I had the opportunity to interview Jason Griffith, Founder of Vibe Speaker Co. Jason's a really interesting person. He studied Audio Engineering and worked in live production and sound reinforcement for years. Then he moved back home to Western Kentucky to be closer to family, raise his son and be an entrepreneur/engineer/inventor virtuoso. Jason developed his own in-ceiling home theater speakers, which he sells on his website. His Company also does custom installation/system integration. Jason made his product when he was doing consulting for his installation firm.
1. Could you talk about how you went from musician/audio engineer to creating your own in-home sound systems? When was the aha moment? How long did product development take to develop your in ceiling / in wall speakers? How did you go from a prototype to manufacturing the products? What contacts, advisors and clients/marketing channels did you develop relationships with that helped you with your current business?
Well, I'm not sure that I can say that there was a definitive "a-ha" moment. It's been a very organic process. Essentially, I started just by wanting to explore the process of creating the best in-ceiling and in-wall speakers for my own installation firm. It became apparent that developing the best line of architectural speakers and to not offer them outside of my own installation projects would be somewhat of a waste. Additionally, I saw an opportunity to offer not only our speakers, but also our installation expertise to a much larger market. Vibe Speaker Co. not only offers the best in-ceiling speakers to our customers, but complete audio installation support. If a customer has never installed a pair of speakers in their life, we offer them a way to have every single question answered during the installation process, from people who have done these installations for many years. That is something you just won't get from anyone else out there. As far as marketing, we are in the very beginning stages of working out those partnerships, but my vision is really to keep this as a relatively small company that delivers really high touch customer service. Being able to deliver such a service at our low price points is a pretty compelling sales proposition in itself.
2. What kind of channels do you use other than e-commerce to market your in ceiling / in wall speakers? Which one works the best? Which one is the most expensive (time/money) and which one is the least expensive (time/money)? What's the life time value of your customer? Is there a distribution channel that would be a big win for your business to have? What have you done to try to acquire it? Do your competitors have it?
For the time being, we do only e-commerce and sales through my installation company HomePro Audio & Video. Customers obtained locally/regionally through our installations are more expensive to acquire, but those sales are also much larger than the typical online speaker order because they are all-inclusive, including our installation services. We are a complete systems integration company, so we do everything from mount TVs and projectors, to lighting control, to installing multiple Wi-Fi access points around a property. Acquiring those customers is pretty involved, and can be pretty expensive. As for distribution channels- I really feel that our business model lends itself more to bypassing traditional distribution channels and dealing mostly with customers directly. Being able to communicate directly with our end users more easily is an integral part of our model, and I'm not sure if that would work as well with distributors being in the middle. This presents challenges in terms of how large we can scale, but becoming another large speaker manufacturer is not one of our goals.
3. I see that your business location is in Western Kentucky. Does your Company do the bulk of its business in Western Kentucky? Where else do customers come from? What made you decide to set up shop in Kentucky? Is the housing/retirement market booming in that location? What have been the positives and negatives about being located in Western Kentucky?
The bulk of our business is in Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois right now, just because that's where our business roots are. Our online business will quickly take us to every corner of the country and beyond. The biggest positive of being in Western Kentucky for Vibe is definitely the central location and the ability to get packages to just about anywhere in the US in just a couple of days with standard ground shipping. I was actually born here and moved back a few years ago to be closer to family after having my first child, so setting up shop here in Kentucky was less of a business strategy as much as it was for personal/family reasons. For better or worse, my priorities still put family before financial gain, and I'm a happier guy for it. I think that kind of mentality is pretty apparent when you see the kind of energy and effort we expend to do right by our customers.
4. I read the following about your products: "Made from the most expensive and durable materials on the market for a fraction of the cost of some of the other premium brands, Vibe offers a unique level of value for money". How much less are your in ceiling / in wall speakers than competitors of products in the same category?
Well, as an example, our Spectrum Series M6 In-ceiling Speakers currently sell for $249/pair on our website. A comparable pair of speakers from one of our competitors can easily cost 2-3 times that amount and still not have the same features, such as our zero frame grill design. While we definitely aren't the least expensive speakers available, we may be the most competitively priced for our level of quality and design.
5. Do you find that there's a level of customer education that you have to do for your products? Or do you feel that your customers are ones that have the money to hire contractors or are the DIY types? What's the break down of who buys your speakers between the two types I mentioned above?
I think that there's a pretty high level of education that needs to be done for our typical customers, and to that end we have plans for an educational section on our website that will allow customers to learn about everything from different aspects of acoustics and audio, to construction and installation. Every customer is different and has their own set of strengths and skills, and we want to provide a resource that will allow them to fill in the gaps in order to get them completely comfortable with any installation project.
6. What does your day look like? How do you balance it all?
That's a great question, actually. I wear a ton of hats during the course of the day, and I stay extremely busy most of the time between running both businesses and managing our installation projects. I'm a student of time management, and I'm always trying to get better at juggling it all. I recently read a great book called "The Practicing Mind" by Thomas Sterner that gives a lot of great perspective to the subject.
7. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? What's your favorite quote? What's a mistake that you've made that you've learned from?
I'm not sure I'm the best guy to give advice for entrepreneurs, honestly. I made a decision early on that one of my main goals was to be happy about going to work every morning, and I'm blessed to say that I've attained that and more. I don't want it to seem like I have it all figured out, though. My time as a small business owner has been fraught with mistakes, the biggest mistake probably being just not asking for help and getting a mentor early in the game. I refused to ask for help for the longest time, and I paid the price. I think the longer I continue and the more I learn, the more humble I get. I just try to just keep taking the right next step forward and keep trying to help people, you know?
I'll leave you with my favorite quote:
"If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?"
If you're looking for solid American made in ceiling speakers made by a Company with excellent service, a lifetime warranty and kind mid western values, then Vibe Speaker Co is the place to go.