If that original deal with Target and Best Buy had worked out, we would have never accepted the next deal, which turned into a long-lasting business relationship that WOODCHUCK is still part of today.
Just as Kevin and I were wondering what to do with the nearly sixty thousand iPad cases we had to take back from the big-box stores, a guy named Matt (who later became a great friend of mine) from Red Bull called us and asked, “Hey, I’m calling about the wooden smartphone cases you guys make. Can you etch logos and put names on those things? I want to give them to seventeen athletes we work with. I’ll pay full price, but I need them in California by tomorrow. Can you do it?”
To this day, I have no idea where Matt saw us with our product, but at that time we were desperate to unload even two of those things, so I said, “Fuck yeah, we can do that.” I would have jumped in the car right away and driven them there myself if I had to.
Seventeen products sold wasn’t going to do much for our $500,000 debt, but a new business channel definitely could, and that’s what we spotted. We wondered if other people would pay to custom-brand our products as well. If they paid full price, we figured that’s a hell of a lot better than Target giving us 30 percent for selling them in their stores. Also, we wouldn’t have to worry about getting them shipped back to us for any reason. It seemed like we were onto something big.
We showed up at the North American Red Bull HQ office the next day with seventeen customized wooden smartphone cases. When Matt received them, he said, “Guys, these things are fucking awesome! Our athletes are going to love having their names etched into the cases. Great job!”
Then he took the conversation a little further. He said, “You know what? I’m a marketing guy and everything is last-minute for me. I have an event next week, and if you guys want to get more of these things to me, I’ll buy them. Actually, I’ve always got an event or two going on where I can use something like this, and we can probably hook up for a bunch of stuff. What do you think?”
At the time, Kevin and I were so poor that we were splitting the same sandwich for lunch on most days, so we were somewhat preoccupied with eating all the free food we could in Matt’s office while he was talking. But once we heard the words buy more, we stopped stuffing our faces and started listening. “Yes sir! We can do that,” we said with our mouths full of cheese and crackers.