On Entrepreneur Podcast Network: RJ Díaz, Industry Portage and Otaku Marketing OBSESSION

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to have my first podcast interview with Eric Dye from the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. I said ‘um’ a LOT. Yikes.

Regardless, I thought it went well and I’m proud of the results.

Here’s the podcast which went live this past week:

RJ Diaz, Founder and Creator of the e-commerce site IndustryPortage.com & Co-Founder of Otaku Marketing Obsession, a modern marketing consultancy that creates complete logo and branding packages, event planning, website development, and social media strategies for passionate small business owners joins Enterprise Radio.

Interview notes:

a. What inspired you to create your own bag label?

About three years ago, I became frustrated that I couldn’t find an affordable bag that was specific to my industry. I believed that the world was evolving into super-specific, niche products because of the reach of social media and the Internet.

As a construction executive with an education in architecture, I loved the idea of designing my ideal work, travel and lifestyle bags. After over 17 years in the construction industry I had purchased many briefcases and messenger bags that just didn’t do it for me.  I decided to design my own bags and start my own label.

Around this same time I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, which led to other books, such as Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity, Daymond John’s The Brand Within, Peter Sims Little Bets, and Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

These gave me the resources as well as the self-confidence to take risks and create business opportunities based on my passion for design.

b.      What were some of the challenges in starting your new company?

TIME, MONEY, AND RESOURCES

TIME

One of the most important things I learned in my reading was the power and efficiency of focus. It helps to be organized and set both short-range and long-range goals. With a young family, it was necessary to have the discipline of planning your work and staying focused on these goals on a daily basis.

MONEY

Early in the development of the bag label, I made the conscious decision that I would finance the company on my own.

Since I needed to develop prototypes for my bag designs, along with the graphic design, copywriting, photography, and web design work needed to establish the label, I knew it would be a challenge to execute high quality work with a limited budget.

I took on much of the work myself, but also found some excellent and inexpensive web coding and graphic design resources through sites like Elance.

RESOURCES

The other challenge was to find bag manufacturers willing to work with a startup that wanted limited production runs in order to avoid carrying large inventory ahead of test marketing my concept.

It took some time, but finally found a manufacturing partner overseas that was willing to work with me.  I’ve since found other resources here in the US that will be producing my line later in the year.

c.       How do you balance your work and your family life?

I’ve found a lot of value in two concepts, single-tasking and working like you are on vacation.

Single-tasking allows you to focus on small goals for prioritized activities, rather than trying to do many things at once.

Approaching your work like you are on vacation divides your day into two parts:

focused “must”activities

“fun” activities that still serve the overall goal of building your brand as well as spending time with your family.

I’ve found a tremendous value in having a virtual assistant, who I also found on Elance support me by taking on business administration tasks such as maintaining my contacts and email marketing lists.

d.      Is it really just about pursuing your passion?

I’m passionate about many things, so it was a matter of finding a business opportunity around some thing I would care deeply about.

I love the creative aspect involved in the design of bags, as well as the fact that they are functional items, much like architecture.

There is always some risk taking involved and I truly believe you need to follow your instincts when it comes to something you believe in.  Having a network of family, fiends, and peers that support your vision is also extremely valuable.

e.       How do you manage your social media channels?

I currently manage my own social media channels, which includes Facebook, several blogs about my bag label as well as my passion for architecture and construction, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

I do use a virtual assistant to help me make sure my posts are on all of my channels as well as keep me on schedule goals.

By using social media and my network, I was picked up by large subscriber sites like Thrillist and Fab as well as some great design blogs.

f.  What advice would you give to anyone looking to create their own business?

Network via LinkedIn and family and friends

Find and immerse yourself among a group of like minded individuals that will support you as well as challenge you to get better at your craft.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you respect and ask for their advice.  I was fortunate to find someone as generous as Chris Brogan who has become a mentor through our private conversations as well as his amazing blog and newsletter about business marketing and service craftsmanship. He’s very supportive of what I’ve created.

Be generous: Through a friend I met someone who also wanted to start an online business and shared my knowledge and experiences and continue to work with him on his launch.

Read: There are some great guides on starting your own business, such as Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup and Seth Godin’s podcast The Startup School. Podcasts have become one of my main sources of information and knowledge over this past year and I highly recommend using it to make the most of your down or commuting time.

Test: I also believe that testing your ideas early will give you a great sense of whether you need to make any changes to your service or product offering or simply create something different.

Duration: 17:53

RJ Díaz is a proud parent, husband, and graduate of Penn State University’s Integrative Arts program which focused on architectural design and history.  For the past 18 years, he has been a construction executive in New York City, working for both small firms as well as himself.  In addition to honing his organizational and project management skills, his work in the industry gave him an appreciation for great design and craftsmanship, as well as customer service.

In 2010, after crafting ideas ignited by books such as Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Work Week, Daymond John’s The Brand Within, Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non-Conformity and Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, RJ decided to design his own line of work, travel, and lifestyle bags that would be based on his years studying the art of architecture and managing craftsmen in construction. In October of 2011, on the same date shared by both his wedding anniversary and daughter’s birthday, RJ launched the e-commerce site IndustryPortage.com.  Although some of the designs are currently produced overseas, RJ is preparing to move all production to the US.  In addition to the limited production designs, RJ also designs one-off pieces using deconstructed and used suede welder’s jackets, which are made in America.

RJ’s Custom Portage label — still in its infancy — is a brand within a brand; an ultra premium product wherein he would consult with the consumer to create a totally tailored bag. His approach would not be dissimilar to that of an architect designing a building for a client.

In 2012, RJ also joined longtime friend Kevin Joseph in co-founding Otaku Marketing Obsession, a modern marketing consultancy that creates complete logo and branding packages, event planning, website development, and social media strategies for passionate small business owners.  In addition to applying his project management experience from his career as a construction executive, RJ also uses his experiences in establishing Industry Portage in helping other startups develop their branding, social media and overall marketing strategies. In 2011, he also founded SoccerPlayGroup, an organized play group for 3 to 6 year olds that lets him share his love for sport and specifically for the beautiful game.

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