 hours. I haven’t noticed any change in energy levels throughout the day. The main things I’ve noticed are that if I want to take a nap in the day, it’s a lot easier than it was before. The other thing is that I fall asleep a lot faster at night. All in all, I don’t think it’s had a negative impact on me, but I will continue to pay attention to this and make adjustments if necessary. As far as sleep, I feel the key is going to bed somewhat early and maintaining a consistent schedule.

Based on the last two months, I think this is a habit that I would like to maintain in my life. I feel more creative and proactive in all areas of my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the negatives. I’m not following the outline of the book to the letter, but I have adapted the morning rituals to fit my life and my needs. I think I might become a “Morning Person.”