"Join over 25 million other readers that have been educated and inspired to transform their life and business"

Start Your Digital Side Hustle
click here

Why Product Reviews Are More Important Than Any Other Marketing Tactic (Episode 110)

Edgar Blazona is the Founder of BenchMade Modern. Edgar inspires people to think differently, solve difficult problems, and follow their entrepreneurial dreams, even when all odds are against them.

He started his first furniture company at the age of 17, after being kicked out of high school. He earned his first $400 by selling a self-made table and is now the founder of an 8-figure company.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit the entire economy, his company’s revenue went up by 100% year-over-year (now $10M+). His secret? Being resourceful and rebellious.

Traffic Guide

Free Download

The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business

 

What you will learn

  • Why tapping into your “creator” is important for entrepreneurs
  • How Edgar doubled his sales during the pandemic
  • If the “Direct to Customer” model works well
  • What “Rebellious Luxury” is and why you should care
  • The secrets of Edgar’s journey from his first $400 sale to a business that today turns over 8 figures
  • Why Edgar values Reviews of his product as his top marketing tactic and not Facebook advertising or SEO

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:05 - 00:00:55

Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today with me, Edgar Blazona. Now, Edgar started his own furniture company at the age of 17. Most people have trouble actually lying on a sofa at the age of 17, but he started his own furniture company at the age of 17 after being kicked out of high school. We need to find out more about that, Edgar. And he earned his first $400 for selling a self-made table and is now the Founder of an 8-figure company.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit the entire economy, his company's revenue went up by 100% year-over-year (now $10 million+) His secret? Being resourceful and rebellious and we're gonna find it a bit more about Rebellious Luxury later, so thanks Edgar for being on this show. It's an absolute pleasure.

Edgar Blazona

00:00:56 - 00:01:00

Yeah, great. Thanks for having me, I appreciate you taking the time and bringing me in.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:01 - 00:01:26

So Edgar and I are talking about the fact that we both weren't wearing headphones today. So this is an experiment of headphone-less podcasting. Edgar's got a hat and I don't, I could get one but I'm not gonna worry about it, so, but Edgar, at 17, you got kicked out of school. So how did it happen?

Edgar Blazona

00:01:26 - 00:03:45

Yeah, I don't know if I got kicked out of school, I probably would have gotten kicked out of school. I left school and I, you know, I, I look back at those times, I thought, man, I'm this badass teenager, I got it all figured out, you know, the whole deal and what do I need high school for, you know, and I got to my senior year and it just, it wasn't, it wasn't working for me anymore. I mean it never really works, school was always a challenge for me, frankly, I did it because I had to, and I, and I oftentimes put in the bare minimum, right, I just was just trying to get to the next year, you know, and really just trying to get to the next year of life so that I could get out of my house, you know, get on with my life. And by the time I was a senior in high school, I had left, I left high school, I moved out of my home, you know, and man, you know, I had a secret car for two years before my parents even knew, you know, I would park it up the street, I had no license, you know, but it, I had a sweet car, you know, at 15. And so I was already just kind of ahead of my of my era, you know, and ready to get on with life and so I dropped out of high school and I started, you know, I had odd jobs and you know, working a little construction and you know, bus boy and all that and, and then I had my first apartment, I had no furniture and I had no chance of buying furniture. I had no money.

And so I got a welder and I figured out how to weld. This is pre-YouTube, right? No one knew how to, you know like you couldn't like call a friend, how do I? Well you couldn't like look it up on the internet, right? So you're taking these two things, putting them together and seeing like do I electrocute myself when I touch these things? What happens? Well, lo and behold a weld comes out, you know, and so I figured out how to weld and I welded up a table and chairs and you mentioned it in the opening, I sold it for a $400. This was like the most money one had ever seen in life, right? You know, you know a full stack of $100 bills four high, you know. I thought I was rich and you know I've been in the furniture business pretty much ever since.

Jeff Bullas

00:03:46 - 00:03:50

So have you got a picture of what that type of look like?

Edgar Blazona

00:03:50 - 00:04:06

I do. It's honestly, it's on a Polaroid right now that is going back. I could, I could probably take a picture of the Polaroid with my iPhone these days. You know, keep it forever.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:06 - 00:04:09

You could, you could digitize it.

Edgar Blazona

00:04:09 - 00:04:10

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:10 - 00:04:24

Okay. So if you sold it, it still didn't have a table. It just didn't have furniture. So what was, what was the next product did you make yourself, did you make yourself a bed?

Edgar Blazona

00:04:24 - 00:05:34

You know that's a really good point. That's the first time anyone's ever picked up on that, including me, right, what did I do after? I don't remember but I tell you what I started to do, I started to find interesting pieces of, you know, marble that had been, you know, the marble topped, the corner had been broken off and so I would, you know, make this marble coffee table and then I would cut out a piece of steel to fit in where the marble corner was, you know, and I assemble it and then I would take those pieces, you know, I had no real way of selling it, alright again no internet, right. So I would go out on the street and I would set up almost like a garage sale of these homemade furniture pieces.

I would take it down in San Francisco, I grew up in San Francisco and I would take these pieces like down in front of the bars at night and I would just sit out on the sidewalk. I was selling my, you know, five coffee tables, a couple stools, you know maybe a chair, whatever I had made, I would sell those pieces right there on the sidewalk you know and pretty much I would never get asked to leave and I was just you know hanging out and selling furniture.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:35 - 00:05:37

So do you have a license now for driving?

Edgar Blazona

00:05:38 - 00:05:45

Yes, I do. Yes, I do. Barely.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:46 - 00:05:57

Yeah. So obviously you managed to drive for two years without a license. That's very cool. Try and do that now. It's like you'd be arrested, thrown in jail and put away.

Edgar Blazona

00:05:57 - 00:06:18

Well I have a, you know, a young child, I have two. I have a 19 year old and a 10 year old and I look at my 19 year old, he doesn't look old enough to drive anyway. I would pull him over anyway. Can you imagine what a 15 year old looks like driving? You know like, you know boy it's, I would certainly get pulled over.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:19 - 00:06:27

Okay so you're doing, you're hustling basically. Were you working full time at the same time?

Edgar Blazona

00:06:28 - 00:08:04

Yeah probably. Yes probably had a busboy job or some sort of job. I ended up later on taking a, you know, a cabinet maker job. I did that for a while, you know, along with doing my own stuff and I learned a lot in a cabinet shop. Later on, I traded space with another cabinet maker in his warehouse. I traded him like a little corner in his cabinet shop that I could do metal work and in exchange I would do some metal work for them for free basically. And I did that for about a year and a half. I learned a ton about cabinet making and wood working and all that. I always was watching and really listening, you know, listening to the sounds of the machines were making to try to get a true understanding, you know, you can learn a lot by the sound of a machine, whether it's running correctly, whether it's cutting correctly, all of that stuff, you can just hear so much and it was a great experience and really, you know, kind of taught me how to woodwork and really set me up for the next stage. You know, every step you take is a great learning experience or at least it can be if you allow it to get to the next stage. You know, if you're paying attention, it can really elevate you and you can carry that stuff on forever and that's really what I did and that kind of set me up later in life to start a cabinet shop and a small, you know, woodworking shop and so on.

Jeff Bullas

00:08:05 - 00:08:33

So it sounds like there's quite an element, a very tactile element of what you did back then. You just, you mentioned things like you could hear the sound of the machine and whether it was working properly or not and so obviously something in this making, being a creator brought you joy? What was that? Are you aware of that?

Edgar Blazona

00:08:33 - 00:09:52

Yes, 100%. I am 100% a maker, right? I love to make things and I mean I do it all the time. It's, it's really what I love, you know, my business today is, is around what I've made, but now it's a business, right? I have to run it like a business. I still take time. I mean I'm staring right now. I'm looking out past my computer. I'm looking at a container, shipping container that I have chopped up into a heated swim up pool bar, right? Like, I mean, you know, if I looked to my right out on the front porch, there is a paddle boat that I have converted into a paddle boat go kart with sound system and you know, wakeboard tower to pull someone behind with a skateboard, right? Like stupid stuff. I love just making things and having fun. And, and so that's really, I guess that's, that's a big part of what I do and thank God I'm able to turn that into a living and use my entrepreneurial sense to, you know, have fun with it.

Jeff Bullas

00:09:54 - 00:10:40

So you're making, you're creating and I think innately, I think all of us as humans are creators, it's just, we do it in different ways, whether it's a YouTube video, whether it's writing, whether it's you're doing something much more physical. When did you realize that you were onto something and when did it start to get serious? You're obviously working in the corner of a colleagues cabinet making shop and you must sounds like you started to enjoy not only the welding and iron making, but also the woodworking and cabinet making. So when did you start to realize that this is something you could really get serious about? When did that happen?

Edgar Blazona

00:10:40 - 00:14:05

When I sold that first piece of furniture, I knew, I knew pretty much right away and it was really about the money at that particular point I had grown up as a, as a graffiti artist and I was using graffiti as my way to be rebellious and still be an artist and the way to tie those together. However, I turned it into a business. I started a company called Graffiti Graphics and I basically took my crew of graffiti artists and went out and sold them as a, you know, we'll paint your, you know, music venue, we'll paint for bands, we painted for all the local pollution concerts, like we really turned it into a business and while I wasn't the best graffiti artist, I was good at selling myself, I could sell this young group of, you know, illegals, you know, into a, you know, legal venue, right. And so I knew I had something that was entrepreneurial when I became a furniture maker. There wasn't a chance that I wouldn't sell this stuff, I wasn't gonna be a garage, you know, maker. And, later on I realized that it's gonna be a long road to the success that I want, right, pushing wood through a table saws. I mean it's a tough job making a kitchen of cabinets. It is a tough job. And I remember one day pushing these wood through the song thinking I'm never going to get that Lake House by doing this like it's too long, it's too hard, it's gonna take forever. So I need to learn how to do this at scale, right?

And that that kind of drove that, that one decision, that one time that I was probably, you know, making you know 45 of the same exact part through the saw all day long, I probably, I learned that I got, I got to do something different and so I shut my business down and I went to work for Pottery Barn, which is a huge retailer here in the US. And at the time they were like the biggest thing ever, they were the most popular, the most like it was the craze back then and I went to work for them and I realized, boy, I'm just gonna be stuck here in San Francisco, in their office and so I showed them a few problems, right? I kind of may or may not have you know, pointed out a few things that I probably elevated as being a problem so that I could show them that I could fix it so that I could go to the factories overseas and fix these problems for them, this young kid, you know 20 something, but I would go and fix it and soon I became Pottery Barn's fixer and it was a great time and what I was really doing, it was eye on the prize, right? I was going there to study these giant factories overseas and figure out like okay now this is how you make something at scale, this is how you build and how you can build a business, right? I had no teachers, you know, I bet you're gonna ask me the mentor question everyone always asks, well who's your mentors? Right, well in a way that was my mentorship, right? It was these factories that kind of like guided me along and really showed me how to do it at scale.

Jeff Bullas

00:14:06 - 00:14:20

Well look I've never really had a mentor. So for me I learned by doing just like you did really and by watching and copied a lot of shit.

Edgar Blazona

00:14:20 - 00:14:28

Yeah, yeah, you can pick up a lot, you can find the details and you can pick up on what works and that's a that's a big, big point.

Jeff Bullas

00:14:28 - 00:14:34

So you did that, you're working for Pottery Barn. What was the next step after that?

Edgar Blazona

00:14:36 - 00:15:54

Well, the next step after that was another company came to me and said, you know, kind of on the, on the hush hush, you know, hey, why don't you leave Pottery Barn, come to work for us. We sell into Walmart and Target and you can basically copy your stuff from Pottery Barn and do it for Walmart and Target and brands like that. And I said, okay, but you know, it's a big price difference, right. So I ended up taking the job, but I ended up having to go back again in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and teaching these factories how to basically make the same looking designs, but make it for much, much, much cheaper, right? Kind of tricks of the trade.

And we did really well. You know, we sold a ton into Walmart and Target. I had an entire aisle at Target once of kids goods and that's a huge looking back on that, you know, I had no idea how big that really is, but that's a, I mean, gosh, if I could do that today, you know, I'd be a bazilionaire. It was a, it was a good time for sure. And, and that kind of brought me to the next step. Everything is just a stepping stone if you work it correctly.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:55 - 00:16:13

So you mentioned the term before Rebellious Luxury. So what's Rebellious Luxury? Is that like, is that like graffiti artists sort of do a modern apartment?

Edgar Blazona

00:16:14 - 00:18:01

No, here's the thing with Rebellious Luxury, right. I mean there's a group of us out here and I suspect it's much bigger than, than we imagined, but there's a group out here that is, that has kind of, you know, kind of come up in the last 10, 20 years that has made some money, right. That has, but it doesn't necessarily fit the norm of this luxury model. I don't want to go into a store and be called Sir. I'm not sir. Right. I would never call you Sir. Like you're my friend. I would never say Oh yes, sir, Come on in. You know, like no way. No, I don't want a freaking latte when I go furniture shopping, I just don't want that, right. I go get a Starbucks latte or whatever. You know, if I want, I don't. I don't need to be pampered in that way. When I'm, say buying a piece of furniture, talk to me normal, right. Talk to me like I'm your friend, not retail speak.

So we look at Rebellious Luxury and we think, okay, what are we rebelling against? Well, first of all, we love luxury products, which what is luxury products and if you break that down, it's just quality, right? It's quality with maybe some servers thrown in, right? Like how stupid is that? So, so our, our definition of Rebellious Luxury is: is this a luxury product a good quality product without all the fluff, right. Without the lattes, without the Sir’s. Just a good quality product that makes you feel good about it. It's a little bit more normal and down to earth.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:02 - 00:18:13

So, was that Rebellious Luxury? Is that woven into the BenchMade Modern brand? Is that what modern brand is about? And where did that idea come from?

Edgar Blazona

00:18:13 - 00:19:00

Well, it comes from, you know, our background, my background in particular, it comes from a desire to have the best quality furniture, right. And when I, when I say that I always talk a lot about what's under the hood, right. You know, two companies: a $1000 sofa and a $4000 sofa on the internet can look exactly the same side by side. Picture by picture, wow, they look exactly the same. When you get it, it's a different story and a lot of what that is is what's under the hood. What kind of foams does it have? What kind of, you know, frame, springs, you know, all of those things that make the difference. That makes the longevity of that sofa last for, you know, forever. Really.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:00 - 00:20:21

So along with those materials, right. And that quality comes a price point. So in finding the right, well, you know, landing place for us, like we are a luxury brand, so to speak. You know, we were a higher end quality brand.

But in a way, I don't want to be, you know, this Gucci or Prada experience, right? I want to be a more normal experience. I want to be able to show you can have this sofa, have a, you know, family of kids, you know, have, you know, football parties, you know, whatever it might be, but still sit on nice quality stuff. And so we try to leave this rebellious nature and a lot of it's about our customer. I mean, you could say we're rebellious because we ship faster than, you know, anyone else. Really. We make this quality product in a way that's, you know, some better and cut better and more precise, all that, all those things are sort of rebelling against that furniture status quo.

But at the end of the day, it's about a particular customer feeling that I think there's a lot of us out here, you know, old skateboarders that now run companies. There's, there's quite a few.

Jeff Bullas

00:20:22 - 00:20:28

Yeah. So when you started, how long did you start BenchMade Modern?

Edgar Blazona

00:20:28 - 00:20:33

Eventually it's been around for about seven years. Six, seven years, something like that.

Jeff Bullas

00:20:33 - 00:20:41

Okay, so did you start with a proper bricks and mortar store? Is that where you started?

Edgar Blazona

00:20:41 - 00:22:17

Well, I used to, I used to have a brand called True Modern and it was a wholesale brand and I realized with True Modern and I sold to like, you know, retailers across the company, brick and mortars and then I sold to the way Faire’s and Amazon's and all those guys as well. And when the 2008 crash came, it left me with furniture in two warehouses that weren't selling at all, like, like one piece of week, you know, it was like, it was a disaster and rent bills were piling up with these warehouses and you know, there's no income from the furniture, it was a disaster. So I started messing around with sofas and I realized that wow sofas are, are somewhat of a, of a, you know, people buy sofas even if the economy is down because when people are stuck in, then they invite their friends over and in order to show their wealth in order to show like, oh, I'm fine. You know, this recession isn't hitting me. They make their sofas great, right? And you know, so I realized that you could still sell sofas and, and so we started moving a lot of sofas and suddenly I realized like, wow, this is a good business. And from there I started testing custom sofas. What if I made these sofas custom, right, what would happen that kind of piggybacked into BenchMade Modern and piggybacked into, you know, learning how to make custom sofas on the man in a quick timeline.

Jeff Bullas

00:22:18 - 00:22:26

So, so you went to China and Vietnam and all that. So is BenchMade Modern made in America?

Edgar Blazona

00:22:26 - 00:22:45

Yeah, we're all in the US. When I very first started, I built a small factory in Los Angeles and that's where we really kind of cut our teeth and built our first stuff. And now we're made in between LA and Dallas. Two different locations.

Jeff Bullas

00:22:46 - 00:22:53

So obviously you've worked out how to use a lot of automation to actually be able to scale what you do quickly and also beautifully.

Edgar Blazona

00:22:53 - 00:23:22

Yeah. Yeah we do. We use a bit of automation. It's less than you would imagine. You know, upholstery at the end of the day, upholstery goes back to an old school, you know, pulling fabric over a frame, stretching it, pulling it and stapling it. I mean that's really, you know what upholstery is. There's the tricks we use are all in the cutting of the materials, the cutting of the fabric, you know, all of that go into a quick and seamless system.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:23 - 00:23:35

So you're making custom and you also charging a higher price point. So that's what allows you to manufacture locally. On the other hand, everything is done online now.

Edgar Blazona

00:23:36 - 00:24:06

Yeah, yeah. Everything's online. You know, we're a true direct to consumer. And when I say true, a real direct to consumer is from the factory to the consumer, right? That's where it kind of started as a direct to consumer. It has morphed into, you know, third party selling, buying it from a factory and really being, you know, online first and then selling to the customer. But we really are from the factory all the way to the customer.

Jeff Bullas

00:24:07 - 00:24:12

So basically you own relationship with the customer without any middleman in between?

Edgar Blazona

00:24:12 - 00:24:13

Exactly, exactly.

Jeff Bullas

00:24:13 - 00:24:20

And that is the power of online stores, isn't? It's disintermediation and that you are removing the middleman.

Edgar Blazona

00:24:20 - 00:25:33

Yeah. Yeah. It's an interesting space, you know, I don't think, you know, you mentioned, you know, before we come on, you said you had a betting store at one point and a true brick and brick and mortar store. And I think that there's an interesting thing that's happening with brick and mortar. I remember when I first ventured out, I still was running True Modern, a wholesale business and now a direct to consumer. And some of my stores were complaining, you know, well, you've got this other business, it's free for you. It's free for you to get those customers right? That is not the case. I mean, it's not free. You know, my customer acquisition costs, you know, are sometimes $800, you know, that's a lot of money to advertise, you know, to a customer to get them into your store and to send them a piece of furniture. That's that I mean it's an enormous amount. So the tables are turning a little bit and I'm interested to see what happens and how omni retailing becomes a, you know, a better part of our shopping experience.

Jeff Bullas

00:25:34 - 00:26:20

So the interesting thing was one of my brother's partner, she runs a curtains and blinds business and actually a manufacturer as well in Australia. And I remember, and you talked about how you've grown during the pandemic. So it's been very interesting. So two years ago everyone thought the sky was going to fall in for homewares. But as everyone went home from the office, they looked at their furniture and they looked at their blinds and they went Geez, they suck. And I got to spend all my time here, let's make it beautiful. So she was writing a spreadsheet of sales going through the floor but what happened was they went through the roof. How was your experience?

Edgar Blazona

00:26:21 - 00:28:26

It was the same way. Honestly, I am slightly embarrassed about this particular topic and I'll explain why. Frankly, I try to avoid it a bit because it makes me feel bad. I happen to be in a position where I'm running a company that people seem to need my product in a time where a lot of people were really struggling, like a lot of people were really struggling. And so, so yes, you know, I saw the business skyrocket through the roof. I mean through the roof, right? And I struggled at the time about that a little bit. You know, and yes, it's great for business and all that. However, we were having a hard time manufacturing. At one point we shut our factories down and we're making mass, right. Because we can saw and we can make, you know, we had fabric and all this. This is before we even really knew what a mask did, but we needed them, you know, and I ended up giving sofas away to nurses. I felt like I couldn't contribute. And I felt like we were gaining because of this pandemic. And so I started just like nominate a nurse, right? Show me someone who's really like working way too much and is really struggling and let me reach out to them and give them a sofa. And we would do it. We would find these nurses and we would say, hey, I can't help you in the hospitals, I can't help you fix this problem. But I can make sure when you're on your off time that you're sitting in something wonderful and comfy and this is what I can do for you. And we really did that. And at least it kind of made me feel better about capitalizing on such a horrible time for many.

Jeff Bullas

00:28:27 - 00:29:21

Yeah. And the whole hospitality industry, restaurants, hotels, travel industry, we're just hammered and still are recovering and you know, like even people came into cleaning house, like I know that I had a cleaner and I just kept paying her during the pandemic even though she couldn't come in and I'm saying I don't want her to suffer. And it was a little little bit of personal interest as well because I wanna make sure I still got her.

So what are some of the challenges with like getting customers online because it's very crowded space and you've got to get your message out. So what's some of your secret sources? What are some of your tactics for acquiring customers? Is that search engine? Is that Facebook ads? Is it? What, what is it?

Edgar Blazona

00:29:22 - 00:31:28

Well, you know, in all honesty, those two things you just mentioned are kind of like the lowest of the table stakes, you know. It's yes, we spend an enormous amount on advertising with Google search, Facebook, Instagram and all that. But what we're seeing growth is, is really, you know, through influencers, through press, affiliate marketing is just, you know, going crazy. So you've got, you've got like sites out there like WireCutter is a great example, right? We, for two years in a row. We were best online sofa. Best online sofa. That's a huge deal for New York Times, WireCutter, you know, review site.

Now, that particular site actually did take the furniture in, reviewed it and actually sat on it and loved it and all that. And we're super excited about it. A lot of these affiliate people, they don't necessarily do that. And, and so we like the ones that truly do that, we like to participate because I'm really proud of what we make and, and in fact, it's funny if you go to my Twitter page, Edgar Blazona at Twitter, the pinned tweet is old school style. “Hey, all you furniture, people, how about this? You send your best piece of furniture to a writer. I'll send my best piece of furniture to the writer. They can decide which is best and whoever wins, gets to be publicly crowned sofa king.” That's it. Period like old school battle, right.

I know all those guys follow me. I know they're on my, on my account, you know, I haven't had a single person reply to that. It's been like almost two years, right.

So I really love when we get to show our stuff, you know, let people sit on it, cut it open, like dig into it, see what's inside. That's the first thing I do is cut the sofa bottom off, let me look inside and see what you got.

Jeff Bullas

00:31:29 - 00:31:45

You're right. So your best marketing tactic is get really good reviews that’s #1. Work with influencers is #2 and #3 also work with affiliates, in other words, people that reach your audience already have a crowd.

Edgar Blazona

00:31:46 - 00:31:51

I think the affiliates is probably, you know, number one or number two.

Jeff Bullas

00:31:53 - 00:31:54

Okay. Is that your top 3?

Edgar Blazona

00:31:54 - 00:32:27

For sure. I mean, you got to have them all right. And they all mesh together, right. So there really isn't a one secret sauce. You know, it wasn't, it wasn't that long ago when, when people would raise money through investment and they would, they would, you know, look for the special sauce, right.

And you would, you know, okay, well, I'll just pour some money on it, some gas, so to speak. But those days are kind of over and it's really a mesh of all the things coming together and lining up and they all kind of sit on top of one another and if you don't have one then you don't have the next and so on.

Jeff Bullas

00:32:28 - 00:32:36

Yeah, I think the old sales funnel model is broken. Sorry, that's, it's more of the matrix now.

Edgar Blazona

00:32:37 - 00:34:23

Yes, Yes. But I would argue that there are what I like to call micro conversions within the sales funnel. And so you bring them down that sales funnel, you know, we have this amazing box of swatches and I take pride in that as well. It's really a signal, right. You get to come to my side and you shop around. Okay, let me get some swatches. I don't know. And we send you this box. Second day, right comes two days later, it's this giant like 12 by 12 box that comes in the mail with 100 big pieces of fabric cuts in it, swatches and the leather fabric and all that when it shows up at your door, it's like, man, we mean business like this is the real deal. You are not just going to give your credit card to us and we're going to send you this piece of junk sofa. It's the real deal. And so that's a micro conversion. And when I can get you to, they're all of a sudden you're like, okay, I can, I can see it, I can feel it, you know, and then the next, as you drive down a little bit farther, we send you a full scale drawing. You know, we send this giant piece of paper that you roll out on the ground. It's of your exact custom sized sofa, right, giant corner sectionals. These huge pieces of paper you mesh together and over land. You can sit on and see if your family fits between the lines and all my family fit on all the cushions and all that. That's just one more step in that sales funnel that keeps you excited and you know inspired to buy a sofa.

Jeff Bullas

00:34:24 - 00:34:30

So you're working on a very tactile level as well as small commitments.

Edgar Blazona

00:34:30 - 00:34:34

I love that. Yes, I love a little tactile, right.

Jeff Bullas

00:34:34 - 00:34:42

That's why I realized it because at the beginning of our conversation you said you love the sound of the sore in the workshop.

Edgar Blazona

00:34:43 - 00:34:45

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:34:45 - 00:35:11

So now you're sending beautiful pieces of fabric to people so they actually can feel what you're going to give to them and use for them and you know what, so I'm not a big online shopper. And the reason why is because I like if I buy some clothes, I want to feel what the fabrics like. Is it like sandpaper or is it actually beautiful and soft? And will it feel good on my skin? Yes, very hard to do that online.

Edgar Blazona

00:35:11 - 00:37:02

It is hard to do that online. And when you, you know, we have these great policies, you know, keep it for 100 days or whatever, but you got, you got places like Zappos Shoes, they really were a big inventor of that. Like just, we'll send you some shoes, try them on, they don't work, send them back, right. Sofas are a little bit different because, you know, you gotta schedule this delivery guy, they got to get in your house. Hopefully they don't damage your house. You know, all that stuff can go wrong. I mean, it's just or it could go great. You know, and mostly goes great, but you've got to take the time to do all that, right. And so you can't just return a sofa super easy. It's not like just send it back, you know, tape the box up and send it back. So I try to, you know, give you an experience that helps move that along.

Now let me just say there is a little secret to that, right. There's a little selfish secret to that that you probably didn't think of. I send all that stuff to you to get you vested in the experience and in the sofa, right now, you're like, I chose this fabric, right. I rubbed it on my dog to see if hair stuck to it. I poured wine on the fabric to see if it was stain proof. I made it custom to my wall, right. This wasn't just will it fit? I'll order it, right. I've tested it with my family, they can all fit on it, right. Lo and behold that keeps my returns very very low because you've gone through this process ahead of purchasing, right. And now you receive this sofa that you love, that you're expecting and you're not shocked when it gets there. And it's sandpaper, as you said.

Jeff Bullas

00:37:02 - 00:37:10

Yeah, yeah. So a micro commitment is tactile. You're getting to own it before they own it.

Edgar Blazona

00:37:10 - 00:37:15

Exactly. And they designed it, they built it, they made it, they customized it.

Jeff Bullas

00:37:16 - 00:37:25

It's a little bit like what they call the IKEA effect is also a little bit of, part of that is that they've discovered that actually making IKEA furniture despite the frustrations.

Edgar Blazona

00:37:25 - 00:37:27

Yes, yes, yes.

Jeff Bullas

00:37:27 - 00:37:31

It’s that.. I made this. Even though the panels round the wrong way.

Edgar Blazona

00:37:32 - 00:37:34

Yes, yes, totally.

Jeff Bullas

00:37:34 - 00:37:39

And I've left and I've got five bolts and screws left over and I'm not quite sure where it should go.

Edgar Blazona

00:37:40 - 00:37:51

And I hope to hell I don't have to move in three months because what am I going to do in hree months? I've had a few pieces back.

Jeff Bullas

00:37:52 - 00:38:32

Now, the thing you did mention was about getting, delivering and also getting into the house and I do remember like you've got a king sized mattress, you got a king sized bed and you're delivering it to an apartment and there are certain apartments that are very difficult to get a big piece of furniture into. So I'm sure you've struck occasional challenges a lot. Yeah, to get a big sofa into a small apartment where the entry area is impossible. I've had an apartment where I actually had to deliver it via scissor lift to level five terrorists.

Edgar Blazona

00:38:32 - 00:40:31

Yep, yep, we've done that. We don't typically do that. Liability reasons we won't do that. However, we've been involved with many, you know, drop it off at the crane operators or you know, that sort of thing, they'll take ownership of it and so on. We have a model that we flag every order. That's I think, I think 85" maybe it's 90” now, that will call you, and we'll talk to you about that experience, right. Well, you know, did you think of that? Because along with you can make it up to 12 ft or, you know, 10 ft. And okay, along with that comes, can I get it in the wall? So while it fits great on the wall, can I get it around this corner? And oftentimes you can't. And so we talked to the customer, we talked them through that and we'll accommodate when we can. We'll sometimes, we'll make it into a three piece sofa versus a two sofa to get the size is a little smaller. You know, we try to do whatever we can to make sure that exact experience happen, doesn't happen, because at the end of the day, when that happens, you're now taking a probably damaged sofa because you try to cram it through some weird opening and now you're sending it back and then we have to deal with it. So it's in our best interest to make sure that we kind of teach you that experience, you know how to get it in. A lot of that is not, you know, carrying the sofa and horizontally, unless you have a straight shot. You know, when we go around turns, we go around upright like a refrigerator, right? And we, and we swivel and then we tip down and go in through the door, you know, instead of trying to wrap around the corner, most people don't even think of that. So a lot of times what we want to know is how high is your ceiling. That's one of the first questions we ask.

Jeff Bullas

00:40:32 - 00:40:35

Yes, delivery is actually a creative process.

Edgar Blazona

00:40:36 - 00:40:48

Yeah, that's the hardest part making a custom sofa incredibly quick. It's a lot easier than delivery. I'm glad I'm not in the delivery business. That's for sure.

Jeff Bullas

00:40:48 - 00:41:00

No, I get that mate, I've had to deliver big pieces of furniture into small spaces and you know, yeah. And you got to think creatively.

Edgar Blazona

00:41:00 - 00:43:28

I learned, you know, back when I very, very first started, you know, we were kind of struggling and I thought, you know what, I got a truck, I'm gonna deliver all my Bay Area deliveries, right. I live in the Bay Area, anything that goes, I'm gonna deliver to our offices and then I'm gonna deliver it myself to the, to the, to the door, you know, to save $200 a delivery, have a lot of money, right. So I would go, I got my BenchMade Modern shirt on, you know, and I would go there, my regular old truck, you know, and I'd bring my dolly and, and you know, I bring a guy sometimes if I was going inside and, and this was a really good learning, hands on learning experience, it taught me a lot, it taught me what the scale of our stuff looked like in people's homes, it taught me who our customer was. It also taught me interestingly enough, you know, how to be a little nicer to the delivery people, right. And people tend to treat the delivery people with anger, they go into it with, this is going to be a horrible experience and this guy's gonna wreck my house and wrecked myself and all that. And I often would show up and and one of the guys in particular, you know, who said, I have, I bought white glove service, you know, and I'm like, well sir, you know, my paperwork shows me you just have curbside, you know, look, I have every order at access on my phone, I know exactly what this guy, you know, whatever. And I said, you know, I'm happy to unbox it and I'm happy to help you carry it in. And he said, well, I, I got white glove and I'm like, I'm sorry, I just don't have that, I'm happy to help you carry it in.

So finally he says, okay, well I'll carry it in together, you know, and he carries it in with me and kind of give me some attitude along the way and all that and at the end, I always used to, on my way out, I would say, I would put my hand out, you know, and the look of shock when the delivery person puts their hand out to shake your hand, like that doesn't happen. And I would say, as I put my hand up, I'm Edgar Blazona, I'm the designer and owner of the brand, I'm so happy you purchase from us, thank you very much and I will put my hand up and you know, he shook my hand and you could just see reading across his face was, oh my God, I have been such a jerk, you know, and I remember walking away and I was like, you know, that's one for the delivery people, you know, that's maybe maybe one last time will those guys just be a jerk to delivery people.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:29 - 00:44:20

Yeah, I know, and I used to do deliveries myself as well from the store. I had people did deliveries for me as well, but I'd do it quite regularly and so I know totally what delivery issues can be. Been there, done that.

Edgar, just to wind things up here. What's some of the top tips and I suppose maybe focus on selling online, what some of your top tips to our listeners and viewers that you'd like to share that you've learned along the way about selling online because that's what you do, and also direct to customers. So what’s two or three top tips that just one tip, what whatever you think would be most relevant?

Edgar Blazona

00:44:21 - 00:45:39

I think my top tips would be something about, oh, look, there's a lot of noise, right. And there's, gosh, this is a tough question actually, right. Because a lot of it comes from being true to yourself, true to your product, right. It depends on what you're selling. Like if you're selling, you know, 1000 things, you're aggregating all this product. It's very hard to be true to yourself, right. Unless you're like, I don't know a car parts guy, but you're actually a car parts guy. Like you actually care about cars and car parts, you're not just selling car parts, right. It's the, it's the sites, it's the places that are actually true to who they are. And I think it's really relevant in the voice. I think people don't put enough energy into the voice because the voice is really what makes you legitimate and makes you a true, you know, Amazon doesn't need a voice, right? They almost don't want a voice because they're true aggregate. Their voices will get it there for you tomorrow or whatever. You know, whatever timeline is and you don't care about their voice, but if it's outside of that, having a true, true to yourself, true to your product voice. I think it's really important and people take notice on that.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:39 - 00:46:24

Yeah, I totally agree with it. So I started my bedding furniture store because I wanted to make money, it wasn't authentic me and guess what? It didn't work. Okay, but you live and breathe what you do. You built it with your hands when you were 17. You've been in the trenches, you've gone to factories in Asia, you've built your own, you know, manufacturing plants in the US. You've delivered yourself, you've actually, so you're being incredibly authentic. You have your voice and I think so, what you're talking about is your brand voice that the more authentic it is, the more powerful it is, is that what you're saying?

Edgar Blazona

00:46:24 - 00:46:59

That is what I'm saying. And it and it really rings true on every word on your website, right. And even if we all know, you know, look, people don't read paragraphs, people don't, you know, they're looking for imagery. They're not looking to, you know, deep dive. There's a small handful of people that actually deep dive into a website. But most people are looking for signaling. And if you can, if you can stay true to that with all of those points. And at the end of the day, it all comes together as your voice. I think that's one of the most powerful things you can have on your site, no matter what kind of thing you're selling.

Jeff Bullas

00:46:59 - 00:47:05

Yeah, I totally agree. I have trouble selling anything I don't believe in.

Edgar Blazona

00:47:05 - 00:47:15

Yeah, well, but a good salesman can sell anything, right. I mean that's the whole, that's the whole thing. But then they're cheesy salesman and there's nothing I hate worse than a cheesy salesman.

Jeff Bullas

00:47:15 - 00:47:24

That's right. If you speak with an authentic voice then it's very very powerful. That's what I've discovered and I just can't sell something I don't believe in.

Edgar Blazona

00:47:24 - 00:48:09

I agree. I agree. And that's one of the reasons why I get so freaking excited about what we do. I mean look I make sofas, we kind of joke right? There's all this stuff going on in the world, you know, Ukraine is happening right now as we're speaking about this and there's all these Covid and all this like real heavy stuff and what do I do? I make furniture right? Like how silly. But at the same time like it's what I love. It's really my passion. And so it excites me and while I can't solve Ukraine, I can't solve Covid. I can make sure at the end of the day you're sitting on something comfortable and you're relaxing and thinking about solving the problems that you're good at.

Jeff Bullas

00:48:10 - 00:48:30

It's fantastic. You're a maker and creator that knows how to sell and you've learned by doing rather than going doing a degree or even a carpentry course. So it's pretty powerful. I can see the passion shining through in your eyes and your voice and your energy, mate. It's really, it's fabulous.

Edgar Blazona

00:48:31 - 00:48:32

Thank you.

Jeff Bullas

00:48:32 - 00:48:44

So thank you very much for sharing your passion with us and your authenticity. I get that and that's to be celebrated and thanks for sharing that.

Edgar Blazona

00:48:45 - 00:48:578

Yeah. Thanks for having me. And if you do decide to use sofa, you can come on down, here's the salesman guy, come on down and get a discount with Jeff15, we'll give you 15% discount.

Jeff Bullas

00:48:59 - 00:49:06

The home office so far. There you go. Yeah, we can nap at three and work at five.

Edgar Blazona

00:49:06 - 00:49:14

Yeah. Right totally, but we'll send you a print out and make sure you can fit between the arms.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:15 - 00:49:18

Thanks. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Edgar Blazona

00:49:18 - 00:49:22

Thanks for having me, I appreciate it's been fun kind of reliving some of these stories. Thanks.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:23 - 00:49:29

It’s been a pleasure. Thanks Edgar. That was fabulous.

Edgar Blazona

00:49:29 - 00:49:32

Alright yeah, alright, thanks for having fun.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:32 - 00:49:37

It was fun mate. I've got a meeting now with someone so it's not

Edgar Blazona

00:49:37 - 00:49:37

Alright, have a good day.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:38 - 00:49:43

We'll let you know when it's all coming out. We will be in touch and thanks mate.

Edgar Blazona

00:49:43 - 00:49:44

Alright, have a good day. Bye bye.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:44 - 00:49:45

have a good day. Bye bye.