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Father’s Passion Project for Diabetic Son

Joe Kuelker created a store with Ecwid to provide his son and other kids with diabetes small scaled replica devices (insulin pumps, CGM) for toys and stuffed animals.

We discuss what this product can mean for kids with diabetes and for parents that first learn of the diagnosis

We discuss the Ecwid Instant Site, social media marketing, Facebook Groups and other options for Joe to get the word out on this business that also has a social mission.

Transcript

Jesse: Hey, guys! Jesse Ness here with the Ecwid podcast show back again with my co-host…

Richard: Richard Otay. How are you doing, Jess?

Jesse: I’m good, I’m good! It’s a beautiful day here in San Diego and I’m super excitied today, we actually have another local San Diegan or Rancho Bernardain, Joe Kilker, here to talk about his site, Heroic Kid. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe: Hey! Thanks for having me guys.

Jesse: Absolutely!

Joe: This is a new experience for me. Thanks for having me and talking about this thing that I called heroickid.com.

Jesse: Awesome! Well, yeah, I’m a new podcaster for myself, so we will take it easy on you. Richard’s here to guide us along. But, you know, what I wanted to let the audience know, I chose this site because I thought it was an awesome story and I thought it really helped highlight, you know, what we do at Ecwid. So I want to hear your story — give us a little background on heroickid.com.

Joe: So, heroickid.com. I just kind of look at it this way: it’s just a website I put together to put smiles on type 1 diabetic kids’ faces. I think what we’re most known for is creating these tiny replicas of medical devices that these kids have to wear to stay alive. Why did I create this? That’s because my son is a type 1 diabetic. In 2014, at the age of 1, he had symptoms of diabetes. One symptom is constantly being thirsty and frequent urination. He is also very agitated and weight loss. So, we took him into the hospital, a quick and easy check, and sure enough, he had type 1 diabetes.

Jesse: Wow! That’s tough for a one-year-old to find that out! Well, for you to find that out and have that be a part of your son. What’s your son’s name?

Joe: Remy.

Jesse: Remy, okay. So, you know, for other parents that might be listening, so what are some of that the symptoms, you know, so like, you mentioned frequent urination in you’re changing diapers like every half an hour.

Joe: Yeah! He had, like, super-heavy diapers. And non-stop, unconscionable thirst. He would go through these super large tumblers, like an adult, like, this kid, I don’t know how he’s holding all this water.

Richard: And then I will send you to realize he’s not holding all this water.

Joe: He’s not. It’s coming out in this diaper that weighs as much as a brick. So, we knew something was wrong, and unfortunately, it was type 1 diabetes.

Richard: Yeah. So, what was it that inspired you to come up with these, as you’re saying, replica patches? So, they’re obviously not using these patches themselves.

Joe: No…

Richard: And you showed us a couple of packages here, I’m sure we’ll direct people to see what they actually look like. So this is tipped to help the kids feel more comfortable with these devices on their body.

Joe: It is. Last year my son would be four. He’s just starting to get to an age where he’s kind of understands that he has to wear these stuff, these important devices, and his preschool friends don’t. And I noticed that he’s kinda questioning that and he doesn’t like it.

It’s kinda normal for him because he was diagnosed so young. But he’s getting to the age where he understands that he’s wearing these devices. One being an insulin pump, the other being the CGM. CGM is a continuous glucose monitor. So, around that same time, I’m a product development engineer. I purchased a 3D printer for a different project, but one of the first things I did, because he was questioning why, you know, why. There’s no easy answer for that.You can go online and kinda show him pictures of other diabetics. Even though it affects millions of people, going outside, and you just don’t see random people wearing, you know, an insulin pump. And in preschool, no kids have it.

And if you were to go maybe to the beach, he might see you maybe, maybe see someone has one of these devices. I just wanted to create something that he can see almost on a daily basis. So, one the first things I created was an insulin pod that kind of matches his, that would just be on stuffed animals. And the look in his eyes when I gave it to him, it was like that cheerful happiness, it was more of like a look: “This is awesome, thank you so much.” A deep look of content. It was a very-very sweet moment.

Richard: I feel for you, Joe, and we, Jesse and I both have young children. The word that comes to my mouth is just “wow” like in the midst of all this going on, and all that you have to deal with as a parent and not knowing how to explain to your child, kudos to you for  not only trying to find a way but actually turn this into a business that, you know, will get into more whether what you’re going to try to do with the business and we’re going to grow the business. Just to even turn that into something else that can be helping other families that are going through this. To me that’s really the American dream, you know. People talk about the American dream in various ways but to me, you can help children and make a business that might even be able to help more, it’s a beautiful thing, so just kudos to you for having the wherewithal to go through this, while you’re going through this.

Joe: Yeah. Thank you very much. My goal was to… I just wanted to get it out there for other parents. So, that was basically my goal. I created this small thing for my child, he’s happy with it, and I know there’s other kids out there too. I’m not out looking for the American dream, though it all sounds great. It’s just really to get something out there maybe to help other parents.

And it is for parents too, because we don’t want to see our kids in this situation. We deal with this on a daily basis; we see what our kids go through. To a normal person, they will see him maybe at school around about for few hours, he looks like a normal kid; you don’t see the battles that are going on behind the scenes. Usually, one or two episodes daily even, you know, oftentimes in the middle of night, 2 in the morning, you’re up to get the kid a box of juice. So, it’s a battle, and I want to bring a little bit of fun into this really difficult disease that we’re kinda forced to deal with.

Jesse: Absolutely. So, it’s just the way that, you know, help your son feel normal, really, like, you know, all of his heroes, all of these, you know, characters, I guess, so, for people who are on our podcast, so not looking at the website…

Joe: Right!

Jesse: But, tell us an example of one of the first products you made for him.

Joe: So, the first product — he wears an insulin pod, this is called an omnipod. So, that was the first thing I created. It’s very simple. I’ve worked on some very complex engineering projects for me, so it didn’t take very long for me to do it at all. And I have a 3D printer as I said before. I just printed it out and pinned it on one of his, it was a bear. It was the first thing that I’ve created on. It’s removable, it has a pin on back, so it’s pinned to many stuffed animals. And if you guys have seen those six-foot tall bears at Costco, he has one of those, and that’s where it resides now. It’s pretty durable too, and he wrestles with that thing insanely, crazy, because, he’s a wild man. And it has survived. So, I’m very happy with the product.

Richard: At what point did you decide “I’m going to make this into a store and get this in for other parents”?

Joe: I think it was when I saw the look in his eyes.

Richard: You knew right away.

Joe: Yeah, I knew at that point that I should at least offer this. I didn’t know if anyone would buy it, but I wanted to have at least that opportunity for people to buy this product. So, that’s how the story came about.

Jesse: Yeah, so instead of waiting for this like password of mouth, like: “Hey, let’s start building these and let’s get this out there.” So, all these other parents that have to… I imagine there’s a lot of type 1 diabetes children in the country.

Joe: For me, I’m all about getting the product, I have a good product. It can be a perfect product, but I don’t know how long the perfect product will take. And I can make the perfect product if there is more interest in this. For the perfect product, it would take a lot of money. The hard tool and injection plastic. The perfect product, it is easy to assemble, and it’s a lot of labor for me to put this together. And I’m okay with that. Because again, it’s for the kids, that kind of thing. Where was I going like that?

Richard: No, no, this is good! I just see, you know, when I brought up the American dream I don’t mean: “hey I’m going to make a bunch of money off parents that have kids.” What I really mean is like, the fact, that you can build something and make money, that whatever you decide to do with it, whether it’s buy a house for your family or put it back into. I have a feeling based on a couple of things we were talking about, before you have some bigger vision that you have with this money, so we’re going to get into that too. But it’s okay to make money helping other people, right. It’s okay!

Joe: Yeah, thank you!

Richard: And especially when you’re helping all kinds of, I mean, how are these parents, what are they going to get to see that look in their kid’s eye too. This is the wonderful thing; you’re a hero, Joe! Keep it up; this is good stuff. And so, like, when you were doing it of all the other things to do, so you’re an engineer, you’re father dealing with all this, a husband, you’re going to build a store, you got a tool out this stuff. If we tried to make it perfect and probably never would have gotten out there. So, all the sudden, now you’re an e-commerce guy too, like, how was building the store, what was that process like?

Joe: This store is probably one of the easiest things out of the whole process. And I that’s really what I wanted, and that’s kind of how I came across Ecwid.

Jesse: You did. And thank you! It’s a good reason for the podcast, so Ecwid. How did you find Ecwid?

Joe: I think the same way, everyone. I did Google search, I just did some research, and I know there’s a few out there. And I saw the many positive reviews for Ecwid, and I went in and I just kind of browse around the website. I also noticed that we’re neighbors, you have some offices in San Diego. I just did it. I mean, that’s what it comes down to, I just decided to go with it, I did it. And it was very simple, the easiest part of the whole process.

Jesse: Way easier than using a 3D printer!

Joe: Yeah.

Jesse: I’ve never used one, so…

Joe: It takes some learning, but, yeah. Definitely easier than a 3D printer, for sure.

Jesse: So, this was a way for you to kind of essentially get the product out there, test the concept and seem, you know, fast and easy way to do it.

Joe: Yes, I didn’t know, I’m sure there were some parents that would have some interest in it, but I didn’t know how many. So, I didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of money and have a website build. These are cheap components of keeping the prices cheap, so I’m not making tons of money off these things. I can do WordPress, but I didn’t want to have to spend all the time and effort to create a WordPress, I want to get out there as soon as possible. That’s a big thing for me; I’m all about getting something out there and seeing if it works, it is always time to make it, do the perfect.

Richard: So, sounds like you’re a fan of Reid Hoffman, that heard him say after he left PayPal and did LinkedIn, he said: “If you’re not embarrassed by your first release, you waited too long.” It’s all about getting feedback from customers, basically.

Joe: Yeah, I mean, that’s what it is, it’s getting feedback from customers. Some of the stuff like, this PC can’t see it, this is a podcast. So many tiny replica tubes and it’s called the tube pump, insulin pump. That was not something I had my website originally, I only had like four things on my website. But someone, that had a child that use this particular style pump, and I said: “okay, I’ll make it, sure.” And I put it on the website.

Jesse: So, it means that at least one person had come to the website!

Joe: Yeah! So, the socials around Christmas time, we call the buttons. There are different sizes, you can see it on the website, different sizes for different kind of toys. We have one that called “the buttons,” it’s just like a button, like little stuffed animals. They just happen to be a perfect size for the Elf on the Shelf. So people are putting this on the Elf on the Shelf, and they’re posting pictures online, and before you know it, I’m filling orders, like at 3 in the morning for like a month straight.

Richard: But I’m sure it’s making you smile along the way.

Joe: Yeah, I mean, every order I ship out, I know it’s going to someone just like me and my kid. So, it’s a good feeling.

Richard: Awesome!

Jesse: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been in e-commerce long time. Christmas is the time where you make money, really, and these are for toys so, prepare for this year.

Joe: I created a company just about two months before Christmas, so I didn’t know what to expect, so this year I’ll have a better understanding what to expect.

Jesse: Let’s back up. So, you created this on September-October of last year?

Joe: I think September-ish. Not really sure.

Richard: From concept — Wow!

Joe: That’s how you do it! There is no reason to wait, you just do it. That’s kind of how I do everything, even in mechanical design engineering. You know, just do it, get out there.

Richard: So, from start to finish, I think where Jesse was going with that or at least partially go with that… You started in September-ish October, and you obviously were completed, because you got a  store, you got orders for Christmas within a couple of months and up and running, like, how long did it actually take you to get the store done, how long till you got your first order and how long before you’re like: “wow, there’s more interest that I thought”. Kind of a threefold question there.

Joe: The store was fast, and I think I got the first sale at the beginning of November. But soon after that, it was like a domino effect, as soon as other people that have a bigger following me on a social media, posted pictures of these products, toys, smiling kids. Naturally that kind of brings more people to the site.

Jesse: It would be a viral toy. In certain communities, probably Facebook groups, different parents and things that this would probably go crazy.

Joe: There are Facebook groups, there is a big type 1 diabetes following, a lot of people on Instagram too.

Richard: I mean, you could almost, I so love this, by the way, some of these ideas I threw out real quick I could beat shots in the dark or but I came from Hollywood, so you only need one to stick out at 20 and it pays for the next 40, so. But I mean you could come up with your own toy-like “patch.” Its name is “patch,” you have a patch on a patch, now you got your brand. There’s the whole thing that you got where since you’re trying to help so many of their children, you can have such a viral sharing because this is where you’re trying to make money, i hear, out of it. I mean of course, you’d want to grow a business.

Joe: You have to feed the business, yeah.

Richard: This is kind of when I brought up the American dream earlier. But I’m here, and you’re keeping your engineering job for the foreseeable future you’re still, right. This is something you’re doing on the site, but I could hear in your voice, man if this could grow into something that you get to help other families. I’m seeing the light in your eye, like your son might see, because I feel what you’ve gone through. And I can see the smile on your face, but I can tell what you’ve gone through. And I’m sitting here and thinking how many ways I can help.

Joe: I’ll take it.

Richard: I’m just thinking now, the virality potential of this is crazy, because people will want to share this, right. It’s not like your have to ask for a share.

Joe: I’m using the business to feed it, so, any money I usually make, pretty much gets a roll back into the business.

Richard: So, you were talking about other people told you about bringing on another product you started another. What do you get, what’s going on?

Jesse: For people that are not here in the studio which is everybody listening, there’s a mystery box, that you brought here, so let us know.

Joe: It’s actually the box, it looks familiar.

Richard: It’s looking like a cake or donate box.

Joe: It is a cake or donate box. Here is the thing, that’s part of it. Type 1 diabetes is not caused by sugar. And there is  a misconception, that diabetics can’t eat sugar, they can. But in the box is some things that I put together. This is a concept that I think will start giving his away in a couple weeks. Just has a few items in there that I want you give to a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetics. It has one of our hats in it. It has a letter, which I think is one of the most important things, a personal letter from me or I’m thinking about reaching out and have another parents right, like a personal letter to give to a newly diagnosed family. It also has a cookie cutter, which is an insulin bottle, because again, this is like a good tool maybe to use for new family, because, you know, when the kid gets diagnosed or newly diagnosed, people think that they can’t eat sugar. They can, this is kinda fun way for the kids and kind of teach people that: “hey, it’s okay to eat cookies, I have a cookie that’s shaped like a insulin bottle”. It’s just a little bit fun and also we have a glucagon kit. This accepts glucagon like an emergency, this is something I actually created for my kid for preschool. It’s a clip that accepts glucagon which is used emergency situations when the kid has low blood sugar.

Richard: Like a syringe?

Joe: It’s a syringe, yeah. You would use it when the kid is very low, almost at  the point passing out and you would break out this kit immediately.

Jesse: So when this happens, the alarms from the glucose monitor are buzzing, like insane.

Joe: Get to have one, not all kids have one, but yes. Most kids do have them. You usually can give them a juice box, but there are times where, you know, they could pass out and then you can’t give them a juice box, you can’t get an M&M in your mouth so if he uses kit. This glucagon kit, it was made to ease my mind for one, ease other caregivers minds for two, because you just put it in the same spot every time, like, you know where this is. You can mount it on a wall; we have I have a binder at school that it’s in it’s always in the same spot. That thing with diabetes, you have so much stuff, and the stuff is always going, you’re always going through it, and can get tossed into a spot where you can’t find it. And I can tell you from experience as a T1D dad — type 1 diabetic dad, when the kids low and you need to give him some kind of sugar, like, right away, a juice box is like something you would grab typically. Just getting that stroll out of that, little cellophane, those three seconds seem like minutes. You’re struggling and shaking. So, anytime saved trying to get this like emergency kit, that is the goal for the clip.

Richard: Perfect.

Joe: So, this is something I’m going to start giving out to newly diagnosed.

Richard: So, this is an even a skew. This is something that you are going to be giving to people?

Joe: This is something that’s going to be fed by the company of the store. This is something that I’m going to do to give back.

Richard:One more reason we want to help drive traffic to you, basically. So, how are you going to find out, or is this going to be part of people sharing?

Joe: I’m just going to drop them off at the hospital. When you get diagnosed for three days, you gotta take like a crash course, and it’s it’s really tough time, so that’s kind of I’m going to do something like this.

Richard: Just only to make sure, because we only have three minutes, or so. Just to make sure we drive traffic, where can we find you, let’s spell it out, let’s get a couple of the socials shares. What do you get?

Joe: It’s Heroickid.com. And it will bring you to my Ecwid site, and then at the bottom, because it makes it so easy, there is actually links that go to all me social pages.
Richard: So that’s Heroickid.com.

Joe: Yes, sir.

Jesse: And will make sure to have the link to that on the show notes and then on the page. We want to help support it so, you know, yeah I’m actually looking forward to seeing some of the social posts so we can we can talk about this on Ecwid.com as well. A part of the reason we wanted to have you on, obviously we love the story, but the other reason I wanted to have you on is because you actually use the Instant Site. I want other merchants, other people, that are building their dream to know, like, it doesn’t have to be like this you don’t have to hire a consultant, you don’t have to have web design and development knowledge.

Richard: So, even if you are an engineer.

Jesse: You’re an engineer that can use a 3D, a little bit (laughing).Yeah, I want this to be an example for other merchants, you know, just get started, just make it happen. Talk a little bit about this store you’re able to figure it out, you set up an account, you are able to figure it out pretty quickly?

Joe: You, pretty quickly. I think I had four items, like, from the beginning. I guess the toughest part about it all is, like, I think the top banner, requires a certain size photo, so. That’s not my forte. Graphics and all that stuff, so. That wasn’t tough at all.

Jesse: I do see that the header you have right now is the Incredible Hulk with a patch on it, yeah, so very cool. But you got that done.

Joe: Yeah. All of the photos have been taken on iPhone. There’s a lot of improvement for me to do on the website.

Jesse: There is always something you can do. There are million different things, you know, love to talk about some ideas, that we have, you know, maybe we can do that again another day. Any questions you have for us, like, “hey, what…”, you know. Can you do next is there.

Richard: Anything you’ve been wanting to do or what that you could do.

Joe: With the website?

hosts: Yeah!

Joe: Is there a way to recommend other products, when they click on a certain product? That’s one thing.

Jesse: Oh, yeah. That might be a cross-sell or an upsell, so. I will actually provide you some link for that, will put on the show notes. Actually we’re going to be talking to somebody else on another podcast very soon that’s going to talk about cross-sales and up-sales.

Joe: I’d love to listen.

Jesse: Yeah. Absolutely, so. Perfect, Rich, any last thoughts?

Richard: I’m just super proud and thankful from other dads out there, that are just as cool as you are.

Joe: I’m sure you guys would do it too.

Jesse: I hope so! So, Joe, thank you. Heroickid.com, looking to see more for that. This is Jesse with the Ecwid E-commerce Show, with Richard Otey, please subscribe and come back for more.

Joe: Thanks, guys.

Jesse: Thank you.

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