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Entrepreneur creates online business for ‘fun’ – here’s what happens

Editor’s Note: Exactly one year ago, graphic designer Mat Hofma decided to flex his entrepreneurial chops and launch an online business. His idea? Mini building materials.

He launched minimaterials.com.

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He got an LLC, made social media accounts, tested everything out with friends. All for a pretty low startup cost.

Before this, he had no idea how to do a 3D design, how to build a website, how to acquire a domain name, how to form an LLC, how to set up google voice, or even how to make miniature cinder blocks. He was able to force himself to figure all of this out in less than two months.

That was one year ago. Today, Mat is back with an update and it is sure to inspire. Here’s Mat with his one year update:

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Right away we got featured on a bunch of sites like, Dude I Want That, Gizmodo, The Awesomer etc…

I made about 3k in revenue in those first two weeks. It was so exciting. After that, things slowed down. I tried my best to market, but had a lot of issues figuring out where to market it to. I banked on Instagram a LOT, and even did a write-up on using Instagress to build followers here.

I quickly added some more products, red bricks, jersey barriers. I found a guy to make pallets through Reddit as well.

After that initial burst, things slowed down. I’d go a days between sales. It was rough.

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On top of that, my biggest problem was that I thought the blocks were crappy. They were lightweight, dusty, and broke really easily. Despite sales slowing to a crawl – only made about $400-$600 a month from July to October – I decided to push forward and develop a better product. I spent weeks and weeks mixing different cements and concrete and making 3D prints and molds.

After months of work I finally perfected it.

Once I did that, I got back on the marketing train and pushed Instagram hard. I then started sending out email newsletters more and more. Things got a little better, but not what I wanted it to be.

At the same time, I worked with other Redditors to send product for a subscription box company featuring Reddit products. I stupidly sent out $800 worth of product on Net30 terms. You all know how that turned out. I still don’t have my product back yet.

By early November, I was getting really discouraged. I kept adding more products and trying to come up with new and interesting stuff.

I knew Black Friday was coming, so I kept pushing and pushing and set up a big Marketing plan – A week long pre-sale for half off our biggest selling product – the 24 Pack of Mini Cinder Blocks with Pallet.

I made $4K in revenue in 30 days from Mid-November to Mid-December just by posting sales to Reddit, sending email newsletters, and posting to Instagram and Facebook.

At this point, I started getting more and more repeat customers. I knew I had perfected the blocks, and I finally started thinking this was a great product that could do well. I also decided I needed a partner.

I met up with my friend Erik who was more of the money/sales side (my weakness) and once he was on board, I had more time to work on my strengths. I redesigned the website, and started consistent marketing through email and social media. Posting and interacting every day.

We started getting more and more sales from persistent marketing and adding more products, taking better product photos, and fixing the site up.

We made almost the same amount of sales in February that we did in November/Black Friday.

In February we typically got around 2-3 sales per day. By February 28th of this year, we had made about $12.5k in revenue.

Here’s our month by month sales

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Then everything got crazy.

On March 11th, I was playing fetch with my dog in the backyard when I got the standard Shopify phone notification for a sale. No big deal. Two minutes later I got another one. Then three sales back to back. Then 6 more sales in a 10 minute span.

We had got featured on Uncrate

This set off a shit storm (of the good kind.) We made $1000 that day. The next day we made $1500. More sites featured us. We got a write up on Wired and Product Hunt.

We even got to be on a podcast.

This month alone we have doubled our revenue from day one.

Sales up until today.

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We started contracting out local people for 30 days to make cinder blocks and it seems like it is working well. They get to work from home, and we pay per block, so they get to choose how much they make – as long as they hit the minimum numbers which is around 35-40 hours a week. I really hope we can keep them employed for longer than that, but we’ll see what the next couple months bring.

We’ve got some big things in the future as well. We’re going to be featured on Touch of Modern in about a month. This should blow things up even more.

My biggest takeaways from this great year long learning experience so far are twofold.

1. Just keep pushing.

If you work hard on your product to make it the best you can be, and at the same time can keep a level head about whether it can actually sell or not, you will be successful.

2. Get a partner.

There’s no way we would have gotten this successful recently if I didn’t have someone to not only share some of the workload with, but to bounce ideas off of. Having someone who goes through the same things that you are makes you really respect their view points WAY more than you would someone who hasn’t gone through the process.

Next steps:

We’re going to push to get our products into retailers. On top of that we’re going to push and push to make even cooler products!

Written by Mat Hofma

Mat is the founder of minimaterials.com

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