On September 19, Fernando Campos and Nick Shum attempted some guerilla marketing to hitch the launch of their e-commerce startup, Topwick, to a far more famous launch event being held at Apple stores nationwide. Campos told Inc.'s Leigh Buchanan what happened.
Until yesterday, I hadn't gotten in trouble with the authorities since I was 11. But entrepreneurship means putting yourself out there. And piggybacking on the first day of sale for the iPhone 6 was too good a chance to pass up.
My partner and I got the idea about three weeks ago, during a two-day brainstorming blitz to name our new business. We're an online store and journal for people interested in health, design, technology, productivity--things that improve their lives. Think Lifehacker meets Gilt. We started talking about Apple's "Think Different" campaign, and realized that our targeted customers and Apple's customers have a lot in common. The iPhone release was coming up. We had to move fast.
We worked like hell to get the platform ready and created flyers offering a 10% store credit. Yesterday I woke up at 6 AM and drank a big cup of coffee to make up for getting just four hours' sleep. I arrived at the Grove Mall Apple Store before 7:30. There were 400 or 500 people in line, waiting for the 8 AM opening. I started walking up to people, handing out fliers, inviting them to check out Topwick. As soon as the store opened I went after people walking out with their new phones. They were all so happy and excited: I wanted to capitalize on that good feeling.
I'd been trying to avoid the Apple Store employees. But I forgot about mall security. The guard who approached me was big and did not have a soft spot for entrepreneurial hustle. He told me to get out. Then he followed me all the way out of the mall, like I was some kind of delinquent planning to pull something.
A new iPhone comes out just once a year. Topwick would only have one launch date. I drove to the Beverly Center.
This time I was smarter. I positioned myself behind a pillar between the Apple store and the parking lot, out of sight of anyone in uniform. When someone with an Apple bag passed by I gave them a flyer. If they had a moment I'd ask for feedback: what they thought of our idea, what they'd like to see on the site. Periodically, the Apple Store folks and the security guards would congregate a little way off to talk. Whenever that happened I'd dart to the line and pass out as many flyers as possible before security returned and I had to disappear back behind the pillar.
I passed out about 300 flyers and talked to almost as many people. The fliers had a discount code so we can track how many buy something on the site. Nick, who was doing the same thing at Santa Monica Place, also gave out about 300 fliers, but no one hassled him. In fact, he met and took a picture with the Internet celebrity iJustine, who was one of the first people walking out of the store with a phone. I don't know why things went better for him. I guess he's just more charming.
I'm a big fan of the author Tim Ferriss, who urges people to get outside their comfort zones. Yesterday I was way outside my comfort zone. As long as I have this company, I expect to be there--again and again.