Spotlight on Hanson Grant
Meet Hanson Grant - the founder of Think Board, a dry erase film that can turn any surface into a white board. He started the company out of his dorm room at Babson.
Tell us about Think Board.
At Think Board, we create dry erase films that turn any surface into a whiteboard - just peel and stick. Bring creativity and organization to your walls, desk, door, fridge, classroom, or entire office! Our goal is to be the leading dry erase solution in every home, office, and classroom across the country.
In the classroom, we:
1. Transform old whiteboards/chalkboards into new whiteboards by covering them with our films.
2. Create 360 degree classrooms for the modern learning environment.
3. Convert current & old furniture into whiteboard desks/tables to create a more interactive classroom.
We've saved public & private schools hundreds of thousands of dollars by going with our eco-friendly and cost effective solution, compared to a high labor & high cost capital project.
For the home and office we replace the need for whiteboard paint or traditional whiteboards. No painting, no hassle, & no chemicals. Our film is peel & stick, and performs better than any whiteboard or whiteboard paint. They are popular in leased office space, temporary residents, and/or anyone who doesn't want to destroy their wall. Our films are 100% removable.
We sell B2B, on our website, and on Amazon. The team is super small because we prefer that. We automate any task that requires too much time, so we can focus on growth. We pay for (or build) systems instead of employees. We've automated our Accounting, Operations, Customer Service, and Marketing. We then get to focus on sales and building awesome relationships with schools.
How did you come up with the idea and bring it to life?
It started out of my dorm room at Babson College. All I needed was a space to write down business ideas and stay organized from week to week; however, I couldn't drill holes into the wall to set up a massive whiteboard or paint my walls with whiteboard paint. So Think Board was born - a dry erase film that was easy to install, looked beautiful, and worked like a charm. I stuck the first version of our product to the wall purely so I could write down other business ideas. It wasn't until 50 ideas later that enough friends came into my room and said "Hanson, you're ideas aren't that great... BUT this thing... this is cool. Where can I get one?"
I started as a Sophomore at Babson. Fortunately, I had 2 years until crossing that stage in 2016. After enough friends demanded the product, I stayed up until 4 am and launched a super rough version of the website. I woke up the next morning for class with 4 orders to fulfill. I was blown away. After a month or so of sales, my friends nudged me to launch a Kickstarter. With a little bit of video editing skills from High School and some very willing friends, we pulled it off on a $0 budget. 30 days and $10,000 later, we spent weeks fulfilling orders before my future COO, Ken, and I left to go abroad. Thinking sales would slow down post-Kickstarter, I hired my sister to fulfill orders after school while I was away. Somehow, a stroke of luck hit us and we were featured on ABC in Boston. Primetime. 3 nights in a row! Soooo once we saw more orders overnight than we did during the entire Kickstarter... my sister quit. Annndddd that's when I hired my mom and brother for a few months until we could find an intern. 1 intern turned to 3, and soon enough we had a full-blown shipping and fulfillment center sending out product for us. (All of this over the course of Junior year). Coming into Senior year, I had just launched on Amazon & The Grommet. Sales were insane, but somehow I kept on course and maintained my grades. At that time, all of my friends were interviewing and applying for jobs. Part of me felt like I was missing something... like I was doing something wrong, even though the business was turning enough of a profit to pay a steady salary. After a few good phone calls with some of our customers and teachers, I realized it would be insane not to continue it.
Upon Graduation, I hired my best friend, Ken, and we set out to change the world (of whiteboards).
You specialize in building systems in businesses that can run themselves. What's your best advice on how to do this?
Ken and I LOVE to travel. And... do nothing too. So we try to design the business in a way that allows us to work when we want, and then relax when needed. We've traveled to Europe, Asia, and Central America while running the business, and it's only possible because of the systems we put in place.
In short, we dont hire people, we hire systems.
Our operations are outsourced. Our accounting is outsourced. And parts of our sales and marketing are too. We try to break things down to it's simplest form and the rebuild it back up. The simplest systems are pretty complex. For example, we use IFTTT and Zapier for almost everything. We have a trello board for our custom jobs. Makes sense... but we tried 10 other things that didn't work before arriving here. Once set up, we used IFTTT to have automatic triggers to stay up to date. An email comes in. Customer service person (Alessandra) puts the order in and writes an invoice. Once the invoice is paid, the team gets a slack message and notifies them to move the job into the next section. Once moved, our custom operations person (Tyler) gets an email sent to him (from me) as a nudge to get that order out by XX date. Once he does and puts it in the "shipped" section, Alessandra gets pinged with an email that has the tracking info in the order so she can continue communicating with the customer. Sounds simple? Because it is... but the design of that and understanding the best medium to ping people on at the appropriate time took work. Another quick example is we have a 100-day email flow that customers get dropped into post-purchase. So, when a customer buys, our system runs them through a series of "if this than thats" and drops them into the appropriate email chain, which will occasionally send ultra-personalize emails from me, Alessandra, or our operations guy, Ken. The emails are so legit that we get about an 80% response rate! And then, the best part is, when we ask "whats your favorite thing about Think Board" or "How do you plan to use Think Board" the customer's email gets triggered to a team-wide slack channel where our entire team can see how people are using their Think Boards :)