By Angela Rose | Jan 15, 2020
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Camera bags
If you want to start a successful business, it helps if you can fill a hole in the market. That's exactly what Cope and his brother, Spencer, did when they founded WANDRD, and the result a mere five years later is a thriving company with more than $7 million in annual revenues.
"Spencer and I were both getting into photography and loved to travel," Cope recalls. "He was heading to Paris and I was heading to New Zealand with my wife. We were both looking for a good camera bag to take with us, but most of them at the time looked really frumpy. They didn't have style, and they didn't function that well, so we decided to make our own."
The duo designed WANDRD's first product, the PRVKE Pack, and crowdfunded its production on Kickstarter. "It just seemed like the right way to go," Cope adds. "We didn't have a lot of capital. We had brought my dad on as an investor, but Kickstarter was a great way to get the word out and collect capital before we had to place orders with the factory."
The formula worked so well that WANDRD has continued to launch all of its products through the Kickstarter platform to this day. "As a growing company, there is always a need for cash," Cope continues. "Kickstarter is a way to get the cash we need earlier than we would otherwise."
Because WANDRD manufactures in Vietnam, Cope says there is a three- to four-month delay between placing an order and getting the product to their warehouses in Utah, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong. However, he says onshore manufacturing just wasn't an option, and he's very happy with the factory they've chosen to use.
"When we designed the first bag and started calling U.S. factories, they all told us it was too expensive to make in the U.S. and we'd have to go overseas," Cope recalls. "We were lucky to have a family friend who connects companies in the U.S. with manufacturing overseas. He helped us find the factory we've been using since the beginning. The guy who runs it is incredible. He has a lot of good things in place to make sure it's a clean, sustainable factory where people are treated really well."
Cope says the PRVKE Pack is by far the company's best seller. However, "The HEXAD Access Duffel Backpack also does really well because it's a great carry-on size for one-bag travel," he continues. "Our new DUO Daypack is doing really well too." These bags, and the many others the brothers have designed, are popular with a growing audience of photographers, travelers, and everyday commuters.
WANDRD grew 60 percent from 2018 to 2019, and Cope says about 50 percent of their orders come from overseas. "It has kind of surprised us, because we didn't put a lot of focus into marketing international," he adds. "But we've been maintaining that 50 percent and now have overseas retailers who carry our products as well."
Challenges: "WANDRD is a lifestyle business for us," Cope says. "We're competitive and want to continue to grow the company, but we also want to have fun while we're doing it and enjoy the journey. We're trying to figure out the systems and processes we need to enable us to grow effectively and in a sustainable way. It's not always easy to figure that out, but we're learning as we go."
Cope notes that dealing with knockoff products is another challenge. "Our big differentiator is our brand and story," he says. "It's something that people can't copy. But we recently had some knockoffs pop up with people using our logo on bags that clearly were not ours."
While he says platforms like Amazon will help brands combat such knockoffs, "sometimes there isn't a lot you can do because you don't necessarily know where their coming from," Cope continues. "You can hire lawyers, but it gets messy really quick. It can feel like a game of Whac-A-Mole. You take one of them off the market and then another pops up."
Opportunities: Cope says the growing accessibility of travel is a big opportunity. "More people are getting out and traveling, the prices of travel are coming down, and everything is so much more accessible," he adds. "We have a huge opportunity to get in front of all of those travelers."
Needs: "Cash is a constant need," Cope says. "Another need is people. We just hired four people and are looking to hire a couple more."