My pre-DUN wallet days
It’s winter 2012 and I’m working as a part-time chef in an Indian restaurant in my hometown. After having traveled around the world for a year, I had decided that my next adventure would be a stationary one; starting a business. Easier said than done, I had a rough start with several ideas that failed. On top of that my business ‘partner in crime’ moved on to an IT job, but I just couldn’t give up yet. My days were happily spent between working on my ideas from coffee shops during the day, and cooking curries in the evenings. With absolutely nothing on the horizon and minus €1000 on my bank account, I felt a calm confidence that something was bound to happen sooner rather than later.
Business at full steam
Flash forward two years and I find myself at a business dinner on the top-floor of a five star hotel overlooking Istanbul. That night I would catch my connecting flight to Hong Kong. Finally seated and on the way to my next destination, I try to sum up what exactly had happened in the last 12 hours before dinner. Arriving at the factory early in the morning to check on the production I found out that they were producing the wrong color combination. In the emergency meeting that followed the general manager of the factory conveniently tried to blame me for their mistake. By lunchtime a diplomatic crisis had just been averted and on top of that I somehow managed to find an interested buyer for the thousand thin leather wallets that were at stake. When the deal was closed by the end of the day, the CEO invited me to join a business dinner as a sign of appreciation.
After going through the events of the day I finally arrived at the greater question of ‘how on earth did I get here in the first place?’
Six years education in three months
Let’s go back to the curry cooking days: I had started to develop a strong interest in product design so I called an old acquaintance who had studied at the design academy. Following his advice I decided to find a way of skipping six years of studying and trying to dive straight into a career in design. Around that time a new online educational platform called Coursera had launched. As I was scrolling through the courses I found a course titled ‘Creation of Artifacts in Society’. Not only was the course taught by an experienced professor from Penn University, it was also completely free to enroll. In the next three months I tried to learn as much as I could. By the time the course was finished successfully, I knew that I needed to do more with what I had learned.
Starting a business while broke
For the final assignment I had made a prototype of a thin wallet out of a shopping bag and duct tape. Even though the course had finished I continued to improve the design and started to contact potential manufacturers. In an old comment on a LinkedIn forum I finally found the manufacturer that would make our thin leather wallet to this day. They ended up creating six prototypes over the course of six months, based on my initial duct taped prototype that I had sent through the mail. All the communication was done via email and I only paid for stamps. In their very last attempt they got the design right and I had what was needed to move forward.
The ‘world’s thinnest leather wallet’ kickstarter project
With the world’s thinnest leather wallet in my hands I wasn’t quite there yet. How would I finance the first production run and was there even going to be a demand for a thin leather wallet? The answer to both these questions came in the form of Kickstarter: the largest online crowdfunding platform. Pulling off a successful crowdfunding campaign would mean killing two birds with one stone. The production would be financed and I would know if there was any demand for my thin wallet. The only thing left to do was creating a campaign. Kickstarter requires a video, so I turned to my friends: a cameraman, photographer, a few actor/models and a nightclub manager who all helped me set the stage for the very first DUN wallets production. I created a storyboard and got everyone together for the shoot. In just one day we shot the entire video on four different locations and ended up exhausted with beer and pizza at my place.
Funded on day one!
With a great video, photo’s and PR material I started telling every blog and newspaper I could find about DUN wallets’ upcoming Kickstarter launch. With my friends and family on standby, the Kickstarter project finally went live on April 14th, 2014. To my surprise the orders started pouring in from the first moment and soon it wasn’t only my family and friends, but backers from all over the world who pre-ordered their very first DUN wallet. Overnight in Europe, the US had woken up and started backing the project massively. When I opened my laptop the next morning I found this message in my inbox: ‘project FUNDED’.
With the help of my friends and our Kickstarter backers the project finally ended up being funded 500%.
Back on the road
Now, four years later, DUN wallets are sold worldwide with the help of partners from California to Taiwan. The stationary days are over as we divide our time working and traveling between Europe, Asia and North America.