INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Your Hands-Free Jacket Holder
Ryan Nguyen of BindBuddy tells us about a simple device that easily attaches to any bag strap.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ryan Nguyen: We are doing well as my wife and I both work from home. Unfortunately or fortunately, we do not have children; therefore, we do not have to deal with school-related issues. Hence life is more simple. The only annoyance is that we love to travel, so staying home 20 hours per day is not enjoyable.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BindBuddy.
Ryan Nguyen: I have been in corporate sales for over 20 years and hence commute a lot and am constantly on the cell phone. One day, I was on the train and was wearing my backpack over my left shoulder, a trench coat draped over my left arm while holding a coffee, while on my cell phone with my right hand. My backpack slipped from my left shoulder and caused my coffee to spill all over my coat. I love inventing products as my hobby, and the BindBuddy was invented due to this mishap as it made me think of a device that could help free up my hands. This is the second product that I have designed, researched, developed, manufactured, and introduced to the market. So I created my company to take everyday issues I encounter and invent products to address these everyday issues.
How does BindBuddy innovate?
Ryan Nguyen: I work with a bunch of great industrial engineers that are working to take feedback from customers and look for ways to improve the usability and durability of the product. We leverage social media a lot to get our feedback.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ryan Nguyen: The pandemic had impacted my business tremendously as our production started around the same time as when COVID first appeared back in early 2020. This resulted in production delays and resulted in quality issues since I cannot travel to the factory to oversee product quality before it went into mass production. Additionally, my product’s target market is commuters, travelers (air, sea, ground), event shows/conferences. With all of these being locked down, it was a huge blow and caused a significant delay to our product launch and product brand awareness.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ryan Nguyen: We planned two brand awareness paths, one to build awareness directly with end customers, the second to build awareness with distributors, brick & mortar companies, and white label promowear distributors. The plan was to attend and setup our booth at exhibits, shows, conferences instead, in addition to using social media. During COVID, most of the shows started using virtual conferences. I chose not to use this technology as I felt that the ROI on these virtual events were low as I viewed these virtual things lead to users multitasking on their computers while not paying 100% attention to the virtual shows. Therefore, we spend a lot of social media to build awareness. If I can go back, I would have shifted more money away from social media to the virtual as I realized the virtual technology got a whole lot better during the pandemic. The technology was more interactive, innovative than when I first explored it early in the pandemic stage. With our product launch being delayed and with no products being available for end customers to purchase online, the lesson learned was that the money spent on social media to build awareness was not a good ROI and would have been better to build awareness with our potential B2B partners in order to build pent up demand and pre-orders.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Ryan Nguyen: We leverage web conferencing technology such as Cisco Webex and Skype in order to view our production lines via the cell phone camera as I cannot be there in person.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ryan Nguyen: Currently, we have the first movers advantage and are developing better features for our version 2 product release.
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