Before the positive takeaways, I think it'd be valuable to share the nitty gritty of the operations. I've always used the pronoun "we" when describing FNO- meaning the community and supporters helping to build this business, but behind the scenes it was just me (Chris DeVore) doing the day-to-day. So before Kickstarter took over in 2014, I invested a couple hours each night trying to develop FNO. It started as a college project and I found it had legs, so I kept it moving. It cost a couple thousand dollars of prototypes and a decent amount of time, but it would've been for naught if it weren't for Kickstarter and the community's help.
Kickstarter was phenomenal, probably thanks to you who are reading this right now. I needed $12000 to buy a round of inventory of the blankets, shirts, bandanas, packaging, etc. and I received over this amount ($20K+). I was ecstatic, but also I found a little cushion was necessary. The true cost to fulfill was closer to $14-15K, but that didn't stop the momentum. I found for the next year the momentum was still rolling. There's multiple articles out there about "How to Keep Accelerating Your Business After Kickstarter". I think it worked for a little while, but in time I have to admit it stalled out.
We did a couple of inventory turns and sold enough to stay profitable, but in the end it was a challenge to keep the interest up. Part of this was my own doing- I went back to graduate school and did not devote nearly as much time to the business as I needed to. I found every action has an exponential effect when building a business (ex: getting a gear review leads to immediate traffic, sales and positive conversions, and can help with SEO, which leads to better organic searches and more sales), but the same applies with inaction. I found you can't rest on your laurels and think "this is enough" and have the business keep moving on its own- content needs to be fresh and new products need to arrive. As soon as I downshifted, I lost the momentum, and it was challenging to ever get back into high gear.
I attempted a strong final push in 2017, but I found there wasn't enough interest to justify a large scale purchase of revamped blankets. This was a disappointing realization, but I stood back and found there were some valuable takeaways from the experience:
1) Overall the blankets received encouraging feedback. There were a few issues here and there in business operations, and maybe a couple areas to be improved on a blanket 2.0, but the Kickstarter, fulfillment, and reviews were generally positive.
2) The blanket market has grown notably since 2013 which means there are more options than ever. This is a positive as it has always been my favorite way to camp.
2a) One could also say that is one of the downfalls of FNO as the blanket market became more saturated and competitive.
3) From an entrepreneurial perspective, FNO opened the doors for Third Assist. Third Assist is an outdoor hockey business. Through FNO, I met manufacturers who made hockey gear and could do it durably and comfortably for the outdoors.
3a) Third Assist generates organic interest. It must still be pushed to make customers aware of the business (light marketing), but there is much more pull than FNO provided.
4) You can never learn until you do it. Cliche, yes, but now I can replicate (and share!) the pathways for starting, constructing, and continuously growing a business.
Without your help none of these would've ever been possible.
It is sad to close the doors of Father Nature Outdoors, but so much positive has come from the experience that I am reinvigorated to use everything I have learned to keep moving in the next venture and the next. I pray that will pay dividends for all of this community in the long run.
Thank you for your continued support!
P.S. Made it past the 5 year mark! Within the first 5 years 80% of businesses go under. I got one year beyond that ;)
P.P.S. Since you're reading this, I am opening up all remaining inventory at a substantial discount for the community (in the next few days). Below product-cost discounted. So take advantage if you found something you liked!