In today’s episode, Sheree talks to Matt Wahlstrom, owner of MJ Home Sales, a real estate team serving clients in Virginia, Maryland & D.C in the USA; Epic Roll BJJ, a jiu-jitsu clothing and lifestyle brand; and The One Bottle Company, a revolutionary new product that finally gives you what you need in a sports bottle, launching in 2022.
- his knowledge and expertise in starting and running small businesses across varying industries
- his entrepreneurial mindset
- his exciting new invention that is set to launch this year
About MJ Home Sales:
Matthew & Jessica Wahlstrom are husband and wife Realtors® and the owners of MJ Home Sales, a real estate team serving clients in Virginia, Maryland & D.C. Matthew and Jessica’s passion for the real estate began in early 2009 when they purchased their first home in Warrenton Virginia. In 2013, Matthew made a decision to pursue a full-time career in real estate. Shortly after getting licensed, Matthew joined Pearson Smith Realty. It wasn’t long before Jessica got her real estate license, joined Pearson Smith Realty and began working alongside Matthew. After a successful first year of real estate together, Matthew and Jessica decided to start their own RE team, MJ Home Sales. The goal was to create a fresh new RE brand that offers its clients exceptional service paired with a genuine desire to create life-long relationships with their clients! In addition to our residential services, MJ Home Sales also offers investment services. From funding to consulting, MJ Home Sales can support a multitude of investor needs. With an emphasis on superior client service, effective home sale strategies, innovative marketing, and investment consulting services, the MJ Home Sales team are quickly becoming a recognizable RE brand in the Northern Virginia area.
About Epic Roll BJJ:
Epic Roll was created as a jiu-jitsu lifestyle brand that could connect the grappling community on a global level. Epic Roll BJJ represents unity, love, and respect among our BJJ brothers and sisters. Epic means: E-exposing, P-potential, I-inside, C-champions. We want to see Epic Roll connect the jiu-jitsu community on a global level, so don’t forget to #epicrollbjj with your Epic Roll products!
About The One Bottle Company:
Hassle-free, clean and convenient way to mix your pre-workout, green smoothie or protein shake on-the-go. The One Bottle is a revolutionary new product that finally gives you what you need in a sports bottle.
Join our community and ask us questions on Instagram @everythingsmallbusinesspodcast
Subscribe to receive our latest tips, trends, resources and invites: www.everythingsmallbusiness.media
Host: Sheree Cusack
Everything Small Business is a podcast by sixty:forty.io
00:00 The following podcast is part of the sixty:forty network.
00:02 [Sheree Cusack] Hello and welcome to Everything Small Business. Your shortcut to start, build, manage and grow your small business. I’m Sheree, and in today’s episode, I’m chatting to Matt Wahlstrom, owner of real estate firm, MJ Home Sales, jiu-jitsu lifestyle brand, Epic Roll BJJ, and patented inventor of The One Bottle. This is brought to you as part of our mini-series called Share Your Small Business Story. In this episode, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise in starting and running small businesses across various industries, his entrepreneurial mindset, and his exciting new invention that is set to launch later this year.
00:41 [Sheree Cusack] Hi Matt, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us on Everything Small Business.
00:46 [Sheree Cusack] So would you like to basically, I guess, give our listeners a bit of a bit of background about you because it’s quite varied. And I’ve got lots of questions.
00:54 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Sure, absolutely. I was born in Southern California and as I grew up, I was always very artistic, I was kind of just drawn to that side. Was it the right side of the brain people? Is that what it is? I think the left side is the analytical, but I spent a lot of time just drawing and being creative. And that was just something that that, you know, it was just a big part of my background, and moving into like, my adult life, I had a lot of different jobs, I tried a lot of different things. I start working when I was 13 years old and had a job ever since then. So just at a very young age, that was always a thing in my life and making money and I retrospectively was able to go through a lot of different industries and a lot of different things to figure out what I don’t like and through that process led me to where I am now. I have a background in fitness and marketing and design and sales. And all of these little things that I did in a corporate setting for so long, now kind of translated into my businesses. So, with real estate, for example, I’ve been doing real estate with my wife for about seven years. And we have our own team within our brokerage, and I was able to develop our brand for that, MJ home sales. And so, there’s a creative side that comes with that. And obviously, the sales, I spent a lot of time in sales and commission jobs, so that was nothing new to me. It was a very normal concept for having that hustle and not having something to depend on and really having to go after and work for it. So, I was able to do that, which was a really fun thing, because real estate’s so vast, there’s so many different aspects of it from investing and flipping and residential and commercial and land development. So, it really gives you a really broad range to scratch any of those itches that you have and try to get creative with that. And I have a big background in martial arts. I’ve been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 16 years. So black belt under the Tom DeBlass Association, and about three years ago, was able to take a passion of mine, something that’s, you know, such a big part of my life and turn that into a business sort of, accidentally, but serendipitously and so that’s another obviously really creative outlet that I’m able to pursue, which is, you know, a blast. And, on the side of, I guess, being creative, one of the things that I came up with back in 2007 was a bottle invention. So, it was basically a dual compartmentalized bottle that allowed you to keep, you know, water and whatever dry liquid separate. And so, I have two fully granted patents on that, and we are getting ready to launch that bottle this year, which only took 14 years to get to this point. So, you know, for all those impatient people. So that’s, yeah, just a little background, I kind of am sort of all over the place. But I feel like for the first time, in my life, I worked really hard to intentionally get to where I am. And so I have a sense of fulfillment that just goes way past what I think normal people get to experience with a career because I wake up, even though I have days where I’m very stressed, or there’s a lot going on, I’m still very much doing what I feel like I was put on this earth to do and so to feel like you have a purpose, and you’re, you know very much in tune, and you have that that feeling when you wake up in the morning is, you know, invaluable to me. So, it motivates me to keep working hard to kind of keep that going.
03:51 [Sheree Cusack] It’s a blessed feeling to have that purpose to get up. I believe that success is what you determine it to be. So, you know, when you wake up and you’re feeling successful every single day with what you’re doing. I mean, can’t live better than that.
04:05 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Absolutely.
04:06 [Sheree Cusack] With your history, there is so much to unpack. There’s a couple of things. I’ll start with the easy stuff. I think first it’s about the patents. So, the bottle that you’ve created, actually is really interesting. And I would love to know, where did you come up with that idea? Like the problem that you were solving with it.
04:24 [Matthew Wahlstrom] So, it actually started as a baby bottle. I was a young father, like 25, when I had my son, my first son and we had to bottle feed a lot. My wife had trouble breastfeeding. So, we would bottle feed, find ourselves bottle feeding a lot. And I remember one day, my wife was home sick, and I was at church with my son. And he starts getting antsy. And then that turned into like a light cry, which turned into like a big cry. And I’m trying to get this bottle ready. I’m trying to prepare this, and I’m scooping the formula, like into the bottle of the water and trying, I scooped by Miss I get some on his head. He’s freaking out. It’s a scene. Do you know what I’m saying? Now it’s a scene in the middle of church, I’m mortified because I’m like that parent that doesn’t want your kids to, like, lose it in public, you know, and so I went home, frustrated, I just actually thought, there has to be like a better solution to this. So, the idea was that somebody already made what I thought probably already existed, I just didn’t know of it. And it turned out that wasn’t the case. So just kind of being creative, I said, “Well, if this doesn’t exist, here’s in my mind how I could conceptualize that working.” And I knew nothing about patents, nothing about pursuing them. I feel like I could write a book on it now but being kind of a younger new dad and it’s a very expensive process to, can be. So, I didn’t know much about it so I went through the fumbling of calling those 800 ads that you see late night like in between QVC commercials that they play and where it’s like, “Hey, patent inventor, come and give us all your money, and we’ll help you do nothing.” I kind of pursued that and went through and then ended up hiring a patent attorney. And so, over the course of three and a half years, it turned from that idea into getting two fully granted utility patents. So, I actually have the patent technology on kind of like, how it functions, that how it keeps these separate. It could really be in a bottle or any type of… there’s actually medical uses and agricultural uses that it’s applicable to. So that process took from there, you know, you’re developing an idea, you have these patents, which is a whole, you know, long process and you don’t know, you’re just trusting, you hope that you have a good person. I had to fire our first patent attorney, because it turned out he was, just didn’t have a good reputation and wasn’t looking out for our best interest. And so yeah, it took a really long time. And through that, we realized that you could make it also a fitness bottle. So, people you know, doing the same thing with protein and water, just as you would do with like baby formula and water. So, our goal was to get the fitness bottle out. It’s a much less volatile industry than babies, right, babies is very delicate, you have to, you know, and there’s a lot of companies out there – Playtex, and Dr. Brown and Johnson and Johnson, all these companies that are household brands that have street cred with all the parents and they know them and trust these brands. So, to come in as a new brand, it’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that the development of this from a fitness bottle standpoint, seemed to be a little bit easier to break into. And with my business partner and I’s network of people with social media, and different celebrities and people that we have to help us, it’s more in that arena. So, it just kind of made sense to launch this, build the brand, build that recognition, and then pivot to the baby bottle.
07:25 [Sheree Cusack] Well, the interesting thing about that, I think, is the fact that, it’s almost transference because let’s be really honest, those who use the fitness bottle, it’s a brand then that they use, they become trusted and familiar with. So, if then they have their own children or they see others have children, it’s essentially just a transference of trust. “Oh hey, I use this, this is fantastic, that would solve that problem. Go and buy that.”
07:46 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Absolutely. It’s kind of the rule of sales, right? If somebody likes you and trusts you, and they buy from you, typically they want to buy more things from you. So having ancillary services, having other products and things, it’s the same thing with the bottle. We come out with bottle and people will, you know, if they like it, and they start to use it, “Well, what else do you have? What other you know, little accessories and what other things can you offer?” So, it’s kind of like that, yeah.
08:05 [Sheree Cusack] Build your back end really, isn’t it? So, can I ask about the patents? How at the start, did you recognize that this was going to be a patent worthy invention?
08:14 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Well, I think because when I started to realize that there weren’t any products out there like that, I just I knew enough to assume that there was going to be some legalities involved in order to protect the idea. And the interesting thing about patents is that when you file them, you can actually choose to keep your information not available to public record, while it’s going through the process. Once, if it gets eventually fully granted, it becomes public record, right? You can go into Google and now search for but prior to that you can hide it. So, the problem with that is that there might be 10 other people that are trying to patent that same exact thing that filed prior to you, and they’ve kept it hidden so you can’t see it. And then you have to worry about infringement, right, then maybe theirs gets granted. Yours comes shortly after or it gets shut down at the end because you have to do extensive patent searches to make sure that it doesn’t already exist. And there I mean, so there’s, there’s really a lot to it. And a lot of it’s like crossing your fingers and, you know, just hoping and trying to navigate and figure it out as you go but, in the end, it’s a super important thing to do.
And actually, over the past few years, our patent attorney told me that we’ve stopped, 8 to 10 people from getting patents because of the intellectual property, because we made it as broad as possible to give yourselves room for evolutions of the product. As you go through, and you are taking something from an idea to a 3D prototype to full scale manufacturing, there’s a lot of research and development that goes on to that, to fine tuning and making sure it works. So, the broader your claims, the more flexibility you have in making adjustments, potentially, to your product to be the best version of it that it can be while still staying within the guidelines of your intellectual property, if that makes sense.
09:55 [Sheree Cusack] Yeah. What do you think, then, was probably your biggest lesson that you took away from the whole patent process?
10:00 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Have some money, because you can really do research and find good attorneys. I mean, I think even now more than, you know, 2007, the internet, everything has just, right, that like, the ability to find people and reviews and all kinds of stuff. So, I think it’s probably a lot easier to disseminate good from bad. But just being patient, and, you know, people have a tendency to run out and just start talking to people about their ideas, and oh, this and oh, that. And, you know, there might be somebody that has money that you don’t know, that’s sitting behind you, or hears this stuff, and they go out and do it before you. I mean, it’s just, there’s really a lot, so I think it’s just, be patient, but really do your research. With everything that I do, it’s a lot of like research and a lot of knowledge.
So, the more knowledgeable that you are about the process, the less likely and less susceptible you’re going to be to some of these pitfalls. Getting caught in with bad attorneys, you know, knowing what questions to ask, you know, having a basic understanding of patent law. All that stuff is readily available information, right. So, so really doing your research and having a little bit of loose change are probably two good starting points.
11:01 [Sheree Cusack] So, I mean, I guess, I mean, you run a number of different small businesses. How do you balance them?
11:06 [Matthew Wahlstrom] It’s very difficult. Time management is such a challenging aspect of being self-employed because nobody’s there to tell you to do this or do that. So, it’s very easy to cut yourself some slack or sleep in a little bit longer or take your time with this and that. But I think that’s kind of where I rely on the passion angle a little bit to kind of help me. I’ve also spent time in corporate America to where I worked a lot. And I didn’t have that balance. And I made a lot of money, but I also spent a lot of time away from my family, and there was no balance at all. So, it was just this, you know, stay on that train and be, you know, and work, work, work, work, work and make as much money, and then you’re sitting back and you’re like, “Oh, I missed this event, or I didn’t get to spend time with my family.”
My whole priorities changed after I went through that experience. It’s kind of that experience that you go through, and then you learn from that, and I sit back now and go, my real goal is to buy back my time and my freedom so that I can spend time with my kids. When I’m able to be home in the morning when they get up or go pick them up from school and spend that little bit of extra time with them, and being around and being present, that to me is the gift. So, I know that now that if I prioritize my time and my businesses, that’s the only way forward. That’s the only way that I can give to all of them the best version of me, right? Focused, mindful, intentional time when I’m working. And then the same amount of focused, intentional time when I’m with my family.
So, it is challenging, but it’s very important because the day can get away, and everybody’s got the same 24 hours. So, there’s super productive people out there. People that get up early, that’s been my nemesis, getting up, you know, early, it’s never been a morning person. I’m the artist that stays up till two o’clock in the morning doing things like the night before. It’s a masterpiece, you know, but I had to stay up burning the midnight oil to get to that point. So, it’s a point of contention for me, I’m trying to evolve and grow and get better at that.
12:49 [Sheree Cusack] No worries. And so, I mean, in your sort of the information that you sent through, you’ve said that you’ve got a belief in the laws of attraction and visualization and positive mindset. So, did you want to just, I guess, explain that a little bit more?
13:00 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Sure. I had a good friend of mine who first introduced me to The Secret and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich book. And when I first found out about that, I did find it to be like a little woo-woo and a little, it just didn’t sound… I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand gratitude. I didn’t really understand how it works. And it took me a while of really seeking out that information and trying to reread the book, and then I got it. And for anybody who still kind of thinks that it’s woo-woo, the beauty of technology is that we now can scan the brain and really look deeper into our minds and how everything is connected and how it works.
And there’s a woman named Dr. Tara Swart, who wrote a book called The Source. And she’s a neuroscientist and from her perspective, it is going into the laws of attraction, visualization, and what’s actually happening in your brain, and how it actually affects your mood, your motivation, all these different things. It takes away that woo-woo-ness and it shows you just on a very practical level, that outside of just, it’s a happier way to live life, right? That there are some actual neurological things that are going on that are really triggering this and helping you, you know, for example, when you wake up, and you are in a mindset of gratitude, and when you feel that you are pursuing something that you’re passionate about, and you have that purpose, the energy that you’re that you have, is going to be different. And people can feel that. You can meet somebody and feel immediately, their energy and people, they’ll say that, and everybody gets it, but you don’t really stop to go, “Well, what is that? What is that, that you’re feeling?” It is a thing, we can feel that, we know that there’s things like stress-induced ulcers, these are stresses within your body that manifest into actual, you know, issues that are coming from a feeling, from an emotion. So, there’s a connection between your emotional state and your gut health and your overall body and your health. And, you know, when you’re able to harness that, and really, look at what’s possible, you’re more open to opportunities. You’re more mindful of opportunities because you’re in an abundance mindset. You’re thinking about the good things. I mean, I don’t know how to do it any other way.
If I was going to try to bring brands to market and develop brands and companies and do all this stuff, if I didn’t have a deep-rooted belief in myself, and what is possible through that, what would be my motivation to really do it, because it’s not easy, there’s certainly way more simple things that you could do, just getting a corporate job and a cushion, you know, and just feel like, “Hey, this is already taken care of.” But when you want to go out, and you really want to pursue something different or unique to you, you have to have belief, you have to have belief, and you have to have discipline. So, when I started to buy into this, and I started to make, you know, vision boards, I looked at that as not something woo-woo, I looked at it as my goals, being right there in front of me, for me to see every day. So, I don’t forget, because there’s a lot of distraction and a lot of noise in the world. And it’s very easy, with all the negativity that is out there, it’s very easy to get sucked into that, and be susceptible to those feelings, which then shifts your feelings. So, I work very hard every day to protect my mindset and try to do practices and stay in a mindset of gratitude and things that will keep me there, because that’s like my fuel that keeps me going. So, I put these vision boards out there. I started talking positively to myself, which people think is weird, but I say, “How much negative talk do you tell yourself?” I mean, so much of what we worry about, and we think that other people think about us is very wrong. 99% of the time, we’re very misinformed about what’s actually happening versus our emotional state of what we think is happening. So, for me, that’s such a critical element to doing what I do. And I think that comes across to people. It comes across in my business interactions. It comes across, you know, new people when I meet them, and being in real estate, you know, who wants to meet the like, the Debbie Downer and doom and gloom, and you know what I mean? You want positive and smile and good energy, and “I’m gonna take care of you” and friendly. To me it’s the only way to be. I think, not being like that, it’s just, it’s fine. I don’t pretend to always be happy. You can be you can feel negative emotions, right? But it’s how you take them, digest them, and then move on and not allow yourself to be stuck in those bad feelings.
16:59 [Sheree Cusack] Honestly, I could talk about that for literally ever, and you’re right about the, you know, the scientific reasoning, and I guess evidence is now backing up the number of – not claims – but the feelings about it. And, I mean, there’s so many major influences in there. I mean, I’ve done a lot of training in NLP. So, understanding the mind shift that you get, so the state change, like, the big thing is you get what you focus on. So, when you keep the number one thing, the one thing that’s becomes your focus, and therefore, a lot of your activities, then drive towards achieving that end goal, which is where the visualization boards become, you know, really important. So, hearing you call them your goal is fantastic. I love hearing that, you know, and I love the fact that you can change the result that you get by simply making a decision and a choice today to change your state to be in that end result because it pulls you there and it’s wonderful.
17:47 [Matthew Wahlstrom] It is. You have to you have to believe in these things, and I mean, I look at the length of time it’s taken me to get, you know, just to possibly be getting to manufacturing you know with this bottle – 14 years. Do you know what I mean? And everything great, it takes time, you know. It took me 16 years to become a jujitsu black belt. I could have become a doctor quicker than I could have done that, you know, I mean, so it’s like patience. But now it’s just deep-rooted into my mind, that that’s just how it goes. So, when I say to myself, “I’m going to do this”, just like when I left corporate America and said, “I’m going to do this”, people were like, you know, “Wouldn’t you rather have job security? Wouldn’t you rather have a paycheck or whatever?” And I said, “Well, if I don’t own that company, then I never have job security, because I’ve been a part of companies where I’ve made them a ton of money, and then they call me like, “Hey, next Tuesday, we’re selling so thank you for your service”, you know, and that’s it. And it’s a business decision, and I can’t blame them. You know, that’s how it goes. So, I had to put myself in the driver’s seat and say, “I am going to now invest in myself. And I’m going to work for myself so that I don’t ever have to feel insecure about getting let go.” It’s never going to be like, “Oh, I way overachieved my goal. I didn’t think they were going to pay this much commission. Now they’re gonna let me…” you know. No, none of that. It’s once you can depend on yourself, I know that if I’m not willing to fail, then I won’t. So, end of story, no need for a plan B.
19:03 [Sheree Cusack] No, I think it’s great. And it brings it back inside your own control. Although there’s things that happen outside in the world that you can’t control, how you feel, and then how you drive that, that is completely inside your control. And I mean, if COVID has shown us anything in terms of a lot of stuff, it’s that corporate isn’t secure. It doesn’t have the security that people used to believe that it had, it’s just not there.
19:23 [Matthew Wahlstrom] No. It’s so sad, that so many of the generational brick and mortar businesses that that were out, I mean, I was sat back and went, “Wow, you know, I had one of the most successful years ever, and how fortunate of me to have businesses that were not dependent upon that, that I could still, you know, support my family and still grow them and do that.” So, yeah, it makes you really take a hard look at what is considered a safety net and security anymore. But the good news is that we live in by far the most opportunistic time that has ever been in the world. So, there are kids making millions of dollars because they play video games and open up boxes, you know, anything, it’s amazing. I have so many people that hate on those people. And I said, first of all content creating is a job, it is not easy. And those kids hustled and now yeah, they’re making money doing what they’re doing, doing what they love, you know, good for them. That’s amazing. Anybody can do it.
20:12 [Sheree Cusack] And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Like them making it doesn’t detract from you. So, like, enjoy it, it goes around, you know.
20:18 [Matthew Wahlstrom] I know. We have a weird relationship with money and success, I think, in general and society. This sort of idea that we can’t wish for big things, or we can’t strive for greatness. The statistical probability that you’re even ever born is so unlikely that we have such a short amount of time on this earth. Why not, like, everybody’s level of success is not going to be the same. Not everybody wants, you know, something grandiose. Some people just want this. But whatever that thing is, the unfortunate part is seeing so many people go through life, whether they’re making good money or not, and really just being unfulfilled and being unhappy in what they’re doing. You know, because we spend something like 90,000 hours as just a nine-to-fiver in our in our lifetimes, you know, at work. What a tremendous amount of time to spend doing things that you don’t even want to be doing. You know, life is so short. So, I’m of the mind that, why not? Why not go for it?
21:06 [Sheree Cusack] I’m the same. I love it. I think that now is the best time ever. I don’t think there’s ever been so much opportunity when you see it from a positive perspective. Like, this is fantastic. We’ve never had a time like this. Heaps more digital, the recognition of things, you get a wider audience. It’s just like amazing, really.
21:23 [Matthew Wahlstrom] I agree.
21:24 [Sheree Cusack] When you transitioned from, because you’re in the fitness industry for so long, what drew you to real estate? Like why real estate?
21:30 [Matthew Wahlstrom] I was always interested in it. Just I liked the flipping shows. I liked the investing side. That was actually what initially got me interested in real estate, as I was kind of interested in flipping homes and I thought, well, if I’m a real estate agent as well, that would be a good thing for it and the residential side just kind of took off from there. But I really knew a couple of people that were real estate agents. In fact, one gentleman that I knew, and he made such a tremendous amount, I mean, at this time he was making over $300,000 a year as a real estate agent. And I thought he was a boring schmuck. I thought he was the most Magoo just, I looked at him and I was like, if you are making over $300,000 a year with the personality that is nonexistent – if you’re doing this, I can do this, like I can do this successfully, if you’re doing this. And so, when I moved to Nashville to help open up a restaurant, we ended up while we were in Nashville, sold our house and we made good money from that, and that was the financial cushion that ultimately allowed me to pivot to real estate. But I worked, this was sort of, my fitness, the last company that I worked with, was kind of the last stint in corporate and I was with them for a while and was the VP of personal training for their company. We were doing millions of dollars in revenue, and this was in 2008, like during a recession. And it was amazing. And one day, I got a call and said, “Hey, we’re selling to this big other association company. And thank you.” And so, the worst part about that situation is, they basically said, “Hey, we’re gonna give you a chunk of money to just kind of quietly walk away, or you can take a very, very low paying job.” And we’re talking about going from over $250,000 a year to about $60,000 a year capped out. I just had my second child; we just bought a house. So obviously, this was kind of alarming to me. And they were like, or we’re just going to give you 30 grand, and you can just quietly walk away. Well, I said, “Please, can I have a day to think about what awesome one of these two decisions that I’m gonna make.” And later that night, my family came over and my first son, at the time, was just playing with my phone and I was sitting there. We’re having a big roundtable discussion with my wife and my family about how terrible this was, and you know, this company, and we’re all mad. My son, at one point, somehow pushed the buttons on my phone, and called the CFO of the company. So, for 10 minutes straight, this woman listened to us rant about this company. And at like 10 minutes, I looked down, and I saw her name on the phone. And I was like, “Oh, my God.” So, I hung up the phone, and three or four hours later, I got an email from this woman, and it said, “Hey, after some reconsideration, we’re no longer in need of your services. Thanks.” And so that last bout of $30,000 that I was supposed to get – gone. So, I tell my son this story, I was like, “Just so you know, because of your little phone fumbling, that was a $30,000 mistake.” Not that that would have been any recourse for this whole thing, but it certainly would have made me feel a little bit better. And it certainly would have been better than zero. So always lock your phone, don’t leave it around, and don’t let your kids play with it, especially when you’re having important conversations. That’s the PSA.
24:32 [Sheree Cusack] That’s a very big lesson learned there.
24:35 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Oh yes.
24:37 [Sheree Cusack] So, I guess, how did the pandemic then actually affect your business? I’m probably more interested actually, in the Epic Roll business because, did that start as a side hustle, and then that’s sort of grown bigger? Or is it, like, how did that come about?
24:49 [Matthew Wahlstrom] I found out about drop shipping. Are you familiar with drop shipping? So, I found out about that, and it was interesting to me, and I thought that perhaps something with drop shipping could be another revenue source. So, in general, millionaires have five to seven streams of income, right? So, this was obviously another side where I thought, “Okay, well, this is something that I could do and set up.” And I watched a bunch of videos on it and there was a lot of people that said, “Oh, well make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Don’t just sell coat hangers”, you know, which I kind of thought, the nature of drop shipping I’m like, I think a lot of people sell a bunch of things that they don’t care about, because they’re doing volume and they like it. But needless to say, I did a bunch of research and I thought that the best thing for me to do was to launch a women’s clothing brand like women’s workout gear, and I had all these reasons and the whole thing that I could do and research of why this was a good idea. So, I went through, set everything up, sat back, launched it. Nothing – was just crickets. Not one sale, not even one. And at the time, looking at setting that up, I realized that there was companies through this where you could make your own shirts. And, doing jujitsu for a long time, there was kind of a very small group of companies that really had any apparel that was really lifestyle brand. It was very in your face and kind of cliche and corny and wasn’t a lifestyle brand really stuff at all. And so, I thought, well, maybe I could just make some shirts, just selfishly for myself. Let me make a couple of, you know, t-shirts that are like jujitsu shirts. So, I made a few and I started wearing them. And I had some people go, “Oh, that’s really cool. Like, can I get one?” I was like, “Sure.” So, I made a couple for some other people and then I thought, well, let me just put these online because the beauty of drop shipping is I could create, say, 10 shirt designs, put them on there, and I don’t have to buy inventory. So, I don’t have to hold inventory, and that’s what kills so many people, you know. Martial arts schools, all different people they have to buy, I gotta have 10 mediums and 100 larges. I mean, you just never know. So being able to set that up, I thought, well, that’s easy, I can do these designs, and just do what I like to do, which is the design aspect and put it up there. And started to put out more and more designs and had more and more ideas. And as that kind of grew with the t-shirts and some hoodies, people started asking, “Oh, do you make rash guards and shorts and gis?” and this is all just martial arts uniforms and different things. And so, I said, “I guess I should”. So that kind of evolved to making these other products that I have made that I actually do have to hold inventory on. And within the past three years, went from, you know, doing to $2,400 my first year of sales to now doing over six figures a year in sales from this. And it’s allowed me to connect with some of the most interesting and amazing people, tons of like, you know, just influencers and celebrities and people that really through the basis of jujitsu, that was like the premise and how we’re able to connect. And now I’ve sold products in over 10 countries and almost all 50 states in the US and sent a bunch of stuff to Australia. And so that was such a cool thing to sort of evolve and grow to and it really went from this side thing where my wife used to be like, “Why are you spending time doing this? You should just be doing real estate. Why are you doing this?” And now she’s like, okay, that’s fine, you could do a little bit, that’s fine. It’s okay now.
But it really turned into a second full time job. I’m at the post office all the time. I am now working with some really big companies like Kill Cliff Energy Drink and designing stuff with them and fighters, influencers. So, I’m able to do all these different projects now that are one off, and it’s still just me. And so, the struggle is 10x-ing your businesses when it’s just you. And especially with something like this, it’s so heavily dependent on my creativity, me coming up with these designs, me helping people flesh out their ideas, and helping them, you know, develop their brands and collaboration projects with me. So, it takes a lot of time. But it’s so much fun. And when I get messages from people around the country and in different places, and they’re like, “This is my favorite, jujitsu, this is my favorite shirt. Like I wear this all the time.” It’s so humbling. Like, it’s such a trip because I sit back and I’m like, “I can’t believe like people spend this much money like buying stuff that I designed.” When I hear those things, it makes me just, you know, motivates me to keep going and to keep building the brand. And so, I think within the next three to five years Epic Roll will be one of the main jujitsu brands out there. There’s not a ton, but there are some very big players. And to me, there’s also a lot of space and room for other companies. And I think it’s been so well received up to this point, that if it wasn’t good, I think I would have a pretty good handle on it.
29:14 [Sheree Cusack] But I mean, even when you get really big companies, they just sort of can take out one area really, I mean, you’re obviously in a bit of a blue ocean space there. It’s a niche, it’s a lifestyle, it’s to a highly passionate group of people, you know, around a lifestyle.
29:27 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, it’s, and it was great. And for whatever reason, I think, because of some of these projects, this last year was, you know, to date, the highest number of sales that we’ve had, like, you know, for the year, so. And same with real estate. You know – seven years and three years of Epic Roll – last year was the largest year of sales for both companies. So, it’s very interesting how that happens. But I but I’ve actually talked to a few of my other friends that are, you know, small business owners and a lot of them share that same thing. It was a difference of people kind of, you know, looking at this and being negative about it and going, “Oh my God”, and then people that are pivoting and just, it is what it is, you keep going right? Not gonna let, can’t let COVID slow us down. You gotta keep going.
30:05 [Sheree Cusack] Heck no. So, you work with your wife in real estate too hey?
30:09 [Matthew Wahlstrom] If you can believe it, yeah. And we’ve been married 17 years, so people are amazed. They’re like, “How do you do that and not kill each other?” And she’s Latina, she’s Hispanic. So, that’s like having a big brother always ready to, you know, she’s got the Latina flair. So yeah, but it works very well. It affords us like an amazing lifestyle with our kids, and we are each able to kind of play into our strengths. She’s very good with admin and back-end work and all of the paperwork, and all of that side of things is very important with real estate. So, she handles all of that. I handle a lot of the front end and so, it’s a very symbiotic kind of relationship.
30:40 [Sheree Cusack] It’s good that you can have, you know, both playing to your strengths and your strengths are in different aspects of the business, too.
30:44 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Absolutely.
30:46 [Sheree Cusack] That’s awesome. So, what are your big plans then for the future?
30:49 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Well, I hope to find myself in Florida. That’s one part – I told you I grew up in Southern California, about 30 minutes from Malibu Beach. So, I was very spoiled from that regard growing up in Southern California in the 80s. And I’m not a fan of cold weather. I’ve never adapted, I just don’t know what it is, I’ve got California blood in me. So, I need to be in the warmth. If I’m going to be my best me, I realized I have to be in warm weather. So that’s just the truth that I’ve accepted. I’m happy when my feet are in the sand. So, I think eventually, that is our plan to be down in Florida, hopefully with the beach. But my immediate plans are really to grow these brands. And I want to grow these brands, to a large enough scale, that it gives me the opportunity and platform to speak to much bigger and broader audiences around the world. Because as I said, all of the people that came before me, all of the most successful people that had these incredible stories, that share them through books and podcasts, I want to be able to do the same thing. So, I’m on this journey still. But once I reach a certain point, I want to write a book as well. I want to put all of the experiences and the things that I’ve learned, just to say, I’m a normal guy, I am nothing special, I didn’t do anything different. I didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. I listened to people that are way smarter than me and were successful and mentors. And I just believed what was possible. And I had kept the discipline to kind of keep going. So, if I can inspire other people to go and do that, in my mind, that’s that means that those people are now going out and creating other amazing, beautiful things in the world, regardless of what industry and so they’re giving more to the world. So, I’m just of the mind that, you know, the more you give to the world, you know, the more you will receive as well. And, and there’s so much out there that’s just bigger than me. So, to go out and inspire other people to go and accomplish big things, and whether it’s a big thing for just them or a big thing like society would agree that’s a big thing, like starting a new company or the next, you know, big tech company, whatever it is, just sharing those stories, I think is really important because it reminds people that they’re not alone. It keeps people on track. And I recognize that most of the time, these people just persevered. It wasn’t that they were the smartest people in the room, they were just willing to work the hardest and not quit, they had that deep-rooted self-belief. So, at the end of the day, that’s ultimately what I want to do, is I want to inspire, you know, other entrepreneurs and have the success enough to have the platform to do that.
33:03 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. And what’s the timeframe too for the launch of your One Bottle?
33:06 [Matthew Wahlstrom] So, I don’t know if you know, but James Dyson made 5127 prototypes of his vacuum prior to launching it, which I think is probably way more expensive, but I will tell you that the research and development side of getting this perfect to where the water seal works, it’s a process. So, we are hoping that all of this side of things is done within the next couple of months and that we’re launching this year. Hopefully by summer. It’s a crazy thing, you really can’t, there’s this space in between developing products and having 3D printed products and having manufactured products. And at a certain point, especially with this, you can no longer test the efficacy of it as a 3D print. You have to actually make the tooling and the moulds, and you actually have to manufacture it. And then once you’ve manufactured and made the parts, you have to put it together and then you have to fine tune it, inch by inch, millimeter by millimeter until it works perfectly. It’s the worst process ever. And so, I will tell you that it’s very expensive. The tooling just to make the seven pieces of this model was $200,000. So, think of every single time that we take a part of it, and we maybe make a small change, then that has to be done in CAD, and then it has to be done in our tooling, then it has to be made, then it has to be sent and sampled. So, it’s a long and rigorous process, but one that you can’t skip over. Because if you try and fast track that, and you start going into mass manufacturing, and you didn’t take the time to find deficiencies and find the weak points and fix things that you can, it’s going to be very, very costly, right, and could be detrimental to the brand, that could kill it before it even starts. So, it’s another test of patience, right? We have our patents, and I have the most amazing business partner, who, you know, by his own right is super successful, and has many companies and just an amazing resource and really a great partner to have on this. Because again, it’s costly, and it takes time, and you know. If everything goes as planned, then we’ll be selling it this year.
35:02 [Sheree Cusack] Nice.
35:03 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Even though nothing ever goes as planned. But if it does, but if it does.
35:07 [Sheree Cusack] But it’s there a saying about that, I showed God the plan, and he just laughed. How do you actually manage the quality control then in your Epic Roll goods, because obviously, that’s a test, like it’s a big part of the brand.
35:21 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Yes, I have a policy, where if anything is ever messed up, I’ll just replace it for free. I have dealt with so many companies, and big companies, that go out of their way to show you how much they’re not going to solve your problem and how horrible they’re going to make this and the lack of customer service, that it’s baffling to me. In my mind, I could care less about the profit if people don’t like the product, or they buy something and they don’t feel 100% happy. I’ll give you a recent example. I got an email from somebody that said, “Hey, the print on the shirts – some of them are full square prints, so if it’s off a little bit, you can see that a little bit more than some other designs.” And it was just slightly like maybe a quarter inch or a half inch, one side versus the other. And they were like, “Hey, I’m not trying to be picky, but I think this is crooked.” And when I talked to the printer, they said, “Oh, well, that’s super tiny. And these kinds of shifts can happen. And so, if you’d like to get another one for the person, that’s fine, but we’re not going to replace it.” And so, I contacted the person. I said, “Hey, not a problem, I’m going to get you a new one. The company won’t print it. I’m going to get you a new one”, and they were like, “No, no, no, don’t do it.” I said, “Absolutely, I am.” Because the last thing I want is anybody buying something and just even thinking it’s subpar. You know, whatever, I want to blow people’s minds with customer service to where it’s not even a question because I’m so grateful that they even are, you know, spending their hard earned money with me on products that I’ve designed, that right now I’m not in the position to go, “Oh, I gotta worry about this one sale and how that’s going to impact the numbers.” This is a side hustle that is a second revenue stream that I’m more focused on growing the brand and growing it as quality and to let people know that I care about people over profit. And so that’s just it. And it’s so easy to resolve the problems and what companies fail to understand is that if everybody did this in their businesses, you would then turn around and take the most unhappy people and they become the most raving fans of your business. People that have issues and they come to you and you solve that issue and you take care of them, now are bigger fans than people that just bought your product and didn’t have any issues. They will be diehard because they’ll go, this is what this company does. When things get messed up, this is how they respond to me. It’s all well and good when everything’s fine but how do they respond to me when something is wrong? Whether it’s their fault, my fault, it doesn’t matter. If you have something, I had somebody contact me three months after they had a product and there was some strings coming off or whatever. No problem, send them a brand new one. It’s like the Lululemon, what’s the other, Patagonia, sort of, customer service side, where it’s just, I will replace it. I’m fine with that. And that philosophy has served me very well with people. You can diffuse, no matter how bad it is, whether I didn’t have something in stock, if I mess something up, I will usually fix it and then give them one more, you know. Go above and beyond. If there was a rash guard issue, I had to have a replacement, I would send them two. It’s such a simple fix. And to me it’s like peace of mind because, the last thing I would want is trying to grow this brand thinking there’s a bunch of just pissed off people out there that are unhappy that, you know, because I nickel and dimed them over $10 profit on a shirt. No chance.
38:17 [Sheree Cusack] It’s an incredible way to actually see your customer. I mean, seeing them as a person, as opposed to just a number on a spreadsheet. And, you know, you’re right. Customer service, I mean, what is that anymore? Really?
38:29 [Matthew Wahlstrom] I mean, it’s a dying manner system, it’s amazing to me, you know, it is amazing to me. I saw a friend of mine, this guy, Rob, who runs an Instagram page called McDojoLife, and I was down at his house in Florida. And he goes and he exposes like fake martial artists and all these people that do all the Chi knockouts and all this, it’s a beautiful page. If anybody hasn’t seen McDojoLife on Instagram, please check it out. And I was down at his house. And he had one of those like nest thermometer systems at his house. Anyway, it broke. They said that they were going to send him a new one. And they didn’t. And he spent three months talking to them, setting appointments, going through all this stuff, fighting tooth and nail. And I thought to myself, this is a humongous company. How much does it cost you to just send this guy a little replacement for this one thing? And by the way, this guy’s entire business is about exposing people. So, this is the wrong guy, he has half a million followers on Instagram, like he’s the wrong guy to like, mess with, because he’s going to blast you. So, it’s such an easy fix. And I even see on these big company scales, and I think that’s like one of those value systems that I just will try to never let myself lose touch with, no matter how big I get. Because everything that I do is customer service based. Every bit about our real estate transactions and building a network of people that are referrals for future business, it’s predicated on relationships, it’s all relationships. So, I have the ability to build relationships with people through just the nature of treating them like people and being decent to them and doing things like, if I was in their shoes, and I bought from this company and they took care of me yeah, I’m going to be more loyal to them and I’m going to probably buy more. So, the funny part is, is that you could not take care of them, get your one small sale out of it, or you could turn around, take really good care of them, and then get them to buy clothes from you for the next six years.
40:14 [Sheree Cusack] It’s a no brainer, isn’t it? You just, the amount of money that gets spent to keep attracting new customers, when the retention part of it is such an easy thing to do with consideration and care.
40:24 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Way more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to keep the ones you have.
40:28 [Sheree Cusack] Very much so. So, we sent you obviously a copy of the seven core values that we’ve got here. Did any of those ones resonate with you at all? Because I’m thinking like, I try to guess sometimes. So, I’m thinking like, think like an entrepreneur or success on your terms is probably the ones that are…
40:44 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Yeah, I mean, that’s… again, everybody’s idea of success is different. And that’s totally fine. It’s more just being in touch with doing it on your terms, as you said. It could be whatever it is, you could work in a fast-food restaurant, if that’s what gets you up in the morning, then great. But people get stuck. And you know, there are times in life, I think there’s like this misconception that you have to be irresponsible or drastic, and sometimes you just have to make money, right? Sometimes you’re in position where you just have to take that crappy job because you need the money. Everybody’s been to that. That’s not to say “No, I’m still gonna sit here and try to grow my spoon selling company or whatever widget I’m selling.” Like, sometimes you do have to do that. But you can’t let go of what you really want to be doing. And if you can work simultaneously, just taking little bites little chews and little steps forward towards that, you will find yourself a more fulfilled and happy person. And, you know, I hate to say it, because it sounds a little morbid, but my mortality is what really, besides, you know, my kids, is like what really drives me, you know. People are like, “Well what motivates you?” Death, because I’m not going to be here forever. So, every time I want to sit down and just give myself the day off or take a break or do whatever, I’m well aware that I have limited time here. And so with the time that I’ve been so graciously granted, I want to be productive, and I want to make an impact on the world and I want to create amazing brands and I want to inspire people. So, all of that takes effort and I wouldn’t be able to do it if I wasn’t doing it on my terms, but it really requires a level of discipline and belief to be able to do that. So, I think if people can kind of shift their mindset a little bit and stick to that, you can really accomplish some amazing things in life.
42:21 [Sheree Cusack] Definitely agree. It’s very stoic belief, really, you know that mortality is the great decider. It helps you not sweat the small stuff; you focus on the big things that actually matter. It’s great.
42:31 [Matthew Wahlstrom] Perspective is everything.
42:32 [Sheree Cusack] Totally. Alright, so, is there anything extra that you’d like to share?
42:36 [Matthew Wahlstrom] You know, I mean, I would say to anybody who is thinking about starting a business, just do your research, be smart about it, learn as much as you can, but don’t allow yourself to be limited by the belief that, you could go out and say, “I want to start the next big tech company, I want to create the next product, I want to do whatever,” don’t limit yourself. I think just be very true to what you feel in your heart and what you are, really feel compelled to do in this world. Because that’s, I think, such an underrated aspect of life, and money can get you here and can make things way more comfortable. But, outside of that, the feeling that you are fulfilled and doing what you really feel passionate about in your life is equally if not greater than, than the financial side that can come along with that. So, I would just challenge people to not get sucked into the day-to-day grind of what society tells you you can and can’t do and to go out and accomplish amazing things.
43:30 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. Well, that’s Everything Small Business for today. Thank you for listening. If you’d like to stay up to date with our show, please subscribe or follow in your favourite podcast app so that you never miss an episode. If you know someone who might enjoy this podcast, please share it with them or share it on your socials and tag us. Until next time, this is Everything Small Business.