Joining us today on the show is Madi Stefanis - the founder of 35mm co. And I love this episode so much! Madi started her business after spotting a gap in the market for vintage cameras, she started flipping them online and after selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth - but after experiencing so much demand and never being able to keep up with the pace, realised she had an opportunity to create her own product that she could scale. It’s a great lesson in finding market fit before going all in.
And while I’ve got you here - a big huge full of love thank you to everyone sharing their Spotify Wrapped with us. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to see thousands of people with Female Startup Club in the their top 5 or their number 1 listened to podcast for this year. It’s truly mind-blowing and I am so grateful - thank you so much.
Used to look at storefronts and feel like I can do better, has it always been something that’s been a part of me?
In primary school would sell anything I could get my hands on (iPhone cases)
Highschool, clothes, accessories etc and working in a supermarket same time
First year of uni I had an old vintage film camera that was 15 years old and I had no idea how to use it, I used one roll, it came back terribly, so i put it on FB marketplace
I put it on for $50, but people started bidding and it ended up selling for $250
Business brand went YES. I took the money from the first sale, bought another camera and just kept flipping them - it was lucky bc film was really having a moment
I probably made around $450,000 purely from flipping vintage cameras but it was a really labour intensive business model (that was from Feb 2020 - Feb 2021)
Scour them - photograph them - write a product description for every item
The marketing was all very straightforward and lean, starting an IG page as a moodboard of cool film posts, posted a giveaway and we gained 5,000 overnight (it was unheard of and we don’t see that kind of engagement nowadays)
Why start? The demand outweighed the supply of vintage camera and at the same time there was this single-used camera waste issue and wanted to be own boss
Had $85,000 in savings and from the vintage cameras and poured it all in
Friend of a friend popped her onto a sourcing agent in china, sampled anything and everything (had samples sent over), the biggest thing was testing the product
There was such a cult following on the IG account, we created a landing page 7 days before we launched and we had 4,000 metrics
The vintage camera’s were being posted to TikTok, which also allowed me to transition to the reloading 7 days prior to launch (60,000 followers at the time)
Went live: we completely sold out 2,000 units in two weeks
Totally had a melt-down because we had NO stock for Q4 and thought it was all over
Ended up pleading with the manufacturer and getting a really fast turn-around on stock and airfreighted all the stock for $50,000 - we probably made no money despite a lot of Christmas sales bc prices the prices were so inflated
MARKETING STRATEGY FIRST YEAR
Paid ads came onto the scene just after we launched, and PR came into play around 6 months later. I had always wanted to be behind-the-scenes as an introvert but quickly came to realize my age and my story were a strong PR piece.
$1000 - $1500 a week on ads, as a product that worked really well for gift-giving and for ads.
SHARK TANK AUSTRALIA
I’m very introverted and really struggled with public speaking in high school… But applied to go on the show when I saw Shark Tank was returning - just intrigued to see if I’d get through. Had to present a business plan which I didn’t have and got asked to go on the show.
Tips for putting yourself out there: it is a skill that you can really force yourself into getting okay at and getting good at.
I listened to lots of podcasts on public speaking, tips on how to speak in front of an audience and body language
Looked at a lot of other founders presenting: what really stood out was that element of storytelling and being able to translate that in a really authentic way
Get clear on your story and your journey: create a document with common questions about your business that you know you just need to be able to pop that into sentences and convey that to an audience (when you sit there are write that out yourself you develop this natural flow of story-telling) keep notes on how you would answer something and say it out loud over and over again
Madison got a deal for $300,000 for 17.5% of the company, what has the impact been since it’s gone live? And what happened after?
Not a huge uplift of sales from the show airing as we have a Gen Z product
The sense of community uplift we got around the show was just incredible
Once we started sharing the Shark Tank clips on to social media it went crazy on TikTok and definitely translated into a lot of sales
It’s really hard at the start, it bothers every early-stage founders. It doesn’t bother me anymore because I am just so focused on moving forward. Customers look to us as a market leader, and everyone who’s replicated us just hasn’t quite got it right. It’s not worth your time and the best thing you can do is keep moving forward.
SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
In the early stages there was a lot of tweaking and testing, search for your equipment on TikTok, keep on top of TikTok trends and see what content is working well on the platform and recreating those
In terms of consistency, put content first and foremost, content is king! Spend all your time creating videos
Test and find that messaging market-fit and only then amplify with ads
If you were to start your business tomorrow, how would you get your first 100 true fans?
Get in front of the camera, take the audience on the journey with you. Show the progression of your brand (Ben from Clubhouse skin).
“I feel like I was up every day and get slapped in the face one way or another.”
Resources: Diary of a CEO