056: Bootstrapping a Startup while Balancing Family Life feat. Aaron Hardin

It’s been about 3 1/2 years since Aaron started his company, Hardin Scientific and he’s now taking orders for pre sales on his lab incubator. Aaron has bootstrapped his way forward while working a full time job along with raising his son Lincoln and keeping his marriage strong. I got to help Aaron along about a year ago when I was building my Invention Idea to Profitable Product program and his feedback helped shape what it is today. Listen to how he’s made huge momentum in the past year.


Host: Meghan Alonso
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Host Company: Imua Services
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Full Transcription:

Recorder: Are you ready to master the waves of medical device product development? Well wax up your surfboard because you are listening to inspired by Imua. Here is your medical device product development expert that Hawaiian hearted hostess who will help you hang ten. Meghan Alonso.

Meghan: E komo mai and aloha! You’re listening to inspired by Imua, where we help you master the waves of medical product development. Each week we interview guest that educate, guide and inspire to give you and your product the skills you need to hang ten. If this is your first time listening, Imua is spelled I-M-U-A and it’s a Hawaiian word. It means to advance forward with passion despite rough waves. There are plenty of those in the medical product development but keep listening because each week we’ve got you covered.

Meghan: And I just wanted to say it’s been a year now since I started and a year of podcasts and so to celebrate that year I’m bringing out a special guest today but before I get to that throughout our conversation we’re gonna talk about a program I have called Invention Idea to Profitable Product so if you haven’t heard this is a virtual pre accelerator that I have that’s meant to get you to a point where you’re fundable business in a hundred days and if you’re out there if you’re going to a pitch competition after pitch competition and you’re not having much attraction you don’t know why this is the program for you this is also the program for you if you’re just starting out and you need some guidance going through the process and going started and later on in the conversation today we’re gonna talk about how important market research is market fit you know finding out if your costumers will buy your product and will they pay for your product and that’s so important that’s the back bone of this program Invention Idea for Profitable Product so if you want some more information the best place for you to go is actually IMUA-SERVICES.COM/THREEWAYS that’s a free training I have that leads into Invention Idea to Profitable Product so if you get value from that I know you get value from the program so let me introduce my guest I met him about a year ago when I was first designing invention idea to profitable product so he got the inside scope on everything this was before I had anything I didn’t have any videos any exercises or check list I was sending him word documents of things I had collected and put together in resources for him and he has made some major strives in his past years as of this recording yesterday he just started taking pre sale orders for his product and his already in manufacturing so I’m so pleased to have Mr. Aaron Hardin on my show. Aaron are you ready to hang ten?

Aaron: Absolutely how are you?

Meghan: Good! Okay so give us a little more into your background. Tell us first of all and Aaron’s company is Hardin’s Scientific and he’s the CEO and founder so tell us more about how you started Hardin and also what did you see out there in your day job that you thought hey I can make a difference I can do this better?

Aaron: Absolutely! So giving into to all of this you always have that little I want to do something I want to do something bigger or whatever and you have these visions of and you think that okay well I’m going to create this product and this people are going to love and they’re gonna come and buy this product as you get more of the trenches you find out that’s exactly what happened so I wanted to this industry and I saw this problem and I start this problem solving problem like okay how can I solve this problem? How can I create something that people want to buy?

Meghan: So tell us what the problem is that you saw just on a daily basis?

Aaron: Yes so laboratory a self called incubators those specifically but largely all the equipment that a lot of these researchers is using it’s largely stocked in the so they haven’t had major technological advancement with exceptional what is directly under the microscope so like your DNA or something. They are making some advancements in that area but a lot of other equipment is kinda been left behind so to speak and when it breaks down it really derail the entire operation of these research companies.

Meghan: And you saw that on a daily basis with your clients that you were serving right?

Aaron: Yes so the people would go to they would be on during this absolutely amazing research unlike the different methods of treating cancer. Different ways of diagnosing a couple diseases a couple of them they do like pancreatic cancers and stuff like that and they wouldn’t call me as a tech mission unless they generally have a problem and I will show up and they would pretty much tell me how much equipment is like it was imperative that it gives back up going because they are depending on it regularly and a lot of times it’s been pretty simple stuff that could have been avoided if they did proper maintenance or if they know some of the things I know about the equipment and so I wanted to develop something that would be able to tell them if something was going slightly an advance and so that’s kinda where I started and then as I continue testing the market well go back to state that I said earlier that you want build something that people are willing to buy that right there is the biggest so it’s called market fit I’m sure many of you listening should know about that but essentially what you want to do is make sure that your solution is solving a problem that your costumers are willing to pay money for not that you’re creating a problem for your solution which is kind of putting the cart for divorce.

Meghan: Yeah and so we maybe be hear a superstar in the background little linked in so I’m gonna interject here real quick. Life as an entrepreneur can be hard regardless especially if you have a family and a little one at home so tell us kinda how personally you have worked that into your life in that way so making sure that you’re still president in there for your family and doing your day job and building up your own company cause I know that’s got to be tough.

Aaron: So as a father as a husband there’s things that make a start up a little more difficult I mean some people that are starting companies they fresh out college or sometimes doing college and sometimes they actually they their life on a little bit more and I heard of several people saying that you’re just have to go for it you just have to put everything on the line but when you have a family you can’t necessarily do that and so a rule of thumb that I always went by it was actually recommended to me by pretty good friend of mine called his name was Matt but he said always keep your foot on second which means make sure that you’re able to take care of yourself and then you put all your available time into what you’re doing and so my case keeping my foot on second is making sure that I was able to provide for my family and so that man keeping a day job while I’m building my company which is extremely difficult it’s slows you down a lot because the amount of time you have is pretty much halved but on top of that I have to balance my personal life on top of that so making sure that I was president in my sons life and enjoying his life as much as enjoying this part of my start up so yeah it’s definitely a balancing at.

Meghan: And so I know when we first met I was gearing up and actually building my invention idea for profitable product program that people are in now and I had even anything formally done yet and I was just sending you hey go read this go check this out here is something you can look at and I think that was kinda the start of where you started to pick up momentum so tell us like you said before that you had this idea 3 years ago but then this past years where you really had the momentum so looking back when you first got started what was the different kinda what were you doing then before we met and you kinda material and run with it.

Aaron: So failure analysis and market analysis so I’ve been compiling over 30 years of my day jobs research in failure analysis into this product finding out specifically what aspects I need to build into my equipment in order to address those needs but market analysis the probably the most important so that’s what you find your market fit and you have to ask so if I talked to you and I say I have an idea for a product and this is my product what do you think about it? Then you may tell me some good feedback you might tell me that you like it or something like that but you have to be able to dissect those conversations and find out not just what they’re saying about it but the unspoken truths that they’re giving me about it and once you dial your product down to the point where people will pay for it where that’s start really taking on so the majority of time is finding out specifically where is my market fit and then once you have that answered you say what’s the next problem? What do I need to address next like what you said you were first starting out like you’re giving me a lot of material and a lot of it was extremely beneficial but at the same time there’s always gonna be something that you need right away. You need to constantly ask yourself that question what do I need right now at this point of development? Largely I think about it a second ago before we started recording that when you’re going through this process I don’t care if you’re trying to bootstrap or if you’re trying to raise money cause I bootstrap on intentionally but get a investor that knows your market befriend that investor over something like that and talk about your product your intentions and them let them de risk them for you so they’ll tell you all of the things that you need to be looking out for all the things you need to address before you can raise money and it’s no coincidence that those things that they tell you to do is exactly what you should be doing at business at a point of time.

Meghan: You bring up a great point with bootstrapping and I am a big advocate of that too and throughout the invention idea to profitable product program I teach that like hey at this point this is what you can do yourself this is the market research that you can go out and do yourself and I’m so happy that you said that and that is the most important part and a lot of people end up skipping that and they want to move forward with the exciting parts and they don’t want to go out and talk to people with their product because they’re afraid of someone stealing their IP but it is really been beneficial and one thing that I think was great for you is that you had a relationship with your costumers already you know you could go into the lab and you were day every single day and you know what I want you guys listening to pick up from these is this is taking errand a long time to build and he wasn’t in the lab every single day just extracting this information and putting everything together what his costumers wanted what they needed and then ultimately what they’re willing to pay for and it does take a lot of work in it it’s a lot harder for someone else to do if they’re not already working in that environment.

Aaron: Absolutely! Starting of something that you’re already doing or something I believe I’m not sure you mentioned this but getting into the industry is probably the first step so getting in figuring out what the landscape looks like and you can access everything from there and just happened that I was already in the industry and I started capitalizing on the opportunity that I saw there.

Meghan: Yeah so what’s the hardest thing that you have to face throughout your journey?

Aaron: Largely I would have to say that’s a rollercoaster so and people have mentioned it before but you’ll be cruising along and you’ll get this opportunity and pretty much say to yourself or your loved ones like man this is such a huge opportunity for me it’s gonna be so good for me and then you go and you take care of all of the things that you need to take care for that opportunity and then it’s potentially not a huge opportunity as you would have want this and so I’ll use an example going and talking to an investor like in the back in your mind you’re thinking this investor gonna give all his money to be able start my company or everything and then you go and talk to him and they kick you back they say come and talk to when xyz and so you kinda get down to that and that’s kinda hard to deal with but then at the same time what they give is gold what they give you is just what you need to be doing in order to make this company profitable because an investor isn’t going to give you money until they know you’re gonna be able to make money I mean there are some exception some angel investors like they’ll see the potential or something like that in you but largely they want to de risk the situation until you’re either in revenue you either such strong IP that you’re pretty much untouchable which is ridiculously expensive you probably never gonna get IP to be untouchable but I’m not saying don’t get IP don’t get protection or anything but I’m saying make sure that you’re not putting the cart before divorce again and saying when I get all of these patents people start giving me money because that’s not necessarily the truth.

Meghan: So speaking just of the roller coaster ride and I think that’s entrepreneurship in general whether you’re building a product or you own a franchise or someone like me that owns a company you know we all feel it and what has been your saving grace what do you come home and really rely on your family and you say I have this rough day and there your support network or you talk with friends or mentors how do you get to that?

Aaron: I think as entrepreneurs and CEO and everything everyone needs to have a ticket of things that they can do to pick them up I am one of the fortunate entrepreneurs I guess I won’t say one of the few I’m not too all of the other entrepreneur but when I come home my son says Hi to me and everything all of the stress just kinda melts away that’s really kind of escape of my to spend time with my family but then sometimes it will be like a specific artist or something like that I’ll listen to the radio that will really help me in mind and then other times like I’ll go on the internet I’ll build the test model or something like this is such a car and I might have one of this one day you just kind of that positive affirmation that’s good.

Meghan: that’s good if you were to give any advice to someone just starting out like they just have an idea for product what’s the most valuable thin you can say them?

Aaron: Network. People say this time and time again it’s not what you know it’s what you know and it’s so true in the world of business so if you were to try and go out there and read every book or absorb every bit of information on letter through you could been starting a business then you’re gonna get pulled in so many different directions where as if you actually get out and you start networking you find people have been where you are or where you’re going not just with mentor and stuff like that but also with potential costumers you go and network with them. What you’re doing is you’re building yourself a support net and so all of the questions that you may have will be a text message or a phone call so investors are huge resources someone once told me apply mentor he told me if you want money go and ask for advice if you want advice then go and ask for money so keep that in mind if you’re going and talking to investor and they’re gonna tell you exactly what you need to be doing before they’re willing to give you money and then if you and you talk to an investor and you asked them for advice then as you work back and forth they’ll got to get to know you they’re gonna get to understand what you’re doing and they’re going to learn to trust you and you’re gonna be build that support network and some point of time they’re more than likely like you know you’re on to something here and I want to help you succeed and that is where the real successful relationship come in when you’re talking to investors.

Meghan: So tell us the first manufacture products will be live soon and you already started taking pre-orders tell us more about that and how you ranch I remember talking you when we first met and you really wanted to manufacture in the US and you’ve done that and you’ve just been impressive so tell us more about the upcoming launch.

Aaron: Yes so what I’ve going through with this I was trying to cold call potential costumer and try to find out what they’re doing if it would something that would be interested in get letters and all of that stuff and then I kind of and I decided I would go where my costumers are going already so I started working with several dealers that’s already distributing laboratory equipment and everything cause my costumers are already going there when they needed purchase equipment and instead of me trying to sink up with their buying cycle another huge one that you need to research when you’re talking about your market research that instead of me trying to sink up with their buying cycle and find my costumer when they’re trying to buy equipment I could go to where they’re already going and I could reach them there so it pretty much does half of the work for me already and until I can establish myself as being that go to source for them to come to and need to purchase something going to the dealer is definitely the way to go but we were live market officially yesterday and we’re going through all of the necessary regulatory and everything to begin shipping all these product so our official launch is going to be in September and then we’re gonna start shipping product the month after September so the month after September we’ll start shipping product

Meghan: Yeah that’s amazing so congratulations!

Aaron: Well thank you it’s been a battle you definitely have to be a miracle worker to start something like this from scratch.

Meghan: Yeah and just have the determination to keep going even when times get really hard and it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna work out.

Aaron: So just to put in perspective what being a miracle worker until you have to find your solution and your market you have to build a team you have to build your solution so you have to build your product or whatever and then you start to selling product and everything you have to start getting traction in the market and all of that before intellectual property and all of that comes before most investors are willing to even touch you so all of this stuff you’re pretty much having to will into existence getting to people to work for you for free it’s not very easy but when you’re up into something that is going to change lives or make people more efficient or productive of what they do. There are people out there that are willing support you in that are willing to put in to help you bring your vision to realization.
Meghan: So speaking of building a team how did you start that process and did you have any money at that point and you were paying there or you did convince them to work for you for free? Well I shouldn’t say for free for equity.

Aaron: Some of them for free some of them for equity some of them like either work upfront because you have personal relationship with them and they say if you ever make it big you pay me back one day or something like that but yeah I’ve learn that I was gonna be an entrepreneur that I was gonna start my own business or everything so I’ve always been networking so every time that I meet someone like over something if I get to college party or something like that when I was gearing out because I did that once. When I met someone it was always like I got their name what they’re doing what their passion was so what they wanted to do with their lives and those are the people that I reach back out too so someone said that they absolutely love creating software something at the state of the art or something so I would call that person up and say hey what are you doing right now sometimes they would have successful job or successful career or whatever and sometimes doing something doing they don’t really want to do and I was like I have this idea how would you like to come in help me work on this idea it may turn into a complete flop we may get nothing at it and you will always get upfront in them and tell them that you can’t necessarily guarantee anything but if they help you bring into realization it could potentially be very profitable for both of you and so like those largely friendships and people who you already know are your biggest assets.

Meghan: And you’re growing your team right now are you?

Aaron: Yeah right now there are 5 of us that have been working on these it was 2 of us from the very beginning it quickly once you start more traction and you start establishing yourself then some of the people it’s a little easier for them to go ahead and join your team because like there’s something tangible there like when I incorporated I was been an entity like weren’t just like helping me out of a favour or something they are helping to build a company so there are 5 of us right now and when we start scaling up manufacturing we’re gonna be hiring 14 people very quickly and then yeah the sky is the limit depending on how large the demand is because you always that conservative depending on how high the demand is determines how fast we’re gonna have to scale?

Meghan: So how long does it take each unit to be built like if that demand really sky rockets can you fulfil orders quickly?

Aaron: Yeah so when we get all of the capabilities cause largely our devices the way that I built it. I built it so that it can largely contract manufactured so I can send prince of to instance a metal fabricator and I can say make me a thousand of these parts and they say okay we’ll begin shipping in 2 to 3 weeks or something like that and sometimes depending on the part you can have this much as a 3 months delay before they can start shipping product to you so that’s something else that you have to figure out but having it to where I can have contract manufactures that are already establish build these parts then I can have all of the part shipped to my manufacturing facility and we can have a single a symbol 1 unit in a 8 hour a day. So we have a team of 14 so we can build 14 units a day because of our product and because of the solution that I’m creating we do roughly a thousand hours of testing before we’ll ship it to the costumer because going back to the solution that we’re solving I don’t want that equipment to fail so I want to make sure that it is top of the line before I put it in my costumers hand.

Meghan: Yeah you have to have that in place or then you’ve got a service business too. Whenever you go out and make repairs.

Aaron: Largely I would have to be paying someone to fix that unit and that would be coming out of profit margin probably. It goes back to that solution I want these laboratories just to put into perspective. One of their experiments may take 18 months so if that fails then that mean they have to start at square one and start that experiment. It’s gonna be 18 months to be able to get their results so if one of my units fail then that’s a potential drug or therapy that’s going to save millions of lives it’s gonna be delayed another year and a half before they can start bring it into the trial to everything so I don’t want to slow that process down I want to enable and empower these scientist to be able to create and discover endlessly. I don’t want to have them any restrictions and I don’t want them to rely on equipment.

Meghan: Well good thank you so much for talking with these and tell us how people can get a hold of you and they’re interested and learning more about Hardin’s Scientific where should they go?

Aaron: So yeah largely you can go to my website it’s really easy as Hardinscientific.com and that’s spelled H-A-R-D-I-N so you can go there I have a contact me link so you can I’m pretty sure it sends directly to my email right now so yeah you can do that otherwise my business line is 858-256-6171

Meghan: Wow there you go you have the direct line to Aaron Hardin and if you have any questions at all he’s a great guy to know and answer those questions for you.
Aaron: Yeah I mean people like us we’re changing the world so let me know how can I help you.
Meghan: Well thank you very much and if you are taking your idea seriously and you want to know what to do next I kinda hinted at it earlier at the program but I have something for you called Invention Idea to Profitable Product and you can find out more about that if you go to IMUA-SERVICES.COM/3WAYS so the 3 WAYS is a free training I have for you and kinda feeds into the bigger training so I hope to see you over there thanks for listening and until the next episode, IMUA!

Mahalo for joining us. If you’re new to riding the waves of medical device product development, or if you’ve been in development for a while already, Inspired by Imua is here to surf with you. Want to be a master of the waves? Text hang ten that’s all one word HANGTEN to 44222. We’ll send you the most common wipe outs companies make in product development so you can avoid them and reach master wave status. Again, that’s HANGTEN to 44222. We publish a new episode every Tuesday, so catch us at Inspiredbyimua.com. Imua!

About the Author

Meghan M. Alonso

Meghan M. Alonso, referred to by Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington as a medical device development expert, is known for her award winning medical device podcast, Inspired by Imua, the chapter she wrote in best selling book “Put a Shark in Your Tank, and her valuable connections in the medical industry. According to the Huffington Post, she helps clients navigate the complicated process of bringing their ideas to the marketplace. She’s a patriotic military wife, pet parent, founder and co-founder of 4 successful companies who thrives on guiding medical device and IVD companies through development and manufacturing.

When she isn’t helping others, Meghan is hard at work on her MBA she is pursuing from Auburn University, staying active with her adorable husky Abby, crossfitting, enjoying great restaurants and fine wine with her husband, and soaking up the sun the nearest beach.

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