Notes Along the Journey: Part 2

Lessons Learned From A Musical Instrument Start-Up Company.

As we begin our third year as a company, there’s a lot to reflect on. From developing a brand new instrument, to starting a company, to introducing the WalkaBout Drum to the world, it’s been a wild ride. We asked our CEO, Andrew Kilpatrick, to reflect on the last two years and also look to the future, and this is what he shared. Here is Part 2 of Notes Along The Journey. For Part 1, please click the link here.

Lesson 2  Don’t Major in the Minors.

We were anxious about our first NAMM* Show experience (way back in 2018!). We had just launched our first product, the WalkaBout, and were still testing market fit. We knew we needed to have a presence at NAMM, so we reserved a booth. Between the four of us, we had a total of zero years experience as an exhibitor, and here we were, at the largest musical trade show in the world. It must have been obviously oblivious during our move-in time to the show.

We were bootstrapping our company at the time, so we had a step-and-repeat printed on 11 X 17 paper which we glued to some plywood and propped up behind our booth. You couldn’t tell it was held together with chewing gum and baling wire unless you were up close, so we arranged our booth to ensure nobody came too close. The night before opening day, we inspected the booth to make sure everything was ready only to find our backdrop had bubbled and curled. The humidity in the room had affected the paper and it became like hair in Florida. We were at risk of everything falling off, leaving us standing in front of a couple of sheets of plywood. We didn’t have time to start over and we couldn’t do anything to fix it so we went home. I agonized over the inevitable humiliation that awaited us the next day. When we arrived the next morning the paper was laying down flat and smooth and beautiful. Apparently during the night the humidity in the room dropped and our background settled down.

NAMM opened and our small booth was overrun with people, all of whom wanted to try out the WalkaBout and none of whom even mentioned our booth. We obsessed over every detail of our instrument—its sound, the electronics, the accessories, the purfling, the strap and gig bag—and it showed. I am sure we’ll look back on the photos of our first NAMM and feel a mix of nostalgia and sheepishness at where we started but the takeaway lesson was to focus on the most important things and let the rest work itself out.

[*NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants. For Part 3 of this series, please stay tuned!]