Jules Weldon and Stacey Pierce have spent the last 6 years focusing on their Business Coaching business, A Salty Rim, and their outdoor product company, OME Gear, and two podcasts, GSD Entreprenuer and Do It In Nature.
Both have rich backgrounds in the entrepreneurial and business start-up space allowing them to come along others to help them build a strategic roadmap to grow their businesses. Their outdoor gear company, a 20-year story, focuses on creating tranforming multi-use products to help people get outdoors.
Their most recent achievement is a children’s book called Rescued by Rico, the true story of an old pup they adopted from Puerto Rico. This book focuses on rescue adoption and how to have the hard conversation about the Rainbow Bridge when a beloved pet passes.
Follow OME Gear on Facebook.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:16] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business. And this is going to be a fun one. Today, I got Stacey Pierce and Jules Weldon with OME Gear. Welcome, ladies.
Julie Weldon: [00:00:30] Hey, Lee, thanks so much.
Stacey Pierce: [00:00:32] Hi, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] For those who haven’t been avid followers of this show, which you’ve been interviewed once at, I believe, the pop marketplace. I don’t even know how many months ago. Was that a year ago? It’s probably close to a year ago.
Stacey Pierce: [00:00:44] Actually, I think it was – yeah – closer to a year ago.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:47] So tell us about OME Gear. How are you serving folks?
Julie Weldon: [00:00:51] Yeah. So OME Gear, it stands for Oceans plus Mountains equals Earth Gear. And it’s a product company, so it’s an outdoor gear product company. It’s a 20 year story that’s a lot more fun to tell over cocktails. But my parents invented the original concept. This is Jules talking. And 20 years later, we’ve brought it into the market.
Julie Weldon: [00:01:14] And so, our flagship product is called The Wanderr, and it’s a five-in-one product. So, it’s great for any time you need to haul something somewhere and then have comfortable seating options once you get there. So, it’s a cart that holds 150 pounds of gear and that easily transforms into a low beach chair, a high camping field chair, a fully reclinable lounge chair, and a camping cot.
Julie Weldon: [00:01:38] So, it’s kind of a multipurpose product that’s great for things like kid’s soccer games and tailgating, which we’re not doing a whole lot of now. Maybe home gating. But, yeah, also the beach. We have tires that we have an exclusive on that actually roll really well in sand. So that’s a differentiator for us. But just a super innovative product that we’re excited to take to market.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:06] And then because of the pandemic, are you able to still ship stuff? Like, where are you at with them?
Stacey Pierce: [00:02:13] Well, we were going to start shipping in February. And the manufacturer we were working with, they kind of went silent on us during COVID. So, we’ve had to do a shift and find a new manufacturer during the pandemic, which is not an easy task. It is kind of like turning the Titanic. And now, we had to do some redesigns on it because the first 100 units we got weren’t exactly the quality we wanted. And so, we’ve had to do a few redesigns. And, hopefully, we’ll start shipping probably in November of this year.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:50] But can you still preorder, you can get on the list right now?
Stacey Pierce: [00:02:55] You can preorder if you like. You can actually reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Right now on our website, they look like they’re sold out but you can still preorder if you get to us directly.
Julie Weldon: [00:03:09] And we’ll open that up on the website, too, where people can actually preorder right on the website. We’re just waiting on an official timeline for delivery so that they can know when we’ll get it.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:21] So now, you’re learning a lot of lessons about business in this adventure, aren’t you?
Stacey Pierce: [00:03:27] In patience.
Julie Weldon: [00:03:28] Oh, gosh. Lee, it’s a greenhouse of learning is what it is.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:33] So any advice for the listeners out there that have a venture that is kind of relying on other people to manufacture? Because, obviously, you have a good idea. It’s very well received. Everybody wants one of these once they see it. And the pictures you have are wonderful. And it seems like a lot of people – there’s a lot of pent up demand. But how do you kind of manage, you know, keeping them engaged and keeping them still interested and kind of being in for the ride with you guys as you wait for the thing to actually be manufactured?
Julie Weldon: [00:04:10] I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough. Just to be really transparent, one of our values is honesty and integrity. And it’s been really hard. We did a Kickstarter that funded back in December of 2018. And when I decided that I wanted to do a Kickstarter and our team wanted to do a Kickstarter, the one thing I said is, “I’m not going to be like those Kickstarters that don’t deliver on time.” And be careful what you say, because there are – when you work with a manufacturer, everything is out of your control, unfortunately. Not everything, but the majority is out of your control and you’re fully dependent on them.
Julie Weldon: [00:04:47] And so, whether or not they’re a good manufacturer is one thing. But then you throw something like the pandemic, which is worldwide into it, our initial factory was shut down for a couple of months. And so, that was out of our control. And so, the best way that we know how to do it – and I’m not saying it’s the right way – but the best way that we found out is just to stay in touch with people. I think when you don’t communicate, paranoia sets in, maybe, and wondering sets in. And then, as humans it’s really interesting. I think we sort of go to the worst case scenario.
Julie Weldon: [00:05:23] And so, if a company decides that they’re not going to communicate because, well, then maybe they don’t have any information or maybe it’s not good information, then that really causes more concern, I think, in the people that you’re supposed to be communicating with. So, over communicate has been our tool that we’ve used and we’ve created a lot of goodwill with our current customers because of that.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:48] I think you’re right on the money with that. I’m a big fan of Kickstarter and I invested in lots of different Kickstarter things. And I’ve had this situation where I invested in one project and, I want to say, it was, like, 300 bucks. And, you know, it sounds good and they’re being communicative up to a point. And then, all of a sudden they probably hit a stumbling part and maybe they’re embarrassed, or they realize they’re not going to be able to deliver this, or it’s going to cost them way more than they anticipated. And all of a sudden, it’s radio silence. And then, all of a sudden, you know, they’re hiding. And you start going online and you see all this negative kind of, you know, it spirals. In a blink of an eye, it spirals. And then, it was unrecoverable. You know, the money was gone and then they went dark.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:44] And so, I think you’re doing it exactly right. I mean, your heart is in the right place. You’re going to deliver this. And as long as you let people know every step of the way, “Look, you’re as frustrated as I am as the consumer. We’re all in this together.” And if they really believe that and they believe in you, then they’re going to hang in there.
Stacey Pierce: [00:07:04] Yeah. I say one thing that we did and I think we did this to show our customers are already – people that helped us fund our Kickstarter, our backers, is we got 100 units right before Chinese New Year. And like I said, they weren’t perfect. They were supposed to be production ready. They were not perfect products. And so what we did, we’re like, “We can’t sit on 100 units. So, what are we going to do with these?” How are we going to take lemons and turn it into lemonade?
Stacey Pierce: [00:07:32] We started an ambassador program, so we reached out to all of our backers. And we’re like, “We have 100 units. We’re going to ship these to you for free in exchange for you taking them out in nature and getting pictures and sending pictures.” And then, when we get our actual production units, we’ll ship you those.
Stacey Pierce: [00:07:49] But we gave people that choice or having a refund. And we only had two people ask for refunds and that was great. And then, the other people had raised their hand and said, “I would love to be an ambassador. I understand these aren’t perfect.” And we wanted them to be a part of our team. So we’re like, “Give us your feedback. Here are the things we know we’re going to change. But give us your feedback on other things.” And we have not had anyone complain about any of the products that we have out, even though they’re not perfect. They know they’re not perfect. So, they’re just super excited. And what that did was kind of, like, validate that we’re serious about our company and we’re excited about the product we’re going to be putting out.
Julie Weldon: [00:08:32] And I think the other just follow up to that is, like I said, the goodwill that we’ve created. I think it’s easy for people these days, especially because emotions are so heightened with everything that’s going on with COVID and the stress levels and all of that, to just fire off an email where you’re just really mad, you know. And we read every one of those and we respond. Stacey and I respond to every one of those and we take each one to heart. And so, a lot of times we’ll just write back and say exactly what you just said, Lee. “We’re as frustrated as you are. I know you don’t understand that, but we’re as frustrated as you.”
Julie Weldon: [00:09:07] And I’ve even gone so far as just picking up the phone and calling people and just saying, “Hey, I want you to hear my voice. Like, I’m a human behind this business and I’m as stressed out – well, actually, a lot more stressed out than you are over not getting your one Wanderr.” And it’s just been so amazing when you approach things in a non-defensive way and just over communicate with people. They soften really quickly because nobody really wants to be mad about something like that. There’s plenty of bigger fish to fry. So, it’s been interesting. I’m not going to lie.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:42] I think that this kind of can cement you in the minds and hearts of your – now – these super fans that really, really believe they’re in it with you now, you know. And when they’re part of the community and they know you and feel like they know you personally, I think that’s when they give you the benefit of the doubt. When you’re a faceless organization, you know, then you’re this big business, this big company that isn’t humanized at all, it’s easy to not like that person. That person can be the villain. But the more human you become and the more open and vulnerable you become, then it’s hard to, you know, be mad at you for too long.
Julie Weldon: [00:10:28] Yeah, we’d like to think that.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:32] There’s always exceptions. Believe me, there’s always exceptions. So now, you’re doing this – OME Gear is part of your life. But you’re also involved in other things as well. You’re doing the coaching. You’ve got a couple of podcasts going. You’re keeping busy, that’s for sure. How has all of that been going? Is that the same thing? I know this is a big part of your life, the OME Gear, but are these other things kind of still humming along?
Stacey Pierce: [00:11:02] Well, they were until COVID hit. Our coaching and consulting firm, called A Salty Rim, we actually lost all of our clients when COVID happened. So, we had to do some shifting and figure out things. And that was kind of our income, because we’re not taking the income from OME yet. So, we’ve had to be creative, and look at our finances, and kind of divest things, and get rid of cable, and just kind of be smart these times.
Stacey Pierce: [00:11:36] And then, we also have the podcast, which we are very – we’re relational people. We love meeting people and traveling and doing podcasts in person. So, all these Zoom podcasts are a little bit different for us. You don’t build the relationship we typically build when people come into our home and we drink wine and we do a podcast or we go and travel and meet people outdoors and do a podcast with them. So, you know, but we’re staying busy in all of it. We’ve actually started picking up more clients for our coaching firm, so that’s good. So, things seem to be leveling out a little bit. But they’re in the beginning. It kind of got a little stressful.
Julie Weldon: [00:12:17] I would actually say Stacey is 100 percent right on that, except for the fact that we lost all of our client’s pay. We didn’t lose our clients. So, our clients for A Salty Rim are small businesses. And honestly, when COVID hit they just couldn’t afford us. And so, we actually shifted back and said, “All right. You know what? We’ll provide our services for free just to get you out of this.” And so, I feel like consulting-wise, we’ve never been busier. But we’re just not getting compensated for it like we used to. And so, that’s been really interesting.
Julie Weldon: [00:12:52] We started a weekly call, we invited all the women who’ve been on GSD Entrepreneur podcast on a Thursday morning Zoom call just to navigate all of the complexities of COVID in their businesses. And so, we’ll have anywhere from 10 to 40 women on that call on a consistent basis every Thursday. And that has been really powerful and something that we both look forward to every week. And we’re still doing it every Thursday morning.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:22] Now, if that weren’t enough stuff on your plate, you, somewhere along the lines, decided to write a children’s book. If you want to talk about that a little bit.
Julie Weldon: [00:13:31] Yeah. So I’ll say it does sound like a lot and I get it. But any mom of three kids and a business or two kids and a business or whatever, it’s no different, right? I mean, each one of these businesses are like our kids. We don’t have any children. And so, they’re like our kids. And they all have different personalities. And they all require different levels of commitment. And so, yeah, we are busy. But Stacey and I just love that. So, yes, we did write a children’s book. It was our COVID project.
Julie Weldon: [00:14:01] We actually wrote the book two years ago when we had to put a dog of ours down who we rescued from Puerto Rico. We named him Rico. He was a 12 to 14 year old chocolate lab and he was 20 pounds malnourished, and had heartworms and all of that. But survived through two hurricanes outside, which is amazing in itself. And so, we ended up seeing him. A friend found him in Puerto Rico and we said we wanted to adopt him, so we did. We had him for five months and had to put him down after we got him back to full health, except for the heartworms. And then, came home and Stacey said, “I’m going to write a children’s book.” And so, she sat down and, in an hour, she had the book completely written. Then, why don’t you say what happened two years later right at COVID?
Stacey Pierce: [00:14:55] Yeah. Right at COVID, a friend of ours who helped get – found Rico and got him over to us, she is starting a TV show. And so she reached out and she said, “Hey, do you have your book done?” Rescued by Rico is the name of it. And we were like, “Nope. But we need to get it done.” And so, that kind of made us press go and find – I mean, hire the illustrator we had been wanting for a couple of years and worked with their editor. And yeah, we’ve now produced and published our book. We’re doing an Indiegogo right now and doing some pre-sales. And then, hopefully, we’ll have those books ready to go in September.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:41] So, what was that like? You’ve done a Kickstarter. Now, you’re doing Indiegogo. What’s that kind of crowdsourcing plan? Is that pretty easy or that have its own kind of – is that its own adventure?
Stacey Pierce: [00:15:56] I can tell you we said after our first Kickstarter, we would never do a crowdfunding again. A Kickstarter was one of the hardest things for us to do because you have to have a lot of money backing you, especially, because it used to be for the small kids. And now it’s for the big boys and big girls and that you have to have a lot of money behind it. And so, we chose not to go the Kickstarter route again. Indiegogo is a little bit more lenient. And I feel like it’s more of a platform where, actually, people can go and raise money in smaller amounts of money, obviously.
Stacey Pierce: [00:16:32] We did fund on Indiegogo within three days, which is exciting. Right now, we’re at $8,100. Our goal was 5,000. And so, 50 percent of all the proceeds from our book is going to four different rescue organizations. So, we do have a give back. So, I think that that also is something that entices people to help us and support this and buy the books. And we have pups coming in that we have made little Rico pups. So, yeah, all that to say is this wasn’t – we never thought we would do another crowdfunding platform again. But this one seems to be a little bit more successful or easier. Yeah, easier.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:16] How was it in finding an artist?
Julie Weldon: [00:17:19] We’ve been admiring this woman in Charleston and her illustrations for a while now. We saw it at Farmer’s Market and just fell in love with her illustrations. And so, we knew that if we could afford her just because she’s really talented, that that was who we wanted. And so, it wasn’t hard for us because we had already had that connection ahead of time. And then, she put us in touch with a copy editor who was amazing as well. So, we got really fortunate based on people that we knew.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:48] And then you’re using what? You’re earning through the crowdfunding in order to pay them, basically?
Julie Weldon: [00:17:56] Correct. Yeah. Correct. That and then, like Stacey said, 50 percent of the proceeds after we take care of the different costs of it from here into perpetuity are going to go to four different rescue organizations. One in Florida, Big Dog Ranch Rescue, who is a part of Rico’s rescue. And then, two in the Charleston area, Charleston Animal Society and for the Love of a Paw. And then, one out in Park City, Utah, where my sister actually works. And they actually rescue special needs dogs. It’s called Fetch Cares, and it’s a hospice for dogs. So just four organizations that have been really impactful to us we wanted to give back to.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:41] Now, we met initially through the GWBC, are you still active with them? Are they still trying to help you guys?
Julie Weldon: [00:18:48] Absolutely. We’re very much a part of GWBC and and WBENC and all of that. And we have talked to so many of our female business owner friends encouraging them to be a part of it.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:00] And so, there’s been some resources that have been able to help you through this?
Stacey Pierce: [00:19:06] Oh, yes.
Julie Weldon: [00:19:07] Yeah. A lot of the webinars that they’ve done have been really helpful, different articles that they put out. I know that they’ve been very active in trying to help people navigate through the PPP and EIDL and all those different things. And so, yeah, we would recommend it to anyone to be a part of.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:28] Yeah. It’s one of those things where it’s nice to have, you know, people that are like minded and that are going through the same stuff that you are all together and have pretty easy access to them. So now, what’s next? Are you guys – I know you’re still grinding. Anything upcoming that you’re looking forward to?
Stacey Pierce: [00:19:49] I mean, I think right now our biggest focus – I mean, well, all of our businesses and podcasts are a big focus. But one thing is just to get OME finally up and out into the market with a product that we’re proud of. But there’s a lot behind the scenes on that, finding investors and then still working with the manufacturer and just making sure that the quality is there. So, that is a huge focus right now in the forefront. And then, not that anything else is put on the back burner because it’s not. We have a bunch of pots all going at the same time.
Julie Weldon: [00:20:23] Yeah. And with the book, with Rescued by Rico, we are waiting – the Indiegogo campaign will end in a couple of weeks. Once that ends, we’ll switch it over to our Rescued by Rico website so people can purchase through there. And so, it’s that as well as getting the book published, getting the dogs in. We, actually, just today ordered a big brown dog mascot costume. And so, we have been approached by a number of different libraries and schools to do virtual readings or in-class reading of this book. And so, I’m going to do the readings and Stacey is going to be the big brown dog mascot.
Stacey Pierce: [00:21:03] His name is Rainbow, but we’ll call him Bo.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:05] How did you decide who does what?
Stacey Pierce: [00:21:11] So Jules is our family reader. She reads to us all the time. When I say, “us,” we have another rescue that’s usually an earshot away from us. And I’ve always said that she needs to go and volunteer in libraries. And so, now, she can actually take our book and go and volunteer in libraries and classrooms and read.
Julie Weldon: [00:21:33] Well, to be fair, what I’ve been told is I have a voice that puts people to sleep that’s really soothing. And so, I think by default, I’ve gotten nominated as the reader. And Stacey used to be a mascot in her high school. And so, she’s used to wearing those super hot furry costumes. So, she volunteered to be the pup. So, that only leaves one job and that’s the reader, so that’s me.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:58] So, everybody wins. They’re all in their lane. Right.
Julie Weldon: [00:22:01] That’s right. Everybody wins. Yeah. For sure.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:04] So now if somebody wanted to learn more about OME Gear, what’s the website for them?
Stacey Pierce: [00:22:10] It’s just that omegear.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:11] And then Rescued by Rico, they can go to Indiegogo and probably search there for Rescued by Rico and find it there?
Julie Weldon: [00:22:20] They can for sure. Yeah. If they just type in, in the search bar, Rescued by Rico, it’ll come up. And, obviously, we would love people support. So, the book is, actually, really an educational book. So, it helps people understand rescue animals and what they go through. But it also really helps have the hard conversations with either, you know, little people or even adults when we lose our pets. It’s really hard.
Julie Weldon: [00:22:46] And this just paints it in a light of the Rainbow Bridge, where the final page of the book is really cool, where it’s a big rainbow bridge that Rico’s coming up on. And all of his friends “that have passed” are waiting on the bridge with “Welcome home, Rico” signs. And so, it just sort of turned something that’s really hard for kids to get their heads around into something that’s hopeful. And so, that’s what we’re just hoping to do, is help parents and grandparents and siblings and teachers help navigate that conversation with kids.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:20] Yeah. That’s so important to have a tool like that to help guide the conversation and not make it as scary and hard as it is for most people.
Julie Weldon: [00:23:28] For sure.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:30] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story and thank you so much for keeping on grinding. I mean, there’s no easy way to do anything and it’s just a battle. And you got to just keep showing up every day and doing a little bit of work. And then, you know, things usually take care of themselves.
Julie Weldon: [00:23:48] We believe that too. Thanks so much, Lee. We appreciate that.
Stacey Pierce: [00:23:51] Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:51] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
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