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I bootstrapped CrossNet into a 8 figure business in 4 years. AMA.

Hey! This is Chris Meade, co-founder & CMO of CROSSNET, the world’s first four way volleyball game.

We’ve self funded this company and sport into an 8 figure business in less than 4 years and would love to help any aspiring or rapidly scaling entrepreneurs out there.

As of today CROSSNET is being sold in over 3000 retail stores and has been played in 10,000 schools. In August, it will start airing on ESPN.

Ask me anything from retail, e-commerce, struggling with growing a sport, or anything and everything between.

Check out our site at crossnetgame.com for any questions!

  1. 5

    Hey Chris,

    Congrats on your success so far.

    Me and my partner are also in the e-commerce space which is pretty rare on IH so was drawn in by your post.

    We just raised over 100k with 3380 backers via Kickstarter and will be officially launching soon so have a few questions of my own.

    See our KS page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brucups/bru-a-reusable-coffee-cup-for-coffee-lovers

    1. You're in over 3000 retails stores, how did you manage to get into so many so fast? Did you cold email each buyer or did you go via a wholesaler to get you through the door? If you went via a wholesaler, could you share any you recommend using?

    As we have a unique product like yourself, it would be great to learn from you here.

    1. Where does most profit come from, online sales or retail stores? %

    2. I can see you're running over 20+ active FB ads, how important is this to the growth of Crossnet? Do you run your own ads, if not do you have any you'd recommend? Are you always ROI positive?

    3. Looking at our product, is there any retailers which stand out in your eyes we should potentially contact? we're based in the U.K. but our product was super popular state side. (especially the big 16oz cup)

    I have many more questions but understand how busy you must be, if you feel uncomfortable answering any of the above thats totally cool.

    Thanks so much, if you have any questions of your own feel free to reach out.

    Regards,
    Ashley

    1. 4

      Congrats on the Kickstarter! Looks like an awesome product. Answers below:

      1. We started with one small mid-west store called Scheels with 2 locations of their 35. I got this connection by cold-emailing the buyer and reaching out via LinkedIn. They placed a PO for 16 units (8 per store). We had a video go viral and they sold out overnight. The buyer then re-upped nationwide. I then took their logo and pitched other stores (Academy & Dicks) via email & LinkedIn. We expanded from a couple hundred Dicks stores to nationwide and the same with Academy. Then we landed Walmart. One small store can lead to thousands!

      2. Make sure if you sell to retail stores your margins are profitable and extremely healthy! We see great profit and its reliable via wholesale, where DTC can vary based on the day of the week with the wild wild west that Facebook is becoming.

      3. FB ads are huge to the development and early days of CROSSNET. The more nets out in the world, the quicker we grow. We run our ads with an agency called Structured Social.

      4. Scheels would be. a great partner for you to start with!

  2. 2

    Hello Chris,

    Thanks for your time.

    For any business to grow they need to find their audience. How did you find out where your clients congregate, either on the internet or offline?

    Regards,
    Debo

    1. 3

      Facebook was the quickest way for us to start back in 2018 and 2019. Families (moms & dads) are hanging out on there and have $150 to spend on an outdoor product. We've found that parents want their kids off their phones and to be in the backyard being kids again!

  3. 2

    Okay - here are a few questions...

    1. Did you have to make up a custom set of rules for the game or does it very closely track with the rules of volleyball?
    2. How much game testing did you do before you were able to nail down the rules and the size of the nets?
    3. It looks like you could set this up on a beach, get some hot bods to play it, and sell boxes of it out of your trunk all day. How did you get the first 100 sales?
    4. As always - which marketing channels worked best? Did you target schools directly - colleges first? high schools?
    5. Who did you get to play this game in front of a freakin VOLCANO? Is that some green screen thing? otherwise...wow!
    1. 2
      1. Made up a completely new set of rules & new sport
      2. 1 year of testing and still innovating the rules as we build out the tournament structure - our first tournament is on ESPN in a few weeks!
      3. EXACTLY what we did lol
      4. Facebook has historically worked best. Next is physical education classrooms, beaches & parks. We are trying to get anywhere and everywhere with eyeballs
      5. Real volcano is iceland! Money talks
      1. 1

        great answers here; thanks for sharing

  4. 1

    I forgot to ask these questions:
    Since its an easily produced product - did you patent it?
    Have you been knocked off yet by anyone?
    Anyone try to license it from you?

  5. 1

    Hello Chris!

    Congratulations on the achievement. It's a great innovative product never seen into the market. I can say it's a big hit in Vancouver this summer.
    Although established in US, you got the potential to expand much more here up north.
    I am a recent graduate in business and I am pursuing a career in a new, sustainable and innovative environment.
    Here is my likedin for more.
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/pedro-oliveira-33386a15a
    Cheers!

  6. 1

    Hey Chris,

    I’m a big CROSSNET fan and I think it’s pretty sick to see founders from the DTC space on IndieHackers.

    Since a lot of IndieHackers is made up of Software Developers who may also read this, what are one or two SAAS products or Shopify apps you wish existed?

  7. 1

    Congrates! Chris,
    To Achieve a good values result. It encourge others to step forward their goals. We have also started aligly landing page and funnel builder.

  8. 1

    This is so dope!!! Congrats!

    How did you find a company/manufacturer to build and prototype your nets?

    1. 1

      Searched volleyball net suppliers on AliExpress, messaged a few (not too many to get my idea stolen), built a rapport with the manufacturers and asked them to make samples. Chose one based off the best price

  9. 1

    Well done on creating something so unique and so quickly! How did you manage your cash flow while growing so quickly? That's my biggest hurdle at the moment, particularly with inventory and a bad cashflow cycle.

    1. 1

      When we sold a net on Shopify, we'd see the money within 72 hours. Our cash cycle only got worse when we added big box. We'd sell as many nets as needed to put the next PO in and then boom wire the money to the manufacturer. We'd constantly double down, sell 100 buy 200. We NEVER pulled money from the biz to reward ourselves and didn't pay ourselves for 18 months. I grinded on Upwork and the other founders did odd jobs to pay the rent. Keep putting back into the biz until you can take some out.

      1. 1

        It's reassuring to hear others that have gone through the same grind as myself right now - currently doing odd jobs on Upwork while our revenue sits at about 20k/month, but all going straight back in! I appreciate the insights :)

  10. 1

    Congratulations! As someone who ground out a modest sub 1 million revenue product business over 8 years I can see you have fantastic product market fit and this is just the start.

    Refreshing to see physical product on here.

    How do you deal with long payment terms from wholesalers/retailers? Or do your e-commerce sales still make you cash flow positive so you can ride them out?

    1. 2

      Great, great, great question. In short its finding enough of a balance between e-commerce orders and wholesale to keep the business cash flow positive. We made sure not to add on too many retailers at once, so we could work through the cash cycles and get comfortable with floating money 60-120 days. Its really important to negotiate terms with your manufacturers, we've been able to get them to manufacture for only 10% down and then pay more money when the goods are shipped and landed. Do anything and everything to cut down that cash cycle.

      1. 1

        Thanks, using direct customers to float your wholesale cash gap make sense. 10% down with manufacturers is fantastic as well.

  11. 1

    How much time it took for you to get to the first $20 000? Which actions gave you unexpectedly high output?

    1. 1

      We made our first 20k in the first 6 months. Going out into the world, demoing the product, led to the best content and best adaption.

  12. 1

    Hey Chris,

    How did you came up with an idea of the product?
    What's the distribution of online vs. offline sales in your business?

    1. 1

      We had a huge brainstorming session one night. I talk about it a lot on my podcasts. We simply said why not us?!

      Online biz used to be 100%, now we are in retail almost everywhere. 60%+ of our biz in now retail and I'm cool with that.

      1. 1

        Chris, thanks for sharing!

  13. 1

    Never really knew about such a thing as "cross net volleyball" until today. This is really creative.

    My question is: How much has the startup scene changed in four years with respect to launching, creating pre-launch buzz etc?

    1. 1

      The startup scene has certainly become more and more crowded...which is fine! I think more than anything digital advertising and marketing as a whole has changed dramatically. Cost per acquisition has continued to rise and it seems like almost every two years or so there's a huge shift in the market place and new brands rise and fall.

  14. 1

    Cool product, I'm originally from CT and play vball.

    • What were your first few marketing moves that failed and moves that worked?
    • What are your predictions for your product in 10 years?
    • Why is your Twitter suspended?
    • how much testing did you do before you produced the version you are selling now?
    • how durable did you make the net? recrational vball nets aren't typically sturdy.
    1. 2

      Marketing moves that worked: Going out to the beach, testing product on real people, seeding product to people that loved the game

      Marketing moves that failed: Paying high prices to influencers when we barely had any money, shipping product to people who didn't really care about CROSSNET (just a waste of $$$).

      Predictions: Global sport & Olympics

      Twitter: I blocked Twitter's phone number for some reason on my phone. They kept sending me a verification text and I couldn't get it. I kept clicking send me the text. It was a never ending cycle and then boom suspended for trying too many times.

      Year of testing before we launched the product. I like to think CROSSNET is very sturdy.

  15. 1

    You mention you self funded the company - how much cash did it take on your end to make it a profitable business? Also, what was your yearly revenue YoY - did you have 1 year in the 4 that really propelled your business forward? What do you think that catalyst was (if there was one)?

    1. 2

      Started the biz with about 30k. We just kept doubling down on the business. Purchased 100 units, sold them & rebought 200. Sold 200, rebought 400.

      Year 1 - 80k
      Year 2 - 2.25M
      Year 3 - 10+

  16. 1

    Who are your primary customers? How did you position the game to people who've never heard of it previously?

    1. 1

      Moms & Dads - Feel like a kid again, go out and have fun!

  17. 1

    This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

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