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PodShop: The Tale of PodShop

Assorted Ramblings and Filings.

Welcome to the PodShop blog. Pull up a chair. Read. Write. Interact.

The Tale of PodShop

Wednesday June 21, 2006

My apologies to those arriving from the About page, as this will be a bit redundant.

A saga of entrepreneurial dreams and starting a small business.

Let’s get this out in the open now, before any other sentences flow…

PodShop is the desire, work, heart and soul, and the labor (or labour for those of you across the pond or from the Great White North, eh – you know who you are!) of love of one person. Don’t let the use of the word “we” or “us” scattered throughout other pages on the site throw you a curve; they are used merely for semantic purposes. By coming to this page, you have found me out.

Perhaps it is entrepreneurial, sole-proprietor suicide to come clean of this fact. On the Web, you have the luxury of appearing as large or small as you want to. I’ve always been afraid to officially profess this truth (I’m a little nervous just writing this, actually), but it is time to lay it all out, and let things fall where they may. PodShop may lose customers, as some may be frightened away by the fact that the company is not some hulking, corporate behemoth. On the other hand, it may very well gain new ones, too, in particular, those who – as I do – like to root for and support the underdog. 2004 Boston Red Sox, anyone? eBay? Google? Apple Computer? These are the stories and stuffs of legend.

At any rate, a small business has to start off somewhere. Even a couple of Steves got their start in the garage of Ma and Pa Jobs. It’s not like they started Apple at the acre-sprawling compound at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA. Humble beginnings, my friend.

There is a lot of great stuff out there – particularly in the Apple/Mac/Web community – sprung forth from the ideas, sweat, and determination of a single individual. In fact, on the Thanks page, I have a list of people that fall into this category. Be sure to check it out. I’ve never met these people personally, but they rock. Hard. Behind the wheel, foot on the accelerator, and tunes blaring: these entrepreneurs are driving the small business vehicle into new and unprecedented territories (and probably running it on biodiesel).

The first Apple product I ever bought was a first generation (1G) 10GB iPod in late July of 2002. I remember when iPod was first announced the previous fall that it was something I wanted really bad. We’re talking a serious hankering here, not just some passing fancy of a yearning. As a big fan of aural candy, iPod seemed the device I had been wanting and waiting for since I was ten years old. All of my music in my pocket! No more CDs to tote around! Apple’s announcement of iPod was like a message from Above.

iPod’s price tag was pretty steep for a family man such as myself, so I wanted and waited for a while, eventually convincing my loving bride that an iPod I spied on eBay would better me for all of humanity.

One week after falling in love with my new (used) iPod, I was beckoned by the sweet sounds of another Apple product; this time it was the iMac G4. That all-in-one form factor. That flexible desk lamp like arm. That “floating” flat panel screen, and the dome, my goodness, man, the dome shape! In a computing world of beige and black boxes of rectangular metal, who, I say who could resist this?

Indeed, at the time happily and gainfully employed in a position as a computer engineer working exclusively with Microsoft products, the allure of the iMac was surprising. Well, maybe not as surprising as I originally thought. Despite carrying the tag of a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), and nearly a Microsoft Certified Solutions Engineer (MCSE), I was growing more and more frustrated with Microsoft software, particularly on the home front. Quite the conundrum… Microsoft software was essentially paying my bills, but driving me mad at the same time.

Jockeying software around all day at work – poking and prodding and shaking magic sticks at – was all good and fun, but doing it at home was not as exhilarating. I wanted to leave the lion-taming stuff (back you savage virii!, sit still all you .dll’s!) at work, and just use a computer at home, not fight it.

However commercial sounding, or absolute Apple Switch ad campaign-like this may sound, this is how things went down in early August 2002; it wasn’t long until the iMac G4 was ordered and delivered to my doorstep, in all its healthy, happy, fun and creative computing glory. So this is what it’s like to Think Different. I love it! My only regret about getting a Mac is not doing it a long time ago.

It wasn’t long after getting iPod that I discovered a simple shortcoming… What to do with it while sitting at a desk enjoying music? It wasn’t a big deal to just leave iPod back-side down on a desk and simply pick it up when I wanted to change songs, turn the volume up, etc., but there had to be a better way to interact with this beautiful piece of electronic, digital nirvana, right?

I wanted to view the iPod’s screen while toiling away at my desk. I wanted to be able to interact with iPod without having to pick it up and set it back down: a sequence of motions that were sure to expedite scratching its shiny, mirror-like back.

Looking high and low for a solution – and in the era prior to Apple’s iPod Dock – I decided it best to come up with my own resolution. Some sketches, a few prototypes (in cardboard and acrylic), and PodHolder was born.

September 2002: Not long after PodHolder was in full use, proudly cradling and showing off my iPod on my desk at work, iPod-toting coworkers were asking where they could get one.
From these inquiries, words of encouragement from family and friends, and a lot of soul-searching, the idea to begin an online business selling PodHolder (whilst still retaining the “day job” as a computer engineer) took shape.

December 12, 2002: Launch of the PodShop website, announcing PodHolder to any and all interested iPod owners.

The product that became iDrops was an idea that brewed and bubbled for quite some time before coming to fruition.

Not being a big fan of a case for my iPod, it was constantly shuttled around via my jeans pocket. Usually iPod was the only occupant of said pocket, but once in a while it accidentally intermingled with coins – and a few times even jockeyed for pocket position with a set of keys. Not good. As the face of my iPod became more and more scuffed and scratched up, I realized that I would need to take action to bring it back to its lustrous, shiny self.

It took more than a year to find the perfect balance of ingredients and components for iDrops. Getting the ideas that I had written down on paper and turning what I envisioned in my head into an effective, useful, easy to use product was definitely challenging, but I finally pulled everything all together and was ready to tell people about it in late 2004.

November 11, 2004: iDrops is officially announced.

September 1, 2005: PodShop becomes my full-time profession.

The toughest decision of my life, by far. To leave the economic and social safety and tranquility of working for someone else behind for the fear, uncertainty, and even doubt to strike out my own was, and still is, somewhat frightening. The fear just has to be stared down. Press on. Move forward. There’s a wife and two young children that need me to stay hungry and foolish.

I ran across a quote from Mark Twain and emailed it to myself in early January of 2004. It still sits in my mail program’s inbox, sandwiched between an article from Entrepreneur magazine and a recipe for fettuccine alfredo that I still have yet to attempt:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

You never know until you try.

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