DALLAS — For some entrepreneurs, raising capital from investors is necessary for growth. As such, there were eight sessions during Dallas Startup Week over the past five days featuring advice for those needing to finance their company.
However, others figure out a way to attract users and make money without investment — bootstrapping, as it’s known in the startup world — and two guys from Dallas have demonstrated this method in a unique way for the past four months.
Kyle Taylor and Eric Swayne are the men behind DrawAttention, a new company that manufacturers laptop lid stickers that double as whiteboards. The idea is to let people use the outside of their laptops and tablets to express themselves — be it a Twitter handle, a job description, a favorite quote, your current mood, etc. — and have the ability to replace the “art” whenever necessary.
“I like going to coffee shops, and I’m always interested in what people are working on,” Taylor explained. “But I don’t want to be that creepy guy that’s like, ‘Hey man, what are you doing?’ So, I thought it’d be great if I could put a whiteboard on my laptop.”
“People went nuts,” Taylor said.
Michael Sitarzewski, a co-organizer for Dallas Startup Week, told Taylor he needed to start selling these new laptop whiteboards as soon as possible.
Taylor, a startup evangelist in Dallas and software developer, spent the next day setting up an e-commerce site. He paid $13 for the DrawAttention.co domain, and reached out to Swayne for some help writing content.
“I remember my wife texting me that day, telling me to take it easy and do laundry or watch TV,” Taylor recalled. “I texted her back, ‘Sorry babe — I kind of got to go build a company today.'”
Thus, DrawAttention was born with a $13 investment. The whiteboards, which are all printed from Taylor’s apartment, were posted to sites like Reddit and ProductHunt, and soon later orders began pouring in.
To date, Taylor and Swayne have sold more than 1,100 units and brought in $10,000 — all with little-to-no marketing. Up until last month, DrawAttention was nothing more than an experiment for them. They are somewhat dumbfounded with the initial sales, which have come from places like Rwanda, Kazakhstan, and Germany.
“If you look at our Slack chats, the word used most often is ‘what,'” Swayne said. “We’re doing what? We what? We’re shipping to what?”
But both understand why people have gravitated toward the product.
“It’s not just slapping a sticker on your laptop,” Taylor said. “It’s in your own handwriting. It has personality to it.”
The founders also hope that their success shows other entrepreneurs that you can build a product and turn revenue without raising a dime — as long as you put in the work, focus on customer service, and have some good timing.
“We did this with nothing,” Taylor said. “It’s a testament to the fact that anyone can do this. It just takes a little ingenuity and a bit of luck.”
Taylor, who wants to see DrawAttention whiteboards “in every coffee shop, co-working space, and incubator across the country,” noted that he’s committed to continue building the company because of the amazing response he’s seen from customers.
“Entrepreneurs should build something people love and enjoy — that’s definitely my takeaway from all this,” he said.
Both Taylor and Swayne plan on keeping their full-time jobs for now. If sales start taking off this year — the entrepreneurs have plans to target tradeshows, hackathons, schools, Startup Weekend events, and more — then the workload could get even more crazy than it is now.
But that bridge will be crossed when the time comes — for now, Taylor and Swayne are focusing on delighting their users.
“We still don’t know all the answers,” Swayne said. “But we’re trying to make the customers happy first — then, we’ll figure the rest of it out.”