Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Monday, January 30, 2012

iFrogz founders talk of the cold, wet beginnings of their first company

The road to entrepreneurial success might just go through a car wash in the cold of winter and the middle of the night.

Scott Huskinson speaks to students at various regional
campuses who were watching a video broadcast from Logan
That was one practical lesson offered up at the Lectures in Entrepreneurship series on Jan. 25. I knew that the people who came to hear Clay Broadbent and Scott Huskinson, the founders of iFrogz, were not going to get the standard how-to-succeed in business presentation. Dave Herrmann, a senior lecturer, introduced the two founders of iFrogz and told the students in the packed auditorium that the last time Scott visited his class on campus, he was voted the best speaker of the semester.

I’m sure those who came on that Wednesday evening weren’t disappointed. In fact, I’m know that two students probably found it one of the most rewarding lectures they ever attended. Scott opened his part of the presentation by saying he’d give $100 to the first woman and the first man who could show him a hole in their sock. Two startled students ended up with a crisp $100 bill in their hands.

After that introduction he had everyone’s attention including students who were watching from the regional campuses. He made sure they knew he could see them on the overhead screens by waving at them and waiting until they responded.

Clay Broadbent addresses the audience
I’ve interviewed Scott a few times and was impressed with Clay’s presentation, but what they said and the way they interacted with the students as individuals reinforced one key thing I’ve always admired about them. They treat people with respect. Here are some of the tips they shared:

• When your company does well, show your employees some appreciation for their contributions to your bottom line. While this can’t always be done, I know for a fact that Scott and Clay went far beyond normal expectations when they sold iFrogz for $105 million last year to ZAGG, a company that sells mobile device accessories. Scott told the students it was one of the most rewarding days of his life when, after they made the sale, they invited employees to one-on-one meetings so they could give them some unexpected bonus checks. They apply this principle when it comes to the companies in China they work with to manufacture their products by treating them as partners and insisting on paying them a fair amount for the work they do. This kind of philosophy breeds a sense of fierce loyalty.

• They wanted the students to understand that becoming a successful entrepreneur doesn’t come without sacrifices and long hours. Clay told of a stage early on when the first wristband company they founded in 2004, Reminderband, was taking off so fast that, in order to keep up with demand, they had to go out in temperatures of 15 degrees below zero, in the middle of the night, to a car wash to spray off and clean the bands they had received from China to prepare them so they could be customized. At one point the demand for the product was so high that they had to work 20 hours a day and sleep at the office because they were so overwhelmed with orders, Clay said.

• If you want to take advantage of opportunities, sometimes there is little time for market research. They did their homework but seemed to have a real bias for action and pattern of looking ahead and preparing for market changes. When sales at Reminderband started to slow they were already working on the idea that became iFrogz. That transition was facilitated by the fact that they had developed trusted business partners who could help them innovate and expand into a totally new market. (Clay still leads Reminderband. It was not part of the sale.)

It’s pretty difficult in a short blog posting to capture a remarkable success story like the one that Clay and Scott told. I would recommend, instead, that you see if for yourself. You’ll find yourself laughing at their stories and being impressed by their character. Actually, in Scott’s case you’ll discover that he actually is a character. It’s probably one of the best campus presentations on entrepreneurship that you’ll ever take in. See it yourself by clicking here.

- Steve Eaton

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