How does education about your product turn people into passionate consumers? What are ways to silence the noise of low-quality knock-offs through quality and innovation? How do you gain great sales and endless satisfied customer testimonials with all the competition on Amazon? In today’s episode, Robert Watson, Founder of Crown Quality Products, shares his personal success journey with his line of iconic hair products.
Robert shows us all that you can reach your business goals with passion, drive, energy, and excitement. In this 20 minute interview, Robert tells us how he grew his business from scratch into both national retail and e-commerce with phenomenal success.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
You can watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/lophCE9AZy0
Check out the full line of products at CrownQualityProducts.com, and get 20% off your purchase by using promo code “HarvestGrowth22”
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Visit HarvestGrowth.com to set up a free strategy call!
Jon LaClare: As today's guest states at the end of our interview and shows through all the stories he shares about his own personal success journey with his line of iconic men's hair products, you can reach your business goals with your passion, drive, energy, and excitement. In this 20-minute interview, Robert shares how he grew his business from scratch into national retail and phenomenal e-commerce success. Welcome to another episode of The Harvest Growth Podcast focused on helping consumer-product companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their product businesses. Today, I'm excited to speak with one of our favorite clients, Robert Watson.
He's the founder and CEO of Crown Quality Products. They're the makers of iconic hairbrushes and a whole line of hair products that are just great products. We'll send you their website for those of you who are listening and not seeing any video. You won't see any of the products today but we'll describe them. You'll get a good sense for what makes Robert's hair products so great, and also, his business story behind it. How he's grown such a successful business, which I know is why a lot of you are here listening to this story today. Robert, welcome to the show.
Robert Watson: Oh, thank you for having me, Jon. It's a pleasure. A pleasure to be working with you. A pleasure to be here.
Jon: Likewise. We have a lot of fun with you, for sure. I want to jump in and let's talk first about your products themselves for those of our listeners that aren't familiar with Crown Quality hair products. Let's talk about brushes first of all. Those are your mainline products and your hair products that you create. What makes your hairbrushes so unique and different?
Robert: I had many years as a barber. I was interested in barbering and I cut hair. I noticed that we're using flat brushes on curved heads and I realized, "Why not have a brush that contours to the head where more bristles are in contact with the scalp and thus more efficient?" What makes our hairbrushes so unique at first was the contour shape, that had never been done before. I started out making them by hand but our products are geared towards results. It wasn't just the contour shape but it was more bristles. We made our bristles more fuller, the bristle brass. We added more bristles, made the bristles longer, made the brushes a little wider.
Made the brushes more attractive, more ergonomic, curved the handles. I felt like the hairbrush hadn't been changed in thousands of years and no one really cares about men's products or men's grooming so much. I said, "This would be good to start with the men." It works very well for women. Women love it. What makes it unique, I think it's the thought put behind it to getting those phenomenal results grooming the hair a lot faster, a lot quicker, save a lot more time. Also, the aesthetic look it. Not just a brown brush, a black brush, a gray brush, but all types of different colors. Blue, red, green. Just to match a gentleman's unique personality. The logo that we have in gold lettering just to make it more of a higher-end hairbrush. A functionally more sound hairbrush and that's what we developed.
Jon: You've done a great job with this. I'm holding one up for anybody who sees this podcast in video. This is one example of very many that you can see on their website, which is crownqualityproducts.com. You can see the contour in there. Great ergonomic grip. I probably shouldn't admit this to you, Robert, but I never spent much on hairbrushes before I met you, like just, "I'm fine. My hair is short or whatever." Man, what a difference. It's always been an afterthought. I think for a lot of men, it is that way. You just get what you get and when you come across a product of great quality like this, you now understand the difference.
Just having used it several times now. From the first time I used it, you just see a difference. I can't go back to my cheap hairbrushes anymore. Not that these are that expensive, but they're just so much better quality. It's such a different look and feel from other hairbrushes I've had in the past. It really stands above the rest of the crowd, especially for men's grooming, which is a big part of what your business is centered around. Did you go through a lot of rounds of prototypes? You're not a product developer by trade. You started off as a barber and you came up with this great idea. How did you get from that point until having today these amazing quality brushes in hand?
Robert: As a barber, but I always was an artist also. I would work on paintings and I was always good at working with wood. My stepfather, he worked with wood, also, build benches, different projects we would make. I made the first prototype out of a 2 by 4 and I just used a wood file. I drew it on a 2 by 4 and I filed the whole thing into the shape that I wanted. I drilled holes and took bristles out of the existing brush and glued them in. I used it on my customers but I didn't tell them that I made it, so I wanted a sincere kind of reaction. I told them. I used it on the head and of course, it feels like your mother's rubbing your head. They said, "Man, what type of brush is that?"
I said, "I got this from New York. It cost a lot of money, man." [chuckles] Brush him some more as I'm cutting his hair and he said, "Man, tell me where you got that brush at." I said, "Man, this brush is $25." Now, at the time, brushes were $3, $5, but I wanted to test it and see if I could garner to get that price. I remember one customer at the end, he said, "Man, tell me where you got that. I'm going to go get mine."
I knew it was a winner. It took maybe 10 prototypes before I got it to the original design. Not the one you're holding up, those are the newest ones. The first design, the wooden ones, it took some time. It took a lot of honing. I finally started using a bandsaw and my stepfather was helping me out and I got a Dremel. I would use it to shape it with a Dremel. Started from the ground up, literally [laughs].
Jon: I love it. So many of our interviews that I've done over the years and in our own work, as well, in helping to launch products, there's commonalities or threads that go through these stories of successful product launches. I don't know if I've ever worked with someone who's been a barber before and developed their own product using a Dremel and had bandsaws and that kind of stuff, but the commonality that is there is that live testing. I love how you, even before you admitted it, don't interject too much like, "Hey, I made that." Of course, they're going to say they love it. Very smart of you to say, "This is something I bought. What do you think?"
It almost becomes a true form of market research, or testing really, with that live environment and being able to fine-tune and hone it whether in your barbershop. We talk a lot about home shows or booths at conventions and trade fairs where you can talk to people one on one and sell face to face, it makes all the difference.
Robert: It does.
Jon: That's a common story. Let's talk about how this-- You started off, you developed this product, you knew you had something, and then, quickly after that, it really started to take off. You and I have talked about one of your first successes was your website and then, of course, retail sales. In the beginning, you knew you had something because people-- You're cutting their hair and at your barbershop they loved it. What was the turning point that started to really make the business take off and drastically increased your revenues?
Robert: After obtaining my first shipment, it was very difficult to get manufactured but that's a story all on to itself. I get my first shipment and starts taking off because the results were phenomenal but then, it was like a lull in it for a few months or so. Me and a couple of colleagues, we went from city to city, State to State, from Detroit to the East Coast. Hit every city, DC, State of New Jersey, Philly, just everywhere, and all the way out to California. This was some week's trip. I just was determined that I would sell all of them. I would say, "I'm not going to come back until I sell them all."
Then, we had to educate people. Going into the barbershops, educating people how to use it, the difference. It was an arduous trip going all the way out to California and selling them in all those cities. I would say that was the turning point because, on the drive, I got frustrated. I'm getting twos and fews but wasn't the booming sales we're getting on the East Coast coming back from the West Coast. On the way back, I got upset and I said, "Man, I don't know about this and it's been so hard." Then it was like, my phone just started blowing up, people want to retail them, people wanted to buy wholesale. I think that spread it selling wholesale versus the website. They're buying units of 12, 24 and by going shop to shop every celebrity, every sports guy, plays sports. Somebody's cutting their hair. A lot of celebrities and athletes, they would get the brushes and show them to their friends. A I had NBA players call me and say, "When you going to get, we would just sail through the brushes." They say, "Man, when you going to get some more man, put me on the top of the list." I did a CJ Watts. I was talking in one time. Then I said, "Has Derrick Rose got one." He said, "He's waiting too." It just took off faster than I could get the revenue to invest back and to get the really massive units I needed, but we still did fair.
On Amazon, it took off, we're in the top 20% of sellers on Amazon. Someone checks us out on Amazon crowd, quality price, all those original listings are down. We would had thousands and thousands of ratings, but we don't have those listings anymore because Amazon. Well that's, I'm going into another story. They [unintelligible 00:11:30] how they did this. So we had to redo it. I would say that really made it take off. Just a lot of people started doing YouTube videos. We started soliciting people to do say, instead of doing Google ads or anything like that, we just did YouTube videos and got the people that said, "Hey, if you do a video, we'll put you on our team." When you're on our team, you get the new products first and then you can do reviews first. YouTube, really at that time it wasn't being done that so much. We had all the top YouTubers at that time that were doing little reviews, doing reviews. They joined our team and that multiplied it tremendously. That was it. It just caught on, it took about three years before the knockoffs came on. Then you started seeing it. They would copy the same colors, everything.
At first when the knockoffs came our sales went up because they validated it. We knew it was coming. It made no sense to sue at that time because it was big companies that was doing it, my attorney said, "Well, it'd be about 400,000 to go after it." So listen, said, "Let's make the next thing." Something we make faster, cheaper with a less defect rate and that's more durable. That's the new versions that we have now and that's turning us into where really I want to be in the women's, that's where the-- From that going into women's and from women's that's where we want to be in women's now
Jon: Lots of great nuggets in there of really just great advice through your story. You just shared one of which is any successful product company is going to have knockoffs come after them, especially the age of Amazon, you just can't avoid it. That timeline is getting faster and faster. Sometimes in your case, they're big companies. Sometimes they're small could be Chinese companies knocking you off from the factory next door or whatever it might be. As you've stated here, it's hard to fight them in court, whether they're big or small companies. It's hard to get much out of this . It's just such a drain on resources. What I've seen is what you've done. A couple ways it's through quality and through innovation, right? As long as you maintain the best product on the market, then you rise above the rest. They realize, generally speaking, those knock offs are terrible quality. Even sometimes from the big guys or innovation or a combination of the two. When you actually innovate you always stay a couple of steps ahead of them. The nature of it is, these knockoff companies, they're not good at innovating, right? They're going to copy your next one but then by then your two steps ahead. Keeping that flow going can really help you to stay successful even when they come after you.
Robert: I totally agree. That's the main thing to innovate, innovate, innovate, is tons of steps ahead thinking futuristically out the box. It's like, look at us now we started off people didn't believe we could sell a $15 $20 brush. The beauty supply market, when brush was $5. Now we have brushes what $32 brushes $42 in our hottest brush right now, as you probably know is our king brush, which is $70 out the door, $70. We want to have a $200 brush. Then as you said, the knockoffs, when they come in, they're going to try to compete on price more so, but as they come in and compete on price, we can continually elevate and compete on function and create on innovation.
Jon: Maintaining your status as a premium brand. As you said, sometimes the knockoffs actually help you. Realizing, you clearly have something here, but you're the best and they're knockoffs and it's, that higher price can sometimes be a great way of signifying that. I see what saying. As you and I have talked, we've been lucky enough to work together on your direct to consumer campaign. One of the things that I loved about this. You're fun to work with, but also right away, we had success out the gates, which is not normal. Usually, it takes time to optimize tweak and just take some work. To dial things in and then it takes off. Right from day one, yours are successful and that's again, a common thread going back in the store, you shared about your past. Where, this all takes work. I don't mean to be little that at all because you drove across the country to meet with barber shops and people all around the country, et cetera. It takes a lot of work to get there, but still, as you said, it happened fast in every step of the way. I have my opinion as to why, but I'd love to hear. Why do you think, at your each step of the way your business has really taken off and been successful and been profitable even with new marketing channels?
Robert: Well, yes. Hindsight being 2020, that it is that, and I'm so blessed. I would like to say now, for that point to be honest, it's through prayer and yielding and following direction. Being open, being humble to it like, I met Harvest Growth and you work to another company. It was a company before that company, if I would've went with them, then I wouldn't have met you all, which have been phenomenal. Thank you. Following your intuition, following God's guidance is so important. That's my testimony. Somebody else has something else, but mine is that, and that, following the guidance of my Lord and savior, that's what worked for me. Yes, it's up to us to make our plans and prepare the way and prepare our heart but he'll open the doors. He'll give you gumption. He'll give you intuition. Say, "Go with Jon, go with them. Do that." No, that doesn't sound right. Give you discernment. That's my honest testimony.
Jon: Thank you for sharing that. I couldn't agree more. I think if we open our hearts to the, direction from Christ coming down to help us, then, he wants all of us to succeed. I think and just being open to that and watching for, or his direction is a great testimony. Great Testament for sure. Thank you for sharing that. Are there any resources that you would recommend that have been really helpful for your business books, podcasts conferences, et cetera.
Robert: One thing I did before going on the street selling hand to hand. I did a lot of research because that made me nervous. I've always sold when I was younger but your own product that you work hard on, you're close to it, and I was nervous about the no's and the rejection I would get. To do that, I read a lot, I studied a lot about sales and money, my favorite, and he's also was a brother in Christ, a Zig Ziglar.
Jon: Oh, sure.
Robert: I love Zig. Zig Ziglar, I studied a lot of him. A book, How Small Business Trades Worldwide, counterintuitive to a lot of things you may hear and they may have a updated version, but it was spot on. What else, study what other books that, that helped me, not more in finance and business. I'm a big, I lover Benjamin Graham. That may be a little way, but that type of thinking that type of empathetic, I like what they do, how do I do what they do and searching that out, Benjamin Graham, even though it's a investment. That way of thinking. A lot of books even The Prince by Machiavelli, Strategy I think that's under until this day-- what really inspired me is, oh man, Friedrich Hayek's-- what was the book, Road to Serfdom and I know that's kind of been took in the other way that book or something in recent times, but that book inspired me and I said, "I want to be in manufacturing or have a service that I can sell to a lot of people." [laughs] after reading Road to Serfdom.
That got me on the way of thinking and of course the word of God, the main thing, Proverbs. I tell people all the time, "Read Proverbs. Read the word.
Jon: Inspirational. Absolutely. These are all great resources. I haven't heard of Road to Serfdom, I'll have to check that one out. I love asking that question for selfish reasons because it helps me to always discover new resources as well, but our audience also loves it for sure. Robert, is there anything I didn't ask during this interview that you think could be helpful for our audience.
Robert: I would add this, I would say, whatever you're doing, your goal, you can and will reach it. When you have an idea and you're excited about it, you're ecstatic about it and it's something that you want or you want to or you would like, that you're just one person out of a million if you would love to have it. As special as we think we are, we're not all that special. We can't tell the squirrels apart but they're all different just like us.
If you would like to have it and there's a lot of other people that would like to have it, if you just get 2% of the market you're a multi-millionaire. Keep that energy and know as you go forward and seeking it out and bringing it to market whatever it may be, business, service, you're going to have setbacks. It's who can endure past the setbacks and that energy is going to wane, you're not going to be as excited after so many setback, but the initial vision you will achieve it if you see it all the way through. I think that's the most important thing. That's the most important thing to remember.
Jon: Thank you, that's inspirational. You you talked about if you have a goal, if you have passion, energy, excitement, drive behind yourself to reach that goal, you can reach it. I love that visualization of reaching your goal. Amazing goals don't fall in your lap, you've got to reach for them. It takes effort, it takes passion, it takes drive, but with that you can find success through. You've been a great example of that for sure with your business and the way you live your life too.
Thanks again for taking the time to be on the show with us. I’m sure our audience is going to love this interview. I will say for our listeners, please go to crownqualityproducts.com, it'll be in the show notes as well, that url, to learn more about Robert’s business and his line of products. Try these brushes out, you've got to take my word on it as a former purchaser of very cheap brushes, you can't beat the qualities and it makes a difference in a product you use every single day in your life.
Be sure to check out also our website, theharvestgrowthpodcast.com to see other episodes we've recorded and if you like this episode, want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and leave us a review at iTunes or Google Play. Thanks again Robert.
Robert: Oh, thanks for having me Jon.
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