You’d think the No. 1 rule for branding is, “Don’t name your company for something it doesn’t offer.”
But David Wachs bet his potential customers weren’t looking for actual handwritten notes, invitations and thank-yous; just the look and the ambience — something that says “I care enough about our relationship to pay extra attention to this.”
David created Handwrytten, which uses robots holding actual pens to automate handwritten notes at scale. Was it a good bet? 300% annual growth says yes. And what does David have to teach you? Handwrytten wasn’t his first venture, but he learned a lot about addressing customer needs along the way.
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Produced by Andrei Gardiola
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| Rise Grind Repeat 068 |
I helped create a monster because now the average consumers getting inundated with text messages just like they are getting and everything we did was opt in. I don’t want you to think we’re spamming texted to join text into join text out if you don’t want to. It was all opt in I couldn’t sleep at night if it wasn’t, but we helped create a monster.
On today’s episode of Rise, Grind Repeat we talked to David from Handwrytten. We talked about how his company is building robots to make personalized handwritten notes. Let’s dive right in. David, thank you so much for joining another episode of Rise Grind Repeat. I’m excited about this. Like we were talking just before this, I mean, one of your competitors it caught my eye it’s a tactic that I think is there’s so much opportunity in this space. But before we get into the the having fun nerding out and really talking about personalization and digital communication. Love to just hear a little bit about you. What’s your past and how did you? How did you start Handwrytten?
Yeah, it all kind of plays together. So thank you for having me on. This is super cool, especially since it’s a local show. I’m here in Phoenix. So thank you for having me on. So my background is I was always wanting to start a company. Back when I was in preschool, I used to walk like my brother had one of those red wagons. I think it was a Junker wagon or something. And I would steal it take it out filled with candy that my mom bought a Price Club that was even called Costco then and sell it door to door. And that was kind of my first business one day didn’t have any candy. So I scoured the house and the only thing I could find was the first aid kit. So I put that in the wagon and I went door to door asking if anybody was having an emergency. And people were kind enough to say try back later. So you know, three year old guy walks through your door. It was different times, you know, child molestation wasn’t as big of an issue. But then I grew up in high school, I started a company here in Scottsdale, Arizona, built and sold computers. And then I went off to call it. I mean, clearly, I’m a nerd. I went off to college and I studied finance, entrepreneurial management. And then in the engineering school, I dual degree in engineering in business, and the engineering school I chose computer science. And one of the reasons I did that is because I knew that when I wanted to start a company, it’s a lot easier to start a software company than a semiconductor company. Yeah, you know what I mean? Like, there’s just way less cash back. So even back 24 years ago, 25 years ago, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And then what happened was, I came out of school, actually, it took five years to get through that program. I came out of school in AI a school that which kind of makes it hard to start a company and be there were, it was in the gogo 2000s. I think you’re a little bit younger than me. But back in 2000, it was the.com boom. And as we’re going bonkers, and people were throwing money at you to join these things. So I joined a company called Diamond Cluster, which is a consulting firm that worked with big, you know, Inc 100, fortune 100 companies to make them more dot-com-y, which sounded great, but yeah, it was just BS. And I did that for a couple years. And then I went into investment banking for a couple years. And I always wanted to do entrepreneurship, or venture capital. So I actually went out to San Diego to work for a venture capital firm. And it’s the best it’s a story best told over beers. The guy was nuts. It was a weird firm to begin with. I’d actually turned them down a year before and then when to work at an investment bank, and then a year later, they called me up and they said, We wish you’d reconsider. And I was miserable the investment bank so I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ So I went out there within like four months, I was fired. And it was the weirdest four months of my life. Like, here I am. I went to an Ivy League school, so I kind of had a better than you attitude, which is not right. But you know, what the hell are you doing? And he’s having the move truck tires around like you buy a G-wagon or whatever. He bought this G and then he’d ordered tires on tire rack.com. And then here I am this kid that’s trying to get into venture capital bank. He’s like, go out and move move shuttle around these truck powers I just bought on Tireapp.com. So that was weird. And then he bugged my office for no reason. Really?
That is that’s really weird.
Yeah, I was sitting in my office late at night working on a presentation. And I see this garden now. Like what you’d see to scare away critters, huh? It’s like I outside my office looking at me, and I’m looking at this stupid guard. Now I’m like, I’ll be damned if there’s a camera in that garden owl. So I walk over to it, I lift it up. There’s like a webcam in there. I’m like, you know, way, just stupid. It was stupid. My entire experience in San Diego was not great. Unfortunately, it should have been. But it was not great. So anyway, then he blamed some stock transaction on me. And he fired me without cause or I guess his cause with the stock transaction, but it was made up.
didn’t know what to do. Because prior to that, I had these pretty cushy jobs and I would use all the money from those jobs to pay down school debt. And I had a lot of school debt, but I paid it pretty much all down. But at the same time, I didn’t have any nest egg. Yeah, I didn’t have any safety egg to support me. So this was back in 2004. And before the iPhone, and my family, I grew up in Phoenix. So my dad because I was just, I don’t know, 24 the time, my dad drove out from Phoenix to pack me up and move me back to Phoenix. And we’re at dinner. And he’s like, you know, we’re thinking we’re bouncing ideas back and forth. And he goes, why don’t you use Blackberries or barcodes to provide information on houses?
And I said, I don’t know about Blackberries or
barcodes before the QR code.
Yeah. Which we can debate if, what the benefits of QR codes if you want, but this is before the QR code and I don’t know about blackberries or barcodes, but what about text messaging where you text in? You get info on a house and then that or you get tested that photos the house and info on the house? And then the realtor gets sent a lead. They get your phone number? And he’s like, Yeah, that would work. So he gave me a free apartments. Yeah, that he’ll You know, he owned a few condos. He gave me a place to stay in for that he got 25% of the company, which was a bad decision and it cost down. But that’s all he did. He just gave me a place and a couple bucks, very small amount of money. And I was on unemployment collecting unemployment checks, and I created this thing called House For Sale. And House For Sale was really the first time you see him now you still kind of see him now if you drive around texting for him for this house. We were the first ones that did that. And I quickly learned how much I hate realtors. My parents are realtors. I love my parents, but realtors in general are either fat and happy. So why would I buy your service? Killing it or too broke to afford $29.99 a month or they try to haggle you on that stupid $29.99 and you waste all this time haggling? Yep. So we when we came out with house for sale, the company was called Cellit went we came up with House For Sale. I knew I wanted to be bigger than House For Sale. And so I came out I was dating a woman in Chicago at the time I lived in Chicago prior to San Diego. And I go to Chicago and I’d walk down the streets and I’d see all these restaurants and bars, lots of bars in Chicago. And I say why don’t we do a text messaging platform to send out drink alerts and happy hours. You know, all that stuff. So that became something called Coupons App.
And Coupons App. And house
for sell quickly pivoted. I thought I’d be going after small restaurants and bars. My clients became Abercrombie & Fitch. Toys R Us. Sam’s Club. Wow. And then for house for sell. Yeah, we sold real estate, but our main client was For Rent Magazine, which is like it used to be I think it is still a pretty big deal. You go to the grocery store, you’d see there’s like a booklet and you could then text him for info on any of those houses. ever deal with with for rent in Chicago Tribune or Trevion papers Marie Claire magazine. So the business totally took off in a way that luckily I could have never imagined. And then we sold that company in 2014. So I sold the company in 2012. And then stuck with them for two years until 2014 is what’s called an earnout which is when you sell a company, you have to stick with the company for a while efficient so I sold it to a company called Hello World, which is now part of Merkel which is like a huge data analytics and worked for them for two years and they were fine. But that is a very difficult I can have a full two hour discussion with you on the emotional misery you go beginner now. Because what happens is well A, the plus sign is hopefully you end up with a pile of cash in your pocket. Yeah, right. The downside is you have to sit there. And it’s almost as if you bought my favorite car would be like a 62 Corvette, prior to the Stingray, you’re talking, you’re talking porthole, windows, all that stuff. Imagine buying a 62 Vet and just renovating the hell out of it making it as good as new putting the you know, the the cherry red on there and all that in the apple red.
you sell it the person that buys it is your next door neighbor. So you can’t help but see that car every day just like side working on that business for eight years, seven, eight years before you sell it. You know, you’re making this polishing this candy apple red business of sell it for seven years. You sell it to your next door neighbor, you can’t help or watch it. And what did they do? They put it up on jacks and take a sander to it.
Yeah. Yeah, that would be tough. It’s like
this. You know, you’re just grabbing your hair for two years in your face and you’re fighting you’re biting your fingernails off and just in misery as they destroy your life’s work.
Yeah, that would be very tough.
Yeah. So poor little rich kid, right, like so. Okay, so they just try your business. But there is something there is something there. So
what what happened was,
we built a very successful business, the text messaging so the business went through changes with the iPhone. I thought the iPhone would kill us the iPhone came out about 2008 actually helped us because it introduced, like tenfold increase in text messaging, I thought that notifications would kill us, but it just increased everything. We also did build apps like we built the iPhone app for autotrader. And for rent and all these things, we big big brands, pivoted. we pivoted, we did well, but
what I realized with the message side
is I helped create a monster because now the average consumers getting inundated with text messages just like they are getting and everything we did was opt in. I don’t want you to think we’re spamming. Yeah, text into join text into join text out if you don’t want it. It was all opt in. I couldn’t sleep at night if it wasn’t. But we helped create a monster in that. You know, now people are getting thousands of text messages a day on top of the 150 to 300 emails a day. And then there’s slack and Twitter and Facebook, TeleGram, you know, you name it, Instagram and everything else, Skype. So what I realized is everybody’s getting inundated with electronic communication. It’s all becoming noise. So when I left, Cellit, I wanted to send all my notes something that all my employees and clients mean that wasn’t electronic I sat down with a pen and paper, I started writing handwritten notes. Because I saw that people, my sales people in particular, but anybody in my office that had received a handwritten note, not only read it, but kept it on display. So it was it’s savored and treasured and more than read and thrown away or just read or thrown away without being read. So I sent handwritten notes to most of them to all my employees, and I kept trying to send it to all my clients. But you know, your handwriting starts sucking, or you get distracted, or you probably don’t have to redo it and it becomes expensive, and you don’t have the time and your hand cramps, you run out of stamps, whatever it is,
Your best intentions kind of fall by the wayside as you realize this is just not doable, and you try to think there has to be a better way. And so the day after I left Cellit, I started handwritten And, and written my new company is all about bringing back the importance of handwritten notes we do with robots. But our mission is not so much to use robots. It’s to tell companies and individuals that they have to send handwritten notes that handwritten notes in this day and age where I have to take my phone off because I’m interrupt my watch off because I’ve interrupted so much by Yeah, on my wrist that I have to turn my watch across the room. What people crave, and what really sets your business apart from somebody else’s business is when you shut when you show attention. When you set aside, three to five minutes of your time, and sit down and write a handwritten note something that’s perceived as unscalable. Handwrytten my company makes that scalable, but whether you do with us or you do it in another way, the act of sending somebody a pen note cut through the clutter. It has a 300% higher open rate versus a printed piece. redemption rates are through the roof of offers, if you include an offer code, we work with one bespoke clothing brand out of Canada that has coupon redemption rates of 18% versus 3%. of other classes. That’s huge. Yeah. So all these forget about coupons and ROI. It’s about differentiating and creating loyal customers in an age where there’s no loyalty, and everything’s generic, and everybody’s just spamming you with email and test and everything else. So that’s why you know, that’s my long winded answer on why I’m here doing what I’m doing.
Yeah, no, I love it. I love the history. I mean, you’re you’re definitely an entrepreneur at heart. I mean, that’s a lot of ups and downs. I mean, like every good journey is but I mean, to your point, it would be tough to raise your child for eight years and then pass it on to someone else and watch someone else raise them up. And that’s what kind of that business. Yeah, that would be extremely tough. But no, and I love what you’re doing with this because I agree with you. I mean, you don’t focus on the ROI, you don’t focus on the revenue you focus on differentiating yourself and how you can bring value to a customer, those other numbers they’ll come you focus on trying to, to stand out amongst your competition, and the ROI will definitely will definitely come in. You know, one thing that that I’ve kind of seen, people would ask, you know, it’s great to have the handwritten No, but does the robot side of it and all that take the kind of personalization and that that heartfelt gesture out of it, or I don’t think so because I you’re, you’re thinking about the message. It’s not, it’s not sitting down and actually writing it. It’s what you want to communicate and, you know, coming up with a different way to communicate, but I mean, if someone were to, you know, ask you that does that take the personalization away? I mean, what would be kind of your response to that?
So, I just joke that, you know, Hallmarks tagline is ‘when it’s good enough to send the very best.’ Handwrytten fake tagline or joke tagline is ‘when it’s almost good enough to send the very best,’ because that’s sending the very best will be sitting down and writing a handwritten note for real.
But I will say,
nobody will know. You know, it’s your little secret with us. That’s why you go to Handwrytten.com. You don’t see any customer names. I mean, you see some people’s names, but no clients names is because we have a strict confidentiality, but nobody will know. It’s still a piece that people even if they do know, like, if you received a birthday card from Barack Obama or now Donald Trump, do you really think Donald Trump wrote his name on that? Oh, it’s written by some auto pan or whatever, and sent to you and
if I was,
you know, the, one of the managers companies that we work with are whatever. And then I didn’t use our service. Do you think the CEO would sit down and write 5000 handwritten notes? Or do you think they pass it off to lackeys? You know, some $12 intern to do it? Yeah. And if that’s the case, what’s the difference? You know, it’s not the actual person, but the actual person did sit down and craft the note and said, I want to send somebody something that is special to this person. And that’s all that matters. So and then again, it depends on the industry. But, you know, like, like, if you’re in a sales organization, you could set up the note to be so custom, that the messaging is, you know, they’ll read that and they will have no doubt, but the actual physical note itself,
unless I said to you, Hey,
what did you think of that robot written note?
If I say, Hey, I think that note, you’d be like, Oh, I loved it. That was so thoughtful. I really appreciate you taking the time to write me a note. And then if I say, Hey, what did you think of that robot, but note could you tell that no, it was written by a robot? Maybe you’d put it under additional scrutiny, but nobody will know. Yeah, I mean, our system, it is written in pen, it passes the smudge test, we worked with a very large travel online travel agency, one of the largest out there, and we did a big campaign for them. And their response from their customers was, wow, I couldn’t believe you took the time to send me a note. I licked my finger and the ink smudged. I was blown away.
You know, they, their handwriting passed muster the ink pass muster. It really does resonate with people. So
no, I love it. And I agree with all your points. And so how does this work? If I’m a business and I want to use your service, do I have to go out and find addresses? Does it attach to me? We’re talking about CRM before the call, do you integrate with CRM, or how does it work? How do I actually send these to people? What does that process look like?
Yeah, so you can
log into Handwrytten.com or website and it’s handwritten with a Y so Handwrytten.com and you can send one note there, you can’t you would have to provide the address for the note. We also have bulk upload spreadsheets where you and there’s videos that walk you through that on our site where you can upload 10,000 orders at once and you get discounts you know based on the order sighs spotless order in our system is one. In addition to that, we have integration with Salesforce.com, where and HubSpot CRM. So within those platforms, you can click a button it will automatically populate the address information all that for you and then record that activity after you send the note back to the timeline of the record in those CRM systems. We integrate with Zapier so that opens up possibilities for everything and everything. We also now integrate with something called Integromat, which is like a Zapier competitor. I don’t know if you’ve seen that one yet.
Oh, yeah, yeah,
they We use Clickup internally for project management and they’re pretty big partner there. And it’s a little above my head. But yeah, they’re they’re definitely a competitor. But I think there’s a lot more connectors and definitely a lot more value there.
I think it’s if you’re very tech savvy, that might be the route you go. Yeah. It is robust. So we integrate with Integromat. We’re in their their platform. And then we also integrate with a full API. We are coming out with a Shopify integration as well. You don’t need it because you can just use Zapier or Integromat. Yeah. But it’s more about the exposure that we get by having these additional custom integrations than the integration itself. It’s kind of a great SEO tool. So yeah, so any of those platforms we integrate directly with it pulls over the address data, we automate the process and send. And you can actually, you know, with us, we’ve got 100 plus designs of handwritten cards of sorry of cards to choose from. You can actually go on Handwrytten.com create your own card, and then it’s available via Shopify, Zapier, you know Salesforce.com Oh no, we have iPhone and Android apps too. So if you were to go on android.com create a card design. When you log into your Android iPhone app or Android app, that design would be there just for you to use. And then we have 21, I want to say handwriting styles to choose from. And in addition to those, you can create your own, it’s expensive, but then that would be in your account just for you. In addition to that, we think the card is the gift and the card is the intention. The card is the attention span. The card is the gift However, if you want to add to the card, you can add a gift card to Amazon, Starbucks. Home Depot if you’re a realtor, we do a lot of those realtors, we’re adding some higher end brands like Ruth’s Chris steakhouse, that type of thing. And then we can also insert your business card. So it’s about creating these, you know, very personal direct to consumer message relationships.
Now that’s, that’s really awesome. And with all the the CRM integrations, I mean, can you pull over different fields to make it personable? I know that, you know, you’re really big on personalization. We’re huge on on that personalization piece. And so is that doable? And how what does that look like? Is it just that integration?
Oh, it’s easy
within Zapier to be super easy, because you’re such a slick user interface, that when you get to the message field, you just pull in those little use the little plus in the upper right, and you pull in the tags. And you can do the same thing with Integromat. With our API, you can do it too, obviously API, you could do whatever the heck you want. Within Handwrytten.com or sale well within Android.com. We do have a couple of custom fields, you can insert or if you do a bulk spreadsheet upload, you would we have a very robust spreadsheet formula that handles, insert inserting data fields for you. So that’s all automatic too. Within salesforce.com. There is what’s called a mail merge field integration. You could do it there HubSpot, not so much. But it kind of reverts back as Handwrytten.com for that. But But yeah, you could do it with all the platforms very easily. And if you have any problems doing it, you just let our customer support now and they’re able to assist you
there. No, that’s awesome. So I guess a use case, this is something worth thinking through with the client. They’re an apparel company, what we want to do is they use WooCommerce, which integrates with Zapier. So we’d love to do something where their first time purchase using the CRM, take a first time purchaser, then send them a handwritten note saying thank you, here’s an additional $10 off whatever that may look like. But it’s expediting that second purchase and overall increase in that lifetime value of a customer.
Exactly. Yeah. So I was I was for your listeners, I was pointing at you because that’s exactly what we do. What we do is we just do it within Zapier using filter by Zapier. So you pull in the Shopify or the WooCommerce record, and you say, only send those to people on their first transaction or after their total transaction value hits a threshold like after they hit $500 bucks or $1000 bucks or five orders or anniversary of order, whatever that is. You set up all those transactions within Zapier battle to do and it’s super easy to make these crazy cool flows. We are creating a Shopify integration right now to kind of do that on a very transparent, easy level. But you can do it all within Zapier and we’re also going to be rolling out something specific to the automotive vertical, which is handles all that for you too. So that’s cool automotive. The idea is you just pay us $15 bucks a car customer per year. And we handle everything. So
when somebody buys a car,
you send us $15 bucks, we will send them a thank you for purchase card, followed by a service reminder card, you know, six months later followed by a happy birthday card followed by a happy holidays card and then the following year, they’ll get a anniversary of purchase card, holiday card service reminder, birthday card. So it is a recurring cycle for just $15 bucks. And once we get it figured out for automotive, then we’re gonna roll it out to a personalized selling initiative, whether it’s real estate or insurance or wealth management, you know, it’s the same thing you want to stay in touch with them four times a year. So that’s that’s what it is.
No, I love it. I mean, and that’s it. You guys are gonna see tons of opportunity come in because it’s one thing to to give the tool. Yeah, this all sounds good. But how do I go in there? What is the right workflow look like? What’s the cadence? So I need to reach out to people, what does that messaging look like and if you get They’re being proactive and helping on that end, not only just on overall perspective, but by vertical. I think that’s where it’s, there’s gonna bring a ton of value to people and make that aha moment happen. Because it’s like, you can tell someone about your platform. And yeah, it all sounds cool. But once you bring the use case and how it could actually work on oil changes this, I mean, once you actually show them how it works, that that aha moment happens. And it’s like, yeah, that sounds good. Let’s, let’s move forward. So that’s Yeah,
that’s the problem with our platform is right now it’s like, well, how much is it? You’re like, well, it’s this dollar per, you know, X dollars per note. And they say, okay, and great. Love it, then they, and it’s on them to think about, Hmm,
what do I send? What do I send now?
What do I send out, and I want to get rid of all that. And just make it a turnkey community. follow a platform. And that’s, that’s kind of where we’re headed. There’s a couple things ahead of us in the queue for that, but it’ll certainly be available in 2021.
That’s awesome. And even with your background, I mean, outside of this, it sounds like you You’re huge again on the personalization, but the the one to one messaging rather than one to many more like TV broadcasts where you have a message that goes out to everyone, it’s more one to one. So with your experience, I mean, especially now, it’s more important than ever to humanize your brand and create that relationship. I mean, what are some tips that you have for businesses on how they can create that relationship?
Well, number one, I mean, with COVID going on the conference, you know, a lot of businesses rely on conferences to get new clients, and those are gone. You know, so I think handwritten notes that not from us, you know, I’m preaching the value of a handwritten note. So, handwritten notes go a long way to remind clients that you still care about them. So it is a check in handwritten note just saying, you know, it’s been a while since we’ve spoken I hope everything’s okay. It’s a thank you for your purchase. And then off obviously, you can also do offers in addition to handling notes I mean, picking up the phone and just not with a script, just with a ‘Hey wanted to check in,’ setting up webinars is so important or podcast where you know you can just stay in stay top of mind with these brands is so is so, so much more important now than ever before. You know there’s a lot of people at home that are alone, because they’re no longer working in an office, they’re working out of their home. And they’re scared and they’re anxious. And yeah, you’re a brand selling them something at the end of the day, whether it’s a handwritten note software or an advertising or
new car, whatever. But you’re still
saying, Hey, I care. You know, I wouldn’t send you a handwritten note if I didn’t care. So that goes a long way. And I think it’s going to go a lot longer way today than it did six months. Six months ago. Isn’t it
crazy? It’s already six months.
Yeah, it’s it’s, it’s bonkers. And the fact that I people around my office having conversations about Oh, I love your mask. Oh, your mask. Where’d you get that? I mean, it’s insane. But But uh, yeah, but this is the world we live in and people need connection and handwritten notes are a nice way to do that. We have a client and they’ve been a client for a few years. I had no idea what they did.
I thought they were a law firm.
With the name of the company. It turns out what they are is a piano tuning company out of Pennsylvania. And they go in people’s homes once a year and tune their piano. And then they have a Zapier zap set up to automatically send them a handwritten Thank you, right after they tune their piano. And then you know, a year later they go into the piano again. And the owner of the company said when he goes back into those homes to tune the piano A year later, their handwritten note from the year before is still on the refrigerator. So you know people see the value in this. And like I said, it’s not about using our services just about making that. Getting that intention, intention and attention to get out there and send handwritten notes.
No, I love it. And I mean, to your point, it’s everyone’s getting more digital, more digital, and it’s trying to find those other channels to where you can kind of break through that that noise. And even now, I mean, outside of the economics and everything that COVID is causing, I mean, the mental side of thing I think is something that we won’t even know the impacts for for a while. But to your point right now, your your service is probably the most beneficial with everyone being at home much longer. You know, people are, they’ll be able to see it a bit more things are slowing down. And so to create that personal connect, like right now is such a huge opportunity for that, that creating that connection, one to make sure that everyone is staying safe and staying sane, but to to to actually be seen and get your message in front of an audience that you want to get in front of.
Yeah, yeah, it’s it’s crazy times out there right now. But yeah, I obviously couldn’t agree more.
I wouldn’t be doing this
business for six years. Right? And I mean with all this digital communication I mean, is there one or even all farms communication? I mean, is there one that you see that really sticks out or the that really captures someone’s someone’s attention on any particular channel?
No, because there’s so many there’s, there’s people are inundated. You know, I have people in my office come to me saying, Yeah, just following up on that Slack I sent you and I’m like, Well, you know, I haven’t looked through the 50,000 little green dots on my Slack sidebar to determine, you know, that you send me people are inundated and I mean, I have people that I know that say if you want to get me, don’t email me, text me or call me. So I do think you know, in certain situations, texting and phone calls are your best bet because getting through the damage to impossible So, I know there’s some platforms out there like slide dial that allow you to drop voicemails on people’s phone. It’s a little sneaky, but that might be a way to communicate, it’s just going to get harder and harder.
With with the ease of
automation, you know, two years ago, we started using a platform called persist IQ which is like, replied on IO, there’s a few of them out there where it’s like a Sales Automation email where it’s not like a MailChimp which is a newsletter. It’s like a one to one style email that comes supposedly from me to you. And back then it was a very novel thing. Now I get them like five times a day where it’s like, checking in, did you receive my last email and I’m like, stop spamming me, dude. So you know, the, it’s just getting more and more and more. And it’s all just mattering less than less than less. So I think old school things like picking up the phone sending a text or sending a handwritten note are all great ways to get in front of.
And I couldn’t agree more. And when it comes to you, I mean, you’ve been part of many different businesses. You’ve been doing this one for a while. And what’s been the biggest struggle or hurdle that you’ve you’ve faced, I mean, really grow in this business and how did you overcome it?
both businesses, I’ll give you a tale of two businesses so Cellit
was dirt broke. And I
sat in a room for two years in Scottsdale, Arizona with a like classic, stereotypical startup me a crummy Dell computer and a two liter bottle of Diet Mountain Dew by my side and I programmed all day long. That’s how stupid was but but that’s what we got and Cellit off the ground. And so the issue there was access to capital, just being able to hire people. If we did, like I, my sales guy, my first sales guy, and he was fantastic. In fact, I wanted to work for me now but he’s traveling the world. He’s in Vietnam and everything else. He he worked for me for commission only because he knew the value in what we were offering. And he made a ton of money commission only. So he really helped me get the business off the ground. And then when we got a call one days, we were doing these ones he twosie real estate deals, and, you know, bars and strip clubs and whatever, use coupons up at the time. Then we got a call from Marie Claire magazine that just blew us up. And then that that was it. So it was really just access to capital. With Handwrytten it’s very different. Handwrytten is now six years old. The first three years was me. Hey, I just sold another company. And then when I started Handwrytten, I also met a woman And we got married like four months later. And I was not in the mental space to focus entirely on Handwrytten at the time. So we, we bought these auto pens which are kind of off the shelf writing devices. And we use those to write the handwritten notes for the first year to two years, two years and I realized
the company behind the auto pen.
The guy that owns it is nice guy, but a very nice guy, very, very nice guy. But the company structure and his disorganization made it impossible to scale my business because they were kind of the only available option out there.
at first, I can only buy four robots for auto pens. And that’s not enough. Yeah, that’s got business right now I have 95 Wow, that’s not enough. So we went from four and then I had to play some bs games to get to eight by forming fake shell companies and it was a mess. He knew they were selling to me, but internal politics and everything else with his organization. We did that. And in addition to the the devices, access to the devices not working, the devices themselves were not in use were not as effective as what I have. Now, I want to be careful because he’s a nice guy with a good product, but not what we needed. Yeah.
if you were writing the same note over and over again, they would be fine. However, because you would just kind of align everything up, you move your little guides on the paper, you put the paper in it, it would work, you know, it would work fine. But if anything changed on that note, or the paper size changed, it was a disaster. And you just like oh, just move it over a little bit this way, or that way. And that’s just doesn’t that doesn’t scale and scale. And then also, every time we wanted to do handwriting style and his signature he raked over the coals because he needed to make a profit. So I said, You know what, screw it, we got to come up with our own robot. Mm hmm. And I had no idea how to do that. But what I did was, it took us three years to two to three years, and we had one false start where we hired a guy off Upwork, which is like one of these freelancer sites. He had a background you worked for JPL Jet Propulsion Lab. So the guys that literally his job was making a rocket to land on the border, and drill into the meteor and bring back a sample. So I’m like,
that’s, that’s my guy.
He was a stoner and he was not my guy.
I got back something that didn’t work.
And then I found another guy
who said, ‘Well, I can’t do this, but I’ll introduce you to a consulting firm, the best you’ll ever find.’ And they turned out to be based in Phoenix, and I was already In Phoenix at the time, and they provided us a robot. And what was interesting was, I did all the software. So I wrote the user interface and the drawing, but I needed a machine that could feed the paper. And that turned out to be a very big issue to scalability. So we met, they provided us a robot, that robot and I want to be conscious of your time because I could go on forever. But that robot turned out to cost eight grand to build in quantity, which was the same price as these auto pens.
Oh, that’s a no brainer. I mean, this is great. And then after they
ended over that robot, we I brought in a kid from ASU, whose background was remote control cars and 3D printing. He tinkered with both of those, and he was an electric or he was a mechanical engineer, and we trained him up at the engineers, the consultants train him on how to build these and then he come to my office. And the reason the remote control cause was important was the pen lifter that moved the pen up and down was on a servo, the exact same servo used in an RC car. So I was like, well, this guy seems to have a pretty good diagram for this. So then he came into my office, and he said, you know, that big metal box on the front of the robot that holds the electronics that costs you $400 bucks, and we could 3d print that and I said, Okay, well, the 3d printer. He said, I think it’s about $500. And I said, oh, that’s interesting. And I said, then how much would it cost to 3D print that box, so let me check on that. He came back in my office 20 minutes later. $7
no brainer. I’m like
one of those so we started 3D printing more and more parts. Using an off the shelf. Amazon CR10S 3D printer. That printer to start was fine. But we quickly realized it was not production grade. Start with no, but it got us off the metal. And the problem with the metal was not only did I have to buy 10 machines at once, to get the cost down to $10,000 each. So then playing on $80 grand to build these robots every time, I couldn’t change designs easily, I’d have to, you know, be super,
super careful. And then we’d have to ship off for 20 parts at a time or 10. But it was it was a it was very, very expensive to change. And it would take a lot of time because we’d have to wait for the fat, the CNC shops to do it on all that. Versus when we moved to 3d printing. We could literally draw out a part, freehand printed out in 10 minutes, try it out, see if it worked and move on. So what we did was we moved from CNC to 3D printing, and then from 3D printing. We overdid 3D printing where we were 3D printing flat pieces. So I was having a team meeting and I’m like, you know, this is great. But it is taking way too long. Just spit out a printer, a handwriting robot. What else can we do and we wrack your brain, we came up with a number of things, we ended up buying a laser cutter. So now in our facility, we have a laser cutter, we have 3D printers. And we’re able we brought the cost of building the robot down from $8,000, to about $2,500
and we’re able to turn them around much faster. They’re much better. It’s just a way better machine than we could buy. So we’re very vertically integrated now. One room, we build robots. The next room, we put the robots to work. It’s super geeky. Anybody in Arizona if COVID note not going on, feel free to stop by and you can see it for yourself. But uh, yeah, so And what happened was we moved. So when we started in Arizona, and we put in our first little office, we had enough orders to fill that out. office and then we bought a bigger we leased a bigger office about twice as much when you know it if we got enough orders to fill that office, then we doubled again, we got enough orders to fill that office. So
I’m not woowoo thinking, you know,
if you build it, they will come. But there is something about having the space and the capacity that drives business. And then when we built the robots, we created the capacity. You know, now we have 95 robots, we could keep building them but business is flattened due to the due to the pandemic. By having that capacity the business came in.
Yes. Oh, again, I’m not a
spiritual I’m not running around with sage, you know, saging everything. But, but there is there is a piece of that that matters. So now we’re expanding again, we’re going from 7000 square feet to about 14,000. And let’s keep competiveness thing. So the big challenge in this business has been the initial technology and now We’re, we’re pretty good. I mean, it’s now we’re facing holding, you know, and as you grow your face, we have issues. So, you know, we’re pumping out thousands, you know, on an average 85,000 notes a day that there’s 280 issues, and your QA team gets fatigued, looking at hundreds of notes a day, you know, each. So we’re now using machine learning computer vision to QA the notes. And so that’s a whole new thing. So it’s just you take an engineering approach to these problems. And it’s it’s been a lot of fun, way more complicated business and then Cellit like, compared to this is like, orders of magnitude more complicated,
but I’m sure it’s more fulfilling and even then it’s, I mean, you seem to be a serial entrepreneur. I’m sure that the stuff you’re learning the robots, the 3D printing, all the stuff that you’re learning from that I mean, problem this how you figured out how to bring cost down and be able to scale you’re gonna create like five or six more businesses, from this from the technology you’re creating in house. I mean,
Gray gray hairs popping up. So we’ll see. But yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, an entrepreneur, there’s a definite definition of an entrepreneur, which is like takes the resources they and I should Google it right now. They take the resources, they have to do more with them, you know, so you can be around an existing company and drive. Hey, we’ve been doing this this way for 50 years. Let’s not do that. Let’s do it this way. Now you’re an entrepreneur. And that’s what I try to do is we try to, you know, we try to do more with the resources we have. And yeah, that’s the fun part. And you know, like yesterday, we walked in a new sensor into some of the robots to handle to better handle out of paper notifications and stuff like that. And now when the machines out of paper, the wheels don’t spin burning up, polyurethane on the wheels, and I’m like, Oh, this is great. Saving The Wheels. We’re not getting like rubber. racer dust everywhere. No. And so like little things like that really, really light my fire. So a lot of
awesome you guys are growing. I mean, that’s that’s a lot of handwritten notes a day for the next three to six months. I mean, how are you guys marketing yourselves? How are you guys getting out there? How you guys continuing that growth? I know you mentioned there’s a plateau but sure that that you’re going to get over that here soon. I mean, what do you guys do in that sense?
Yeah. So what you do we do what we’ve just started dipping our toe in Facebook advertising. We for the longest time we’ve been doing Google Ads. And Google is fine, but it’s only attracting users that want your service, which is you know, why do people want service. But when you’re in, there’s something called the BCG matrix Boston Consulting Group matrix which basically says you have four different types of if you were to visualize or box quadrant because consultants always visualize
on one side, you have
customers, you have existing customers at the bottom, and new customers at the top. And then on the other on the other axes, you have products and existing products and new products. So the easiest thing to do is sell an existing product to an existing customer. Yep, you’re an office supply store. People come in all the time you sell them pens, they’re already your customer. You just sell them pens, easy. We’re a small companies, we don’t have any existing clients, relatively speaking. I mean, we do but now we do. But when we’re selling a new product to new clients, that is the hardest thing you can do. And when you’re selling new products, you can’t rely on Google Ads because nobody’s going to be searching for robotically written handwritten notes. So now we’re using facebook, facebook more than LinkedIn even because LinkedIn so darn, yeah, but every business owner and business manager is also a consumer on Facebook. So we’re nailing Facebook and that’s drop driven our cost per acquisition is in half, almost. Oh, that’s Yeah, so we’re doing that we’re improving our videos, we could probably use your help for a job better videos on the Facebook Ads. And so that’s that’s a big push, what we try to do is if you visit our website at the business page, you’ll see sample kits that you can order free of charge. And we’re driving people to those sample kits, because once they get our samples, they see how amazing it is. And then they sign up so so that’s that’s kind of our number one thing is Facebook advertising. We’re also deep into search engine optimization and content marketing. And now we’re starting webinars, and maybe you know, you and I talk after this about doing a joint webinar because that
would be cool.
Yeah, I’m not I’m not so much about again, like I’ve tried, trying to get better at it. I’m not a sales guy. I’m just passionate about what I do. I don’t want to sell Handwrytten with a ‘Y.’ I want to sell handwritten cards with an ‘I,’ you know, actual handwritten cards. If you use us great if you don’t use this fine, but we need to get out there and be the thought leaders. Just like Tesla is out there pushing the the change to electrification of cars. Yes, they’re selling Tesla cars, but really, their mission is to push electrification of cars. Our mission is to push more handwritten notes and deeper personalized relationships with customers. So that’s, that’s what I you know, what we’re going to be doing with our webinar series.
Yeah, no, I love it. I can definitely hear the passion and that’s, that’s, you know what problem you’re solving and, and that’s huge and you don’t really have to come out and sell I mean, just show the passion will help show the value that you bring in the sales will come. should maybe check out YouTube, pre roll ads. I mean, if you’re if you’re running video ads, you can run ads in front of the competitors YouTube channel. In all their videos, but I mean, you can hit the marketing people that are in service for marketing, and really the education piece on how it works and how this cuts to the noise. I mean, YouTube’s been doing a big, big push to create more direct response marketing. And so it might be a channel where we’re testing if you’re if you’re seeing some success on Facebook. And it’s super cheap. I mean, have you seen those ones where you can skip in 30? or five seconds or whatever? Yeah, yeah, those literally, if someone skips you’re not charged anything, you’re only charged if someone watches 30 seconds or more of the video, and you’re looking at like two to three cents a view. And then you can retarget the people that watch it similar to Facebook and a bunch of other stuff. But there’s a ton of whitespace. And I mean, I like nerding out quite a bit. I mean, Ott I don’t know if you’ve like connected TV that might be
We have a partner that. I mean, it’s similar to like Google ads and Facebook ads. But I mean, essentially you can retarget people on your website and serve them a TV ad. If they’re watching like Sling TV or Or ESPN or YouTube TV through like, it’s the cord cutting people, which is it’s a huge growing demographic for, you know, the little bit older, older demographic, those decision makers. I mean, there could be a ton of opportunity there but always happy to, I mean, chat if you have any questions there, but um, no, I love that you guys are getting into it. I mean, that’s it’s I can’t wait to see what you guys do. I mean, you guys have an awesome solution. And so it’ll be fun to watch kind of watch the growth and
yeah, thank you, man. Yeah, well, discussion after this call. For sure. Yeah, that’s that’s kind of it. So
that’s cool. As we kind of wrap up. I mean, you you have tons of knowledge you’ve been doing quite a bit. I mean, if there’s someone that’s just starting their own business or trying to dabble into the entrepreneurship, I mean, what’s I guess the biggest piece of advice that you can give someone
There’s number one, there’s a book that really hit home for me. And it’s an older book called The “E Myth” by Michael Gerber. It’s a pamphlet of a read. I mean, you can pound through it in two nights maybe. But it talks about working on your business versus working in your business. And I fail at that sometimes, like I should not write the code to handle a sensor in a paper feed mechanism that’s working in your business right away. And that’s that the the trap that entrepreneurs fall in so you it’s worth reading the “E Myth,” it’s it’ll cost you 10 bucks and two nights of your read. My advice would be twofold. Number one, I was fortunate enough in college to bring speakers to campus I was like in a geeky group I was a part of, and we brought Conan O’Brien and he was actually quite thoughtful. And this is back 20 years ago. 25. And he said, always get in over your head. And that is you know, people give you advice every day, right? Like, but 25 years later, I’m still thinking about Conan O’Brien telling me always getting over my head. I mean, I we met with a lot of people being in that speaker group, including Trump. But, but always getting over your head really stuck. So yeah, I think always get in over your head. And then another bit of advice would be, there’s no better time to start a business than today. And the reason I say that is twofold. Number one, as you get older, you’re just gonna have more responsibilities, whether that’s a second house mortgage, a first house mortgage, children, a wife, a husband, whatever, there’s always more and more and more and more and more. So if you start today, you can get in front of it a little bit. Number two, there’s this aspect of analysis paralysis if you’ve heard that term, oh, yeah. Oh, people. Oh, I don’t know. Should I start the business? Should I not like Take me for example, with the robots? Had I waited until I actually start Handwryttenn until I actually had my own robot. How many years would have been set back? Yeah. Oh, you just gotta jump in and effing figure it out. I love it. And, and so that’s, that’s really important too
know, I absolutely love that. I mean, just even from a marketing perspective working with clients, it’s like, we spent so much time planning and prepping and all that let’s just, let’s just go like it just that analysis paralysis is trying to strive for perfection, but it’s like once, you know, get it there and once you’re in market, I mean, hate the learnings but I think Yeah, that’s a huge piece of advice. Definitely check out that book because that’s the biggest thing that is on my number one right right now is I’ve been 110,000% working in the business not on it and trying to do all we can I mean, like you mentioned, the the finances and all that it though, given that working capital is tough, but you know, we’re trying to grow organically, just bootstrapping it, not trying to trying to borrow so trying to grow a team and which then allow me to work more on it. So I’m gonna check out that book. But yeah, I mean, outside of that I really appreciate your time. And I it’s cool that you’re here in Phoenix. I’d love to swing by and check out the facility. It would be cool. Really cool to see.
Yeah, absolutely. I just say please wait until after COVID. Yeah, I mean, we we have kids coming in here like stem kids coming in here we, we have, you know, we invite all our clients, prospects, anybody I mean, we we’re very proud of what we’ve created here. And it’s unique. You don’t see vertically integrated companies anymore. So yeah, we’d love to have you by and we’ll see in touch for sure. And if any of your customer your listeners want to try our service, just sign up on our website. Don’t use Facebook or Google to often just sign-up and use discount code PODCAST and you’ll get $5 in credit to use.
Go watch one click on the show notes. And so if someone does want to reach out to you or or sign up. How can they find you? And how can they find the company?
Yeah, so I’m on LinkedIn, David Wachs or just David Handwrytten, I mean, I’m the only one. There’s also our Facebook page, Handwrytten on Facebook, at Handwrytten on Twitter, David B Wachs on Twitter, although I don’t tweet that much, as much as I should. And then I occasionally write for Ink Magazine. So if you search for my articles on Ink Magazine, you can see those.
That’s awesome. And if you’re listening to this, trying to find a different channel, a new channel to test this is definitely one to test and I would highly recommend going to check them out. So David, thank you so much for your time and look forward to staying in touch.
Thanks so much. Thank you.