I'm a big proponent of building in public. Having your audience along for the ride as you create digital products to serve them is an incredible tool that increases engagement and connection.
But is it wise to use this same strategy for physical products? With knockoffs being a massive concern, is it safe to use open platforms like Kickstarter to fund and launch your best ideas?
Those are some of the questions I explore with my returning guest, Jeff Sheldon. In episode 285, we found out all about his accidental entrepreneurial journey. Jeff is the founder of Ugmonk, a design studio focused on impeccably crafted home, office, and clothing products.
This chat gives us an inside look at what it takes to turn your vision into something tangible and successfully compete in the premium market. Jeff and I discuss the realities of manufacturing and distribution, share advice for finding a niche, and debate the pros and cons of selling digital and physical products.
We cover a lot of ground today. With additional tips for working from home and using ads to find new customers, there's something here for any entrepreneur. Enjoy!
Jeff Sheldon is the founder and designer of Ugmonk, a product design studio in Downingtown, PA.
- Find out more about Ugmonk
- Digital versus physical product development
- Balancing manufacturing costs and quality
- Finding your niche versus going mass market
- The pros and cons of using Kickstarter to build in public
- How to focus when you're working from home
- Why imitation is the laziest form of stealing
- How your superfans protect your brand from knockoffs
- Find out more about Ugmonk's Gather Collection on Kickstarter
- Subscribe to Unstuck—my weekly newsletter on what's working in business right now, delivered free, straight to your inbox
- Connect with Pat on Twitter and Instagram
SPI 639: How Passive Is a Physical Product Business (REALLY) with Jeff Sheldon
Jeff Sheldon I think building in public, which obviously you know all about, it's what you've done your whole career, and sharing that stuff along the way, Kickstarter kind of brings people in and it allows people to be part of something. Instead of just purchasing, it's not just transactional.
They get to see the process. Those are the early adopters, the superfans, the people that are like, "Yeah, I want to be part of it, I wanna help Jeff make this thing." So Kickstarter still has that, that I don't think, within our own website, we could do something similar, but it wouldn't have the same ripple effect outside of our audience.
Pat Flynn: You're listening to our special guest, Jeff Sheldon from Ugmonk.com. He's actually been on the show before in session 285, talking about how we sort of accidentally fell into entrepreneurship as a designer. And back then he was known for creating these really amazing designs and having a message like on a t-shirt, not a message, like a text message or something like that.
A piece of art that meant something, a minimalist design that people could get behind. And it was very successful. And he since branched off to a different leg in the world of physical products. And we're talking things that get launched on Kickstarter desk organizers, and he's had some very successful campaigns behind it.
And I'm here to dig deep into that. How does that work? What are the things to look out for? I know a lot of you might have some physical product ideas behind you and inside of that brain, and you wanna know what it might take to actually do this. Is it easy? Is it hard? How hard? What are the things you need to worry about?
What are some pros and cons? Now you know that I've probably dove headfirst into this world of physical products with the SwitchPod at SwitchPod.co with my buddy Caleb. And it was in fact, I believe through Caleb that I've met Jeff. And all three of us have physical product experience and a lot of both horror stories and some amazing stories to share.
And Jeff's gonna share some of those stories today. So physical products are real fun, but they're also real challenging. Sit tight because this episode with Jeff is amazing and you get to learn about the insides of what it's like to run a physical product business and to even get your own space to be able to design and, you know, store and warehouse these things and, and what, what that's actually like.
Cause I've always been curious about that too. So we're gonna get the full deal here from Jeff again, you can find 'em at Ugmonk.com. But sit back, relax. This will be a fun one here.
Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, Bazooka Joe bubblegum, will trigger all kinds of childhood memories for him. Pat Flynn.
Pat Flynn: Hey Jeff, welcome back to Smart Passive Income. Thanks for joining me today.
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, thanks for having me back on.
Pat Flynn: You know, Ugmonk's been a really cool brand that I've seen evolve over time. We're gonna talk today about how you are evolving and what new challenges that's opening up. But I also know that there's some new products coming out, and I definitely wanna make sure people know about this up front here.
Probably talked about it in the intro as well, but your Gather product, which is on Kickstarter right now, Is this incredible sort of workspace desk solution, modular design, and I got my hands on one and I want to thank you for sending me one. It's great. How's the campaign going and and also where did this idea come from to have like an even better version of which you've already created before?
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, I mean this one's a long time coming, so it feels good to finally like pull back the curtain. We are kind of secretly working on it for the last few years and we launched the original Gather back in 2017. Which was our modular desk organizer, but it was really just kind of went in front of your monitor and it, it took care of the small clutter on your desk.
And then really the story of how we got to to where we are today was I wanted to continue developing that system, building it out, building a monitor stand, adding new modules. But behind the scenes it wasn't so smooth. So we had, we ran into every manufacturing problem you could think of, and we were able to make the product, we were able to make a great product that's still successful and people still love it.
But it wasn't as easy for us to kind of continue developing that, that product with the supply chain that we had. So it kind of put a standstill on product development. But in the back of my mind, I'm like, I still wanna make the rest of this system. Like this was supposed to be the entry point, this was the, the small organizer was just part of it.
We kind of were going back and forth trying to figure that out and that led us to the new Gather collection, which is much more expansive and it takes over your whole desk for as little or as much as you want. And it is kind of the vision that the vision is finally realized that I had originally. So yeah, we can get into that stuff, but I, it sent us back to figuring out how to manufacture things locally.
How do we continue to iterate and bring products to market quick? With our hands on it. Like literally, I can drive to all the places that we manufacture with within a 50 mile radius of here. So, yeah, there's a whole story there, but it, it kind of took us from 2017 to where we are today and the this version of Gather is, is really the my favorite thing that we've ever made.
Pat Flynn: Nice man. Well, congrats on the launch. You know, going back to the last time you were on the show, I think Ugmonk to me was more of a, a really cool design slash merch and t-shirt, essentially, company that I could get behind and it had some really amazing designs that you created yourself. And how do you transition from something that was more t-shirt like and designs in your creative sort of artwork to something utility.
And also still very beautiful, but like, was there something in your head that made you want to change that or, or go down this new direction versus just continually pour into what was working before?
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, I mean, physical products are a beast, as you know, from developing SwitchPod with Caleb and you, you know how much work it takes to bring something, especially something new to market.
The reason why I started with t-shirts wasn't because I love t-shirts and I was like this t-shirt connoisseur. It was the medium to get my artwork out there. It was a medium, an easier way to then selling posters or selling other things. T-shirts were the medium for those designs, but it all came back to like, let's create a shirt that is something I want to wear. The shirt itself is good. The design reflects the, the aesthetic and the minimalist design philosophy that I was embodying, and that kind of was like, I kind of almost got pushed into a corner of like, Hey, you're the T-shirt guy, and it's like, ah, well yeah, we're gonna make really cool t-shirts.
But I, I always saw Ugmonk as something bigger than that and something that had more, I don't wanna say philosophical, but it had a meaning behind it of like less but better. The Dieter Rams-esque principles. And that can translate from shirts to now, workspace desk organization, analog productivity, all of these different things, but still applying those same principles of like, let's make something that's designed really well and functions as good as it looks.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. Oh, and I forgot about the analog product that you came out with. That was a, a major success too. And I also know that based on some recent tweets that you've had, that you've had some copycats in this space, which is very common in physical products as well. And we'll, we'll definitely get into that.
But for the person listening who is curious about getting into physical products and manufacturing, whether it's selling on Kickstarter or Shopify, or a combination of both or whatever, what tips would you have for somebody who's just right at the beginning of, of that thought process and is it worth going down?
Jeff Sheldon: Oh man, it's tough. It's, it's gonna cost you more money and more time than you ever imagined, especially if you're really, you know, inventing a product, bringing a product to life that's not just literally printing on a poster or printing on a shirt. The amount of cost and decisions you have to make along the way for every little detail, it just adds up.
The new Gather collection we've been working on for two and a half years. It's like, which feels like eternity, especially an internet age, right? Like where we're like, we need a fast, we need to, we wanna show people, we wanna get it out. And I think we're still refining things. And my goal is really, again, this is just the start of the new system, but if you want to get into physical products, there's a lot more than just what it probably looks like.
We get to see the tip of the iceberg, but all of the things below the surface that go into making a physical product are the non-sexy things. It's like working through finding manufacturers, finding relationships, pricing. Sampling, figuring out all the stuff that you just didn't think would even have to be thought about.
I think physical products are the most rewarding thing to make, and that's just, that's just me. Like I love being able to hold the thing that I had a vision for years ago in my head, and I can manifest that into something tangible. But it comes along with all the shipping headaches and the customer service and their lost packages.
And like, it's not as easy as just like pushing out a digital update to something. So it's I don't know. I think sometimes the people that make physical products are some of the crazy ones that they love it. We, we love it. Making, we love the process of making it as much as anything. So it's not just a, it's definitely not the quickest way to make money.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, it's definitely not the quickest. And obviously you had mentioned the SwitchPod, which Caleb and I worked on. I mean, we've got an experience firsthand at what that was like. And it's, it's a lot of headache and it, it's very slow compared to the digital world. But to your point, it's, I mean, the SwitchPod has been so rewarding.
And, you know, there's been many moments where I've seen it in public, out in the wild, and it's just, we made that. Like, that's, that's amazing. Like I can't go to the mall and be like, Hey, you probably have my podcasting course unless I already like, know that person or something. So, you know, there's pros and cons, but I, I do believe you're right it, that there's a little bit of crazy involved.
There's a little bit of some just like deep passion for seeing things through and, and also like, the outcome of that person using it. And that, and that's what I love about it versus the digital stuff. Cuz you know, a person can buy my course, but it's still not of value to them. Like they haven't gotten what they paid for yet until they go through the lessons and do the work and, and that is not always going to happen. Versus you get the thing, you get the desk organizer, the gather collection and it's like, Oh, I could breathe again on my desk. Like, you, you, like, it's an immediate reward. I'm sure that that's what pushes you. What were some of the other challenges that you faced specifically with the, with this one you said there was a lot of, you know supply chain issues, and I know the timing was interesting, probably development during the pandemic.
Like how did all that go down and how did that affect the, the progress?
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, I mean, I think we thought we were further ahead initially than we were. So the way we approached this was I worked with an industrial designer named Jack Marple, phenomenally talented designer and really helped me kind of go back to the drawing board and think about how can we redesign Gather from the ground up within the constraints of a, can we manufacture it domestically or at least in North America for more control?
And just that flexibility of like being able to go to the factories, go to the manufacturers, and then two, make it a system that can be built on easier. So instead of buying an injection mold for plastic parts where the molds can cost anywhere from 20 to $30,000 for one part, how can we make something that doesn't involve that expensive tooling?
So if we wanna make just some one-off add-on to it that does one certain thing and it holds your coffee mug a certain way and we wanna make a hundred of them, how do we do that? And that's kinda how we arrived at the materials and the manufacturers and everything we are working with for this collection.
But the funny thing is, So I'm here in, in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, not too far from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is a very large Amish and Mennonite population. We have incredible craftsmen and woodworkers, literally like right under our nose. So we kind of, we started talking to factories and trying to find partners to work with and eventually led us to like making the circle so small that we were like, we have all of this right here.
Like we have generational craftsmen that build phenomenal furniture and like, and are exactly what we want Gather to be. And it was just a matter of getting connected with them. So through a mutual friend, I was able to connect with some of these different suppliers and manufacturers, and we were able to slowly build this relationships of like, Okay, let's make this product.
We're going to use steel. We're going to, we're gonna do powder coating. We're gonna build it out of solid wood, and each part meant finding a new manufacturer. So rather than it all cycling through one manufacturer and they outsource, we're literally working with, you know, six or seven different manufacturers directly here in Pennsylvania to figure out each part, like somebody for magnets, somebody for the powder coating someone for the wood. That was a challenge. I think. We thought it would fall into place easier, and some of our initial quotes were like, wow, we can make this here and it's not too expensive. We got the samples back and it was like, okay, they don't know what we're talking about, and we had to keep working our way up the chain to find kind of more and more premium, more and more care that was put into the product till we arrived with the, the supply chain that we have now.
It's been interesting. I mean, I love the learning process going to these places like standing in a wood shop covered in sawdust, talking to the people behind the saw, behind the C N C machine. And I think to me, again, that's so rewarding because I'm like literally looking over their shoulder and helping them see the vision come to life versus just waiting for a sample to show up.
So that's been, it's been a journey. It feels like, it feels like more than two and a half years sometimes.
Pat Flynn: That's really cool that you have that access though. I remember when developing the SwitchPod, it would take weeks or even months to get a sample back or to communicate a change because we manufactured in China because that was all, that's all we could afford for the price point that we wanted to offer.
You know, Caleb went to China to go to the factories to make sure it was coming out the way it was supposed to, and he caught some really important things that if we didn't catch it would've been a lot of lost money. So I'm glad that he did that, but it's, it would've been so much easier if it was all in in town, however, we explore that option as well, and the price to produce the switch pod would've been three, four times more if we had manufactured in the US to to cover those costs.
And so, you know, how do you determine the particular market segment that you're going for? Because I would imagine that with higher quality material and built in the US it's you, you're gonna charge a little bit more versus other people might go into this saying, you know, I want to generate an income through the wide reach of this, which means it's not gonna be going to a premium market, it's gonna be going to more of a, of a mass consumer market, if you will.
But then the qualities, I mean like what's your thinking behind the decisions you made to do what you did and go upmarket with this.
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, it's definitely a challenge to, to do it this way. And I think there's a reason why most people don't manufacture in the US. They're not doing it the way we're doing it.
Well, on one side of me, it's like I felt like I had no other option. And this comes from like the design purist in me where I want to see this product the absolute best it can be to every little detail. And, you know, the, then the business side of, of my brain is kind of like, well that's gonna be crazy.
That's too expensive. And we're, we kinda had to be okay with leaving the mass market off the table, like that's, this is not really for, we're not trying to compete with Target on this. We're never gonna compete with Staples or Office Max on Amazon Basics, but I wanted to make something that I felt really proud of.
That is the nicest thing with the nicest materials that is down to the every detail that I want. And that's a challenge with pricing. And we're gonna see that. Like we're gonna see this isn't just gonna fly off the shelf, you know, hundreds of thousands of units, but the people that appreciate that quality, the people that understand the made in the US and they're willing to pay for that, they're gonna have it on their desk and they'll be like, yeah, I'm really proud of this.
They understand that the same way that, you know, a high-end guitar body or anything really that's assembled and made in small batch craft like process, there's an appreciation for that, a pair of shoes that's, that's really well made. So yeah, the, it's, it's a little bit of a like, Hey, we're okay ignoring, we will never be on Amazon with this product.
So from a business side, you might be like, well, there's a huge market there and there is, but at least for now, like I'd rather see this vision come to life and then continue building deeper, like the depth into this system than trying to go wide. That's not a right or a wrong, I think that's just like me as a person, like I get the reward from this versus trying to scale it.
And other people are like, dude, you could scale this. So yes, there's tension there.
Pat Flynn: I love the decision to build it in the way that you did. The idea that, you know, there could be more add-ons down the road. Right. And we sort of thought about this with SwitchPod, you know, there was ball heads and adapters for phones and like we put in little screw areas so that you can add other accessories and whatnot.
But to develop a system like from scratch so that you can continue to evolve it over time and meet people's needs as they come with your customers is, is fantastic. I think that's really smart. When it comes to the launch of this, I'm curious and, and I'm asking for myself and, and for Caleb as well. You know, you launched to Gather the, the new gather on Kickstarter.
You've previously launched products on Kickstarter very successfully. But I know that, you know, for example, with us, we launched on Kickstarter. We have thousands of backers. We have an email list that's continued to grow. More and more people are buying on Shopify. So we have a big list and we'd be able to launch something on our own, on our own platform.
And that is an, is is an option versus going with Kickstarter where you're sharing some of those funds with Kickstarter. What's your thought process for going back to Kickstarter to do another launch? I, I'm curious.
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah. My perspective has changed a little bit. I think after doing this, this is our third Kickstarter, I think the market has changed a little bit and I think where we're at has changed a little bit.
But my idea of Kickstarter is one is the main reason is product validation. So you might be like, well, this is a home run. Of course you're gonna make this. Yes and no. You never know that, and you don't know which parts of a product like this where a lot of different parts are gonna actually connect with people.
So I wouldn't say this is an automatic like, let's just make 10,000 units and we're gonna sell them. It does actually show that product market validation and you're able to get feedback along the way before you make the product. That's true. And then the second part is funding. So like we, I guess technically we could take pre-orders on our site, but Kickstarter has more of like this pre-order trust built in.
That to actually fund a product like this, we're a small studio, like we're, we're not able to just throw millions of dollars around putting it into inventory that we may or may not sell. So we do actually need the funds to make this production run happen. And it's kind of like that validation in the, and from the finance side, getting those pre-orders does help us bring a product to market.
On the flip side, I think building in public, which obviously you know all about, it's what you've done your whole career and sharing that stuff along the way, Kickstarter kind of brings people in and it's like, it allows people to be part of something instead of just purchasing. It's not just transactional.
They get to see the process. Those are the early adopters, the superfans, the people that are like, yeah, I want to be part of, it I wanna help Jeff make this thing. So Kickstarter still has that, that I don't think within our own website, we could do something similar, but it wouldn't have the same ripple effect outside of our audience.
Pat Flynn: Actually, that's a really, really good point. The sort of work and public position that you could take on Kickstarter is really, really strong. And like you said, like the different pledge levels, which are, you know, it's just very easy to set up in that way to reward those who want to continue to help you even further.
And so, okay. I like that a lot. That's really helpful and I think it helps others who maybe thinking about going on to Kickstarter. Maybe I can ask you for a couple tips for those who are interested in working on Kickstarter. Do you have any big findings after now three launches that you, you know, are must-haves or mandatory for, for doing a good campaign?
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, well I guess the, the downsides or the, the cons I didn't really list there is that I do think the platform itself has lost a lot of, it's kind of luster and a product like this to launch on Kickstarter gets actually a little bit confusing cause there's a lot of moving parts.
So like when it's one skew and it was Analog it was pretty easy. SwitchPod pretty easy. It's not built to like build your own custom kit, customize anything, add-ons. It's still pretty limited in the sense of like the technology behind it that we're feeling like a little, maybe this wasn't the right move.
Maybe we kind of like put ourselves, like there's not all those options. It's not readily obvious like how you add something to your pledge. So I, I think there's a little bit of that and then I think people are just overall jaded on Kickstarter. Not that it's done, not that the platform is done, but there's been a lot of people burnt by Kickstarters that never delivered, or they got the product and it was crap and it was like, you know, they were promised all these things.
They waited two years and they got it. I feel like there's the, the pros outweigh the cons right now, and I think it's, if you wanna validate a new product, especially if it's something you've never launched, it's good. But I do think the biggest part of Kickstarter is still bringing your own audience. And if you don't have an audience, if you don't have an email list or a social following, putting it on Kickstarter is not gonna instantly validate it and show you if there's any traction just based on putting it on there.
So the platform is nice from a PR and marketing standpoint and kind of rippling outside that, you know, your own sphere of influence, but it's not gonna do a whole lot for you as far as past that. So we're, you know, this, we are not, we're not sure if we'll go back to the platform after this for such a complicated product like the Gather collection.
It's working and it's working well, but it's, it's a little bit like, I don't know, could we have done this within our, you know, the Ugnmonk site itself and kind of curated that experience and walked people through how to build their custom kit a little bit nicer than select a pledge level. So yeah, pros and cons for, for all of it, for sure.
Pat Flynn: For sure. I mean, you make it sound like it is not doing well. I mean, I'm looking at the site right now. It's doing extremely well. You've 448 backers. You have 39 days left to go. I think this was a, a 60 day campaign, so you're 21 days in and you're over. You just got over $200,000 in backing. So congratulations.
You've definitely busted past that goal. But I, I also know that you've had some very, very successful campaigns in the past. So maybe you're relating it to that and, and I agree. I think this product has so many things with it, which are awesome. It, it is a little bit limited what you could do with Kickstarter to, to best show it off.
So I imagine that once the Kickstarter campaign is over, the website will have some sort of, opportunity to, to, to take advantage of anybody else who wants to, to get on to Gather. So Ugmonk.com is where you want to go, or if right now, during the Kickstarter campaign, you can check it out. It's Gather and we'll have links in the show notes and all that good stuff for you to check out too.
I do wanna ask you, Jeff, because I know a big thing that you recently did was you decided to invest in like a, a physical space, a studio, to bring a team. Like what, what's all there? Like, what is a designer like you put in a studio and, and how does that help you?
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, so two years ago we moved into our first physical space, the Ugmonk HQ or, or the warehouse as we call it sometimes.
But it is more than just a warehouse. It's, it's not a traditional product design studio. It's everything under one roof, and that's everything from product development, product photography, customer service, all of our shipping, all of our fulfillment. Like we are actually, you know, my staff is shipping every single Ugmonk order that goes out.
So we're not using a, a third party for any of that. Every product passes through our hands, so we are QCing everything. We're doing it the long, hard way is what I say, like this is not scalable, infinitely scalable. It is not easy. It requires a lot of people, a lot of money, a lot of time. But it's like we get to own that process end to end, and that means catching things on the line that we wouldn't have caught if it was in a box on a a shelf in the 3PL somewhere.
But up until two years ago, I was operating it out of my home office here, and then my parents' basement was our warehouse really. I've been running Ugmonk for 14 years now, and most of that time was a home-based type business, so now it feels like we're growing up and we moved into this space and so much has happened.
And while everyone has kind of gone remote during the pandemic, we've gone the opposite way. And because we have these in-person meetings and kind of just these collisions throughout the day, product ideas come up. We're able to work on things faster, we're able to collaborate in ways that we wouldn't have before.
And it was mostly just me before. So now I have a few employees that are there in the warehouse, collaborating, shooting photos, working on marketing stuff, like we're all doing it together. So to me it's like, I know that everyone's kind of like going remote, remote, remote, but for a physical product design studio, there's like nothing better than being in the room, handing someone a prototype, Hey, look at this, let's work on it. And that collaborative experience that's just so hard to replicate on a Zoom call.
Pat Flynn: Was that a, was that a large investment to get ahold of a place like that? And, and if you don't mind sharing or you know, even ballpark, like what, what would it take to get a space like that?
I, it obviously depends on where in the world or where in the US you might be living as far as you know, how much that might cost, but was that a big investment feeling like, well, I don't know if this is the right thing or if it's, or like, I'm just curious about the mindset of that and, and the money involved potentially.
Jeff Sheldon: We had debated about getting like storage space or warehouse space for years and kind of looked at it and then it would always be like, ah, let's just keep using our parents' basement and, you know, they're not charging us rent. We cut back and forth, so it, it wasn't like we just jumped outta nowhere, but it was, we felt the need that like the.
With analog specifically, we had so many of these analog cardholders and so much inventory to actually like ship. We needed more space than a basement, and that kind of pushed us to get this space. As far as cost goes, yeah, that's, it depends on where you live. So where you are, it's probably gonna be a lot more than where I am.
In the suburbs of Pennsylvania, I couldn't do what I'd do if I was in New York City or Los Angeles or you know, San Francisco. To have this amount of space, like to open a studio in downtown Brooklyn or something would be probably 10 x the cost. Yeah. So one of the benefits of being in the suburbs in Pennsylvania, apart from being near all of these wood workers and metal workers, is that we can have a space and it's not gonna like be the, that that expense is not the thing that's like, oh no, how are we gonna make rent this month? But it, going from nothing to that has certainly been a big jump. So yeah, I think it's, I don't know, I think just having a dedicated spot for all of Ugmonk to function has been helpful.
Not only as a business, but for me mentally. Like I used to have be here and my kids, my young kids are running around and it's like that, you know, when am I a dad? When am I a business owner? And just having that mental separat. It's going back to actually commuting in. I drive, you know, 10, 12 minutes to work and then I come home has been super freeing for me personally.
So I think there's more benefits than just physically like, oh, you have a space now. It's like it's created a lifestyle change.
Pat Flynn: That's great. Yeah, I mean, I had once had a small studio video studio here in San Diego. I eventually moved out of it because somebody had robbed it and that just wasn't good. So I moved back my workspace into my house and you know, it was nice to have that even just, it was like a five minute drive for me and that just mentally got me checked into work and I could go in there and focus on that.
There were no distractions. And then coming out of it, I could check out mentally. And that's probably what you're experiencing right now. I'm curious, before when you were working at home and you had, you know, the, the warehouse in, you know, the basement or whatever, what was allowing you to stay focused during that time?
I'm asking for the people who, who don't have that studio yet, who are still worried about time management and, you know, balancing life and, and work.
Jeff Sheldon: Let's see, noise canceling headphones and, and this card right here.
Pat Flynn: Analog, right?
Jeff Sheldon: I think I struggled with it, pr e kids, working from home, quiet house. My wife was at work really easy.
Loved it. People would be like, wouldn't you get lonely? I'm like, no. Like I get so much done. I can get like get in my head. I can really get deep work done. Post kids it was always a challenge and I think the flexibility of it was great. So I got to be around, get to be around my kids a lot, you know, help out when they were babies and there's so many pros of that too.
So I'm not saying like everyone needs to go get a studio, but I do, after a while, it's like, how do I blend these two things and balance them? The impossible balance of work life. That never happens cuz everyone's, no one's actually found that yet. It like having a separate space gave me a clear distinction and it kind of allowed me to like, yet, like I said, switch hats when I walked through the door.
And it's still hard cuz you and I, we we're always thinking about our businesses, we're thinking about different things. It's like constant. So I, I don't, you know, totally shut it off. But when I was home, and if you're working from home, I mean the, honestly, the biggest thing is literally I fill out that analog card every single day.
And if I don't fill out a card and I just sit down and start working outta my inbox, it's like two o'clock before the time, I'm like, wait, what am I doing? You know, I'm just like reacting to things. So that card in the whole card system and the reason why analog has struck a chord with people and we continue to sell just thousands of them, and people are saying, man, this is the first thing that's ever worked for me, is just that simple habitual act of sitting down, thinking through the priorities and saying, these are the three things I'm gonna get done today, or These are the five things I'm gonna work on and trying to focus on just that. Like there's gonna be kids running in the background, there's gonna be dogs that need to get let out.
There's all that stuff. But trying to like pull back to a simple, like tangible piece of paper is the thing that that helps me to like push the ball, you know, move the needle in the right direction.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, everybody should definitely check out Analog. You can find it ar Ugmonk.com. U G M O N K. I'm curious, because that was a while ago that that launched on Kickstarter, yet it's still selling.
How are you still selling it? Are you running ads? What's the marketing like for products that kind of have graduated from Kickstarter now.
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah. So this is the first product that we've seen ads really work effectively with, and we've tried 'em before. On the original Gather, we tried 'em on the T-shirts and I think, I mean, Analog, it's such a simple product and people at first glance, they're like, it's just an index card. It's just a card holder. But I think there's a lot, there's, it strikes a deeper chord and there's a methodology to it and there's, there's a pain point that we all feel of scrolling endlessly on our phone or opening up a browser tab to check our, you know, project management tool and the next thing you know, there's like another notification.
We all sense that. So I think it connected so well with people right now with distractions everywhere. It was actually in the pandemic when we launched it, so people were really juggling things like working from their kitchen table and trying to figure out how do I sort through all the responsibilities.
But analog has struck a cord that it works well in an ad format where it catches your attention. Most likely. You're scrolling on Instagram and you're like avoiding work. You see it, yes. I need to be more productive. And it's, it's all about making you a better person, right? Like we're buying things, at least with the hope of making ourselves better.
And that product specifically is, is really the only thing, the main thing that we've been running ads for. And before that, we didn't do any ads. I mean, like for Ugmonk ever, for like a decade, it's hard to run an ad for a, a t-shirt, you know, a, a black T-shirt with a simple design on it. It's not quite the same thing.
So that product has continued to just snowball and we've got, you know, all sorts of creators and we get reviews every day, every week of people saying, you know, I've tried everything. I've tried journals, I've tried to-do apps. This is the thing that's stuck. So sometimes I'm like, wow, this has gone bigger than I ever could have expected.
But it also shows me there's like momentum there and it's like really helping people in small incremental ways just to get to the important work each day.
Pat Flynn: What platforms are you running ads on?
Jeff Sheldon: Instagram and Facebook and Google is, is what we're working on right now.
Pat Flynn: That's great. Well, congrats on that.
Sometimes it's the simple solutions that matter most and it seems like analog definitely hit the mark there for sure. Like you have Gather now and I'm sure there's more stuff coming and you know, stuff that's sort of between the team and, and perhaps can't be shared today. But I'd, I'd love to know a little bit about the plans for the future. However, before we get to that, to finish off, I I, I do wanna bring back this idea cuz we just talked about Analog of now there's copycats out there and this is definitely something physical products have to definitely worry about. How are you handling that? I mean, I saw a literal, almost exact replica of Analog.
And, you know, I saw you tweet about that and you're, you're mad about that. And I got, I was mad for you cuz I, that sucks. How are you dealing with that mentally and then legally or, you know, what's, how, how do you, how do you fix that? Or, or can you?
Jeff Sheldon: As an artist, it's probably like everyone says, oh, it's so flattering.
You know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And I say, no, imitation is the laziest form of stealing. Like, it's just taking something and saying, Hey, I made this, no, I made this, and now it's mine. It's really frustrating. At the end of the day, legally, I don't have a big team of lawyers that can go and shut down people.
So sometimes it's literally just calling them out and I'll send them a private message first and be like, Hey, look like I understand you, what you did. And it's not just that they're like inspired by what I've created. I don't own three by five cards, but when you literally copy every single detail down to the corner radius to the three holes in the metal divider to the dot grid on the back of the paper to using our actual copy from our video, like on their landing page, it's pretty obvious. It's really frustrating because people see something successful. So they say, I think, you know, I want a small piece of that pie. I think I'm gonna have some of that. I'm not gonna ask for permission. I'm just gonna take it. And I don't think that's flattery at all. , I think that's just people being greedy and trying to be lazy.
So I, I usually just try to approach it, like send them a personal message. Say, look, I understand what you're doing here. I'd ask that you kindly remove it, but I can't do a whole lot after that. I mean, I could try to sue and go for things. My goal is, is to be the real Analog, the real Gather, the real Ugmonk.
So our fans come to us if they want the real thing. Just like if you're going to buy a pair of Nikes, sure you can get a fake pair of Nikes on eBay, I'm sure, but like if you want the real thing, you're trying to buy the real thing. You're, you're looking for the, the authentic version that's made the right way.
So our fans know, people that know Ugmonk are coming to us anyways. I try not to spend a ton of time worrying about the knockoffs. I'm just trying to stay one step ahead, but it's, I don't know. It's weird. The internet has kind of put this barrier between us all. Like if I could sit across the table from this person, they'd probably be like, yeah, I should take this down.
But for whatever reason, hiding behind a screen and a fake name, and launching a Kickstarter, that's literally our Kickstarter and claiming that they made it up is, is just kind of ridiculous.
Pat Flynn: You'd mentioned the keyword there, having fans. And that can help protect against a lot of this stuff. You know, your fans will carry you and take you wherever you want to go really and, and help you combat that.
How does a physical product company develop fans.
Jeff Sheldon: Well, I know a good, a nice book about that, that you might be familiar with, which I actually have here myself, Superfans.
Pat Flynn: Oh, thanks man.
Jeff Sheldon: Go check it out. I'm gonna plug Pat's book right now. But yeah, I mean, you talk all about it in that book It, it's literally making things for people that appreciate them and being human and connecting with people on a relational level.
When you make a product that you're proud of and you can put your face next to it and you can say, here, I made this. I'm proud. You've poured your heart and soul into it. People see that. They can tell that there's a difference between that and the, the 99 cent special on, on the Amazon deal of the day. So when you have relationships and you have connections, and you have humans supporting your work, It's completely different transactionally. And I'm thankful for the past 14 years, I've been slowly kind of just saying, Hey, I'm making these things. If you like them, come along for the journey. If they're not for you, they're not for you. You might be like, why would I ever spend $300 on a desk organizer? Doesn't make sense. But the people that get it are like, dude, this is me.
This is what I've been searching for for all my life. Like this is what I, oh, I love everything about it. And that passion, you can't buy, you can't manufacture, you can't get overnight on a viral video. It's literally just like talking to other people, through email, through social, through in-person, podcasts, all these things, and those people will carry you.
Yes. It's the 1000 true fans mentality. I still carry that with me as how I'm building Ugmonk.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, man. Dude, I love it. So what's coming next for Ugmonk that you can share at least?
Jeff Sheldon: Yeah, well, depending on when this podcast goes out, we'll be fulfilling the Kickstarter and doing our first production run of the new Gather collection, which I'm really excited about.
And I feel like there will be things that go wrong in production and things we have to overcome and details to dial in. But because we kind of did some test runs and we did some short runs, we're able to refine a lot of those relationships. So I don't feel like that's a big, giant black box that we have to uncover, like how are we gonna make this product? Like I think we have a pretty solid supply chain in in place. So really a lot of our attention's gonna be on that. And then getting it, moving it onto our site and showing people more about what the new Gather is. I have so many ideas to expand the system I'm trying to hold back and not like put it all out there, but there's so many other types of organizational pieces for your desk, your workspace, your home, in the same minimalist aesthetic with this wood and metal that just feels so nice in your hands that I wanna make. So you'll see more of that more with Analog. We're just doubling down on all desk and workspace accessories to, to help you be more productive.
Pat Flynn: I love it, man. Well, the new year is upon us. I wanna wish you and your team an amazing new year, and congrats on the success of Gather and everything else, and I hope for a big rush of sales in the final days, which is pretty typical with anything that has sort of an end date. So I'll be looking forward to seeing those results.
And if anybody else wants to see them too, definitely check out the show notes, which I'll mention the link here in just a sec. We'll head on over to Kickstarter, look up Gather, or of course, just go to Ugmonk.com to see Jeff, his team, and all the amazing products there. So Jeff, thank you so much for your time today.
I appreciate you and all your wisdom and good luck to you, my friend.
Jeff Sheldon: Thanks. Yeah, it was fun to catch.
Pat Flynn: All right. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Mr. Jeff Sheldon. Again, you can find him at Ugmonk and also check out the Gather 2.0 whole line. Really, that's what it is. It's a line and it's gonna grow bigger, and I'm just super, super inspired by what he is doing.
It makes you wanna create another round of like a SwitchPod 2.0 of sorts because just to see how many people are getting access to this and how many people are gonna be delighted as soon as they open this up, when it arrives at their place, it's gonna be really cool. So thank you to you, Jeff, and thank you to you, the listener.
And again, we'll have all the show notes and everything mentioned. Over at the blog smartpassiveincome.com/session639. Again, smartpassiveincome.com/session639. And again, look out for Gather 2.0 on Kickstarter. At the time of this recording, it's well over $200,000 and it's probably gonna climb much higher, especially in those last few days.
So I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this and I got a Gather right here in front of me that I use as well to organize my desk and it's absolutely fantastic. So thank you. I appreciate you and I look forward to serving in the next episodes of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Cheers. Appreciate you.
Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is David Grabowski. Our series producer is Paul Grigoras, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.