Josh Hadley is the Founder and CEO of an eight figure e-commerce business called Hadley Designs. After receiving an MBA from the University of Utah, Josh began his career in leadership development at American Airlines and started a custom wedding invitation business with his wife at night. Since then, the business has pivoted into a stationary empire with over 1300 products. Josh is committed to keeping manufacturing jobs within the US and proudly says that all of his products are made domestically.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Josh Hadley talks about working at American Airlines and the business skills he learned there
- The systems and processes Josh implements to scale his business
- Josh’s advice on launching a new product on Amazon and diversifying product listings
- Protecting your products from copycats
- What inspired Josh to start a podcast and how to get in touch with him
In this episode…
What does it take to build a sustainable seven figure e-commerce business? What should you do to step away from your business’ daily operations?
To build a successful business, you need more than just a minimum viable product. You need to be innovative and talk to your customers to know what they really want. As the business grows, you also have to ensure that you have good systems in place to help you diversify and scale. These include systems for new product development, hiring team members, optimizing e-commerce listings, and dealing with competitors. Now you can learn how that translates into a million dollar company.
Josh Hadley, the Founder and CEO of Hadley Designs, joins Rich Goldstein in this episode of the Innovations and Breakthroughs Podcast to share strategies for scaling a seven figure e-commerce business. Josh shares his systems for creating new products, managing Amazon listings, and protecting products from copycats.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Goldstein Patent Law
- Rich Goldstein’s book: The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent
- Hadley Designs
- Josh Hadley on LinkedIn
- Becca Hadley on LinkedIn
- EOS Worldwide
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Goldstein Patent Law, a firm that helps protect inventors’ ideas and products. They have advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 25 years. So if you’re a company that has a software, product, or design you want protected, you can go to https://goldsteinpatentlaw.com/. They have amazing free resources for learning more about the patent process.
You can email their team at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore if it’s a match to work together. Rich Goldstein has also written a book for the American Bar Association that explains in plain English how patents work, which is called ‘The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.’
Welcome to innovations and breakthroughs with your host, Rich Goldstein, talking about the evolutionary, the revolutionary, the inspiration and the perspiration and those aha moments that change everything. And now here’s your host, Rich Goldstein.
Rich Goldstein here, host of the innovations and breakthroughs podcast, where I feature top leaders in the path they took to create change past guests include Joe Polish, Roland Frazier, and Kevin King. This episode is brought to you by my company, gold steam patent law, where we help you to protect your ideas and products. We’ve advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 28 years. So if you’re a company that has software or product or a design, you want protected go to gold steam patent law.com, where there are amazing free resources for learning about the patent process. And you could email my email@example.com to explore if it’s a match to work together. You could also check out the book I wrote for the American bar association that explains in plain English, how patent’s work. It’s called the ABA consumer guide to obtaining a patent.
I have with me here today, Josh Hadley, Josh is a founder and CEO of an eight figure eCommerce business. And after he received an MBA from the university of Utah, he began his career in leadership development at American airlines. While he was employed at American airlines, he started a custom wedding invitation business with his wife that they worked on together in the evenings. But since then, their business is pivoted into a stationary empire with over 1300 products. Uh, Josh has committed to keeping manufacturing jobs within the us, and he proudly says that all 1300 plus products are made in the USA. Josh loves working together with his wife and their business as they raise their three children. So it’s my pleasure to welcome here today. My friend, Josh Hadley. Welcome Josh.
Thanks for the introduction Rich. Great to be here.
Absolutely. So, um, you know, let’s, let’s talk a little bit about how you started out. So, so you started in the leadership development program at American airlines. So really what were you doing over there?
Yeah, so I finished my MBA at the university of Utah and got my first full time job offer there with American airlines. Um, I actually started in their ancillary revenue department at American airlines and, uh, that’s where it, it’s probably where most people hate the airlines. It’s all about the ancillary fees, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> so how much can we charge for the seats for priority boarding, uh, check in all of that stuff. Uh, but anyways, I stayed there in that role for about 18 months, and then I rotated into a sales role where I was negotiating contracts with some of their corporate travelers, Mary Kay. And Chili’s some of their bigger corporate clients there. And, but on the side, we, we, you know, built up our own business on the side. Cause that was always my passion mm-hmm <affirmative>, but I, you know, enjoyed the time that I did have at American airlines, because it gave me a great foundation of, you know, how big businesses work and how they make some of the difficult decisions that they do make.
Yeah. I mean, what, what are some of the things you think you learned over there that really have helped you in your, in your present business?
Yeah, I think, uh, the level of professionalism, um, you know, I remember, uh, when I would be putting together presentations, you know, just coming out of school, I could, you know, quickly slap something together and get the minimum viable product done. And as an entrepreneur, you know, I’m always quick to kind of get the minimum viable product out the door and maybe start getting sales here or there. Right. But in the corporate world that wasn’t necessarily the case. It was like, Hey, let’s put together this presentation, what’s our strategy for this new ancillary product. Right. And if we’re gonna go, you know, present this to a vice president, right. This isn’t just something that we’re gonna, you know, pull out of the air real quick. We need to, you know, it was multiple rounds of working on like a, a presentation deck. And to me, you know, as an entrepreneur, it just felt like we were moving so slow. But in hindsight, I look at that and I really value the time, like the thoroughness, the thought process that went into those, because at the end of the day we did come, we put together like very polished, you know, ancillary products that, you know, hundreds of thousands of customers end up touching, you know, over the course of weeks of flying and, and things like that. So that’s it learning how to slow down a little bit as an entrepreneur was definitely something I learned there.
Cool. So there’s like a certain level of rigor that went into, um, kind of developing and, and pitching and launching a product that, um, yeah, I mean, on the one hand, like, like everybody, um, choose for a minimal VI minimum viable product, right? Yeah. But like being able to do the other end of it, which is like, like, uh, having a rigorous process for design kinda allows you to kind of find the right spot in the middle, I suppose it’s like you can launch lots of products quickly, but you also could, could, um, launch something deliberately and slowly.
Yeah. 100%. And it’s interesting as you, you know, kind of annotate it, all of that for me, that’s really kind of how our business has actually evolved as well because of some of those learnings that I took from American airlines, you know, when we first started our business, just my wife and I, it was always more kind of like, what’s the minimal viable product. We can get out the door, right. And just get something, you know, published on Amazon. Let’s get some feedback and then iterate from there. Whereas now again, we’ve been selling on Amazon now for five years, we have an extremely thorough process and I have team members now that are actually following these processes that we’ve implemented, but there’s a lot of due diligence that goes into these products compared to when we first started, I saw an idea on Amazon was like, Hey, we should do that. My wife would start working on it, designing it. And then the next day we’d throw it out into the market. Uh, it’s, it’s a much different experience. And so yes, I think we’ve definitely found a happy medium there that actually has been, uh, providing us tremendous results.
Yeah, absolutely. And so, uh, and it, it seems like it’s probably also been important for scaling, right? Because like you could start out just, you know, putting a bunch of products up on Amazon, but as your business gets bigger, you need to have some systems. And, and, uh, and so just tell me about the types of systems that you have been creating that have allowed you to grow.
Yeah. Yeah. It definitely has been the systems and processes that we’ve built into our business that have allowed us to scale. And my wife and I have kind of been implementing these systems in the business with the whole end goal of being able to step away from the business. Right. I, I don’t feel like we own a business until we can actually like take a step back, not be working inside the business and actually watch it grow if my wife and I could be able to go on a three month excursion around the world. Right. And allow the team to operate the business, not even asking us any questions. And we come back and that those three months and find that the business has grown during those three months. That is when I would say we, we own a successful business. So that’s, that’s the end goal in mind that we’ve been working towards.
Um, so some of those processes that we’ve put in place, and the first one that we ever put in place was identifying new products. Um, new product development is the lifeblood of our company. And that’s why we’ve amassed 1300 products that my wife and I have literally designed, um, together from, from scratch nobody else. Um, and so that process has evolved over the years, but it was initially that was all me doing all of that work. And that’s when I would be spending hours upon hours scrolling through Amazon day in and day out, just looking for new product ideas. What did I think, you know, know that served the market best. And then as I started to systematize things, right, I had to slow down, go back to those things that I learned at American airlines and put in, Hey, it’s, let’s this gut feel of, Hey, that looks like a good idea.
And it feels right. So let’s do it. That, that doesn’t work right. You can’t teach somebody, Hey, just if it feels right, then do it. And so we had to start implementing rules, right? So mathematical, you know, solutions to say, Hey, if you know, the number of reviews are below this threshold, or, you know, the average best seller rank in this category is X. Then we can do Y and I had to painstakingly because as an entrepreneur, that is not where I get a lot of my energy. Um, but it was essential. So it took about three months of just like painstakingly going through and like jotting down what those mathematical equations would be hired a team member and worked hand in hand with them for a solid year to where I felt like. And, and the great thing about this team member I hired, they’re the complete opposite of myself.
They’re very data oriented, they’re Excel wizards. And so they were able to take my ideas and I was able to convey like, Hey, this is what a positive end result looks like. And they were able to go format, you know, that equation. So to speak, create that magical formula where we plug in the data from Amazon and it spits out an overall grade now, so that we can see, Hey, this is an, a opportunity B, C, D, E, and F. And so for us, you know, we did that for a year and then we transitioned it to, uh, our new team member that has been working on it for the last nine months. And I’ve been much more hands off on that, um, for the last nine months. And so that’s then allowed me to put my energy into another aspect of the business. And that this year has been more on the operations side of the business. So implementing EOS, right as our operating system for the business. And again, once we got that in place, along with the project manager, now we can really see like a flywheel going. So again, be instead of myself being the bottleneck of having to move products along, we have our new product development manager who sends ideas to our project manager who then starts coordinating everything with the team, and then we’re able to spit things out. So that’s kind of been, uh, a little history lesson, I guess, of what we’ve been working on for our processes.
Nice. And, and it sounds like you’ve, um, so you’ve been working on the processes for, um, kind of, um, picking the right opportunities. Um, but also, um, what you’ve had to do, especially with this many products is creating processes for managing, like for managing the existing listings. So what about that? I mean, I think that’s a key part too, right?
Yeah. Yeah. That’s actually something I’m really excited that, uh, to be working on right now. That’s, that’s the next focus of our business right now is systematizing product management. Right? We’ve gotten to this point in our business by just launching new product after new product, after new product. But what’s happened is we’ve got these 1300 products and, you know, it’s been five years since anybody’s actually looked under the hood of some of those products on Amazon, or really paid any attention to them. And so I’m happy over the next six months, my whole focus I’ve already hired, uh, five different team members that will be starting here actually next week. Funny, we’re talking about this now, but they start next week and we are going through, and I’ve created a whole training program to get them up to speed in, in keyword optimization, PPC management.
And then we have, I’ve already been generating kind of like a optimization checklist that we’re, we’re going to be following. And the whole optimization checklist is going to be meant to really focus on driving maximum profits for every single one of our skews. Right. Um, identifying where’s the right price point, right? What’s the price elasticity for each of our products. So, you know, we might be charging $20 for the product, right. And fewer sales are coming in, but it’s better than, you know, a lot of sales at 9 99. Right. We will be generating more profit it’s, things like that, that I’m really want to dive into the intimate details of our business. And that’s going to take us, you know, we’re already doing very well with just the new products. We could probably double our business if somebody actually paid attention to each of our products on a, on a daily basis and maximize things that way. So it is something I’m looking forward to
Got it. And so, um, you know, you’ve, um, essentially worked out the processes for launching new products. Um, and you have, um, worked quite a bit on the, like the management. So like what’s beyond that, like, like what do you think? Cause you know, I see your brain, the way your brain works is like, you’re constantly looking for the efficiencies and like ways to systematize things. So, so what else is there that you think is, is like the next level in business
Systematizing? Yep. For business. Yeah. I mean, product optimization is the, the next stage. As soon as we get these product optimization specialists, then the next stage after that is going to be driving external traffic, right. More of the marketing arm of our business. Again, we,
I knew you would have an answer. I knew you, you would have like the thing after the next thing in your mind,
I’ve, uh, Rich, I’m already living five years in the future already.
Yeah. Well, you know, um, you know, speaking of the future and like about your, your goal to be able to, uh, you know, take a few months of traveling and have your business be optimized. I think you, it’s interesting, you’re setting yourself up for that. You’re planting all of these seeds in your business for that to happen, you know, and your kids are all small. So it’s like, you’ve got those three seeds that it’s like by the time that teenagers right. Which is a good time to, to, to travel the world, uh, you know, like you’ll have the business in place so that you guys can, can go and, uh, hit the road and, uh, have some fun adventures. It’s like, it’s like, it’s all part of some big plan. Maybe it’s
May maybe, uh, yeah, it, it is interesting, especially, you know, my wife and I, we love raising our, our three children. And that to me is where, what life is all about. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so for me, I’m grateful for all of the hard work that my wife and I have done in the past all the late nights in the focus on the processes that have genuinely freed us up to a point of now, you know, I can go coach my son’s hockey team, his baseball team, his basketball team. And we can, we can do all of those things, whereas three years ago, I, I wouldn’t be able to say that. Right.
Yeah, no, that’s, that’s amazing. Um, and, um, just, um, circling back around a little bit to product development. So, um, I mean, I think probably the most common advice that people get is like, well, for launching new product is launch a new, a minimally viable product, but I’m just wondering, just like, beyond that, like, what are you think some of the keys that anyone should have in mind when they’re launching their first product?
Yeah, definitely. Some of the advice that I would give to anybody that’s launching a new product on Amazon is long gone are the days of me too products. Right. And so you’ve gotta be bringing something new to the table and ideally if you have it an existing customer base or a specific audience that you’re trying to target, that you go and you reach out to that target audience, um, possibly share what that product idea is, um, and, and serve it up to them. I’ll give you a good example. Um, we did this, so before my wife and I ever started the stationary brand, um, we were looking to do like, um, I was trying to sell on Amazon and I was looking for a product idea and they were these like, um, waiter pads. Okay. So like when you go to a restaurant, you know, the waiter has like the little pad of paper and stuff, they’re jotting down your order and whatnot.
Okay. So I saw that as an idea on Amazon and I went, we actually went to restaurants. So whenever my wife and I were at restaurants, I would ask the waiters and waitresses and say, Hey, I’m thinking of creating a waiter pad. You know, I have no experience in the industry, but I went to them and asked them every time, like, what would the ideal waiter pad look like for you? What, what do you use it for? How could it be different? And anyways, what I, what I found that was super, super interesting is that almost every single one of them wanted some type of personalization feature on that. Right. A lot of people would put tape or whatever on there. And so what, uh, what we ended up doing for that product is that we put kind of like, I don’t know, one of those like folders, you know, I don’t know, like the school folders where it has the clear plastic in front where you can slide things in and out
Like a report folder.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So on the outside, right. It has the clear plastic coating, but it there’s a slot for you to like slide paper in and out. So anyways, that was the idea. And we had mentioned it to these servers that are like, oh, that’s an amazing idea. And so we ended up launching that on Amazon. I was way too new to the industry at that time. And so the manufacturer of that ended up creating their own version of that and then, you know, ended up tanking the prices. And it was a whole, that was my lesson learned my first, my first, uh, entry into Amazon.
You know, but that, would’ve been a great idea, like come to you, you know, create some type of design pad on a product like that. Right. And that’s where I really see the market going. And if you really wanna build a sustainable business, like, uh, my belief is like, go out and find some innovation. There’s so many platforms go to Pinterest, go to Etsy and go look at like, what else is going on outside of Amazon for some product ideas and inspiration, even taking a look at Kickstarter and then formulate in your mind, go talk to your customer audience. Right. You’ll get some good feedback, but that, that’s my recommendation for anybody starting out, wanting to launch a new product.
Got it. Cool. Well, there’s a couple things in there. Well, well, one is just an interesting, just you mentioned the, um, IP and protection, right. So, I mean, I didn’t mention before mention before that you’re a client, um, and that, that you, we’re seeking of seeking hundreds of items of IP for you, um, for the sake of avoiding that situation. Yeah. And also, you know, for the sake of, of really creating, creating VA some valuable assets, uh, as you, as you, as you grow your company and maybe expand into new realms, um, maybe, maybe, um, have an exit with someone, someone comes along to buy your company. But so we’ve been doing some interesting things with that. Uh, and that’s cool. Um, and, um, you know, beyond that too, like, so, and beyond this, the question that I just asked with regards to first time seller, so now you’ve, you’ve gone beyond your first product and you’ve launched another 1,299 <laugh> which, you know, not exactly 1300, but that the point is you’ve gone from first product and launch many others. Yeah. So different question is what would you do? What would you suggest to someone who has, let’s say they have a dozen products that are successful and they’re just thinking like, okay, what’s next? So like, where do they look to kind of see how they go beyond the, let’s say dozen products that they have successful toward, toward launching others.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great question. I think first, you know, identifying is if everything is falling within like a certain category, right, let’s say you’re, you’re selling in the pet category, right. Again, if you’re serving a specific audience, again, some of the easier things that to, to go to is go onto Amazon, right. And then you’ll see people that purchase this also purchase X, Y, and Z, right. Amazon shows that data to you. So hopefully you find other products there that you’re like, oh, they’re people are buying pet collars. Right. And so that should be a natural evolution to look for product ideas. Secondly, would be to reaching out to your audience right. In your customer base. And definitely even if you’re selling on Amazon, I would still argue that you can create your own customer base. Um, I know Amazon doesn’t give you their email addresses, but there are plenty of tos compliant ways to obtain contact information.
And then also, you know, looking at the market, looking at competitors, right. When we initially started our business, it was looking at competitors and saying, oh, these people sell the same type of products we do. What else do they do? And so I know now we’re, we’re the person that has the target on our back. And most people follow us and, and copy what we do. And now we’re the market leader. Right. But in order to do that, it was get an idea from over here, mm-hmm, <affirmative> in idea from over there. Um, and then also just looking at other sales channels and typing in different keywords. I know Amazon definitely is powerful. They have most of the e-commerce sales that happen in the us, but there are other things there are, are other channels, you know, such as Walmart and Etsy that have sometimes very different products and you type in keywords there and you can get served up something completely different than what you’re seeing on Amazon. And I’ve seen that time and time again. And typically those indicate some kind of blue ocean opportunities potentially for you.
Cool. Um, and, uh, um, you know, on, you mentioned like being the market leader and having copycat, so how has it been for you, like dealing with, with copycat, with, um, you know, all of the, oh, the, you know, the large number of products that you have out there?
Yeah, yeah. Up until this point. So over the last year, we’ve, we’ve had more of an emphasis at, you know, working with you and then a few other lawyers, we are now actively, we actively protect our designs. Whereas before, you know, we kind of got, you know, it, it’s not always cheap, right. To go and protect your, your IP and right. Having a team and having a lawyer that’s working on your behalf. And so we have that luxury, so to speak at this point in our business. But if I could go back, you know, to the earlier days of our business, even years, two, three, and four, um, I wish that I would’ve started earlier by protecting our stuff. I was, um, probably more cautious because yeah, we get copycats all the time, right. Especially from over competitors overseas, they see our product. And then they’re like, Hey, that design is doing well, so I’m gonna go replicate it.
And it’s like, you can’t do that. You can’t do that. And so, um, we’ve had, we had a couple products where we let those people copy us with never doing anything. Didn’t say anything to Amazon. And, and to this day we, we haven’t, but now the, the script has flipped. So I almost encourage people to come copy us because as soon as they do, we, we come fully loaded with, oh, you wanna mess with us here? Then we’re, we’ve got design pads, we’ve got copy rights. How, where else do you wanna try to touch us? Right. And so, right. And, and, and we’re trying to tell people like, yeah, don’t copy us. Um, so Essent, which we would’ve done it earlier.
Got it. Yeah. It sounds like in the beginning you had kind of like the winsome, you lose some yeah. Thinking about it where like, okay, well, you know, so let’s develop lots of products and like some of ’em, you know, and, and this strength in numbers. Right. And even if someone copies some of the products, but then as you, you develop lots of products, you kind of came to the realization of like, well, let’s just protect lots of things. <laugh> and lots of protection.
Well, I was also kind of uneducated at the time. Right. Right. And so it was helpful when you and I met and we started talking, I was like, oh, wait, I can protect this stuff. Mm-hmm <affirmative> right. Yep. Instead of it just being like, well, it’s, it’s a free game. And I think there’s way too many people, um, that think the way I kind of did where it’s like, oh, well, they stole my idea. Well, I guess that’s okay. You know? Um, yeah. We have rights and, and to go seek, seek out those rights. And I was also always kind of worried about like, oh, what would happen if someone wants to retaliate back to me, it’s like, well, take him, take him to court if that’s what happened. <laugh> but how, how often is that really gonna happen? But anyway, yeah.
Got it. Awesome. And, uh, uh, one last thing is, I, I know that you are, um, you are working on a podcast and so what’s got you motivated to do a podcast.
Yeah. So I’m, I’m working on a podcast right now to really help other seven figure sellers cross that eight figure mark. Okay. Um, and that’s because I wish I would’ve had something like this when I started or started to find success on Amazon. I found that I can’t, there’s probably a million courses out there now that teach you how to sell and make millions on Amazon. Right. That start with like the basics and all of that stuff. That stuff only works to like, kind of get you going then as your business grows, it’s like you’re facing extremely different challenges. And if you wanna start scaling your business and you want to move to that eight figure range, you’re gonna need to make changes in your business. And many of those, like how to sell on Amazon courses, they don’t, they’re not meant for that. And so the pod, the purpose of this podcast is help a seven figure seller.
Who’s probably got there just probably on their own and maybe the assistance of a couple BAS overseas help teach them how to actually scale implement processes into their business that would allow them to get to that eight figure mark, and, and turn it into a, a bigger business, right? A we’ll call it a real business if you will, to where you could step out of the business and watch it grow without your presence inside it. And again, I think ultimately whether or not you want to exit your business, I think it is the way to grow a business and planning for that exit. Even if that exit never happens, even if you hold onto that business for the rest of your life, you will be more grateful that you implemented those processes and built it so that it can grow and operate without you working in it day in and day out.
I love that. I think it’s going to be awesome. And once you do have the podcast launched, we’ll, uh, go back and link to it from this episode, uh, also, um, that people can check that out. But if, uh, people wanna learn more about you or get in touch with you, how do they go about doing so,
Yeah, definitely reach out to me on LinkedIn. Uh, that’d be the best way you can find me on LinkedIn. It’s just Josh Hadley and, uh, they’ll, we’ll all give Rich the link as well. So you can link directly to my LinkedIn profile
If people wanna see some of your, um, um, the 1300 products that you have on Amazon, what’s a good way for them to find those
Yeah. Go to our Amazon storefront, amazon.com/hadleydesigns.
Awesome. Well, Josh, really great to, to have you on the show. Um, I totally appreciate you taking the time out.
Yeah. Thanks again, Rich. This was fun.
Thanks for listening to innovations and breakthroughs with your host, Rich Goldstein. Be sure to click, subscribe, check us out on the web at innovationsandbreakthroughs.com and we’ll see you next time.