Ben Wynkoop is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer for Manly Man Co.®— an eCommerce brand founded in 2017 that sells unique and intriguing gifts for men. Like many who become SEO professionals, Ben did so by accident. In 2007 he began selling fitness supplements out of his barracks room wall locker, months before being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, and decided to take his venture online after the completion of his enlistment.
However, after taking out a small business loan to have a website built, reality struck upon learning how much effort must be placed into marketing a website for even a small amount of sales to sustain. At the time courses were not yet common, so after piecing together information from various forums and through painful trial and error, Ben gained enough experience and achieved enough results to begin a career in SEO at digital marketing agencies and in-house at companies.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Ben Wynkoop: The idea for the Manly Man Company® came to Greg Murray after a simple conversation with his wife Jacquie, for whom he had recently bought a bouquet: Why isn’t there a gift for men that’s equivalent to flowers? Yes, you can buy men flowers, but the practice isn’t what you might call commonplace. The couple speculated that a bouquet of beef jerky might be the perfect stand-in. Soon after his wife surprised Greg with the very first iteration of what is now called “Man Bouquets”— sticks and sheets of jerky carved into the shape of flowers and roses that are presented inside a pint glass or beer mug “vase”.
After the Murray’s discovered man bouquets were the perfect solution for the dilemma of what to get “him” for Valentine’s Day, during their first week in operation, Greg called a high school classmate with him he enlisted in the Marine Corps— Ben Wynkoop, to join Greg and Jacquie as the third Co-Founder, to efficiently place their custom products in front of as many people as possible, online.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Ben Wynkoop: I’d like to say both because there has to be something in you from birth that makes you crazy enough to subject yourself to the journey of entrepreneurship which is a rollercoaster… high and lows, without much in the middle. Many entrepreneurs feel the way entrepreneur and bitcoin advocate Charlie Shrem describes himself, “psychologically unemployable,” However, what’s in you from birth only provides the passion for entrepreneurship and the rest must be made. If you don’t focus on developing habits to be a disciplined self-starter and heavily invest in education (much being non-traditional such as courses and coaching), you’re going nowhere, fast.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Ben Wynkoop: The exact way Charlie Shrem describes himself, “psychologically unemployable” …although the Marine Corps did teach me to be a good employee when need be (because they “beat it into you”).
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Ben Wynkoop: We make unique and intriguing gifts for men. Just the way flowers are a traditional gift for women, we seek to bring the same solution for those gifting men. Our marquee products are made in-house at our headquarters in San Diego County. Initially, I was frustrated that our best-sellers must be hand-made/assembled instead of mass-produced overseas like I saw around me with so many eCommerce brands. However, after we created a system to scale products to a significant extent, I embraced this difficulty as a barrier to entry because so many assume they can compete with us, several have tried, but there is no easy path, despite how “things look on the surface.”
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Ben Wynkoop: Assume you know NOTHING. I am shocked at the ignorance of so many people who assume they can be successful relatively quickly at something they have never even tried. There are courses out there that teach business, comprehensive business models… A-Z. See if one exists for the type of venture you’re getting yourself into.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Ben Wynkoop: YES! As previously stated, I thought you just pop up an online store and people somehow find it without much effort placed into digital marketing.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Ben Wynkoop: Well there weren’t courses at the time, so to provide contemporary advice, for anyone in the same position, present-day… find the most specific course possible before proceeding.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Ben Wynkoop: “Just make the jump and figure it out on the way down” … come on! This is the age of information, with so much information on the web for you to first gain some technical skills and craft a specific strategic plan.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Ben Wynkoop: Well in the online space don’t assume you’re all good because you can work anywhere from a laptop because as we saw with the global shipping crisis, many eCommerce brands were “brought to their knees” when unable to get inventory. Sure, this wasn’t as bad as many longtime brick and mortar brands, many of which went out of business, but it can very much so threaten your livelihood. What hasn’t changed is I still work in my boxer shorts.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Ben Wynkoop: You’ll have much more free time than a regular job. At first, you absolutely will not. Later you can by creating systems and delegate them. Start by writing down every recurring task you complete, how long it takes (time it), and if it does not require an extreme amount of judgment, write step-by-step documentation and/or screen capture video walkthroughs using a tool such as Snagit, and delegate.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Ben Wynkoop: Crazy, PASSION, technical, thorough, diligent, humble.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Ben Wynkoop: Courses and groups. For example in internet marketing general courses exist that provide detailed instruction on a single marketing channel such as Facebook Ads to niche-specific courses on Facebook Ads for a specific industry. For groups, you can build your network at conferences but even more simple are Facebook groups… or combine both with the Facebook Groups that are made by course creators for their students (as you may be able to tell by now, I have bought many courses and no, I do not have my course, so this is not a primer before attempting to sell an info product.)
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Ben Wynkoop: I dunno, maybe a firefighter? Good pay, time off, workout on the job, people appreciate you, and a sweet retirement package.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Ben Wynkoop: Some of those in the military who carried out legendary acts of valor. The citations for top U.S. military medals such including the Silver Star, Navy Cross, and Medal of Honor, detail actions I struggle to comprehend nor can a movie accurately portray.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ben Wynkoop for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ben Wynkoop or his company, you can do it through his – Instagram
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