Backpack Child Carrier Entrepreneur Shares about Shark Tank, Crowdfunding, Distractions and more...

Nathan Jones is an entrepreneur's entrepreneur. He's working on multiple "hustles", full of energy and always in motion. He created The Freeloader Child Carrier, and you'll learn from him, in this interview, his experience on Shark Tank, tips on running a successful crowdfunding campaign, the pros and cons of being distracted and more!

Listen to the 20 minute interview and and/or read the transcript below!

OPENING OF SHOW

Ramon Ray: Hey everyone, good afternoon this is Ramon Ray. Thanks for listening to another edition of the Smart Hustle Report on Small Business Trends. My name is Ramon Ray with smarthustle.com. So glad you all could be with us today as I'm taping this I say good morning, but you all could be listening to this at 3:00 in the morning or 1:00 in the afternoon, or anytime you choose.

 

I'm really, really excited about today's interview, another amazing smart hustler who's going to share with us his journey of entrepreneurship and this is Nathan Jones of Freeloader. He's started, and been a part of several other companies as well. We're going to talk today really about two things he's very passionate about I'm sure more, are the aspects of perseverance and preparation.

 

Nathan, thanks for coming to the Smart Hustle Podcast line, I appreciate your time today.

 

Nathan Jones: Absolutely Ramon, I appreciate you having me and I really appreciate what you're doing online with Smart Hustle. There's a whole lot good information there and stuff I wish I had years ago and stuff I continue to learn from when I read it today. [crosstalk 00:00:53]

 

Ramon Ray: You made my day man, I'm going to print t-shirts, buttons, posters and wake up in the morning with you saying that.

 

Nathan Jones: Fair enough, fair enough. It's the truth.

 

INTRODUCTION OF NATHAN AND HIS BUSINESS

Ramon Ray: So Nathan give our audience an overview, [crosstalk 00:01:05] what were you going to ask, I'm sorry go ahead, were you going to say something? Sorry.

 

Nathan Jones: No, no, just basically it's the perseverance and the preparation. That is my adding and the thing that I sort of live and die by, but by all means, where are you headed?

 

Ramon Ray: Yeah, just give us a little bit of overview of you Nathan. Who are you? I know you're based in the South, in the Austin area, but give us an overview Nathan of your kind of entrepreneurial journey because you have touched and dabbled and have been a part of a few things. So I think it's good for us Smart Hustlers to hear that because many of us come from that same DNA. So, why don't you share with us a bit about you or your family if you want. A little bit of who Nathan is and then touch on some of the entrepreneurial ventures so we get to know you a bit.

 

Nathan Jones: For sure, for sure. I was raised in Austin, Texas. Spent about 10 years out in California. Before I went to California, and went to school out there I worked, I invested in a real estate company here. Went out west, did college out there, met my beautiful wife out there. Also, continued the real estate thing out there, invested in a restaurant as well, and a water bottling company.

 

Then came back to Austin, Texas. Became a full-time firefighter for 10 years. Went up to the rank of Lieutenant and then about five years ago started the Freeloader Child Carrier and that has taken a majority of my time. Like many of the people that will end up listening to this, many of the people that read your website, I do have my hands in a lot of pots. From the people that I interact with, most of us have three to seven streams of income. For me, specifically, I find I'm a little bit like a squirrel where [crosstalk 00:02:53]-

 

Ramon Ray: Yes indeed.

 

Nathan Jones: I can quite easily looking this way, looking that way. And so for me, it helps me when I get a little bit tired on one end I do sort of as a side hobby I get to go play in this other small business.

 

So that's sort of how I end up taking my directions. I try not to be too distracted, but I do find that I can get free energy from new business ideas and bouncing them off other people. You know how it is, just keep on rolling.

 

SHARK TANK EXPERIENCE

Ramon Ray: Absolutely. Absolutely and congratulations, or poor you depending, on how you look at it, I know many people who have been on Shark Tank, for your being on Shark Tank. That's where I think much of American got to know Nathan. I'm sure you had a few friends Nathan before you were on Shark Tank, but I guess you have a few million more people know you after that show. So congratulations. What was that experience like, again, I don't want to dive too deep into it, we've talked about, it's all documented now in its eighth or ninth year. Your experience, your side, just give us a little taste of what was it like for you and afterwards what was it like? Give us an overview of that.

 

Nathan Jones: Absolutely. Personally it's a great experience. It was obviously a whole lot of exposure. We had done a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that we had a lot of success with. That made us sort of regionally known in the Southwest and then Shark Tank made us nationally and somewhat internationally known. It was great, I'm happy I don't have to do that again. Mostly it was inviting a camera into a pitch room and most of the time, I've now done that a couple of times since then, I did it a handful of times on the front-end. It's letting America see you at your most vulnerable to a certain extent.

 

All things told it was a good journey. I'm happy like I said that that was then and that we are where we are now. They obviously continued to run episodes so it sort of fills up the gas tank of the company, and it continues to get widespread attention, which is wonderful. And now we've sold Freeloaders on every single continent. I attribute that to Shark Tank. And we have sold Freeloaders in every country in the EU and most Eurasian countries and many countries in Africa and most South American countries.

 

It's fun to that extent and very neat. It would have been extremely difficult to do that over such a condensed timeframe had we not had the exposure.

 

Ramon Ray: Oh absolutely. It's advertising, I mean you know, you could have spent a few billion or whatever it is to get the ads up there and probably accomplished it, but nothing beats the validity as well. An ad is one thing, but the validity and the story, which jerks our hearts. Nathan let's talk about those two things that are really important to you. Perseverance and preparation. What does that mean to you? Feel free to dive into each one and if you want, maybe share what lessons you've learned in your journey. Maybe you didn't persevere in something and wish you had or whatever. Maybe in the preparation you wish you would have prepared and didn't. Why don't you share, take the time and share with us those two things. What it means to you so we can learn from you as we grow our businesses.

 

PERSEVERANCE AND HUSTLE

Nathan Jones: Okay. As I mentioned, we did the Indiegogo campaign and for us it's the Freeloader Child Carrier. It effectively picks up where other child carriers leave off. You sort of need to know the background a little bit of it. All child carriers stop at 35 pounds. For the most part. We picked it up, and we said, we can make a carrier that weighs less, weighs half what other one weighs and carries twice the amount of weight. We can thereby allow people to take their kids where kids have never gone before.

 

We understood that clearly, and we developed a couple prototypes, and we're bringing toddlers to places that toddlers had never been before. This is just a side note that's very cool about the Freeloader, it is literally taking kids to places they have never been before. Like the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. So we understood that that was something that could happen and it was a very real possibility and we suspected that there was a market for it.

 

We then had two functional prototypes and said let's dance and jumped into the crowdfunding campaign. Had I taken three more months, and just sort of set out my goals, set out the system, tested and refined the actual child carrier, then I wouldn't have been doing so many things simultaneously. Basically another way of saying that is I probably wouldn't have had to cry myself to sleep every night again and again and again because I was so terrified of what I got myself into. But the [crosstalk 00:07:48]

 

PROS and CONS of MULTIPLE HUSTLES OR DISTRACTIONS

Ramon Ray: Do you find Nathan that's a double edged sword? I think those of us, I think I have your similar DNA. I rush, I work from my gut a lot. I got my hands in a lot of different things, but I must say that's the benefit of it because I am relatively successful in moving forward. Whereas those who are more methodical and plotting, they didn't have the same scars I had, but yet they're in a different state. Not always, it's not that cut and dry, but I find that's just life kind of if that makes sense. I don't know if you agree with that kind of overall philosophy, does that make sense?

 

CROWDFUNDING

Nathan Jones: Yeah, Ramon I think you bring up a very wonderful point. You also, you got to get off the starting line. The 10,000 foot journey starts with the first step, however, for me I let my enthusiasm get in the way of my intelligence. By doing that I made things considerably more difficult for myself.

 

Now a short tangent, but probably relatable to many of your listeners is the crowdfunding campaign: a fantastic way to generate revenue, particularly if you don't have historical revenue, if you don't have family with revenue. It's a good way to both define a market, see if it can play out there, and generate revenue, but a crowdfunding campaign in and of itself is a tiny microcosm of the small business. Except you have to begin it, pursue it, effectively execute it and end it all in this timeframe of like three to four months.

 

That serves the purpose of generating revenue for this greater idea of running a business. And so, you end up injecting sort of this mini-business that has nothing to do with the greater whole, with the exception of it provides capital. I missed that one when I looked out at it. I just saw okay, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this. Next step let's do this, let's do this and next thing I know I'm dropping balls. I just didn't sit back and prepare as well as I could have, but to your point you don't want to sit back forever.

 

Then that begs the question, where's the magic? What's the middle, what's not enough and what's too much? Of course, that is an answer that can only be individually found out, but it is important to keep in your mind both aspects. What you're bringing up and the preparation that I'm bringing up. Make sure you're prepared to get in the game, but don't be scared to get off the bench when it's your turn to play.

 

Ramon Ray: Right and going back to the Kickstarter, or Indiegogo rather, I'm curious Nathan, if you heard of a business owner - and I think the Sharks do this sometimes too on Shark Tank – a business said hey listen Nathan, we had a Kickstarter campaign $50,000, we raised $150, we raised $100 and we raised $51,000. As an entrepreneur and possible investor, does that mean something to you since that is a microcosm. If somebody does a crowdfunding campaign and succeeds once and succeeds twice, would you take notice and say huh, okay, let me look at this guy or gal instead. Is that a fair ...

 

Nathan Jones: It would be worth me giving them attention. That being said, there's a lot of ways to game the crowdfunding system that way.

 

Ramon Ray: That is true.

 

Nathan Jones: And so-

 

Ramon Ray: Let's not forget that, that is true.

 

Nathan Jones: As an investor it doesn't tell me that your idea is absolute, what it tells me is that you're smart enough to generate that level of revenue. Now that's a smart you want in somebody you're invested in, but it's not just a blind thing and it may just be that they had, they may have had $100,000 in the bank. They wanted the marketing and they just trickled that through different sources over the course of whatever the crowdfunding campaign is and they were able to increase it by 50% from other people that got excited as a result of the marketing and now they get to present it to investors as look at me, I've tripled what I asked for. I've tested my product.

 

So that's the side note on that, I mean what a lot of people say of crowdfunding now is nobody wants to be the first dollar in. So even if you start your own crowdfunding campaign, you need two things. Money in the pocket to begin and money in the pocket to end. Kickstarter is not going to, or at least how it was a couple years ago, they're not going to give you your money unless you fulfill your end. If you got 85% of your revenue and in two days your campaign is fixing to run out, you'd better have 15% in the bank to finish it so that you can get all 100%. Then you got to kickback, you give a couple points to Kickstarter. [crosstalk 00:12:44]

 

Ramon Ray: Cool, so continue on. Good.

 

Nathan Jones: You know, that's the long winded answer to your question. Yeah, [crosstalk 00:12:47]

 

Ramon Ray: No I got it. Go ahead. Right.

 

PERSEVERANCE

Nathan Jones: And so perseverance, that's the second one and in this day and age it is very, particularly we as Americans like the notion and believe in the idea that a quick buck is possible. That with effort as defined by the individual, that we can then turn that into money that results in no effort in the long-term. For one, we're always going to be working, we're always going to be hustling. It may just not be for money in the future and if you accept that, then it releases some of the pressure of the present moment for the entrepreneur because what you're willing to sort of say is that I'm always going to be doing this stuff. I don't need to make a million dollars tomorrow, park it in a 10% return and then I get $100,000.

 

You're always going to be committed, the entrepreneur is always going to be doing something. With your idea in particular, with an idea in particular it has a lot to do with…the way I mentally visualize it is twisting a Rubik's Cube. If I sit down with it, it's going to take me a long time, but eventually all sides are going to come up with the same color. And so, with that in mind you have the easy saying, if it was easy everybody would do it. You have to realize that what you're trying to do it's going to take you a while. I thought that I was going to have this child carrier and take the market by storm. Retroactively, it feels - to a certain extent - that happened, it didn't always happen the way I thought that it would play out.

 

That's what I'm getting at is you’re going to have your theory of how everything's going to go and typically in your imagination or in one's imagination your smart and your right. Perseverance comes in because what you think is going to happen is not going to happen. Parts of it may come true, but by and large there's variables that exist down the road that will throw you off path. You have to sort of get back up and reevaluate where you're heading.

 

It's perseverance and a great example of that is the Mighty Leaf Tea Company. Very popular tea company, national brand, it is all over. That is a husband and a wife that got into the basically coffee shop tea business. They failed at doing that, but in doing that they realized that there was a problem with sourcing teas and quality teas and organic teas. So they pivoted and they made this monster of a company by seeing it, now that was not their vision, their vision I'm sure was to make revenue through coffee and tea. However, their vision got derailed and then they ended up seeing an opportunity through pursuing their vision.

 

That's kind of what I see it as is that this is a 5, 10, 15, 20 year plan. This is not just a, you know, it's not a 24 month plan. If you're in it for 24 months, or think it's going to happen in 24 months you're setting yourself up for a big disappointment. That being said, everybody needs to have big disappointments. So if you think it's just 24 months, if you're 20 years old and think you can do this in 2 years get after it because you need to get that first big failure out of your way.

 

Ramon Ray: You were [crosstalk 00:16:41] so true Nathan. So true and my pastor, I posted a video about this, my pastor of my church, his name is [inaudible 00:16:49] and he had a message about don't give up. I don't recall the exact title of the message, but maybe you and him compared notes or something. The point is that one nugget of this, that he said is that sometimes also, part of patience and being on the journey is learning. I know myself Nathan, I've wanted, so one of my bucket list, I don't have a long bucket list because I'm blessed to have pretty much done what I want in life. I'm not a rich person, but I'm happy. [inaudible 00:17:12]

 

Nathan Jones: And that is rich right?

 

Ramon Ray: Thank you, that's true, that's true. I mean, but I like to qualify to my audience. You know some rumors are going around here about Ramon. The point being is that one, I think probably my only two bucket list, well three. So Nathan I'll say, one I want to be part of the United States Secret Service Counter Assault team. That's one bucket list. Presidential protection detail. Two, I want to give a TED Talk, but I don't have a TED Talk to give yet, or I could give one probably, but a TED Talk. And three, I want to be a TV host. Point being Nathan, this is your interview I'm talking way too much, is that-

 

Nathan Jones: No, no, I like this.

 

Ramon Ray: Thank you. Is that I realize I may not have been ready for TV 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Even though I've been speaking for years, I believe I'm ready now. And I'm making inroads, I have talks to famous shows that you know and et cetera. To your point, you know, perseverance and patience. All the time you're not ready for it today. You may be ready for it 10 years from now and enjoy the journey and learn.

 

Nathan Jones: That is such a good point. If you don't have the bruises and the scars, you don't have anything to say a lot of times. Anyhow, you hit the nail on the head Ramon.

 

Ramon Ray: Yeah, Nathan, talk to us a little bit about Freeloader. Where is it at today? Give us again, I could do a whole other interview on logistics and selling and marketing -which we won't- but can you give us a taste of it? I'm always curious where companies are at today, who's in it, are you running it day-to-day, do you have a team and you don't have to be there daily? What's it like? Give us a talk for one or two minutes to give us a taste on all aspects. Finance, marketing, logistics, hiring. Tell us what's going on.

 

Nathan Jones: So, the one to two minute thing is that it's going great. We have two enormous thrusts with the Freeloader. One is adventurous parents that really are doing these amazing things. The second one is children with disabilities. What a lot of people ended up realizing after the Shark Tank was they have a child that is bound to a wheelchair or a child with a congenital heart defect or a respiratory issue. Their child is not able to go as far, but by putting them in a Freeloader there's these kids that are going hiking for the first times in their life. There's these families that are all able to go outdoors and do these things for the first time in their lives. It's really opening up me as an individual as I get more and more exposed to these stories, but it's opening up all these doors and opportunities for these children and these families.

 

Those are the major thrusts of the Freeloader, those are basically the two separate camps that we live in and where we pursue them. There used to be two founders of the Freeloader, we had a purchase offer six months ago, nine months ago I guess now. My partner really liked it, I really wanted to keep riding the pony and so I was able just to buy him out at the valuation that they provided. So now I run the whole thing. I have a wonderful team. I still spend a lot of time here, probably a whole lot more time than the team would like me here.

 

Ramon Ray: I hear you on that. They're probably like Nathan, you hired the VP, you hired the operation's manager, go home. Start another company. You're like no, I want to pack one more box. Can I? Can I please just put some peanuts in anther box and tape it you know?

 

Nathan Jones: 100%, but, and at some point I'll cut it a little bit more and that's fine. Of course, I have my wife and my three kids that I have an enormous amount of fun with and so they are a constant pull to me of free energy and we get to go do things. So that is happening a lot more than it used to.

 

Ramon Ray: Got it.

 

Nathan Jones: But mostly, we're still a warehouse outside of Austin, Texas just west of Austin, Texas. It's a great city to be doing business in. Great city to be a part of. Live in a real pretty area. The warehouse is in a great outdoorsy area and basically run all the distribution out of there. Have some distribution centers on the West Coast and the East Coast. All in all it's doing what we had hoped it would do five years ago, but it has been a slug fest for five years. I would have thought that it would have taken me, if you'd have asked me when I started the crowdfunding campaign, I would have thought I would have been where I am now in one year. I would have thought in two years I would have been twice what I am now.

 

That's kind of the bring it back to the perseverance thing because I constantly had to reevaluate that and basically realize that I had failed my own personal goals. It wasn't really a failure, it was just a reevaluation. It's more perspective, it's growing up, it's a maturation. So it's doing good things and I'm happy about it.

 

Ramon Ray: You sound happy man. I can't wait to read your book. Or write it for you and do it together. Listen, Nathan anything I didn't ask you today that you wanted to mention as we conclude this awesome, awesome, wonderful, insightful discussion?

 

Nathan Jones: No, but I do really want to plug what you have, the content you have on your website is what I'm talking about when I'm talking about preparation. It's learn about the issues that you are addressing are issues that I didn't know and I didn't know I didn't know. And so I've been combing through your website, I've seen it in the past and I had basically it was one of those just sort of eye openers. Like this is a very good resource, so to the listeners I implore you, just comb through it and enjoy it and it will expose you to things that you don't know you don't know. Those are the hardest one's to realize in your journey because you will get bit time and again by those. Thank you Ramon, I really appreciate you having me. It's an honor to be [crosstalk 00:23:19]

 

Ramon Ray: Oh you are welcome man.

 

Nathan Jones: A part of this stuff.

 

Ramon Ray: And you made my day, so ladies and gentlemen Nathan Jones from Freeloader and a number of other companies and things he's in as we all on [inaudible 00:23:28] this is Ramon Ray with Smart Hustle Report on Small Business Trend, editor of smarthustle.com.