How to Start a Business Without a Product or Service

When starting a business, one question needs to be answered in the affirmative: will my new company have a customer base?

Maybe you don’t even need a product to begin.

Lincoln Waters, Co-founder and CEO of Happy Legs Club, is living proof of that process.

His business began innocently enough, after a conversation with his wife, who wanted to borrow his razor one morning. He resisted. A man’s razor is sacred territory, after all, and many men echo this is a non-negotiable request. A dull razor is painful, ineffective and a bane to a bristly face.

That moment led to a discovery: the lack of razors specifically developed for women in the razor subscription space. An idea to change that reality struck and Happy Legs Club was born—backward.

As Lincoln explained, “We wanted to have our ducks in a row and thought 1,500 members was a great proof of concept. Then we could refine the packaging, preserve the brand and test our razors. Once we had gotten through those steps successfully, we could scale it.”

Armed with a burgeoning demand and market samples to see if there would even be an interest—by handing out razors to the couple’s lady friends—work began to determine Happy Legs Club’s next steps. An economically-produced and quirky video piqued and gauged interest level and the orders flowed in before supply could be secured to meet the demand. Lincoln admitted, “We didn’t have the money to go out and buy 30,000 refills and 5,000 handles.” But they had to get ready because their customers were lining up fast! Only when Happy Legs Club had reached a certain number of orders did they buy product.

Additional funds from orders were funneled right into pushing more traffic to their site.

Their strategy of test first, incept later, gained traction.

Between 400-500 orders deluged the small company, who were still scrambling to find vendors. Happy Legs Club then disseminated a scarcity message to their customers: due to the volume of orders, delivery might be delayed for up to a month. Employing this tactic stoked the fire the startup had ignited. Women clamored for the razor designed expressly for them—at the time delivered in plain brown wrapping—that has since graduated to brightly colored packaging including solid, cheerfully-colored handles, razors as sharp as any barbershop variety, features that make it a snap (literally!) to change out refills and optimistic messaging, such as “Why limit happy to an hour?” and “Have an awesome day you sexy thing.”

In six short months, Happy Legs Club soared from zero demand to delivering 10,000 pieces and acquiring their benchmark: 1,500 subscribers.

Lincoln, a former college basketball coach and co-founder of the furniture store Asheville House, owned with his wife, manages marketing and operations, while partner, Sam Duckworth, handles the technological aspects and affiliate marketing needs. Sam created the back end of their website from scratch. Meanwhile, Lincoln completed the front end with an eye toward leading customers through a minimalist funnel to encourage more subscribers.

When asked to explain his successful transition from coach to business owner, Lincoln stated there is a “rhythm to basketball and a structure to win that can be applied to different businesses.”

Happy Legs Club demonstrates with less than $500 capital, you can still take that first step toward realizing your dreams. It’s a veer from traditional marketing any company in any industry can use to determine if a market exists before they sink more money into their venture.

Why the name? To evoke a feeling, a bit of a smile, a positive association. Lincoln says it is about “taking the furthest thing that would make you happy and turning it into an experience to make you feel beautiful.”

What’s next on the Happy horizon? Lincoln and Sam are partnering with several charities in the near future. The aim is to donate a percentage of the proceeds from their subscriptions to the organizations. While most companies join forces with one charity, Happy’s vision is to work with multiple causes and to eventually inquire of their clients as to what charities to support while their altruistic mission grows.

That’s a happy turn of events for everybody.

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