How two college dropouts sold 100,000 watches in three years

Within just three years of launching, MVMT Watches was written about in Complex, Playboy, GQ, Hypebeast, and countless other blogs and magazines dedicated to covering the biggest trends.

The new-to-the-scene watch brand skyrocketed to popularity because of their cool, minimalist designs matched by a super-reasonable price tag. To date they have sold more than 100,000 watches and won the Shopify Build-A-Business contest.

So who were the marketing masterminds behind this sweeping eCommerce brand?

24-year-old college dropouts Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlant.

Jake told the story of how they got started, how they grew to where they are today, and what’s coming up next.

Planting The Seeds for Success

Jake and Kramer met in Santa Barbara as college roommates and quickly bonded because of their entrepreneurial spirits.

As a teenager, Jake made and sold t-shirts on the streets. Soon after, he launched an online store and a shop in a local mall to sell his t-shirts, which later grew into an electronic dance festival store selling glow sticks and tickets to events like EDC and Tomorrowland.

At 19, Jake dropped out of school to pursue the project, but it went out of business about 8 months later.

It was time for him to think up his next idea. Kramer and Jake saw fellow students successfully launching startups on crowdfunding platforms, so Kramer took to Kickstarter to try out his own idea.

It was a success: the wallet he sold successfully raised more than $100K.

The boys saw opportunity in pursuing an online retail store and began to think about how they could combine Jake’s eCommerce experience with Kramer’s crowdfunding experience.

Finding a Niche They Could Conquer

Their brainstorming took them to the watch industry.

Recognizing that direct-to-consumer retail models had already proven successful in other industries, they saw it presented a great opportunity to sell high-end watches at an affordable price.

The majority of nice watches on the market were about $300, but if they sold directly to the consumer from the manufacturer, they could slash that price by two-thirds, simply by getting rid of the mark-up from wholesalers, distributors and the traditional retail model.

“By going straight to the customer, we could cut down the price without sacrificing the quality.”

Crowdfunding Their Idea

There hadn’t yet been a successfully funded watch campaign, so they started getting to work.

This time, they turned to Indiegogo and they managed to reach their initial goal of $15,000 in just 20 days.

MVMT’s Tips for Crowdfunding:

  • Reach out to family and friends from the start. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your great aunt’s dentist — even the most far-reaching contacts are often willing to help, whether by donating or sharing the project.
  • Start with a small goal so you can achieve it quickly. Seeing a goal that is complete or almost complete gives social proof to others considering donating because they can see that many others believed in the project.
  • Understand the landscape of the platform. Whether using Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or another platform, each one is different and it’s important to understand the structure so you can make the most of your campaign.
“On Kickstarter, you make the most of your money in the first few days, but on IndieGoGo, you actually make the most at the end of your campaign, so go for longer campaigns and extend if possible.”

Once they realized their idea was working, they decided to extend their end date.

“Reaching the first goal was OK, but then we wanted to finish with a huge number.”

During the campaign, they decided to come out with a website so they could ride out the momentum from the crowdfunding.

Working with an agency, they produced a site that was not amazing, but it did the job of taking orders. They managed to raise almost $300,000 in 50 days on IndieGoGo, and their site received four orders the day after the campaign closed.

From Idea to Product

Now that Jake and Kramer had succeeded in raising funds, they needed to find a producer. So, they did what many eCommerce entrepreneurs do: they turned to Alibaba.

“In the beginning, you have to be pretty scrappy.”

They circled through 20 to 30 manufacturers before they found one they wanted to work with.

“Once you do find a manufacturer that works and you gain momentum, other manufacturers will reach out to you.”

MVMT’s Tips for Finding Manufacturers:

  • Make sure to look out for red flags, like poor communication. Make sure you can communicate clearly, otherwise you’ll have problems down the line.
  • Check how long the manufacturer has been in business, and ask for pictures and samples.
  • Look through many manufacturers to find the one that’s right for you

What’s Next for MVMT Watches?

Now that they’ve got a name for themselves, Jake and Kramer are looking at how to scale.

“We’ve figured out eCommerce pretty well so far, but to get to the next levels and continue to grow, it’s about really bringing on the best people and scaling smartly.”

They’re proud to be an inspiration to others in the Santa Barbara area who saw their success and are pursuing their own dreams.

“When we started MVMT, I was $20,000 in debt and working as a valet. Looking back at that and seeing how far we’ve come, I really hope our story inspires other people to go out and try their own thing.”

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