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#94: From Prototype to $1 Million Run Rate in Less Than 1 Year with ISM’s Justin Kwong

About the Episode:

In today’s episode, we’re talking to Justin Kwong, the founder of ISM, a brand new San Francisco-based company that makes a very fashion forward, stylish line of men’s backpacks geared toward the young professional, as well as a growing line of other products like water bottles and chargers that fit the same design aesthetic.

Originally from Hong Kong, Justin’s spent most of his adult life living here in San Francisco, where he’s worked in various growth, product and design jobs at several different startups.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that he got the inspiration for creating ISM’s first product—the Classic Backpack—after wondering why all of the premium, high-quality backpacks he saw from brands like Tumi, Shinola, and Gucci were all priced between $500 and $1,000, it left him wondering why no companies were making great looking, high-quality backpacks for young professionals that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

It was right there, that ISM was born.

In Today’s Episode, We Talk About:

[02:34] Where Justin’s originally from.
[07:30] How he began to implement his idea.
[09:29] How he created a prototype for his idea.
[11:05] How he found a manufacturer for his idea.
[12:51] How he found his first factory.
[13:43] How he got to the product they’re selling today.
[16:24] His biggest growth channel.
19:49 Search terms that drive traffic to their site.
22:10 His number one piece of advice for anyone looking to start a product based business.
23:55 The best investment he’s made in order to grow his business.

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Connect with My Guest:

The ISM Website

Justin on LinkedIn and Twitter

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Hi I'm Ryan Robinson

Blogger, podcaster and recovering side project addict. Head of Content at Close. Join me here, on to learn how to start a blog, make money blogging and grow a profitable side business. I also write for publications like Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, Business Insider and more. Let’s chat on Twitter about our feelings (and blogging, I guess).

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8 replies to “#94: From Prototype to $1 Million Run Rate in Less Than 1 Year with ISM’s Justin Kwong”

  1. So cool. I love hearing about people who have an idea and do what it takes to get it off the ground.

    I love the idea of IG and influencers. I don’t have a physical product business but one of my goals is to grow my email list with IG shoutouts.

    I also love that organic search and word of mouth are drivers of his traffic and sales.

  2. Hey! Thanks for dropping off another great episode with amazing insights! Just a small favor to ask and I know it’s not entirely under your control but the sound quality of the guest speaker could have been better.. Because the content is so great I wish I could hear it without having to listen to it very carefully.. Thanks a lot!

    • Thanks for the feedback! And I’m totally on the same page 😊

      Unfortunately the reality is that not all guests have access to a decent microphone, but I’ve been toying with the idea of sending out microphones for guests to use, ahead of our interviews.

  3. Hi Rob, love your podcasts and wanted to ask if you’d considered offering transcripts of them? It would make them much easier for me personally to access the content.

    Thanks again for all the content you share with us all.

    • Good idea, Pete! Thanks for casting your vote on this one… transcripts are high on my to do list to start offering, so hearing this helps me prioritize it!