Do you like to jog long distances but can’t find a babysitter? Or do you like to pretend you’re a horse and that your child in a stroller is a buggy? The KidRunner may the answer to your prayers. The jogger features a harness that attaches to the waist from behind. You pull it instead of pushing it, unlike regular joggers. Thus your arms and hands are free to fist bump the crowd.
“It is at least 15% more biomechanically efficient, 35% lighter than the competition, enables great running form to reduce injuries and can go almost anywhere,” Bend, Ore.-based KidRunner says on its website. “It easily breaks down making it easy to move around.
KidRunner founder Will Warne rolled out the KidRunner in 2015 and pitched his invention on Shark Tank in September 2016. He offered 20% of his company in exchange for $500K. But all of the sharks passed. At the time of the taping six months prior, he only had a prototype and no sales.
Warne, a father with two kids ages 7 and 2, explains how he came up with his innovative idea and ran with it.
Ky Trang Ho: Tell us about your background. What were you doing before you started your business?
Will Warne: I’ve been in international business, market entry, and project management for more than 20 years, focused primarily on retail and innovation markets. In my free time, I windsurf, fly, ski, run and love my wife and kids. I have a degree in International Relations and an MBA.
Taking an Idea and Running With It
Ho: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Warne: I was a runner, then became a parent and quickly discovered that there were no kid joggers that worked. They are heavy, awkward, injury-prone and limit where and how you can run with kids.
I immediately started drawing and building prototypes. The No. 1 innovation was to enable hands/arms free running in a safe and high-performance way with a kid. It’s never been done before. And we did it with two patents, great engineering and design and a tremendous community of elite and everyday runner dads and moms.
Ho: What made you think it could be a successful product?
Warne: I knew that it could be successful because no parent runners that I knew liked pushing their kids in a traditional stroller, regardless of how much they spent for the, “best” kid jogger. Parents and athletes want performance, freedom, and health combined with time with their kids. Only KidRunner does that.
Ho: How did you go about making a prototype, sourcing the materials and finding a manufacturer?
Warne: This was a long, complex process that included competitive bids, etc. We partnered with a local composite manufacturing company with experience in high-performance materials and design. KidRunner is the only kid jogger made in the U.S.
Ho: What hardships did you encounter in developing and launching it?
Warne: Name it: doubt, fatigue, confusion, embarrassment, frustration.
A Jog Into the Shark Tank
Ho: When and where did you first audition and appear on Shark Tank?
Warne: We did not audition. We were approached by Shark Tank apparently because one of the producers saw KidRunner, has a kid and runs and hates pushing a kid jogger.
Ho: How long between when you taped the show and when it aired? What was that time in between like?
Warne: About six months. The time was fine. We always have a lot to do so we kept doing it ref product design, testing, marketing, and manufacturing.
Ho: How did you prepare for your appearance?
Warne: Working closely with our Shark Tank producers and KidRunner team, we finalized our on-screen product and related video/still content. We practiced our pitch and kept refining our value proposition.
Ho: What about being in the Tank (or whatever happened before or after) surprised you the most?
Warne: How many talented people it takes to produce the show and how few relevant product questions the Sharks asked us. The Sharks were interested in aspects of our product and partnership that we did not expect or think was the most important message of our innovation.
Ho: What can you teach others about your Shark Tank experience?
Warne: Believe in your product regardless of the constraints/opportunities inherent to a Shark Tank appearance.
Ho: What are you doing now to move your business forward and expand?
Warne: Working with manufacturing partners to identify ways to retain our U.S. manufacturing and be price competitive.
Ho: What are your goals for your business over the next year and five years?
Warne: Introduce enough people to KidRunner and the freedom/performance of hands/arms free running with kids so more people can enjoy what we’ve worked so hard to create.
Ho: What other products do you have in the works? When are they set to launch?
Warne: We will add a bike option to KidRunner making it the only high-performance run and bike product on the market.
Ho: What business books do you recommend people read and why?
Warne: I generally stay away from books about business and instead read what inspires me about life: biographies, art, history, and adventure.
Ho: What are your favorite business websites, tools or resources that you love and why?
Warne: Orbitz so I can book a trip with my family to go windsurfing.
Ho: What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made in business and how can others learn from it?
Warne: Underestimating the personal passion and time you need to invest in any idea that matters.
Ho: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Warne: Keep going.
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