Build-a-Business Contest Winners Announced!

Build-a-Business Contest Winners Announced!

After six months, and over a thousand amazing online stores started, we are proud to announce the end of the Shopify/4 Build-a-Business Contest and of course, the winners!

The participants came up with an amazing variety of ideas, and we loved seeing the kinds of businesses that came out of it all. There was a lot of info, so we thought we’d show you how we saw the contest in the most interesting way we could think of – a Build-a-Business Infographic!

Click on the image above to download the full-res version and here to share with others:

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Some 1,378 stores were opened for the contest, all completely new businesses that were started from scratch, and sold more than $3.5 MILLION on Shopify.

And here are the winners. Be sure to check out their stores by clicking below:

Congratulations to all the winners, and everyone else who participated! Hundreds of new, viable businesses were started because of this business and we couldn’t be happier. You can read more about the contest at the New York Times and on Tim Ferriss’ blog.

Here’s an excerpt from Tim’s post, which has an interview with all five winners:


1) How did you decide on your product? What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?

Going back to our use first use of a Kindle, we were amazed and excited about the idea of an e-reader. At the same time we started to feel a sense of loss about not holding and reading a good book (despite what one might think, reading is at least in part a tactile thing). While we didn’t act on this feeling on the Kindle as the iPad was announced it was clear that we had to do something. Patrick considered many different types of wood materials to compliment the book element and ultimately decided on bamboo based on its eco appeal and its historic relation to paper.

2) What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or a-ha moments? How did the tipping points happen?

Since the iPad form factor was new, we had designed the DODOcase based on Apple engineering drawings. The first a-ha moment was putting the iPad in the DODOcase on launch day. We realized we had not only achieved our design objectives, but it was a way nicer experience using the iPad in a DODOcase than on its own. The second a-ha moment was when Engadget called the DODOcase ‘the Rolls Royce of iPad cases”.

The Engadget connection happened through the viral activity that surrounded DODOcase. Our target market on launch (obviously the early adopter of the iPad) is highly connected and highly social. They wanted to talk about their new toy and we become part of the conversation. These conversations spun up in the ‘echo chamber’ of Twitter and Facebook and quickly made it to the tech blogger community. Josh from Engadget reached out to us directly and we recognized he was a guy we wanted to get our product to quickly (he got case #16).

3) What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?

Fighting the urge of distractions has been a challenge for us. We pursued an iPhone 4 case design for a week before checking ourselves and deciding that while we had a cool product design execution would be a distraction from our commitment to our customers.

4) Key manufacturing and marketing lessons learned?

We’ve learned tons about book binding and woodcraft which we will certainly take forward with us. On the marketing side, we’ve learned that having a great story is as important as having a great product. As a small company, you need to connect with your customers on an emotional level as well as on the physical level of the product. We sell DODOcase’s exclusively online which means most of our customers are buying a product without ever touching it. To achieve sales in this way, its important that customers ‘want’ to buy into the story as well as the product. We’ve believe that we are in the middle of a giant cultural shift from the book to the computer (e-reader/iPad). We hope that DODOcase can help ease that transition by providing the tactile experience we’ve all grown up with applied to these amazing new devices.

Let me take a stab at ‘formulating a good story’.

For a small business like DODOcase, it is critical that our products have a story behind them. The seeds of product development for the DODOcase originated when we first held the Kindle. We were amazed by the power and convenience of the Kindle, but immediately felt a sense of loss about the traditional book. That loss was a combination of the tactile feeling of a book as well as the potential that an entire traditional industry (book binding) could ultimately be destroyed by such technology. These feelings became the core of the DODOcase product story. We set out to make a product that helped assuage these feeling as consumers embraced the iPad. Users of an iPad in the DODOcase ‘feel’ like they are reading a hardback book which created a positive association with their past feelings of reading actual books. Further, through our use of YouTube videos and other online messaging, we told the story of how DODOcase is made using traditional book binding techniques.

The combination of a product that delivered on expectations we set and the story we’ve told in our messaging has strongly resonated with customers. At the end of the day, we made a product that we wanted to use and have tried to share liberally the many reasons why we’ve made the product and manufacturing decisions we’ve made.

5) If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

If we had the opportunity to do it all over again, we might look a little more carefully at our choice of wood. Bamboo is an amazing material, but it is also very difficult to work with. Choosing a different type of wood might have made our lives easier.

6) What’s next?

We will continue to expand and invest in our production capabilities. We strive to eliminate the wait to get a DODOcase and to better service our customers. We will be expanding our product line to support additional colors and customizations for corporate clients and universities. We will look at new tablet devices as they come out and decide if the market will be large enough to support a DODOcase model.

We are thrilled to grow our business in the great city of San Francisco and contribute to the local economy.

We can’t tell you all how proud we are to have been a part of hundreds of stories like the one above. A big thank you from the entire Shopify team to all the participants!