Imagine being a minor league baseball player, seeing someone cut the bottom off a bat, and thinking “I could make a company out of that!” Welcome to the epic story behind “Dugout Mugs.” Entrepreneur, or ever wanted to be one? You’ll want to listen to this episode

“You know what people want because at the end of the day.. without the customers a company is nothing. We’re a great company because of the tribe that we’ve built around us”

– Kris Denhert


Hey guys, we are live on July 15, 2020! Welcome to another episode of 20 minutes in lockdown. Hope you guys are having a good day, wherever you are. Hope you’re wearing a damn mask. It’s not that hard. And everyone has someone said, why don’t you tell political? Bitch, if you think, yeah. I’m asking you to wear a mask is political, you got much, much bigger problems, so, right. Okay. So Chris, instead of tier and Randall T is joining the stream, there he is. There’s random. Yeah. Walking all around looking good. How are you, man?

Good to see you. Good to see you. Awesome. So welcome to 20 minutes in lockdown, both of you. And so my audience welcome as well.

You guys did something really cool when, when you were brought to my attention, I’m like, thanks. That’s a smart idea. I love it. So tell us, so, so Doug, tell us about how it came up because you know, I, I I’ve played baseball occasionally. Not, not very well, mostly softball, mostly as a catcher cause I don’t run. But tell me about, um, tell me about how you guys came up with the concept of, you know, you look at a baseball bat and said, Hey, I can drink out of this.

Yeah. Uh, 20, 2014, uh, around, around this time in 2014, um, I was coaching college baseball and the hitting coach at the, at the school that I was coaching was cutting baseball bats and half with a handsaw. Uh, he was creating some sort of training tool for his headers. And there was a bunch of loose VAT barrels just sitting around in the dugout. And I took a look at it and kind of examined it and just had a light bulb moment that you can probably drill it out and drink from it.

Awesome. And was it, is it because you were in college and you’re like, Hey, I need something to hold my beer or was it. No training, you know, teaching.

Yeah. It was a, it was a few years after I got out of college. Um, no, I don’t know. I D I, I don’t, I don’t say that in a bad way. I mean, I think beer is a good thing.

Yeah, no, I, uh, you know, there was no real thought behind it. It was just, uh, just kind of a light bulb moment and, um, uh, an idea that just hit me. Uh, I, I guess I don’t really, uh, when I trace back the steps of things, I didn’t really put much thought into it, other than it just kinda popped up in my head.

Those are the best kind of ideas though. I find that that when you create something that you’re like, man, I should do this right. Most the problem is, is that 99% of the time, is that correct out or that never make it don’t make it because they’re not necessarily bad ideas. Some are, but the majority of ideas that don’t succeed, usually don’t succeed because people didn’t act on it. Right. They say, Oh, that’ll never work. Or you know that no one will ever buy that or I’m sure it’s been done. Right. And yet, you know, you find out like something like this, it hasn’t. So, so talk about the process of how you said, okay, this thing is going to do yet in terms of going to a company, because this seems like the kind of thing that is you live and die with partnerships, you live in die with brand, um, you know, being able to go to the, the teams and say, Hey, we’re doing this and things like that. Is that difficult and we’ll get, we’ll get to doing that in a COVID-19 environment. But you know, prior to that, when you started out, what was your, what was your concept? Like, we’re just going to go to the teams and ask them if we can license it?

Um, I’ll jump in on that one. I mean, uh, I, I figured we’d get aggressive, right? So Randall had come up with the idea and we proved the concept internally. And all I did was. You know, we were like, Hey, let’s make a case study of ourselves. And, and all the people that really like and use our product and we just reverse engineered it. So we created so much buzz about what we were doing, that we then took that information to the license and said, Hey, listen, you guys are leaving a lot of money on the table. You should let us put, we started with the MLB PA. Uh, Tim over there has been an awesome guy to work with, you know- um, so we started there and we, we crushed and immediately we took our information over to um, MLB and they said, yeah, we’re good. We don’t need any more drink where I said, well, check out our numbers with the PA and, you know, let, let us know if you change your mind. And it’s, so again, that’s kind of how we went after it. Um, we have never doubted ourselves on our ability to move this product and we just positioned it in a way that these other, uh, licensee or, you know, the licensed stores and brands and teams, um, You know, they had, it was almost like, do you want it? Or it was more like, how can you not have this?

I see them behind you. Can you hold it up so that it should show the viewers what, what we’re looking at? So basically

We’ll go with Mariano Rivera. I’m a Mets fan, but it’s okay. I’ve learned, I’ve learned, I’ve learned the seven line army man. Those guys are great.  you know, you know, there’s cool. But, uh, so it’s uh, wait, where are we at? Yeah, hollow out the barrel of a baseball bat and it sits up, you know, and it’s 12 ounces of awesomeness and a lot of them, uh, people like, Oh, I don’t drink or I won’t use it. So, you know, we had a lot of people, autograph them, all. These are autographed in the back, big poppy, Nolan, Ryan, you know, guys like that. So they’re a really cool. Piece for, um, a desk or an office or a gift or something like that. So it’s, it’s, it’s a cup for sure and it’s practical for sure. You can throw it in your pocket and take it to a tailgate all day long, but it’s kind of multifaceted and what people can do with them, which is, I think part of the reason we were able to grow, like we have to, because it’s great as an anniversary gift, I think it’s five years as wood. So it’s a great anniversary gift. It’s a great, it’s a great office gift, things like that.

What is it like? I mean, so, so when you came up with the concept, you started selling them, you know, you’re in an industry where there, if you want it, you can buy it. You know, if you want to put a logo on it, you can buy it. Right. I mean, I even in collegiate sports, I mean the amount of stuff I have from my alma mater BU, you know, my kid was in a BU uh, you know, before she could talk, right. . There’s nothing out there you can’t buy. So what did you do? Cause there are a lot of entrepreneurs watching. What did you do to sort of differentiate yourself and say, Hey, this isn’t just like a tumbler. This isn’t just a mug. This isn’t just a coffee cup. You know, things like that because I’m guessing until you sort of making the connection to people realizing the value of the product you had to sell it, you had to go in and pitch it. Right. So what were you doing that made people look at you differently? Or what were you saying? How are you capturing their attention when they’re swamped by, you know, 50,000, uh, sales guys trying to sell, obviously not the same thing, but trying to sell their product.

You want me to handle that around and you want to, uh, I can, I can touch on it.  before we even got together a handful of them. Yeah. I think, I think ultimately, um, I guess what I can, I can’t speak of selling any other product, uh, but it’s been you’re right. We just have to share it with people. People want to be part of it. Um, we call it the dugout mug effect. I don’t know if there’s any sort of logical reason behind it, other than y’know, I think the market just tells people pretty quickly whether it’s gonna work or it’s not gonna work. Uh, when Chris and I first linked up, uh, there was early signs that it, that it was gonna work. Um, Chris had an understanding of, uh, how to make things work in a much bigger level. Um, but I think if it works on the micro small, smaller level, uh, if you keep replicating what, what you’re doing, but just at a larger scale, it it’s just going to work. So, uh, I don’t know. I think just sharing it, getting enough people to know about it is really, and then the market will tell you exactly whether it’s gonna work or not.

What are your, what are the, um, how are you advertising it? How are you promoting it currently?

Facebook Instagram, Pinterest, Google. Yeah. And then, I mean, we are, uh, you know, we’re currently in about 110 different locations, um, major league stadiums, minor league stadiums, unfortunately what’s going on with all that, but, um, but major, minor league stadiums for sure. Uh, we’ve we’ve, you know, linked it up, uh, back when, you know, signer spores, we briefly talked about that, he’s up to your brand is great dude, uh, Steiner, rally house Olympia Hi-V um, so there’s a lot of groups that own that, that, um, sell our product and resell our product as well. So, yeah, there’s a lot, a lot of penetration that way as well, but I mean, our bread and butter is, is online marketing. Cause that’s just what we’re good at.

And um, so you’re doing, you’re doing Google ads, Facebook ads, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, things like that. What is your, what’s your best outlet? Would you say? It’s Instagram. Facebook?

Facebook. Yeah. So Facebook is as the product or Facebook is the company with Instagram and everything underneath it. Uh, Facebook and, uh, Facebook, yeah, Facebook, it’s our demo,

Like sport, the sporting groups on there, baseball groups, things like that?

Yeah. And we’re at a, we’re at a certain level now that we can take our customer list and create, look alike audiences and, uh, it, it taps into audiences that you otherwise wouldn’t get to with these kind of standard. Facebook groups.

A lot of people don’t realize the power of the lookalike audience. That’s probably one of the, of all the horrible things. Basically it’s done. That’s probably one of the least horrible things that Facebook has done in the respect that they created this tool that allows you to see, take your audience demographics, and basically build that out. So if you have an audience of, if you have an email list of 20,000 people who like baseball, they’ll give you another 200,000 who have those same demographics and that’s huge. Are you, um, are you learning from your customers? One of the things that, so I talk on the customer experience a lot. I go on TV a lot about that night. I speak on that. And one of the things that, um, I try to teach my clients is that, you know, if you listen to your audience, you can take the time, hear what they say, you know, uh, take their feedback and take their advice. I mean, there’s not much you can do with the multiples in that regard, but I’m assuming they’re giving you, you know, have they, do they email you and say, Hey, what if we did? You know, what, if you did this, what if you started getting, you know, I want this person’s signature on a mug or whatever, and what’s your audience interaction like.

Well, I can, I can say that, uh, this year and just about every year, um, before now we’ve been extremely passionate about customer service and customer experience, um, from offering lifetime guarantees on our products all the way up, you know, just everything in between. We’ve sent out surveys to our group. Where did you buy it? Why did you buy it? Who did you buy it for? What’d you get it again? Was it too expensive or not; and it’s really allowed us to kind of dial in what, um, You know what people want because at the end of the day, you know, without the customers, accompany is nothing. We’re a, we’re a great, we’re a great company because of the tribe that we’ve built around us. I think in addition to that, Chris and I have spent a lot of time under a tent in the early stages of this, of this company, selling mugs to people at 10 or at a baseball tournament. And we 100% sit there and we listen to what they say and, uh, there’s a common theme that shows up in their objections or their, their, their questions. And we’ve designed things from marketing to imagery, um, that speaks to those objections to help with our conversion rate.

What kind of objections do you get? Like what were, what were people, what were people hating about it?

Uh, I guess more so confusion that never seen the product before. Not really quite under understanding what’s going on with it. Uh, can I actually pour something into it? Can I actually, can I actually drink from it? Does the, does the bottle go into the mug the most expensive wooden Cousy? Right.

So what is, what do you think, or why do you think I should ask you? Cause you know, you’re, you’re in a customer facing business. Why do you think that so many businesses get customer service wrong?

I have a couple opinions on that. I mean, um, they’re, they’re too shortsighted in particular. I don’t think anybody’s focusing down the road far enough. Um, That’s certainly one of them, you know, it’s more about how can I get an extra $10 on a sale now. Right. Exactly. I get three additional sales after this and it’s, and it’s good to be transparent. You know, I don’t think they’re transparent. There’s too much. There’s too much bullshit in, in a lot of companies and they’re too busy trying to hide it. And the transparency, it becomes a secretive and. I don’t know. I, I believe that it’s a relationship, right? Honestly, um, we have a relationship with a lot of our clients. Um, there’s been times where things weren’t going right. Randall personally, or I have personally delivered mugs to another city across the state because it was for a wedding or something like that. Um, we do a lot of live, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re people behind a company. You know, the, the company is what we do; we still are who we are. And whether you were on this podcast or you meet me in the street or you see us at an event, like it’s the same guys, you know? So it’s a lot of consistency and transparency and I don’t think a lot of companies have the ability to do that or the personalities to do that. So I think they get a lot of customer service wrong and they hang onto the wrong people too long. I’m just, I’ve had a handful of different companies and yeah, one of the things I was taught a long time ago is. Uh, how, how costly it can be to hold onto the wrong person too long. And because people’s inability to hire and fire and ask the right questions and properly train you end up with half-ass employees and, you know, then that just rolls downhill. So those were a couple of thoughts.

That’s the Peter principle, the concept that every employee will rise to his or her highest level of, of, of, of, um, an opportunity, right? So they’ll, they’ll earn incompetence. They’ll get to as good as they can. And the companies make mistakes. Is they, when the person gets to the point. You know, he does a good job. He gets promoted. This is good job. He gets promoted. Does a good job, gets ready for promotion. He doesn’t do a good job. He’s doesn’t get demoted. He just sort of sits there. And that’s how bureaucracy forms. Yeah. Right. Cause now you have someone at that higher level who’s not working and no one bothers to say, Hey, you’re not doing this. You know, it might be time to put you down a bit. Yeah. Yeah.

So, um, all, so all the major teams, have you ever thought of him? We have MLB minor league hall of fame. And the MLB players association. So how many different, I guess, I guess how many different skews do you have, but how many, you know, you started with like one mug? How many mugs? What’s the word I’m trying to say. How many products are there now within the, within the business? You know what I mean?

I guess we have four major products, maybe five, um, and then we’re able to engrave or print on each one of these products. So there’s multiple skews, but there’s five major products. Uh, the dugout mug, the barrel, but baseball bat, drinking mug. The windup, which is a mini baseball bat, wine glass. I don’t have one. Oh, here it is. Uh, with mini baseball by wineglass, uh, the knob shot, which is a knob of a baseball bat, turned into a shot glass. And then, uh, the season opener, which is the handle of a baseball bat, turned into a bottle of parent. Um, yeah, and a, and a cutter. He took a baseball, cut it in half.

Where are you production facilities? Um, right here in winter Haven, um, that is where a majority of the manufacturing happens.

All right. Let’s turn to current events. How are you guys surviving through COVID both personally and in so far as the company?

Go ahead, Chris. Um, a lot of the inspiration, uh, you know, I think, I think, um, again, the company’s only going to be as strong as its people and, um, It’s it’s fans and customers so I think we’ve gone, we, we’ve agreed to double and triple down on, um, the picture and reminding people that like, this is just a hiccup, we’re going to do our thing where we practice all kinds of safety, um, uh, procedures at the warehouse. We actually hired eight people last month. Wow. So for the, for the rest of our team, everywhere they look and, and, and hear anything it’s it’s, you know, You know, negative in a lot of ways, especially if you turn on the TV, um. To see us grow, to see us exponentially grow, uh, you know, add 30% more staff. I mean, it’s really inspiring. Um, so there’s that. And then, you know, when, whenever all this first went down, there was a day, a single day that Randall and our like, Oh shit. What’s going on. We quickly down, we put our head together and I’ve always believed in thinking around the problem. So that’s what we did. We executed, um, we, we actually lined up about seven different sales strategies and ideas on how we can give back. Uh, we’ve worked with, uh, you know, the deal I got coming up with Mariano Rivera next week, um, raising money for charities and different events and things like that. And we just started executing in that way and, and we came to an agreement that if whatever we had to do as a company to sacrifice the company, to continue to grow our people take care of our customers, put product into the market, we would do that. So we were running a lot of, you know, 30%, um, you know, discounts and offers. Cause people need a break right now. So, you know, a lot of that kind of stuff is how is how we were able to kind of survive the, the, the lockdown and yeah. Um, you know, just keep people’s spirits up until baseball came back.

Which I hope is I hope, I hope to see myself at Shea sometime soon. It has, it has been way too long since, since I have been to a game and that that desperately needs to change. But, uh,

Awesome guys, thank you so much for taking the time. It’s it’s Right? [YES] And I strongly guys, I strongly recommend you go and check them out! This stuff is very, very cool. I’m, I’m ordering a few. I will, I will be. They make, I can imagine they make perfect birthday gifts. That’s just the easiest thing in the world.

We hooked you guys up too!.. Um, I didn’t.. I wanted to tell you live! So we did “lockdown30” is 30% off site wide!

Love it!!! So anybody, anybody in your tribe or that’s watching this, um, it will probably run it to the end of the month or the season opens up because then we gotta kind of reconfigure some things, but use “lockdown30” as a DISCOUNT CODE: LOCKDOWN30 Will save 30% off.

Wow, very cool!! I’m going to, I’m going to share that with my, uh, my email audience as well. Very, very cool guys. Thank you so much, Chris and Randall. I really appreciate you guys taking the time. Have a great day, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll have you guys back again once we come out of this nightmare.

All right. Cool. Awesome. Thank you. All right, you guys stay safe. Stay safe. Bye bye.

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