Entrepreneur Interview: Dan of SuperiorTitanium.com

A few months ago, Dan of SuperiorTitanium.com approached me about advertising rates for his website selling titanium money clips. Although money clips are somewhat financially related, I thought it would be an even better fit to do an interview with him in exchange for some publicity. (No money changed hands at all.)

I’m always interested in the what I call micro-businesses run by one or two people, especially those selling physical products. Mainly, this is because I’ve always been turned off by selling physical goods, and have preferred to make money by either selling advertising online or by performing services. Let’s get to the interview:

Where did you get the idea to sell titanium money clips? Why titanium?

I’m an mechanical engineer and I’ve always had an interest in all things mechanical. Titanium itself is a very interesting metal, especially; since it is never found in it’s pure form and is basically a black sand prior to processing. To me it is pretty amazing that we even have titanium as a metal now and it was truly a major feat of engineering to get the process for refining titanium figured out.

I used to carry a leather wallet around, but it was pretty bulky and uncomfortable to have in my pocket all the time. I decided to make a money clip out of titanium, since it is very springy and will not fatigue and break over time like steel will. Titanium also allows the money clip to hold more and still spring back to its original form allowing me to hold my bills and credit cards along with my drivers license! The money clip worked very well for me and my friends liked it and they bought some.

I decided to try and sell them online with a very basic website and using Paypal to accept payments. I tried some advertising with Google Adwords to get traffic to the site and happily people purchased the titanium money clips and there were repeat buyers who were buying them for their friends. This inspired me to keep selling them and to not only improve on the design, but to add in different variations to suit different tastes. Of course sales were very few at first, but I stuck it out and it has paid off in the long run.

Your site looks very professional. Did you design it yourself or hire somebody?

The current website is designed by a very capable website design company and represents A LOT of work over time by myself and the designers. It was very important to find a company who was very good to work and fast to respond to questions, etc.

Is this your first online business?

This is my first online business although it is the 4th website design. I have a lot of different ideas, but I’m trying to stay focused in order to really build the business and not get spread too thin.

How long have you been running this site? Do you have others?

This site has been running for about 5 years now and although I’ve had many other product ideas I’m sticking to this one for now. My other ideas would require new websites, so there will likely be more sites in the next year or two.

Is this your full-time job? How many hours a week does it take to maintain and run?

It’s not a full time job and is run on 10 to 15 hours per week (with help), although the more time spent promoting the website the better the sales are, so I usually spend more time than that.

Do you dropship or do you hold your own inventory?

We manufacture our own money clips and hold lots of inventory, since everything is now made in batches for efficiency. This allows us to tightly control quality, delivery and all aspects of the business. I believe this is key to a strong business and quality products.

Can you give a range into the gross annual income of your website? (Ex. $1,000-$10000 or $10k-$50k or $50-$200k)

(declined to answer)

What has been the most difficult challenge in your venture?

The biggest challenge has been making people aware of the existence of titanium money clips and the benefits over traditional money clips and wallets.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business selling consumer products online?

Do something you love to do because it will take passion to make your business a success and it is true that it doesn’t really feel like work (well 90% of the time it doesn’t!). You will also need to accept that it will take a long time to make money especially if you have a new product that people are not aware of. The money will come, but you will need patience and determination.

Any other tips?

Listen to your customers, since they are the ones who are putting/keeping you in business. I always try to be fair and reasonable because every satisfied customer is like a sales person out there and over time it is a powerful force working in your favor.

– end of interview –

Recap
I want to thank Dan for the interview. Here are the main take-aways for me:

  1. Had an idea within personal sphere of expertise (mechanical engineering), and made a prototype.
  2. Tried selling to friends first, then expanded.
  3. Keeps trying to improve website.
  4. Make product himself, and controls inventory directly.
  5. Not a full time job.
  6. Most time is now spent on marketing, not product development.

Now that I write this, I have some additional follow-up questions like what shopping cart backend software he uses. If you have some questions as well, please leave them in the comments and I’ll try to get them answered if they aren’t trade secrets. I haven’t had a chance to try out the product myself yet, but be on the look out for an upcoming titanium money clip giveaway. :)

If you liked this entrepreneur interview, also check out this interview with Dennis of OneGreekStore, a custom apparel store for the college Greek community. Finally, if you’re an entrepreneur with a unique story and would like to be interviewed here as well, please feel free to contact me.

Comments

  1. I’m guessing your interview was done over the phone or email rather than a face to face? If it was in-person shame on Dan for not bringing his product for you to have and give a hands-on review.

    Interesting little business that can generate some revenue and little cost to start and maintain.

    How much is upkeep of the site and what does the webdisgners charge to be on call for any tech problems.

    Curious on what shopcart software he uses and how he excepts payment. Does he charge shipping.

    How many people are involved in the business? Does he pay employees or purchases the matrials and produces himself?

    Whats the comapnies mission statement.

  2. This was great. Would love to see more of this type of thing and it’s great advertisement for the business as well.

    Now, if there were some way to tie it into a subject heading that might be searched on Google or on your blog in the future, that would mean that this would come up again and again, giving the interviewee future promotion as well.

  3. acoward says:

    $25 for a money clip?!?!?!
    Not exactly a frugal purchase…

  4. Thanks for this interview. Now I know what to get my dad for his birthday!

  5. Hello NY,

    The interview was not in person. If it was in person, you can bet I’d have brought Jonathan some titanium money clips in addition to the black diamond money clip that I use to carry my cash and cards! I’ve been wallet free for over 5 years now and loving it!

    We discussed doing some sort of titanium money clip give-away in the near future, so keep an on mymoneyblog.com.

    Sounds like there are a lot of questions so far, so I’ll work with Jonathan on a potential follow-up.

    Best regards,
    Dan

  6. He mentioned that this isn’t a full-time job…Does he have a full-time job elsewhere. If so, what sort of product(s) does he engineer by day? (I assume he engineers with a degree in mechanical engineering…)

    Thanks for sharing the interview with us!

  7. I spy SEO in that interview!

    Interesting nonetheless. I used to enjoy a money clip until the spring sprung right after college. Now that I’ve been out of college for a few years, I’ve got a fat wallet. That is also thanks to the swiss army credit cards. Dang those rewards!

  8. I agree, a money clip evaluation should have been better. But I was more interested about the mechanics and history of the business as opposed to reviewing the actual product.

    I’ll work on getting a follow-up done with my own pictures. Keep the questions coming!

    Tim – I think he is a mechanical engineer as a full-time job.

  9. I noticed that SuperiorTitanium.com website includes Adsense ads.

    I guess Dan must find these ads worthwhile, but I always wonder if this hurts the image of an online store since trust seems to be so important.

  10. Great website! Thanks for the info!

  11. Great interview! I love reading about other small-shop entrepreneurs getting into the online business.

    I would suggest Dan use some type of freebie giveaway to capture email and educate customers on titanium specifically. I know I didn’t have a clue about it before reading this interview.

  12. What a great implementation of his ideas. I have mainly worked service based models, but have been mulling over how to create a stream of recurring revenue that could eventually support retirement… physical goods have always seemed more conducive to that goal.

  13. For the last few years I’ve carried a money clip for bills and a credit card holder for credit cards, driver’s license, etc. Together they are much thinner than carrying a wallet and fit into my front pocket with ease. My money clip wouldn’t hold cards very well, so I may purchase one of these to further simplify my setup.

    I also noticed the AdSense ads on the site. I wouldn’t be worried about hurting the image of his store so much as losing a potential customer to another store. I’m sure the profit margin on a sale is much greater than the profit of an AdSense click.

    Overall, very nice product and sleek site. I hope it continues to do well! :)

  14. I like the idea of a money clip they force you “clean house” so to speak because it limits what you can carry. I had a clip before and really liked it, but it wore out and broke. If these last longer than a steel clip I think $25 would be worth it.

  15. excellent interview. lots of good info for budding entrepreneurs.

    does he outsource the manufacturing or does it himself. are any special equipment required?

  16. I love this post. It was very interesting reading about the clip and especially the business behind it. Very informative, and anyone studying the Superior Titanium website and business model will learn enough to start their own venture.

    And Dan is right: titanium is a fascinating metal….I am a machinist by trade and creating parts out of it is fun. Titanium shavings are flammable and I’ve had a couple of nice fires in my CNC equipment!

  17. You know, after going through some entrepreneurial resources and sites, I came across the Spirus Group (http://www.spirusgroup.com/), and they seem to have found a solution to many of the classic problems faced by would-be entrepreneurs. Specifically, they help you do all the initial development work for your company while you are still at your current job (business plan, hiring, real estate planning, suppliers, etc.) Seems like the right approach to give a business idea a chance to succeed while keeping the risk relatively low. It looks like they can also help with fundraising and a few other things. Worth checking out.

  18. Just don’t buy the titanium nitride coated one. I got one and the coating was defective. There was very apparent discoloration. Here are some pictures of what I’m talking about

    https://picasaweb.google.com/100582366325924501534/Moneyclip?authkey=Gv1sRgCKe8vZXX9ej1KQ

    The darker tones on the golden finish is not supposed to be there. Also, the inside of the clip isn’t coated very well either. I’m trying to get a refund for a week, but have been getting the run-around, I’ve been talking to Dan…fairly disappointed for a $39.99 USD purchase. Let’s see if the refund process is fruitful.

    I also got their koolstof carbon fiber money clip. That one is a keeper!

  19. Following up on my previous post:

    It turned out that Dan (of Superior Titanium) and I had a misunderstanding. He sent me a few emails this morning explaining the situation. He meant to offer me a replacement titanium money clip for free and have me keep the original defective one. I misunderstood his intentions because his original emails were confusing.

    I’m glad we finally figured this out. I opted for a full refund instead, because I have already purchased their Koolstof carbon fiber money clip to replace the defective one. The picasa album link above has an updated photo of the two money clips together. The carbon fiber one my EDC now. The only thing I’ve noticed on the carbon fiber clip is that the resin surface is easily scratched, but this was expected. It still looks good and is super lightweight.

    Dan said he would issue the refund today. I’ll keep you updated on the process. Thanks, Dan.

  20. Wow. Its a crazy to hear anyone talk good about this site, product and service. Recently I “attempted” to purchase a money clip from ST. I had issues right off the bat with communication, so I sent an email to acquire order confirmation and shipping information. What did I get back with out any attempt to resolve the issue….? A full refund. I never asked for a refund, just wanted to know the status of my order. This business is a joke, come on, the guy just does this on the side. I recommend future customers go elsewhere.

  21. This is an adequate product but the customer service just is not there. Most notably is the shipping timeline and overall inability to deliver on time. Would not recommend but.

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