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Born of necessity: Da Brim® offers innovative sun protection for outdoor enthusiasts

Born of necessity: Da Brim® offers innovative sun protection for outdoor enthusiastsHeading outdoors to escape the daily grind can be a wonderful and refreshing experience; in fact, Erik and I were regular weekend warriors who enjoyed both the tranquility of being in nature and the prospect of conquering a new challenge all while escaping our dull and boring office cubicles. We had enough fluorescent lighting and cream-colored walls Monday-Friday. There was no need to experience the same on our days off.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we were fortunate to take in Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, the Pacific Ocean, and all the other great destinations in the area. As avid cyclists and climbers, we were safety conscious, always ensuring we wore our helmets on adventures. However, we were constantly getting baked in the sun since helmets offer little to no sun protection. We thought there had to be a way we could protect ourselves from impact but not return to our office jobs with lobster-style sunburns—not only were the sunburns embarrassing and uncomfortable but they also brought forth fears of skin cancer. Despite our many internet search attempts, we were unable to find a solution to our problem, so we set out to create one. The result was Da Brim®(http://www.dabrim.com/), a 360° visor for outdoor sports helmets.

The Da Brim® helmet visor quickly and easily installs with no glues or other sticky adhesives, allows air to flow through open air vents, and provides UPF50+ sun protection. Our patent-pending, low profile visor design provides secure yet removable attachment to cycling, climbing, skiing, kayaking, skateboarding, and equestrian helmets. Da Brim® can be seen in action on our YouTube channel, DaBrimShade:

Creating the first few prototypes was a bit of a daunting challenge. With an education in electrical engineering and biochemistry, we only had the rudimentary sewing skills my grandmother taught me as a child to rely on. It was challenging to say the least. However, with perseverance and determination, we succeeded in generating a functional prototype. As entrepreneurs, we’ve since stretched ourselves far out of our previous comfort zones on a daily basis.

Born of necessity: Da Brim® offers innovative sun protection for outdoor enthusiasts

Da Brim Erik and Teresa

Since embarking on this journey, we’ve learned a lot about the pace of getting a business off the ground. Unfortunately, things never seem to move at the pace you want them to—it always seems like things are taking too long. However, looking back, we realize that compared to other benchmarks in the industry, we’re doing well. Stepping back and making a list of your accomplishments for each month can really help—during this month I closed this number of accounts, made so many dollars in sales, and received a certain number of articles of positive publicity. It’s particularly important to reflect on these successes for bootstrapped, small businesses, because as a company of 2 people, you have to be your own cheerleader. No one else is going to come in and tell you what a good job you’ve done. It’s easy to be hard on yourself but if you step back and reflect at the end of each week or even each month to see how much you’ve accomplished, it’s satisfying. It’s definitely a better feeling than looking at how many things you still have to do on your task list!

In any business, finding the right people to support your work is key—they should have the same vision you do. We are building our company on a high quality, made in USA product, and strive to provide excellent customer service. We are still a very small company, so we interface with contractors regularly to support our website, marketing, and manufacturing efforts amongst others. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get high quality results, but you do need to find the right fit with your contractors. Having an amazing graphic artist that understands what our business is based on and a passion for our product has helped us develop a strong brand message and, importantly, she’s always available for us—even though we’re definitely not her largest account.

We’ve also taken advantage of the expertise of our contractors. Finding the right contract manufacturer has been a lifesaver for us, especially since we had no experience in the garment industry. We went through many attempts to find a contractor in the US and were told over and over there was no way we could make the product in this country and still sell it at a reasonable price. After we had nearly given up, we finally found the right fit—with a team that was dedicated to delivering the high quality our customers expected at a fair price. We’ve been able to use their expertise to change steps in the manufacturing process that significantly reduced costs.

Having a domestic contract manufacturer also provides us a competitive advantage by allowing us to adapt quickly to changes in customer desires. We didn’t have to sink a lot of money into massive volumes of inventory that will be delivered 3-6 months later. We also didn’t have to guess at what the market wants—having a small amount of inventory in the beginning allowed us to determine color and model popularity. If we had gone offshore, we would have likely guessed wrong and missed sales opportunities. Not only does working with a US contractor make business sense, it’s also a great feeling to support our own economy and know that we’ve created American jobs. We’re immensely proud of that!

If we could have done one thing better, it would have been to evaluate our ROI on publicity and exposure. We invested in a number of trade shows in the beginning that didn’t pan out. Since then we’ve learned that nothing beats a face-to-face sales call. Our investment in this new sales strategy has been minimal, but the return has been so much higher than going to big, expensive, and distant trade shows. We’ve learned that when you have an “out of the box” product, you have to enable shop owners to sell your product. It’s easier for them to sell the big brands because they spend millions of dollars on advertising, but your product likely has had very little exposure and customers likely don’t know the product even exists. Providing sales numbers, reviews, and customer feedback helps retailers to make a decision as to whether your product is right for their shop; then, it’s important to support them with sales aids. If they are successful, you’ll be successful, so it’s very important to nurture that symbiotic relationship.

We’re actively growing and expanding Bryan Family Enterprises LLC, the company that makes Da Brim®. We’re advertising on Google Adwords and Microsoft Ad Center and taking every opportunity to receive blogger reviews and free publicity. In our experience, this is the best way to reach our target market cost effectively. We also use Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers:

http://www.facebook.com/DaBrim

http://twitter.com/#!/Da_Brim

Da Brim® is our first product and we hope to add more unique solutions to unsolved problems within the outdoor industry to our line-up soon.

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