Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

Zipments.com – Manufacturing a Story

Read this article in The Grand Rapids Press “Got a spare hour? Zipments.com will pay you to move something across town“.

For those of you too lazy to click, here is the excerpt from the article:

The day before the launch of an international conference, organizers have better things to do than schlep 15 boxes of brochures and other materials from Grand Valley State University’s downtown campus to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

So Ryan Vaughn, an outreach consultant for the Center for Entrepreneurship, went to Zipments.com, a new online venture in which people who need things delivered can connect with people who will make the delivery. And the senders name their price.

He posted the job for $50, giving a window of time in which it had to be done. David Tilley, a registered courier with Zipments, signed up. He picked up the boxes, and the job was done.

Zipments.com is local courier service in West Michigan, where customers can post local “shipping” jobs, and couriers can bid on these posted shipping jobs. The customer picks the winning courier out of all the bids received for that job.

As a recently launched business Zipments.com has been doing its share of public relations, but after reading this latest Grand Rapids Press story something just didn’t feel right to me. So let me lay out some facts that might make you look at the Zipments.com article a little differently.

Innocent Shipment, or a Not Very Well Concealed Public Relations Ploy?

In reading the above facts, can you see the many possible conflicts of interest? It doesn’t seem right in my opinion. I don’t have a problem with any of the above people doing business with each other, but to use the example of Ryan Vaughn of Center for Entrepreneurship, using Zipments.com to move boxes, and Dave Tilley was chosen as the courier, seems so…… manufactured, especially as the lead in the story.

In fact the article now brings up many more questions. Like was Grand Rapids Press Reporter Cami Reister aware of these relationships outlined above? If she did why was the story run as is? If she wasn’t aware, how come more fact checking wasn’t done? In regards to Zipments.com, did they suggest this as a story? Why? As mentioned in the article they had about two other Zipments.com couriers which they could have easily led the story with.

For me knowing the above facts, does change the story, it’s like the shipment never happened and gives me the impression that Zipments.com is a crony run business (rightly or wrongly). As noted here, I am just a blogger and not a journalist or a public relations guy, so maybe this isn’t odd at all. But something this story just isn’t right. What do you think?

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Sleepyhead in Michigan: An Entrepreneur’s Tale

Entrepreneurs amaze me.  The ability to conceive an idea into a product, service, and then turn that offering into a company is impressive.  (You can probably tell I like to focus on them from these past posts – iLean, ClipCleany, Cornhole).

So when I was approached with the opportunity to interview one of the founders of Sleepyhead, (Facebook, Twitter) a Chicago based nighttime relaxation drink manufacturer, I found it hard to say no.  But allow me to get into a little bit of background, before I got an email (how to contact me) from Sleepyhead’s public relations staff.  Back in early August my brother, a Chicago resident, came to visit for a weekend, and brought a surprise.  A can of Sleepyhead.  Side Note: My brother enjoys beverages, and in fact he bought me a case of Water Joe (caffeinated water) for my birthday – I still have some left if anyone is interested.  Anyone interested in a giveaway – leave me something witty and insightful in the comments and I will send you a bottle of Water Joe if shipping is not too expensive.  So I was quite intrigued by this can of Sleepyhead, and then my brother throws this in.  He knows one of the co-founders of Sleepyhead, and mentioned how they just up and left their desk jobs.  My jaw hit the floor.  So I took that can of Sleepyhead and put it in my cupboard.  See I rarely have a problem falling asleep, in fact my wife tells me I am a pro at it.

Alright back to the story.  Sleepyhead PR guy emailed me and mentioned that Sleepyhead is expanding into Michigan and wanted to find out if I would be interested in speaking with one of the co-founders.  I mentioned my familiarity with the product, and eventually I had a conversation with one of the co-founders Chuck Hammon.  Here are a couple of interesting things that came up during the conversation:

  • Chuck and his partner Eli developed this idea after meeting after work at each others residences for a period time
  • Eventually they hammered out the idea for Sleepyhead and decided they wanted to start a company.  So they both quit their jobs in corporate America and became beverage entrepreneurs
  • They got some guidance from their local SCORE chapter (I can’t say enough good things about SCORE – Grand Rapids especially has a great chapter – personal experience with them) on some things they didn’t think of or needed to develop better.
  • Per Chuck now in this down economy is the best time to start a company, because banks, vendors, suppliers, retailers who would have never down business with you in the past are all more cooperative, willing to negotiate, and eager to work with any new business (This one surprised me, because I could see both sides of it, but thought most people would be conservative)
  • They learned more in the months of working in bringing Sleepyhead to market than they ever learned in school or at their corporate jobs

Now a little more about the drink, Sleepyhead was developed by Chuck and Eli as a product that they would use and wanted to use.  Their target market is young professionals 22 to 35, men and women, who have a lot going on their lives, and have difficulty falling asleep.  They developed the product to help people unwind and relax, and help get them to bed and get them to sleep.  The product was originally launched in Chicago, and is now available at 7-11 stores, and numerous other convenience type stores or local grocers.  They decided to enter into the Michigan market because they have some local friends in the area who put them in touch with a beverage distributor called Galaxy Wine Distributors in Livonia.  Apparently they were a good match and the timing seemed right so now Galaxy is helping promote Sleepyhead launch in Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids.  I was hoping that there would be some cool promotions, launch events, or creative publicity for Sleepyhead but it seems like it will be pretty low-key.  Chuck and Eli have set up a schedule with Galaxy to go out and visit accounts carrying their products to learn more about how to support the retailers and what some of their challenges might be.

Well seeing that Sleepyhead is taking a low key approach to launching in Michigan, I thought I would help them out with some ideas…. Enjoy

–       Reach out to the Mommy Bloggers in the area, there are a bunch and many of them do product reviews, and no doubt many live busy lives between, children, family, and blogging, and might be interested in something that may help them relax and get to bed.

–       Our local start up community for entrepreneurs seems like it always has something going, perhaps work with them or speak at an event or provide a nice product placement of Sleepyhead for participants. Perhaps Sleepyhead can talk at one of these upcoming events, and support these fellow entrepreneurs.  I am sure they all have their thoughts racing at the end of the day thinking about what to do next and how to do it.  Seems like a logical fit, and a welcoming group.  Here is the list:

As an aside if you are looking for some entrepreneurial resources do check out the local SCORE Grand Rapids chapter, and GVSU has a great list of resources here.

I would like to say congrats to all the entrepreneurs out there, for taking an idea and making it happen.

Have you tried Sleepyhead, thoughts?  What do you think of the whole slow down and relax beverage segment?

Oh and apparently this week is Global Entrepreneur Week in Grand Rapids.  Good timing right?  Here is a link to more information & schedule.