Steve Kazyaka founded Gifts By Kaz in 2005 from his home office in Sherman, Connecticut.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Gifts By Kaz is a web based business dedicated to providing inventors, artists, and unique gift creators with inexpensive worldwide exposure for their new products.
We work together with a large group of retailers and wholesalers allowing us to quickly and effectively bring new products to market and test their reception. At the same time we are focusing on building these new products brand recognition and sales history in an effort to attract larger distribution opportunities.
The ultimate goal of Gifts By Kaz is to provide unique and useful gifts to our customers backed by outstanding customer support.
How did you come up with your business idea?
It started with the invention of the KAZ e KUP and expanded from there. As I tried to market my new invention at inventor shows and gift shows, I realized that there were many other individuals just like myself who had these great new products, ready to be sold, and for one reason or another no one really knew about them. I decided to create a business that could feature these new unique and useful products and create sales opportunities for all of us.
What were you doing before you started Gifts By Kaz?
Prior to Starting Gifts By Kaz, I spent 20 years as a technical sales manager and designer in the fenestration industry. I left that career in 2006. Gifts by Kaz was my first business venture after that.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wants to invent a product and take it to market?
I would say start with a business card and a piece of literature, maybe a web page, and test your thoughts. If it is an invention, make sure you protect it prior to showing it. Test, test, test. Ask, ask, ask and then LISTEN. There are lots of ways to gather information if you're willing to put in your time. Time spent up front will surely save you time and money in the end. Talk to people who have already done something similar or are doing it now. Go to shows and networking groups. Utilize SCORE and other free business assisting groups. Find mentors that can help with the tough decisions along the way. Use PR opportunities and small ads to spread the word and test the market. Build a strong foundation with good record keeping so you can see and understand your numbers. Be honest. Follow through on all of your commitments. And remember, helping others get what they want is the basis of every good business. The more effectively you can do this, the more likely you will be to have the opportunity to do it for them again and again.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Yes- I did create a business plan and I highly recommend it to others- I found it to be a very effective tool in forcing me to focus on my numbers and my goals. As a result of doing my first business plan I went from being an inventor with one product to a business owner with an expanding product line.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
I am still doing most of the work myself. It is getting to the point that I will need additional help soon and I am looking forward to that.
In the past, I hired outside help for assistance with the patent process, some of the marketing, and the year end accounting. I am a big believer in finding people with expertise in their particular field to assist me (or hopefully at least give me some good sound advice). More often than not dollars and cents have forced me to do a lot of the work myself along the way as I am sure is the case for every entrepreneur's first venture. I think that this has accelerated my learning in all aspects of my business and will definitely help me as the business continues to grow.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Gifts By Kaz is currently a home based company although I do not see it staying this way for too much longer.
The challenges of building a business out of the house for me have been inventory space and cabin fever. It can be hard to live amongst the boxes and the work in progress. Sometimes I just want to get out of the house/office and interact with others. It's a little lonely at times.
What were the benefits of the home office? That's easy- no commute! No Boss! Saving money and enjoying the comforts of home all the time.
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
I did not have a partner when I first started the business. I have however joined forces with several other individuals and companies along the way whose interests and business plans are very similar to my own. In the short time we have been working together we have been able to see how it has helped each of our individual businesses to grow faster. I would say we are all partners now.
Thank you Steve, for your great business advice. Good luck to you and all of your partners!