Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Food,Models,Hate Mail- It’s All In Jack’s Best

Name of your company and URL?
Jack’s Best, http://www.jacksbest.com

Date started?
11/15/2011

What is your product or service?
Jack’s Best is an online video cooking class where guys learn to make impressive dishes to impress their dates.

Why did you start your company?
Food, models, hate mail- it’s all in this businessI started Jack’s Best so I can teach single guys how to make impressive dishes so they can impress their dates.

It all goes back to when I was in college where I was a starving student. I had a girlfriend at the time and there wasn’t much I did that really impressed her. That was, until I started to learn to cook. After a while, I was cooking for her almost every weekend. Then it became every other day. And she was always impressed. It definitely helped in keeping our relationship together.

Even a little bit later, her mom was asking me for my recipes! Insane. From that experience, I knew if I could pass the mom-test, I was definitely a good cook.

After college, I started to throw parties where I did all the cooking. It was something I thought would be cool if I could cook for the masses (kind of like being able to run a marathon). The first party I threw was for 40. I did 90% of the cooking. That took me the entire week where I planned out the dishes and what I was going to make on what day. All my friends thought I should start a restaurant. That’s when some names were suggested- “Liu For You”, “Jack’s Best”, etc. I let the idea simmer for a while because starting a restaurant was too much work. It was just not worth it.

Few years later, I again threw another party where I made all the food. Again, my friends were impressed. This time, girls came up to me and suggested I should teach their boyfriends. On a side note, you know how most people show up late to parties? Well, not mine because they knew the food was first-come-first-serve. Come a bit late, and it’ll be gone!

Later that night, two of my friends John and Jess suggested the idea again that I teach others how to cook. But this time, they said I should teach single guys because some are clueless. We started brainstorming and that’s when I threw in the idea of a female co-host to give dating tips. Being the entrepreneur that I was, I thought what better way to test the idea than to pitch it to a table of 20-something guys sitting next us(link to pitch story). We actually knew many of them as they attended the same church as us. So we pitched the idea and they loved it.

I further refined the idea by thinking more about how to scale it. Doing in-person classes would allow me to charge a lot more (average classes cost $100 for a 2-hour session) but there would be a lot of red tape to go through. For example, I would need to rent a commercial kitchen. But then I thought about online courses.

Some people might say, “But there’s already free stuff online and all over YouTube”. I’m aware of that. But I thought if I made the content instructional, funny and unique, it could sell. I mean, there’s FoodNetwork but there are still guys who don’t know the first thing about cooking. So what’s the problem there? I found out that it’s just not interesting to watch food channels all day. You pick up a thing here and there but you need to invest time. What Jack’s Best does is different. I would teach you to make dishes that are guaranteed to be impressive (because I tried it). By learning to make something you would actually enjoy eating, whatever you learn will stick. It’s called Jack’s Best for a reason because they are my best dishes. And watching a hot girl give dating tips would be a bonus.

How was it financed?
It was financed entirely by me. To date, I spent about $1500 to launch the product. That is very little. And I did all this with creatively budgeting. I knew I needed a video guy who would do the shooting and editing. I knew I needed a female co-host because no guy would watch another dude cook for 20 minutes. So from that, I started to build my team. I hired a video editor on sweat equity through Craiglist by offering a percentage of all revenue. I had a lot of responses. I must have looked through 50 or more resumes and interviewed 5 in person. I casted a female co-host by asking friends and going to websites like Mandy.com and even Craigslist.

Oh yeah, when you try to hire creatively like I did, you will get hate mail. This is the exact email I received from someone on Craiglist:

“If you are going to have people work, then you have to pay them at least minimum wage. Then, you can offer an extra payment on top of that from sales. Anything else is a rip off and illegal on top of that. I am sure you don’t want to be breaking the law just to get your crummy video done, do you?”

Just know that people will hate you because you are trying to be different. Entrepreneurs by default have to be different.

What online or offline tools do you use?
Some of these are not free but man are they worth it.

99Designs.com (I threw a contest on there and got the best design for the logo. I knew from the start that the brand was worth investing into. If you went to just a single designer, you will only get his ideas on what a logo would look like. 99Designs allows you to get designs from many designers all giving you their perspective on what your logo would look like. That was very important to me.)

(Free) TeenBusinessForum.com (hiring web designer, graphics designer. There are some sharp and brilliant kids in that community. Post what you need there, and establish a working relationship with them. I’d been using the same graphics designer for 2 years, and he’s great.)

($5) Fiverr.com (I got my animation done there by a woman who had experience with Xtranormal. Great lady. Great quality. Usually, all the tasks go for $5, but I knew my animation would cost more so we worked something out. Someone on Fiverr also did the original cartoon of me.

(Free) Craiglist.com (I posted on the gigs section as well as in the paid section. I went the paid job route because I knew spending the money to hire people is always worth the investment)

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or?
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jacksbest

YouTube video


How many people are currently working, including employees?
Partner video editor
Female co-host
Freelance web designer
Freelance graphics designer
Freelance video editor

What is the best advice you never got?
It’s worth spending money and time to hire the right people. I did this with Craiglist where I put up a paid job post to attract more resumes. I also interviewed the ones I thought would be the best fit as well as calling their references. How many companies actually do that nowadays?

I also paid for a conference room to audition girls for the female co-host role. Paying for the conference room was critical because I needed to see how a girl and I would interact on camera. And you can’t ask a girl to come to an apartment because that is shady!

What almost killed your business in the start?

Food, models, hate mail- it’s all in this business

Jack Liu

I wasn’t sure if people were willing to pay for the product. So what I did was test it. And I did this without having a website setup, or a video cooking lesson. What I did was first send a survey to 20 of my guy friends asking them how much they would pay for cooking lessons and other related things. Then I sent the ones that would be willing to pay $25 or more for a class an email stating that I will be coming out with online cooking classes. I asked them to pay me $5 via Paypal for the first lesson when it comes out a month later. Notice I did not have anything when I asked someone to buy from me. I got 4 people to pay out of 10. That little bit was enough to give me motivation to keep building the product.

What is the one thing that you did right?
I believe testing the market was what I did right. I saw that people were wiling to pay for it before I actually made it.

What was the biggest transition you had to make?
Well, for one I had to learn to smile more because now I was on camera! I also learned to delegate very well. I could have created the website myself but that would take me a very long. And if I focused on that, then I wouldn’t be able to think about how the product would look like or how it’s going to be delivered to the customer.

I became a pretty good product manager. I had a vision for how I wanted the video lesson to look in the end and communicated that to my video editor. It wasn’t perfect at the start but we were able to product something great.

I also learned to only work on things that I knew no one else could do except me.

Are you currently in the black or red?
We’re in the red at the moment.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?
I have done mostly Google AdWords. I’m still testing the different traffic sources, like Facebook, Twitter, AdWords, banners and aren’t sure yet which one brings in the best leads.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?
I like to run it. I see that 6 months to a year from now, I would rebrand it so that the logo doesn’t have my face on it but it would be more generic. And I would like to hire other chefs who have impressive recipes. That way, I can step out and act as CEO.

What do you think your projected annual revenue will be?
I launched the idea with the notion that the business will do $1 Million annual revenue. It’s not worth starting a business if that’s not your base number. I’d broken down the numbers and the site would need approximately 8400 members to reach that revenue. That sounds like a lot but when you break down conversions of 1%, you realize how much traffic you need. And there are a lot of traffic sources out there.

How long do you think it will take you to get to your projected annual revenue?
A year or two. I wish I can elaborate more on this but we just don’t have enough data to give a realistic forecast. Ask me a couple of months from now.

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