Charlie Weisman: Founder of Staff

Episode 363

Today we are joined by Charlie Weisman, Founder of Staff. Charlie started Staff with the goal of making each day brighter by transforming overlooked household products, giving them a fun kick and making them the kind of items consumers will be enticed to purchase. His backstory is inspiring and you won’t want to miss listening to his journey in entrepreneurship! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I’m thrilled to have my next guest. Here we have Charlie Weisman, who is the founder and also the CEO of staff. And if you have not heard of staff, it’s such a fun brand. And it’s definitely super, super cool. We’re going to talk a lot about that we’re going to talk about the product. We’re gonna talk about Charlie and his journey. He was actually a judge for Guinness World Records, which is lots of fun. Definitely. It wasn’t on my bucket list, but might be on my bucket list. Now, after reading a little bit more about that super cool. I’m excited to hear all about the lessons learned. The startup is just a couple of years old, but is has really grown significantly and is doing super well. So without further ado, welcome, Charlie.

Charlie Weisman 1:34
Thank you, Kara. Thanks for the intro. So happy to be here.

Kara Goldin 1:37
Yeah, totally. So I would love to hear before getting into staff, your company, I’d love to hear a little bit more about what you were doing before you decided to venture out and start your own company, did you always think you were going to become an entrepreneur?

Charlie Weisman 1:56
That was definitely always in the back of my head. My dad is an entrepreneur. So it’s kind of the model I had growing up. But really, I’ve my whole life, I’ve always been attracted to the intersection of creativity and business. And trying to find what that means is how I’ve kind of managed my career. So that first drew me into marketing and advertising. I got my career started at an agency in New York, doing the account side, which is great. It was a great introduction to all things advertising, see how all the pieces come together. And then from there, after two years, I said, this is awesome. But my whole life at that time, I’ve been focused on advertising, I said, take a step back. If I could do anything in the world, what would I want to do? And that’s where the Guinness World Records judge then came in, I approached them, I can dig more into that. Or, but yeah, so I went there for a couple of years, I was a judge, it was so much fun. I have a ton of stories that could be a whole nother podcast, just about my time there. It was, I think the best job anyone could ever have. But maybe not the best career. So for after a couple of years there, I moved on back to Adland, when to another agency where I did business development. And that was so much fun. And it’s been such a great tool for everything that’s that’s followed. Because when you’re doing business development, every two, three weeks, you have a new challenge that accompanies bringing you big small, we’re a social product launch website. So I had all these I had a just a crash course and all these different lessons of problems, and then creating solutions every two weeks. And it was an incredible learning experience. And then kind of taking this knowledge and an ambition for wanting to do my own thing. That’s when I noticed this opportunity for staff which I can share more about.

Kara Goldin 3:47
Yeah, definitely. So I mean, definitely you and I were talking a bit about your experience on the agency side. But what was it that? I mean? Definitely, this is much more of a creative side of Charlie, for sure. What What gave you the inspiration to go in, actually, you know, develop these products and bring them to the market.

Charlie Weisman 4:11
So I’ve always been drawn to that creative side. And in the ad world, it’s you have two avenues in you’re either a writer or pretty much a, you know, graphic designer, and neither one of those really felt right for me, but I’d always raise my hand at the agency and say, Oh, can I take a crack at this or let me brainstorm on that. And that was, even though that wasn’t my main part of the job, it was always my favorite part of the job. So I thought, okay, how can I really apply this in a way but I need a new model because it’s not working in this this ad model. So that’s where I kind of had this frame of what can I do for my own thing, and then the opportunity really arose. Just spending so much time during lockdown in my tiny New York apartment here. It was like month five had no idea how long we were going to be in this space. And I just thought, you know, I need some ways to energize here to bring some new life in here. And I kind of that lens started looking around. And I had sort of two aha moments. The first one was just recognizing the plunger. And I thought, You know what, this is something that is sort of a wide open space, nobody’s doing anything in the category. Everybody has one, or they should have one. If you’re in New York, where there’s not a lot of storage space, then it’s probably just sitting right next to your toilet. And everything that exists is sort of designed to blend into the background. And that makes sense. And I’m sure a lot of people want that. But I thought, what if we went the complete other direction, let’s create something that’s going to, you know, be bolder, and add to that space. And if you do need to grab a plunger, it’s probably not the best part of your day. So if we can bring a little bit of levity to that moment, that’s what we’re all about. So I started thinking about how can we make a more fun, more playful plunger. And that’s ultimately what led to, you know, the creation of staff. And then the other side of it is, my grandfather is actually a career plumber. So I thought this would be such a cool way to honor his career, and everything that he’s done. And kind of it just felt like such a nice bow on top of it was sort of gave me the push that I needed to chase this. And then that was about like the first 10 minutes of having this idea. But right after, there was another aha moment, which was okay, but I’m not trying to start a plunger company that’s very narrow. So I immediately kind of opened the lens and thought, you know, there’s all these things all throughout the house that serve a purpose, they have a function, and they have to do that. But there’s not a bit of kind of creativity or playful to them. So by then I set out to think of just sort of a through line where I could connect this whole fun world of, of items throughout the house. And that’s what led to staff.

Kara Goldin 6:54
So interesting. So the name staff, can you share a little bit more how you came up with that name?

Charlie Weisman 6:59
Yes. So staff products, what we do, so our mission is to make each day brighter. And the way that we do that is we reimagine household essentials, with bold colors, unique materials, and these characters that are eager to help. So every product we have actually has this kind of smiley face with a bow tie that you know, it personifies this product to make it your staff. So it serves as a tool, it’s kind of waiting around to do its job for you. So the idea is that everybody can have a house full of staff just ready to dote on you as needed. So that’s where the name staff came from.

Kara Goldin 7:34
Yeah. You and I were talking about the trademark things around that. How did you think about that? I mean, were you nervous? Because staff was like, you know, kind of a common descriptive name. I mean, was that something that you had concerns about?

Charlie Weisman 7:49
You know, I knew that SEO would be tough and things like that. But I thought it was just such a perfect name for what we were trying to do. It has that sort of service element. And, and I thought this is exactly the right name. And then, as predicted there, it has certainly come with challenges. And I’ll share that in a second. But yeah, I do think because the name fits so well with what we’re trying to do. And, and even though SEO and things might be hard for the staff, if you Google right now, cool plunger word of the first, you know, we’re the only things that pop up. So it was such an open space that I figured we have enough ways to capture this, where we don’t need it to come from the name itself. Our handles are meet your staff. So our Instagram is at meet your staff and things like that. And that’s one way we’ve been able to kind of own it more than just staff. But it has also come with unforeseen issues and struggles. So for instance, our first trade show we did, we, you know, set up our lovely booth, and we’re excited to have all the products showcase. And we have this big sign behind us that says staff. So all throughout the show, people would come up to me and be like, Hey, where’s the bathroom? And what time does this close? And I’m like, I don’t actually work here like this the name of the company, and I eventually had to take the sign down because it was causing more distraction than than positivity. So not without its issues. But the name really lands what were the the message we’re trying to send.

Kara Goldin 9:18
So you talked about SEO? And for those who are not as familiar with that SEO just sort of a basic like what is the challenge when you have a word like staff for SEO,

Charlie Weisman 9:29
so you know, search engine optimization, so if somebody types in staff, for instance, it’d be really hard for us we’d have to spend a lot of money, or I don’t even know if it’s even possible for us to take that top space was that when you google it were the first result. And I knew that was always going to be a challenge. But I figured most people when they were trying to find us, they may not need staff but they might do IT staff plunger or, you know, staff of inmates or even just, you know, colorful plunger. So there’s so many ways they’re if they’re lucky For us, they’re gonna find us. And if they’re looking for plunger, they’re gonna find us. So it’s just staff itself. And I use the plunger as an example, because it was our launch product, and kind of where this whole thing came from. But we’ve really grown beyond that. Now we have five products, and it’s really staffed all throughout the house.

Kara Goldin 10:17
So, five products. How did you decide to launch a beyond plungers? I mean, you mentioned this, like you needed a few more products. But like, where do you even start when you start to think about these other products?

Charlie Weisman 10:34
Yes. So even before we launched, I made a bunch of one off samples. So when we showcase the brand, people didn’t think about us as a plunger company, they could see a bigger picture. And then we did launch with a plunger and said, Okay, we’re onto something, people are excited about household goods. With color, we have this translucent acrylic, and it looks great, and people are excited. So let’s, let’s do this again. And then the strategy for the products that we have now. So we use our oven mitts to, I guess, to take a step back, the idea is to connect with new audiences and bring them into the fold. So and we are doing that by trying to connect with their interests. So with the other methods, we’re able to reach out to sort of the foodie crowd and connect to a whole new audience space and show what we’re about. With the hangers, we’re able to connect to sort of the fashion lovers and show up in all kinds of different media and a new way to connect with them. With the toilet brush. We that was just from listening to people, people said, Hey, we love the plunger. But we want a toilet brush to go with it. So we said great. Well, we’ll make one. And then the turkey baster was that was nobody was asking for that one, we just thought, hey, wouldn’t this be fun, we want to show up. And you know, at moments that people love, what’s better than Thanksgiving, its food, its family, its warmth. So that’s a perfect place for staff to be. So we created this product and thought, you know, it is pretty unique. Nobody else is doing a funky turkey baster and ended up getting a lot of press coverage. So that was helpful to around the holiday time. And then, you know, we have five now but a ton in the works we have at least five more coming out this year in the pipeline is the part of what I’m so excited about this brand. And what we’re doing is it’s a very repeatable construct, anything can be staff aside. So half the, there’s, there’s, it’s there’s so many things, the trouble is picking what do we want to do next?

Kara Goldin 12:30
Definitely, you also are an omni channel brand right out of the gate. It’s, you know, it’s interesting, because over the last, I don’t know, arguably 20 years to start a business, you can go on to Shopify and open your own store. But then I think actually being able to have an omni channel presence is also really, really important. You want to talk about that a little bit and sort of the team behind being omni channel right out of the gate.

Charlie Weisman 13:00
Sure, it was, it was I wish it was almost more strategic than it was it was sort of, I’m making this thing, I’ve never done this before. I just I don’t know where we’re going to see traction. So I want to be prepared for all of it. Of course, we’re going to sell it on our site. And we need to you know, so that comes with, you know, how are we going to do fulfillment in manufacturing. And part of this was just a learning curve for me that I was excited about. So part for myself to learn and part to say, we’re definitely going to be direct to consumer, and we need to be prepared for that. But I also thought, there’s a store, it’s called Coming Soon, they were down the street from where I lived at the time. And I thought this would be really fun in there. And when I was brainstorming on this, I thought, you know, this is just such a natural fit. So I approached them right when this thing was done. And within three weeks of launching, we were in their store. And then once we were in their store, it kind of just snowballed from there. And today, we’re now in 30 Plus, independent, you know, home design gift boutique stores nationwide, as well as Urban Outfitters and Bloomingdale’s. That’s great. So that just kind of Yeah, that just organically snowballed and has grown.

Kara Goldin 14:07
I’ve heard you say that everything staff makes is a tool. So is that kind of the sniff test as you’re starting to think about products.

Charlie Weisman 14:16
So there’s it starts with like the fun inspiration, oh, we should make this that’d be fun, or that’s the perfect way to connect with his audience. And once we have this idea, then it’s okay. It needs to be a high functioning version of this item. So if you need a plunger it has to work right have a plunger that looks nice, but doesn’t work is not a good product. So we start with it has to do its job at the highest level. I will say we’re not you know, Dyson, we’re not reinventing the technology behind these things. Everything is going to be familiar to the user. But that where we set ourselves apart is how can we inject as much personality as much fun into these products as possible. So every staff has to satisfy to He thinks it has to be functional. And it has to be worthy of display and joy to use.

Kara Goldin 15:10
Love it. No, that’s great. So you were a Guinness World Records judge, how did that come about?

Charlie Weisman 15:18
That was so much fun. So I it was very serendipitous, I reached out to them. And I said, Hey, I don’t even know if this is a job. But this is what I want to do. And they said, Your timing is Kismet. We’re actually looking for somebody with an agency background to come on. I had two roles there. So I was an account manager. And that role was working with brands to help them organize record breaking attempts. So in every brainstorm you’re in, they go, Well, what if we did a Guinness World Records for XYZ, and then they’d have to call somebody, and that would be me. So that was part of my job. The other part of my job was to be a judge. So I had this funny uniform, I looked like a flight attendant, and the clipboard and stopwatch. And it was, you know, ladies and gentlemen, we’re here today for the record of data, like, Can they do it, and it was just a ton of fun, and got to do so many fun things like the first the very first record that I got to do was, it was in New York, so all my friends could come check it out, which was a blast. And there’s in Herald Square, and it was most people talking simultaneously. So I this sea of people kind of shaking their butts. And I it’s a role you have to play. So I had to, you know, be the referee and be very straight faced and looking around at all the different techniques and make sure everybody was verified torquing. So I thought, This is my job. I couldn’t get any more fun than this.

Kara Goldin 16:49
Well, it seems like you’ve you’ve really focused on filling your life with lots of fun, whether it’s launching a company or doing crazy stuff, like the Guinness World Record, Judge, it’s awesome. So what’s been probably the biggest lessons you’ve learned that you didn’t know when you started your company.

Charlie Weisman 17:11
Honestly, every single day is, you know, one step backwards, three steps forwards. So every day, I’m learning a lot. And it’s you know, luckily, it’s we’re improving, and everything more than it’s going backwards. But each day, it’s uh oh, maybe next time, we’ll do a different and here’s a learning lesson. So there’s been endless part of why I did this is that I wanted to, to learn. And so learning about things like logistics, and freight and moving things from overseas to warehouse in the US, like, the first time I did it, I didn’t know until somebody told me I had booked an entire container. When I didn’t need I only needed partial cargo space. So things like that, like, I had no idea, because I just didn’t know and I’ve learned. So that is like there’s there’s every every now and then you just learn some lessons the hard way Won’t it obviously won’t happen again. The other thing I’ve learned is that sometimes you do get stuck. And do not be afraid to ask for help. Everybody in this founder community has just been so nice and so approachable and has been here before and eager to help. So one lesson I’ve learned is that, you know, there’s help out there. So I always try to get as far as I can on my own. So I have a strategic question if I do need to ask somebody for help. But I’ve always found that once I have that. I’ve always been surprised that the warmth that I met with,

Kara Goldin 18:36
you talked about going to trade shows I mean, how did you how did you learn about that? Do you remember? Were you just Googling around and seeing where the buyers go to? Or what was that? Well,

Charlie Weisman 18:47
I asked some friends who are savvy and trade shows. I said, my budget allows me for one if I could do one, well what I do, and then they kind of told me and pointed me in a direction. Some people said different answers. But I went to the one that had the most. We think you belong here. And then that was it was so much fun. Another learning curve. It was I walk in, and it’s just me setting up this booth. I’m hanging streamers. I’m putting out a little curtain on a table. It looks like a kid’s birthday party. And I’m looking to my left and right and you got all these union guys full cruise hardware tools. They’ve been there for days setting up these amazing installations. And I’m going oh, no, but it was perfect as we always do everything. Part of what we do as staff is we take something familiar, and we do it our own way. So to stand out, we had a harvest come and our booth was the only booth that had a live harvest, playing the harp and even for a little bit we asked him she obliged to play the harp with our oven mitts on her hands. So we’re always having fun in any way we can.

Kara Goldin 19:54
Oh, I love it. That’s that’s such a great, great piece like ways to get people to come in we actually had a, a guy that we had met along the way that was a magician, one of ours, and it’s Simon, who’s hysterical, and he’s a great magician. And he had, everybody was just all the buyers were just absolutely, you know, enamored with with what he was doing. And we’ve had him a few times. I mean, he’s absolutely amazing. So such a good idea. Yeah, and getting people to sort of engage, and then they’re drinking your product. In our case, anyway, it was just

Charlie Weisman 20:39
it as you know, nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. So once you got a few people coming over, everybody else comes over. So

Kara Goldin 20:46
yeah, no, definitely. One of the things that I think is so hard for entrepreneurs, especially first time entrepreneurs is the number of knows right that you get, you know, this isn’t for us. We’re, you know, it’s, it’s what you wake up and you think everything’s fine, and then it isn’t, at the end of the day. How do you? I’m sure you’ve experienced that along the way. And how do you kind of get back up again? I mean, it’s, I wouldn’t necessarily call it failure. But it’s, there’s, you have hard days. I mean, so how do you sort of motivate yourself to keep going? Yeah, actually,

Charlie Weisman 21:25
one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that tomorrow is a new day, good or bad. So you’re having a great day. Just know that, you know, this founder journey is is highs and lows. So if it’s a low point, you know, don’t worry, tomorrow’s a new day. High Point, don’t get too comfortable. tomorrow’s a new day, that’s going to bring on new challenges.

Kara Goldin 21:46
Yeah, no, I love that it’s,

Charlie Weisman 21:48
and then the other part is getting used to nose. What’s been so cool about staff is the way it’s all been organic. So all the it’s really been all inbound. And we haven’t had, luckily, we haven’t really heard any nose. And that’s just the way that the growth is going for us. So we’re pretty lucky in that front for now.

Kara Goldin 22:07
So you started during the pandemic, and obviously, at a time when direct to consumer, everybody’s trying to acquire customers, you know, it’s gotten more expensive, not less expensive. How have you kind of gotten over that challenge? Like How have you grown the business?

Charlie Weisman 22:25
Yeah, it’s all been organic and word of mouth. And the press has been very friendly to us, I think, in part because what we’re doing is a little different, and people are seeing products that they’ve never seen this way before. So that’s a good story for people to tell. And then the other part of it is, once people do have these things, just the visual nature of them lends itself to social media. So people are excited to share their new player plunger, which nothing makes me smile more when somebody decides to post their plunger on social media. So I don’t know any other plunger companies that are seeing those kinds of results. But that I think that’s just speaks to the the visual nature of our products, as well as the unique space that we found within the marketplace and the the press that are reporting on us.

Kara Goldin 23:13
Well, I think consumers actually sharing product is, is gold, right? Like that’s where people really listen to it. I always tell people that, you know, when, when you as a consumer, go into a store and ask for it, there’s a lot more weight in that than actually me going in and selling a product, especially in the early days when you’re nothing right. And so I think it’s the same for social when people are organically talking about your product and saying this is really cool. It’s really helped me it’s, you know, looks great. Whatever it is, I think that that’s definitely a plus. Yeah, so

Charlie Weisman 23:50
part of the challenge is trying to harvest this thing now. So Tik Tok is not something that I’m Native to, but our products have kind of gone viral on there before. So it’s, you know, it’s a space, we’re trying to learn more, but the conversations are happening. They’re they’re happening on Instagram. Who else who knows where else they’re happening, but it’s fun to watch.

Kara Goldin 24:10
That’s awesome. So what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received from another entrepreneur? Maybe, maybe you didn’t actually specifically, get that piece of advice, but you read about it. I mean, that’s what really has, has kind of helped you to sort of make this all happen. I think that

Charlie Weisman 24:33
trust your instincts has been one of the most important things that’s been shared time and time again to after talking to founders is that there’s sort of a reason why you decided to take up this this charge, you have a vision for this. And certainly you can adjust and you can do things but you know, you don’t want to compromise for yourself. And then those decisions ultimately need to be your own. Because when you start making decisions for other people, and if it doesn’t go well, that that hurts a lot More than that, when it feels a lot heavier. So just trusting your instincts and you know, believing in those, those decisions you’re making.

Kara Goldin 25:09
Definitely. Well, that is such great advice, Charlie, you’re an awesome entrepreneur. I’m excited to see this journey grow, for sure. And everybody needs to check out Staffel about in the show notes, all the information on following Charlie and the website and everything. But thank you so much for coming on. And thanks, everybody, for listening.

Charlie Weisman 25:33
It has been a joy talking to you. Thank you so much.

Kara Goldin 25:36
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review. And feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening