Whenever people talk about entrepreneurship, they usually discuss groundbreaking businesses. You know, like Tesla, SpaceX and Amazon.
It makes you feel like you need to be an Elon Musk level super genius to start a successful online company!
The truth is that straightforward products solving basic problems create fantastic business opportunities. In fact, a lot of businesses are successful because they KEEP...IT...SIMPLE.
That's why we're going to start analyzing some simple businesses to show that you can succeed through simplicity too! If that feeling of "I can do this!" sinks in, you'll finally take action on your own ideas to break through the crippling wantrepreneur phase.
In this first Simple Business Case Study installment, we're going to break down a company created by 2 long haired dudes who turned a snap idea into both a profitable business and global brotherhood.
Read on to learn 5 important lessons from their business that you can implement right now to start taking action building your own.
As a long haired guy myself, I wish I’d known about The Longhairs website before I started growing my locks out 3 years ago.
The Longhairs now educate, advocate for, and build community around men with manes.
Now, if you think that long haired bros are a niche market, you’d be right...
...but wrong in thinking that it’s too small to build a profitable business around. In the ActiveGrowth podcast, Shane and Hanne often discuss why the riches are in the niches.
And that’s exactly how The Longhairs succeeded with a simple Hair Ties for Guys™ idea. Because of its sharp focus on a disconnected tribe of shaggy guys, the business now ships product to all 50 US states and 48+ countries around the world!Now, let’s look at the 5 lessons we picked up from studying The Longhairs so you can use them to start your own simple business online.
Lesson 1: Solve a Big Pain Point with a Simple Solution
Hair Ties For Guys™ are hardy elastic hair bands made specifically for guys with long hair.
But I know what you’re thinking. How can something as simple as a hair tie be gender specific?
Well, hang with me for a sec and imagine this:
You’re a savagely furry dude who’s hangry as hell and in desperate need of a sandwich. As you try to assemble your ingredients into a delicious hoagie to curb your hunger, your hair just keeps getting in the way.
Decision time: 1) use one of your little sister’s neon pink scrunchies, 2) dress your hair in spicy mustard or 3) starve. The hunger wins and you fork over your man card in favor of the pink scrunchy.
That’s where Hair Ties for Guys™ comes in. They provide longhairs with a variety of bro-approved hair tie designs to eliminate the female fashion problem. Instead of the awkward pink scrunchy, longhairs can wear some manly lightning bolts, lumberjack plaid or macho missile launches.
However, this could create a different set of problems for dudes because Hair Ties for Guys™ are “So cool, your girlfriend will steal them.”
Hairy Pain Points Lead to a Manely Business Opportunity
I don’t think physical products get any simpler than elastic bands with print designs on them. Yet, that’s exactly what The Longhairs decided to pursue for their new business.
I know you think that sounds like a dumb business idea since you can walk into any Walmart and buy a big bag of black hair ties for 2 bucks. That’s understandable. I’ll forgive your ignorance if you’re a girl or even a guy who’s never had long hair.
But as a guy with long hair myself (3 years long and still growing), let me educate you on some manely lifestyle pain points:
- Trying to eat or work on stuff with your hair down is a huge pain-in-the-ass. Also, dragging your hair through spaghetti is never fun.
- There’s no segment of the fashion industry dedicated to men with long hair so you end up wearing women’s accessories...or hats.
- Hair ties are sold in the women’s health care isle which can feel… errrrrrr… awkward for a lot of guys to buy.
- Guys don’t grow up getting the knowledge necessary to take care of their long hair like women do. You’re left to figure it all out as it grows out. Guys are looking for a place to learn how to keep their hair looking healthy, strong and sexy. ;-)
So what do all those pain points mean for 2 SoCal guys (Chris Healy a.k.a. El Rubio and Lindsay Barto a.k.a. El Moreno) with a simple idea to get annoying hair out of their faces?
That’s right…a profitable niche business that's grown into a global brotherhood of long haired aficionados!
Brainstorm Your Own Simple Business Idea
The takeaway here is that even a simple problem you deal with in daily life can become a sweet online business or side-hustle for you.
Here’s how to manifest your own simple business idea:
First take a few minutes to brainstorm all the niche “tribes” you belong to or identify with.
These can be official groups of people that already recognize themselves as a tribe...
...or unofficial groups that aren’t connected yet (guys around the world with long hair for example).
Next, for each of these official and unofficial “tribes” you listed, brainstorm the pain points those people face, both big and small. Go crazy here...leave no silly thought unturned. It’s important not to judge your ideas at this stage to keep your creative juices flowing.
Now, think of ways to solve the simple problems you came up with while eliminating the complex ones. The idea here is to discover a simple problem you can build a niche online business around solving.
Lesson 2: Validate Your Idea As Fast As Possible
As soon as the Hair Ties For Guys™ idea sparked, The Longhairs didn’t waste time trying to create their product. Instead, they took the Lean Startup approach and created a video commercial to see if there was a viable market for their new business.
In just 10 working days, they produced a hilarious commercial for their imaginary product to see if an underserved market of long haired dudes actually needed a hair tie that was “Strong enough for a woman, but Ph-balanced for a man.”
Do yourself a favor and watch their awesome video commercial below:
The Longhairs video commercial created to validate their Hair Ties For Guys™ product idea. They completed the video just 10 working days after coming up with the idea!
Sell the Idea First, Not the Product
Now that you’ve seen the commercial, did you notice something?
They didn’t even show the Hair Ties For Guys™ product because they hadn’t created it yet! The commercial focused on selling the idea of special hair ties for men instead.
“Hair Ties For Guys are F#@$ING AWESOME! Pirates, the American Flag and Lightning Bolts will show that you mean business.”
The commercial addresses the practical, emotional and social pain points guys with long hair face and how their then imaginary product solves them all. The video also employs the right blend of pragmatism, bro-culture and humor to make selling hair ties to a masculine tribe of guys – serious business.
Create Your Own Minimum Viable Product
Take the simple business idea you brainstormed in Lesson 1 and try to validate it amongst your target tribe in 2 weeks or less.
You need to create your own Minimum Viable Product to see if people resonate with your solution or not.Another way to quickly validate your business idea is by using the Customer First Approach taught in the ActiveGrowth podcast. This method allows you to offer 1-on-1 coaching services to determine what your target customers actually need. You then create your product around that need without having to trial and error your way to successful products.
Lesson 3: Identify and Connect Your Tribe
The Hair Ties For Guys™ commercial was such a success, it made The Longhairs pause to consider what it was their business was actually accomplishing.
They realized that:
“Hair Ties For Guys™ is about much more than a loop of elastic. It’s about why guys with long hair NEED Hair Ties For Guys™”
The Longhairs were actually building a global community for guys with long hair that never existed before. Their new mission would be to:
Advocate for the normalization of guys with long hair in both the workplace and society.
Educate guys on how to take care of their long hair since most men don’t get this training growing up like women do.
Celebrate long hair for guys through meetups, hair whip competitions and acknowledging the “let it ride” identity dudes with long hair create for themselves.
Leading The Longhair Tribe
The Longhairs are an amazing example of what Seth Godin calls leading your tribe:
Seth Godin's Leading Your Tribe TED talk.
If you can find even a small group of disaffected people that are yearning for something, you can build a business around connecting them and providing solutions to their common problems.
The Longhairs did exactly that by connecting men who identify with having long hair, but feel socially discriminated against and don’t have the tools or knowledge necessary to take proper care of it.
In stepping up to lead this global tribe of bros with flowing locks, The Longhairs became a trusted source of support, education and authority for all issues that involve masculine manes. That not only cultivates a loyal community of true fans, but a receptive market for their current and future products.
Step Up and Become Your Tribe’s Leader
In Lesson 1, you identified your tribe, a significant pain point those people share and a solution to fix that problem. In Lesson 2, you validated that your solution could be a profitable business serving the the people in your tribe.
Now it’s time to take a step back and think about how your idea can not only serve, but also connect the people in your tribe.
To reiterate Seth Godin’s call to action at the end of his Leading Your Tribe video, ask yourself:
- Who are you upsetting? “If you’re not upsetting anyone, you’re not changing the status quo.”
- Who are you connecting? “That’s what people are in your community for...the connections.”
- Who are you leading? “Focusing on the 'who' and the 'leading' is where change comes.”
Answer those questions, connect your tribe and start a movement my friends.
Lesson 4: Educate Your Tribe
I said it before and I’ll say it again: I wish I'd known about The Longhairs before I started growing my hair out 3 years ago. The Longhairs' blog and YouTube video library would have helped me sidestep several hairy pitfalls as my hair grew down past my shoulders.
After finding their content, several issues I’d been struggling with were quickly resolved:
- How do I brush my long hair without breaking it?
- How often should I wash and brush my hair? Wait, I’m NOT supposed to brush my hair when it’s wet?!
- How do I deal with split ends and... ummm... what are split ends exactly???
The Longhairs have created a large amount of high quality content to help educate their tribe on how to best grow and maintain their locks.In fact, since The Longhairs launched their blog, they've stayed true to a weekly posting schedule for over 3 years.
Help Your Audience With More Than Just Products
If you want to become the leader of your tribe, you’ll need to deliver quality content on a dedicated schedule to establish yourself as an authority.
You may not get traction at first, but your growing library of useful material will soon show people that your brand caters to solving the tribe's problems. Before long, your target audience will come search your content first whenever a problem arises.
In this same way, The Longhairs website has become THE go-to resource for me when it comes to maintaining my man bun. That means I'll return to their site multiple times over the months ahead which will only deepen my trust and connection to their brand.
The next time I need a hair tie or other hair care products, it's pretty much settled where I'm going to buy them from...
To Become a Great Teacher, Be an Excellent Student
Just because you’re educating your audience as a leader within your niche doesn’t mean you must speak from a position of all-knowing wisdom.
In fact, pretending to be the final authority on any subject will likely backfire. You’ll come across as arrogant and un-relatable. Such an authoritarian mindset could also keep you from creating content if you don't feel 100% comfortable teaching others about your subject yet.
To sidestep such content creation pitfalls, consider teaching from the position that you're still learning yourself and want to share what you discover for the benefit of your tribe. This will help better connect you with your target audience and give them the confidence that they can achieve your positive results too.
It's time for you to get to work creating content with a focus on being helpful rather than looking fly.
Lesson 5: Commit To Consistency
When El Rubio and El Moreno launched their Longhairs blog, they only had two subscribers... their mothers!
But their 2 maternal followers soon grew to include friends. Those friends then grew to include the random people they talked their blog up to in bars. And before long, they started to see organic search traffic arrive to consume their popular educational posts.
The year after the blog began, they launched their first Hair Ties For Guys™ products to the small audience they’d built and saw some modest sales.
“We can’t say exactly where or when, but somewhere between years two and three we started getting real action.”
Followers began to leave more comments, sales started to take off, extra products found their way on to "The Men's Aisle", and the community was picking up steam.
Here's what The Longhairs say helped their business capture an ever growing number of followers: A dedication and commitment to delivering a new blog post, every...single...week.
3+ Years of Dedicated Content Creation
Without fail, the Longhairs published a new blog post every week for over 3 years. That's 156+ weeks straight and counting...
“If you do anything meaningful for 156 weeks in a row, good things are going to happen. People will start paying attention. It’s the long game.” - El Rubio in The Longhairs’ 3rd Anniversary Blog Post
And they didn’t keep their content limited to blog posts either. Over time, The Longhairs started to create YouTube videos and more recently, a weekly podcast.
Even when El Rubio and El Moreno decided to take a time intensive looooong shot on applying for and eventually appearing on the hit TV show Shark Tank, their blog and business always came first.
“Our chips are all-in on The Longhairs. They’re not all-in on Shark Tank.” - El Moreno in their Road To Shark Tank video blog post:
The Longhairs' "Road To Shark Tank" video blog post discussing the challenges of running their business while trying to jump through the time-intensive hoops of appearing on the hit TV show Shark Tank.
No matter how busy The Longhairs found themselves running a business while trying to land their Shark Tank appearance, “the blog post was still due, every single week.”
The Longhairs on Shark Tank
El Rubio and El Moreno appeared on Season 9, Episode 16 of Shark Tank and nailed their sales pitch. They made a deal with the self-made billionaire Mark Cuban getting a $100,000 cash infusion for a 20% stake in their company.
The following are The Longhairs' revenue and profit margins as shared in their pitch to the Sharks:
First year sales: $25,000
Second year sales: $140,000
Hair Ties For Guys™ 4-Pack Production Cost: $1.60
Retail Price on The Longhairs website and Amazon: $12.00
That's 560% in revenue growth over a 1 year period with a x7.5 profit margin! What a great example of how a simple idea really can become a profitable online business.
When you realize that your job as an entrepreneur is to ship, you’re not only going to create a mountain of awesome content, but you’re going to cultivate a get-sh*t-done mindset that you need to achieve business success.
Decide on Your Shipping Schedule and Nail It
No matter how simple your business is, you must commit to shipping your ideas, content and products consistently.
There’s no magic to shipping content on a schedule...you just have to learn how to overcome your habit of procrastination by perfectionism and follow through.
Choose a shipping schedule for yourself (E.g. once a week for blog posts) and commit to it. If you hit your publish button a day...or 2...or even 3 late, that’s okay. Even The Longhairs admit a few of their blog posts made it late to the party, but they never let it become an excuse not to ship the next scheduled article a few days later.
If you’re serious about building a successful online business:
- Pick your medium (blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc.).
- Choose your content schedule.
- Commit to shipping it.
Now It's Your Turn
There you have it.
Those are the 5 Lessons I learned from analyzing a simple business built around making my long hair look more interesting and be less of a pain-in-the-ass.
The Longhairs are a great example of a business created by solving a simple problem many people experience in daily life. Before El Rubio and El Moreno knew it, they’d created a novel product and a tribe of true fans eager for their help, guidance and profitable merchandise.
What do you think about The Longhairs and how they went about building their business? How will you take these 5 lessons and use them to help start your own simple side-hustle?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about The Longhairs below.
P.S. Can you think of other simple businesses that would be interesting for us to analyze for you? If so, let me know in the comments section below!
Loved this first study case, especially the focus on a niche and tribe that didn’t really exist yet! Looking forward to reading the next ones published.
YO DUDE! Killer article, you really dove deep. Let’s link up.
YO EL RUBIO! It was a blast studying your business for this post…so many great lessons people can learn from you and El Moreno about how to successfully bootstrap an online business. Email on its way…
Congrats on your success!
This is such a great example, I really appreciate you taking the time to share it and educate us.
I have a similar story to share, it´s not mine, but my sister´s. She has created a brand of premium and artistic hand made products who nobody thought would be really profitable. She developed the whole business plan as part of her thesis for her master´s degree (MBA + marketing) and the numbers were just solid. She is now preparing to start a physical store and also go online. We all hope for the best and will obviously work for it to happen.
Talking a bit about what I´m doing, I´m currently setting up my blog, as I want to become my own brand and teach people how they can become online entrepreneurs and build a business of their own.
Once again, thank you for sharing and inspiring Matt.
Thanks for your comments Luis.
All the best with your sister’s new business and starting your personal brand!
So simple, yet so brilliant! Love it. :)
That was a kick ar*e post Matt, just loved how even I with hardly any hair got drawn into the whole concept. The validation video was awesome – to have got that together in 10 days showa stones.
Many thanks Tony! And I agree, their rapid validation video is pretty epic.
Matt, as always, you mastered the art of providing all the relevant details. It is always a pleasure to read you. Just one thing, it would have been interesting to watch the video of the final pitch at the end.
Thanks so much Sonia! I wish I could have included the Shark Tank pitch in the post, but it’s copyrighted and not available online yet. You might be able to stream it on Hulu though.
The REAL question is whether these ties will convince Shane to let his hair grow…
Shane in a hair whip competition…now there’s a thought! ;-P
This is such a wonderful example of a simple business idea, thanks for your analysis Matt
Just one question, about these guys’ first video to test the market response, how would traffic be generated to the video, because if simply uploaded to YouTube, the wait for views would be forever without promotion or targeted traffic sent to it, wouldn’t it..?
I don’t have any details about how The Longhairs determined that their validation was a success, but I’m guessing it didn’t take that much traffic to make a go/no-go decision.
If it were me, after the commercial was completed, I would show it to target customers in my area to see what their in-person response was (a.k.a customer development).
I’d also send some paid traffic to a landing page using the video to see if I could get some pre-sales. I’d also try to get the video posted on related blogs through guest posting or post it in different subreddits to gauge what the initial reaction to the business idea was. Most of those promotion streams are free and I wouldn’t spend very much on the paid traffic option either.
If the response was just crickets, a pivot should probably be considered. If there’s a strong market desire for the hair ties idea however, I’d start product development right away.
This article made my day :)!!! seriously amazing and awesome. I I learned so much. Not yet up with my website (this girl is just starting to test the waters because an 8-5 job is still tying her feet) truly inspiring !
Time management is definitely a skill we all have to learn when trying to get our side-hustles off the ground. But even if you spend just 30 minutes every day to consistently build your online business, you’d be surprised how quickly it takes shape!
” first Simple Business Case Study installment” More of these examples are more then welcome :-D