Family time is one of the most holistic and valuable investments you can make. Yet in the technology dominated world we live in, unless the activity can be done on an iPhone or can be accessed through an app it’s not likely your millennial will even notice. With summer just around the corner, this entrepreneur is capturing the attention of those millennials with Gold Rush Nugget Bucket, and he even got Robert Herjavec as a partner! Here’s what he did:
Jay: Since being on Shark Tank, your next job was to get your company to the next level. Since being on the show, what have you done to accomplish that?
Mark: One of the most challenging things for me, as it is for many small business owners, is how to market my business online. I knew how to make a product and make it well, but I needed support on marketing it. I reached out to a millennial I knew named David Hyslop who is online savvy, strategic, and has a good head on his shoulders. As a millennial, he is inherently “current” with today’s fast-moving digital world, which I see as a critical requirement for moving our business forward.
After several months of his consultation and seeing what he was doing for the company (and what I couldn’t), I hired him full-time as my Digital Marketing Manager. My theory was and still is this: Can I afford not to have a full-time expert in this area? The answer is I cannot. He now owns most of our marketing, branding and business development which in turn allows me time to focus on the financial side of the business.
His hire, along with the support of several companies that have helped get us to the next level, made it possible for us to get our camouflage kit into Sportsman’s Warehouse in 60 of their retail locations in the U.S. Sportsman’s is actually reordering the camouflage kits this week, which likely means great things for the future. We also recently secured a deal with Amazon Exclusives for us to provide a deluxe version of our kit through their storefront. I would say things are moving forward very well, but we still have a lot of work to do.
Jay: Why is Robert such a great fit?
Mark: I focused on Robert prior to going into the Shark Tank as he has a history of investing in fun outdoor products. He is also from Canada and a third of our sales are to Canadian buyers. For that reason, I thought he might have more of a connection than the other Sharks with our product. Robert also truly cares for his investments. When we secured the deal, I felt peace of mind being able to have my business associated with his brand. He and his team have given me great mentorship and opportunities that we’ve been able to make the most of, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with them. I’m also looking forward to reading his new book!
Jay: What’s the advantage of your product over other kid products in stores?
Mark: We market the Gold Rush Nugget Bucket as a new and fulfilling outdoor family experience as opposed to a standalone product. Getting kids away from “technology” is a founding principle for our company. A lot of people don’t know how to gold pan, and not only does our product make it easy, it makes it fun as well. The reviews we get from our customers speak about the quality of time they spend with their families and/or friends looking for gold and treasure. You may not find any gold with the Gold Rush Nugget Bucket, but you will certainly enjoy a shared experience worth remembering. That’s how we differentiate ourselves.
Jay: So many entrepreneurs struggle with failure. What’s your message to other young entrepreneurs out there struggling to build their success?
Mark: An entrepreneur must have a true mindset of believing his/her business will succeed in order not to struggle with the concept of failure. To achieve that level of confidence, an entrepreneur must know their product or service will actually sell and this can only be accomplished through extensive market research and analysis. The other critical part of achieving this mindset is being realistic in what your product or service will actually do. A realistic perspective of a product’s potential can allow an entrepreneur to scale their business effectively.
Jay: At what point do you know you’ve got a product that you can really start to sell and not just an idea?
Mark: As I mentioned, being real with the facts in the beginning stages is imperative for finding sustainable success. Before coming up with the idea for Gold Rush Nugget Bucket, I terminated more than 50 different ideas. I eliminated certain ideas because the market was too narrow, the idea was beyond my technical abilities, it wasn’t patentable, or the costs to produce exceeded that which an average buyer would be willing to pay. You may think you have a great idea for a product or service, but unless you understand your target market, costs, intellectual property rights, and profitability, you can easily set yourself up to fail.
Jay: What are the make it-break it conditions for moving forward? How do you know if it’s time to close up shop, or if you should continue following their dreams.
Mark: Building great relationships is the key to moving forward. Things can seem pretty gloomy at times, especially after running a business for a while without getting to that place you want to be. With that said, it’s so important to be action-oriented and always putting one foot in front of the other; especially during those gloomy times! And it’s during difficult times that you’ll need a great network to help get you through. We find a lot of our success through the support of other businesses. Revolution Design Group and FPW Media, both local businesses here in Eugene, OR, have helped us tremendously with our website and promotional materials. Working with a company like Deluxe Corp, a referral from Robert that specializes in helping small businesses like ours, helped put us in a position to brand ourselves appropriately to get into small and big box retailers.
Jay: What were some of the key aspects you used when making your pitch to the Sharks, as well as to new consumers?
Mark: I was very nervous presenting my business in front of such successful entrepreneurs, and you never know which way the wind may blow once you’re up there. For that reason, I felt it was very important for me to simply be myself and be as transparent as possible. Fudging the numbers or my successes I knew would only come back and haunt me later. In fact, I actually down played some of my numbers during my pitch to the Sharks so that in any subsequent due diligence process of an agreement I look better than first appeared. I also understood that the Shark Tank show is two things; a real life, high-powered business pitch and a TV show that needs to be entertaining. With the latter in mind, I was quick on my feet to have fun and make my pitch as entertaining as possible.
Jay: What are some caution tips to be cognizant about when growing your business.
Mark: The finances of a new and growing business are where the most caution and care is needed. All too often, an entrepreneur needs to pull money out of a growing business to survive personally. This, as you can imagine, only limits a business’s growth potential. Worse yet, it is the leading cause for small business failures. A big part of my success is that I have owned a small mortgage company for the last 16 years and have been able to rely on that business for my personal financial needs. With that said, I believe the best way to start a new business is to do so while you are gainfully employed elsewhere, which allows you to reinvest 100% of the new business’s revenue back into itself. You will work evenings and weekends doing it this way, but fortune favors the bold and hard workers.
Mark Peterson is the founder of Gold Rush Nugget Bucket which he developed in 2011. While managing his business, Western Mortgage Brokers, Inc. in Eugene, Oregon. Mark was looking for an activity to get his two daughters out of the house and away from technology. After watching the Gold Rush television show, Mark rigged his own contraption with a couple of screens that fit atop of a 5-gallon bucket with a hole drilled in the bottom. Marks daughters excitedly scooped in dirt and poured in water with the allure of finding gold but ultimately had a blast just finding cool rocks for their rock polisher and some river polished glass nuggets. At that moment Mark realized this lightweight, self-contained gold panning kit had the makings of a commercially viable product. The hope is that the Gold Rush Nugget Bucket helps you and your family to enjoy the great outdoors in a new way, the same way it does for Mark and his own family.