Wizard Wall Powers Collaboration…Everywhere!
By SBE Council at 7 November, 2016, 10:21 am
Business Success Strategies Q&A with Wizard Wall CEO & Founder Mike Fogarty
Our members are incredibly innovative and have started many interesting businesses. Wizard Wall is one of those businesses, founded by SBE Council member Mike Fogarty. As a serial entrepreneur, Mike understands the power of innovation and the importance of collaboration in launching and growing successful firms. Wizard Wall brings that power everywhere. It is a tool that enables collaboration.
Collaborative firms and engaged workplaces market better, innovative more, and offer a satisfying environment for employees. According to Mike, the creation of the Wizard Wall product had the success of entrepreneurial firms and small businesses in mind to help them achieve growth and success through the power of collaboration.
Read Mike’s interview below, where he discusses how Wizard Wall was started, the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, advice for aspiring business owners and more!
IS WIZARD WALL YOUR FIRST ENTREPRENEURIAL VENTURE, OR HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED WITH OTHER STARTUPS?
Mike: I have started a couple of other business wherein I assumed the financial risks and rewards but they were to provide services that my existing full time employer couldn’t or wouldn’t provide…so Wizard Wall, Inc is my first pure entrepreneurial start up. However, the other business ventures helped me gain valuable skills and insights that were very important in starting Wizard Wall, Inc.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THE IDEA FOR WIZARD WALL?
Mike: Good story…I was in the Printing and Packaging Paper industry for 25 years and learned about the revolutionary static charged film that ClingZ, Inc. manufactured in New Mexico for sale to printing companies…basically to produce short term repositionable signage. ClingZ owns the IP and is the only company in the world that can manufacture Polypropylene film with embedded static charge which is significantly better than film charged with surface treatments (which is like rubbing a balloon on a carpet). The white and clear film also has remarkable dry erase qualities and felt tipped permanent markers glide across the surface without bleeding through the film. I realized that there were other end uses for the film. I developed a mutual respect with the management of ClingZ Inc which enabled me to develop a business plan and create Wizard Wall® products.
I have always been a proponent of visual learning and collaboration and like many people was frustrated with the limitations of the standard offerings of pressure sensitive backed papers (like Post-it-Notes) or having to tape paper to walls. I (and others) saw the need for a better planning/instruction/collaboration tool, and I envisioned a line of easy to use products that contained ClingZ film. So, I invented, patented, and trademarked Wizard Wall® products, and set out on my entrepreneurial adventure.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO BRING WIZARD WALL TO MARKET? THAT IS, WHAT WAS THE TIME PERIOD FROM WHEN YOU FIRST DEVELOPED THE IDEA, TO WHEN THE FIRST WIZARD WALL PRODUCT WAS PACKAGED FOR SALE?
Mike: It took over a year from my initial idea to have a commercially viable product for sale with US Patent protection. Countless hours were spent “getting ready for prime time.” We had to negotiate the worldwide exclusive purchase of ClingZ film for uses other than printing, and refine the products which meant continually testing and improving the packaging before we applied for a patent. We also had to create and refine branding/graphics before producing prototypes that we could introduce to potential customers and resellers. Finally in addition to mapping out our sales and distribution channels; we had to develop our manufacturing, supply chain and shipping capabilities.
DID YOU CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN? CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT THAT LOOKED LIKE? DO YOU THINK ALL STARTUPS NEED TO HAVE A DETAILED PLAN?
CEO and Founder Mike Fogarty explains how Wizard Wall works. Among its many attributes, the award-winning tool is easy to use, re-usable and can be quickly deployed to capture key thoughts and ideas discussed at meetings or strategy sessions. Click the image above (video) to see Wizard Wall in action.
Mike: Most definitely, we spent a lot of time on the business plan. We had many things to evaluate and had to make important determinations, including: Is there is a need/demand for our product and will our products offer a unique solution or just be a “me too”? What is the window of opportunity for our product? What are the best sales channels and what type of sales channel conflicts should we anticipate? Who are our competitors? How much will it cost to produce and ship our product? What do we anticipate for G & A expenses? And of course…how are we going to sell our products, what price points make sense, and what are the anticipated sales and marketing costs?
Yes , it is paramount that start ups have a well thought out and researched business plan….don’t put yourself in the position of scratching your head and saying “why didn’t we think of that.” Also, if you are going to raise money from outside investors, you must have a business plan that you can defend under sometimes intense scrutiny. No business plan is exact, but the process of developing a business plan is invaluable.
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE STARTUP PHASE OF WIZARD WALL?
Mike: There were many challenges, including developing sales channels, but raising the money to execute our business plan from outside investors was especially hard and something that neither I nor my CFO had ever done.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO REGISTER YOUR TRADEMARK? AND CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO ENTREPRENEURS AND SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO PROTECT THEIR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY FROM THE START?
Mike: I realized from the start the importance of getting Registered Trademarks and at least one US Patent. Many trademark attorneys also are patent attorneys and vice versa however I decided to use the best attorney that I could find for each. “Wizard Wall®” and our tagline “Instant. Collaboration. Everywhere.®” are both Registered US Trademarks and it took approximately 8 months to complete the process. Fortunately Wizard Wall® products are unique and solve an age old problem of being able to instantly have a writing surface that can be repositioned without damaging walls, and can be easily custom cut to size using the slide cutting system, so we ended up getting a US patent for our systems and kits. We also have a Patent Pending for our easel pads. However, getting a patent for the Wizard Wall® systems and kits was a step by step process involving back and forth with Patent Examiners and my attorney studying “prior art.” The entire process took about 2 years.
IP protection is paramount and increases the valuation of your company. Investors, lenders, potential suitors, etc. put a huge value on IP. Startups need to be able to concentrate on growing and improving their business without having to worry about someone else taking their idea and taking it to the market. We are fortunate to have a system of laws in place to protect IP and very fortunate that SBE Council sees this as an important issue that you closely follow and advocate for. I was fortunate to attend the event on Capitol Hill in July 2016 that SBE Council hosted on IP protection and was very impressed with the results of the advocacy and education on the subject including publishing the book “IP and Entrepreneurs” for current and future entrepreneurs. Keep up the good work!
AS YOU CONTINUE TO BUILD WIZARD WALL, WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND HOW ARE YOU OVERCOMING THEM?
Mike: We have a number of challenges, and having enough cash on hand to execute our business plan and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves is probably number one. Almost start up is underfunded, which puts an emphasis on the management teams skills including having priorities. We are fortunate to have some great people who believed in our product and mission that provided us the seed money to get started, but it is limited. We have to focus on the long term goals including building awareness for our products while being mindful of having enough operating capital to fill orders. Admittedly we are challenged with our marketing skills because our backgrounds are from manufacturing, shipping and distribution so we need to learn how to get better at it and look for cost effective solutions.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE PATH OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
Mike: I became an entrepreneur because per my years in the paper and converting industry I saw an opportunity that would solve a problem, and felt that I had a unique combination of product knowledge, manufacturing/distribution experience and sales ability to bring it to fruition. Even though I had been working for large corporations ever since college, I wasn’t looking for an opportunity to become an entrepreneur, rather it was a “do it or regret it for the rest of your life motivation.”
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE AN INDIVIDUAL THAT WANTS TO START A BUSINESS BUT IS UNSURE ABOUT TAKING THAT FIRST STEP?
Mike: I would tell them to make sure that they are starting the business because it is something that they are passionate about and have done a great deal of due diligence on. I would encourage them to start the business if they think that their passion and drive will overcome the challenges that they will face. If they are still hesitant they should talk to successful entrepreneurs who very likely had hesitations about taking the first step towards entrepreneurship.
I would also tell them that if you have an innovative idea this is a great time to start a business per the IP protection and Crowd funding opportunities that exist per efforts by SBE Council and other entities.
FINALLY, WHAT STEPS DO YOU THINK THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD TAKE TO ENCOURAGE MORE ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND SUCCESSFUL SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH?
Mike: I think that the Government should consider the impact of any new laws or regulations on small businesses and make sure they are not burdensome. I also think that the Federal government must work to keep or strengthen ways to protect IP so innovators will have the motivation to start new businesses