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Fate? In the right place at the right time? Or not? I recently met Chris Dehnart, founder of Dehnart Media Group and a scaling business expert, and Randall Thompson, a former minor league pitcher at the Toronto Blue Jays and creator of Mug-From-A-Bat Dugout Mug. In just five years, they have transformed the ubiquitous dugout mug brand from a one-man concept into an international business with sales of around M 30M. But how does a company scale this fast? And then what?
The background is a bit
Bat-to-mug concept designer Randall Thompson has been playing baseball and breathing since he played his first Little League T-ball at the age of five. He was detained. Through hard work he progressed from collegiate sports to professional baseball, joining the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent in 2011. It was a lifelong dream but it ended after its release in mid-2012. Thompson returned to his home base in Orlando but was not ready to retire. He took a position as a college pitching coach but felt “an identity crisis was happening” and resigned from coaching. She took an unpaid internship at an advertising agency in St. Petersburg to explore her creative side, which she funded through the waiting table to cover. Rent an isolated garage-converted-studio apartment from his sister.
Around the same time he was fired as a waiter, the agency’s role collapsed. He literally lived in his sister’s backyard because he had no money for rent. That’s when he came up with an idea while coaching. Why not turn the bat’s barrel into a drinking mug? It wasn’t a dream or vision, but an easy memory of seeing a fellow coach build a device for a “concentrate on the hand” heating drill. To bring his points home, the coach cut off the top of the bat and kept the players on the bench while working with the handles. The thought struck Thompson a little like lightning: “I can easily devise a way to serve drinks from the bat.” It seems simple enough. Now that he had nothing else, why not try?
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With his first earnings from the paint delivery job, Thompson bought 25 craft bats and a chop saw from Lowe. He worked from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., during which time he would transfer all his energy to the new venture. The first dugout mugs were born from the kitchen counter in the studio apartment. Without a plan for scaling or marketing, he used the proceeds of the first 25 mugs to make and sell 100, then 500, and finally 1,000, leading the new business for the first 6 months. Most of the sales came not only by introducing the concept on Facebook, but Thompson also sold mugs, such as walking around the parking lots of regional games, which he customized with a generic baseball-themed logo.
Two people went to a bar …
How did Thompson and Dehnert meet? Appropriately, there was initial contact on Facebook in a group for former Major and Minor League baseball players. Technically, Dehnart shouldn’t have been in the group, but Thompson admits with a smile, “Chris has a way to be in the right place at the right time.”
Dehnart Thompson’s wife posted about a country music concert near her hometown. This increased his curiosity. He clicked on the link and learned from Dehnart’s profile that he was nearby and that he was significantly successful in ecommerce. Out of curiosity, he went on to say, “I’ve seen you sell a bunch of things online and I’m trying to figure out how to do it, and how to make what I’m doing bigger.”
“We ended the meeting in the lobby of a hotel for a beer and talked about the possibilities,” Thompson recalled. Several months later, they started working together for the first time.
Sudden connection, and the experience of a near death
When the meeting took place, Dehnart was in St. Petersburg for an advisory board mastermind event. Curious about what he had heard earlier on the phone, he invited Thompson to have a beer, admitting that it was an interesting idea. After their meeting, Dehnart took the information back to his event session and talked to other entrepreneurs about the idea. The response was divided, but the majority agreed that this was a great idea and in Dante’s alley. Fresh from a transformative change in his life, Dehnart believed it was more than embarrassing.
Dehnart became seriously ill a few months before the St. Petersburg meeting, at a level he was genuinely afraid he would die. Still in her thirties, with a six-month-old daughter, she began to earnestly pray for survival, and beyond, to be directed to someone or something that would allow her to focus on family, lead an experiential life and use her unique Lets do. Talent was a project he seemed to be looking for, and Thompson seemed to have Destiny in his way.
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Dehnart Thompson and Dugaut felt the foreshadowing of something outside of a person’s business. It’s a “rough diamond” – a potential unicorn – in the hands of the owner / operator with a vision of something unique. “It was a project I could feel I could run, and Randall was just as stingy as I was,” he recalls.
Dehnart Driving Sales and Thompson led the operation, two of which “broke every system in place.” They have redesigned and tightened their business model for the ability to deliver on a scale. In six months, they have earned 1M valuation, which is their first and only financial aid: $ 250,000 in the form of $ 100,000 loan and $ 150,000 in line of credit.
The investor was one of Dehnart’s mastermind colleagues. He said of the conversation, “I wanted to find a deal that we could do together because I like Chris’ style. When he called, I was inside. “
From there, the company progressed in order of magnitude. In 2017, they produced 1.2M. The following year, they produced 2.2 – then 3.5, 8.5 and 13.5 million – which significantly increased during the epidemic and a year where almost no baseball was played.
An incredible tribal building
Of all the factors contributing to the growth of dugout mugs, the founders agree that betting on humans is their top “secret sauce”. One of their core beliefs is “focus on the people and the business will take care of itself.” This has created a huge and diverse group of fans, friends, followers and clients that are as diverse among women of all ages and surprisingly at least as men. Whether it’s hosting a fan-centric gift or interviewing baseball stars like Pete Rose, Mariano Rivera, Puj Rodriguez, David Mickey Evans and others, Dehnart and Thompson have worked to create a “first fan” experience for everyone.
During the epidemic, people were eager to connect, which made them happy to hear the great name of baseball because they had a virtual presence to talk about the game. The company went “into everything” through competitions, gifts and other interactions with followers. Gifts included a TV, beer money, and thousands of dollars’ worth of free mugs and autographed items. In cases where people were too busy but could not afford to buy anything, the company gave them a mug and invited them to forward their favor.
Dehnart has a favorite saying: “No matter how far or fast you fall, help enough people and you will never hit the bottom.” He estimates that the team has garnered nearly 50,000 new customers by 2020 through creative practice, such as when buying a free shot glass, for the ability to follow after sales with an unexpected opportunity to create good vibes.
“Where do we stay from here?”
Since dugout mugs broke the revenue barrier, the obvious question is how to make further progress – acquisitions by a big brand like Coca-Cola, Fanatics or Yeti? An IPO?
I believe Dehnart’s advice is appropriate for every entrepreneur here. The nickname for each decision is ‘strategic’, he said in our interview, “you can’t just hang a sign over your company that says,‘ buy me – we’re selling ’. Privacy, he says, is the same for both a potential acquisition or an IPO : Manage a company that doesn’t need to be bought
This is in stark contrast to many owners who tend to prioritize quality, community, and the right basics (“maximizing profits first”) in the hope that anyone will “notice them” and make an awesome assessment. But suppose the market and the situation change? (Case in point: WeWork, and sudden outbursts and then co-workplace outbursts, or traditional retail ups and downs and happy customers, and tough finances, Dehnert maintains. These are forces that support innovation and political conflict, epidemics and supply chains. Can tackle challenges.
With this method, it may never be necessary or desirable to sell. And if you decide to quit, you will work from a position of strength as opposed to being frustrated or cornered in a position of need.
For PR, Dehnart is increasingly in favor of being elected. He places his company in the most ideal media and in the most desirable settings as opposed to chasing every opportunity for visibility he can see. “It’s all about positioning, leverage of time and money and making the best use of our talents and resources,” he says.
Where will this lead and what will the dugout mug achieve in the end? Time will tell, but the result will surely be happy as Dehnart and Thompson continue to innovate, innovate and grow both a company and a lifestyle through creative thinking and design.