Voy Media Interview Questions for Cuddle Spoons.
Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ken Vantroba and the business that I created is called Cuddle Spoons. Cuddle Spoons are a fun couples cuddling spoon set. Some people might categorize them as a Fun Novelty Keepsake gift or even a Fun Special Memory gift for two, but in my case I can see them as a caring message of love and life. It doesn’t matter how you first see them, my unique gift of Cuddle Spoons will never let you down.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m a stroke survivor. In 1988 at the age of 26 I suffered a server brain trauma that completely turned my life upside down over night. Since then I had to overcome many obstacles to get to this point where I am today. My biggest struggle has been living my life in a wheelchair 24/7/365. Now being disabled I worry about so many different health issues. Over the years I learned from others with similar injuries that the mind will go first that one thing that I always worried about.
So one day in the latter half of 2014 I came up with my own brain test. This was a similar test that rehabilitation hospital did for thinking ability; it wasn’t a way to create an entrepreneur idea.
O.K. this is how my idea started for Cuddle Spoons. I looked back on my past 26 years and thought of 20 priceless memories that I most enjoyed the most. After 3 days of finalizing my list, I narrowed them down to the two top enjoyments. I ended up having #1 Cuddling with my special person and #2 eating a sweet dessert treats.
I then took those two memories and merge them into one. I tried to visualize more of my idea so I sketch them on paper; couples cuddling and dessert treats, but I still couldn’t figure out ways to put them together. Then a thought came to mind… what do I eat most of my dessert treats with? A spoon.
(The images above are my sketches and the finish product)
(The image below is my computer 3d models of the couples cuddling in a sample back board packaging)
This is the start of my design for my display packaging.
Below are the 3 sets that I currently sell on my website – www.CuddleSpoons.com.
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
I designed the entire product and packaging for the manufacture. In question No. 2 I enclosed my sketches, 3D images and a picture of the finish product. When it came to manufacturing, I researched some U.S.A. & Oversea Manufacturing Companies. The company that worked best for me and my budget got the job. Since I am the creator of Cuddle Spoons, I own everything. That means all of the computer files, images, layouts, etc. I mean the works. The only job the manufacture had to do was to create a prototype sample of their work for my approval. If any adjustments had to be done on the sample or packaging, I did it.
Yes I know that I have a brain injury but my knowledge in solving problems, creating designs in engineering and graphic design weren’t affected; they are still strong. Still for my own benefit I needed to test my ability and see if I can figure out this job for myself. After my brain injury/stroke went back to college and earned 2 degrees with honors.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
I did more research for a reliable web/e-commerce site, I decided on trying Shopify e-commerce store for one year – www.CuddleSpoons.com. I stuck with Shopify because their service hasn’t let me down in the 4+ years that I used them. Again I want to bring this up, this wasn’t an entrepreneur’s dreams this was my brain test that turned me into my business dream. So without getting to deep with investors and personal loans, I wanted to see what I could raise enough money through my family and friends. If my Cuddle Spoons project didn’t fall within the budget that I had, I would have to delay my dream until I could raise enough funds that I needed. That is why every person who wants to become an entrepreneur needs to make a plan and stick to it. Many newer entrepreneurs don’t last more than a few years because they don’t plan their business ahead of time and they make many mistakes; unless you are blessed to have deep pockets and can afford to make mistakes. I don’t have any outside investors or business loans; I just made a do-able plan and stuck with it.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The actual vision and touch brought me the most interest in my Cuddle Spoons, and then the word of mouth followed. I have to say; as soon as someone held them they couldn’t put them down. They are attractive to the eye, adorable to look at and comfortable for any hand. It seems like everyone always has a good reason to buy them; not to mention they are quite affordable for everyone. My Cuddle Spoons were created for couples and their precious memories, but the shape/design makes them the perfect eating aid for the elderly, disabled and other people with hand control or feeding/eating issues.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
To be honest, business has been slow. Most of that falls on me because of my own health issues. I suffered a severe stroke but I’m a survivor. I’m in a wheelchair all day and it’s very difficult for me to travel outside my neighborhood, I can’t sit for a long periods of time and my voice is weak so most of the time others can’t understand what I’m saying.
The future of my Cuddle Spoons will always look positive to me. I will always keep faith in my business and whatever I do. I believe one day the right person will come around and see the benefits in my Cuddle Spoons and help me out.
What's your average monthly revenue today and what do you project it to be in next 6 months?
I wish that I can brag about my revenue but I can’t. I run this business on my own and my top speed is second gear at best. Once the word gets out about my Cuddle Spoons hopefully I will able to find people interested in helping me out, and then we all can make a rewarding income.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
*Always make a plan before you start a project.
*Budge your money – Don’t spend more than you have.
*When it comes to advertising – Learn from FREE trials and offers. Many on-line marketing people claims to be experts but be careful they use your money learn and for trails & errors.
*Be smart, always research, AND remember it’s not as easy as you think.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use the most popular social media platforms and selling outlets along with some other online sites. Always research the sites, check reviews from past and present users, learn with sites are up & coming and with are questionable. Remember to take advantage of FREE Trials & Offers but don’t give out to much of your personal information unless you done a thorough search.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I truly believe that you need a team, people who believe in you and are interested in your business/product. Do some simple research and ask people; that you don’t know, what they think about your product and if they would buy it.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I need business advice, Marketers/Marketing help but I can’t afford to pay them at this time. I am willing to make a fair deal – equity or percent on profits.
Where can we go to learn more about you?
I have my Bio, my Story, Videos and much more. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you can always email me at CuddleSpoons@gmail.com
Sincerely ~ Ken Vantroba
P.S. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more.