In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Michael Mogan where we talked about his work as a PE, his educational background, his latest creation known as e-Beach Wagon, his work with Gembah in designing the wagon, his strategic marketing and advertising plan, and his advice for young entrepreneurs. The original article can be found here.
The Creative Spotlight: What made you decide to set up a business model like e-Beach Wagon and embark on your career choice as an entrepreneur?
Michael Mogan: I’ve come up with decent ideas in the past, but I’ve only seriously pursued a few. This idea solves a common problem, appeals to a broader market, and applies to parents trying to simplify life with kids. People will do almost anything to make raising kids easier.
When doing research, we found there was only one competitor in this space. We didn’t know about the product until we dug deep, so we felt by doing a better job with the marketing, we could boost sales easily. Also, we felt the price point of the competition was too high and we could develop a better, less expensive alternative.
It also helped that I received my wife’s blessing to pursue this opportunity. Tara is a marketing expert, so with her support, we can make this thing take off. We make a good team. I’m the engineer that determines the design and logistics, and she’s the marketing guru that gets the word out there.
TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Michael Mogan, please share with us your education, certifications, training, and/or additional qualifications that you possess?
MM: I graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 2001. Since then, I’ve been working in the transportation industry as a highway engineer, project manager, and business line manager. I am a licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Civil engineering is not related to product development; however, some skills are transferrable, like how to read plans and understanding facets of design like computer-aided drafting (CAD).
I’ve had lots of ideas throughout my life and have always wanted to develop a successful product. I was recently successful in obtaining a utility patent for a new beverage can insulator. Although it has not paid off financially yet, I learned quite a bit about the patent process that is applicable for e-Beach Wagon. I was also exposed to manufacturing overseas and logistics to get the product delivered.
I also watch quite a bit of Shark Tank, which is educational. I understand what investors are looking for and what it takes to make a product a success. Translating that into a reality is where the challenge lies, which is what we are perfecting now.
TCS: Describe for us what you think makes e-Beach Wagon the best beach wagon on the market?
MM: One obvious thing that sets us apart from most other wagons is that it’s a self-propelled wagon powered by a 24-volt motor. You press down on the thumb throttle and the wagon moves itself, so it’s effortless to pull over 300 pounds of gear across the sand. There is only one other known competitor that provides a similar product called the SandHopper. These types of wagons are in a league of their own and are intended for the avid beachgoers that regularly carry lots of gear to the beach. If you’ve pulled a regular wagon or beach cart, you know the feeling of dragging your gear across the thick sand. Once you try e-Beach Wagon, you’ll never want to go back to the old wagon.
When compared to the SandHopper, e-Beach Wagon is clearly the better choice. e-Beach Wagon has eight built-in pole holders for your beach umbrella, flagpole, or fishing rods. SandHopper charges an additional $100 for one pole holder accessory. e-Beach Wagon comes with tall railings and dual USB charging ports standard. SandHopper charges an additional $200 for tall railings and $100 additional for USB charging ports. e-Beach Wagon has a removable plastic wagon bed for easy cleaning; SandHopper doesn’t. e-Beach Wagon has an enclosed electrical and mechanical compartment; SandHopper doesn’t. For the price of a SandHopper with all the features that come standard on e-Beach Wagon, you’ll save over $600 with us. Plus, compare the look of the two wagons and decide for yourself which is the more attractive design. We think it’s pretty clear.
TCS: Tell us a little about how you decided to hire Gembah in November of 2020 and describe how they specifically help you with e-Beach Wagon?
MM: We solicited about five product development companies to help us through the process. While Gembah was not the least expensive, they provided the best proposal that laid out all the steps of the design process, and their price included all design phases. Other companies only provided the preliminary design costs, so the final design was a big unknown. They clearly understood the product I was trying to develop and had good thoughts on how to complete a quality design cost-effectively.
Gembah is a product development company that specializes in product sourcing and manufacturing oversight. They enlisted the support of Spline Product Development that led to the actual design of the wagon. We had a kick-off meeting where I shared my ideas on the functionality of the wagon and Spline came up with a great-looking design that accomplished everything we needed. Spline then created the prototype, which is the wagon that you see in all the marketing materials.
Gembah then sent a request for proposals out to their network of manufacturers overseas to bid on the manufacturing of the product. Gembah is currently helping us through the sampling phase to have a factory produce a “golden sample”, which is the perfect sample that will be duplicated by the factory in mass production. Gembah will provide quality assurance and quality control during manufacturing to ensure the factory delivers a quality product. They are also able to assist with other steps along the way like logistics if needed.
TCS: Tell us how the beach wagon is ideal for young family excursions?
MM: Families with young children carry a lot of gear and the kids are just too young to pitch in. Most manual carts and wagons can’t carry everything that you need on the beach, or to the park, or at the zoo. e-Beach Wagon is great for wherever you take the kids. It not only carries your gear, but the kids love riding in it too. The wagon works on any surface, so while it’s great through the thick sand, it’s just as good over grass, blacktop, gravel, dirt, mud, etc.
TCS: When someone places an e-Beach Wagon order what is the expected turnaround time?
MM: We are currently accepting pre-sale deposits on our website at e-BeachWagon.com. Special offers will be provided to those who sign up for the mailing list. Wagons will be shipped in the order the deposits were received. We are still in the process of confirming the shipping schedule; however, we are expecting the first container to arrive in May 2022. Status updates will be provided to customers who order a wagon, and anyone can request a refund at any time. However, you will lose your place in line if you request a deposit refund. Since we will have limited inventory initially, we anticipate it will take a little while for the supply to catch up to the demand. The sooner you make a deposit, the sooner you will receive your wagon. It’s worth the wait!
TCS: With the max weight capacity of e-Beach Wagon holding over 300 pounds, the uses for the beach wagon are endless. What feedback have you received from customers?
MM: We haven’t delivered any wagons yet, but we have received lots of positive feedback from people on the beach that have seen e-Beach Wagon. Many people notice the cool-looking wagon and ask where we got it. When we tell them it’s our prototype and it’s electric, they are shocked. Most people have never seen an electric beach wagon before. When we explain the features, they’re very interested in purchasing one for themselves. Some people have even made good suggestions for different uses or accessories. For instance, someone recommended providing a chair attachment to transport mobility-impaired people. This will be one of the first accessories we will work on once we get the product out there. There are countless accessories we can provide to improve the beach experience for different folks. We are looking forward to the opportunity to make that happen.
TCS: I love the fact that the battery-charged wagon offers you a way to keep your electronics charged while out on the sand. How did you come up with such an awesome idea?
MM: This was one of the first features we discussed with the product development team. It comes standard on our wagon. Have you ever been to the beach and your phone or speaker dies? We have and that’s why we wanted the capability to charge your devices. The wagon comes with two 12-volt, 22 amp-hour sealed lead-acid batteries. The 22 amp-hour is like the Energizer Bunny on steroids. We’ve run that wagon up and down the beach for miles and have yet to kill the batteries in one charge. There is plenty of juice in those batteries to charge lots of devices. We even bought a battery-powered blender to make frozen drinks on the beach. So, we can keep the drinks flowing thanks to the wagon’s battery power. The applications are endless.
TCS: Can you briefly describe e-Beach Wagon’s strategic marketing and advertising plan?
MM: Right now, our focus is getting the word out. Build the brand and increase awareness. We know our demographic. We know which beach towns to target. And we know which marketing channels to leverage. Not only are we marketing to consumers but also businesses that rent beach equipment, as well as ocean-front resorts and hotels. We’ve currently launched grassroots initiatives such as door hangers, word-of-mouth referrals through community groups, and social media promotions. Digital initiatives are being developed as well.
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TCS: Do you have a personal or professional mantra? If so, what meaning does it have for you, and how does it apply to your life choices?
MM: For sure, “Work smarter, not harder.” I’m always looking for ways to get things done with less work. I have a couple of DIY YouTube videos that provide a better way of doing things. My “How to Demo a Mud Wall” video (https://youtu.be/tI9LbrEUM1c) has saved many headaches. I enjoy problem-solving. If there’s a better way to get something done, I’ll try figuring it out. That’s one thing that makes me a good engineer. I wasn’t the first one to develop an electric beach wagon, but I developed a better product.
MM: One of my greatest achievements as an entrepreneur was getting a utility patent for CustACan, my beverage can insulator invention that slides over the top of a can and covers the entire can label. I came up with the idea about 25 years ago but didn’t start pursuing it until 2015. I originally tried submitting my own patent application. When the patent office reviewed the application, they recommended that I get the help of a patent attorney, so I let that application expire and enlisted the help of a patent attorney. Six years after I began the process, I was issued a utility patent for my invention. It was a learning process, but my persistence paid off.
TCS: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
MM: Be persistent, never give up on your dreams, and partner with others that are good at what you’re not. I went to school to be a Civil Engineer and I’ve been doing highway design for over 20 years. I was never totally happy because my creative urge was never satisfied. I wanted to use my creativity to design a product that was helpful to many people. I’ve tried in the past to design a product that didn’t take off. I could have given up and stuck with civil engineering, but I persisted and kept working toward my dream. Eventually, I came up with another great idea and worked hard to make that a reality. Starting a company while working a full-time job with two kids isn’t easy. If you’re persistent and don’t give up, it will happen.
Partnering with others that are good at what you’re not is extremely important in being successful. You’re not going to be able to do everything yourself. I came up with a good idea, but I couldn’t have completed the detailed design and then sourced the manufacturers to build it. I partnered with Gembah, and they enlisted Spline Product Development to complete the detailed design. Gembah is overseeing the sourcing and manufacturing so that I receive a quality product ready to distribute to my customers. Thankfully I married a very talented marketing guru, so Tara is leading the marketing and doing a great job getting the word out. I couldn’t do these things on my own, so it’s necessary to partner with others to reach your dreams.
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