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How This Millennial Couple Built a $4 Million Business (and Raised a Baby, too)

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Six months.

That’s all it took for Colby and McKenzie Bauer to know they were dealing with a winner.

When they first met each other, they had no idea that the operation that began out of McKenzie’s childhood bedroom would soon become a $4 million company. Their business, Thread Wallets, has been a textbook example of how to succeed through innovation and creative use of crowdfunding.

I was intrigued enough by their story to seek them out. How did this business get started? What did it take for them to get to the point they’re at today?

The Choice That Started It All

“We started dating in 2014 and got married not long after,” said Colby. “From the beginning we were always talking about business and different ideas that we had. We never wanted a conventional life.”

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Thread Wallets was the brainchild of those collaborative conversations through their dating process. It wasn’t always the direction they were going to take, though …

When they had first started dating, Colby was playing soccer for Brigham Young University, and when he got out of college he considered going professional. After a successful tryout, he and McKenzie sat down to figure out which direction to go.

“We always knew that professional soccer would be a fairly short-term career,” said McKenzie.

“That night, we talked it over a fair bit, and at the end of it, we decided to give it six months and try to get our own business off the ground.” The next day Colby called the coach back and told him no.

The Power of Many

When they got started, Colby and McKenzie were thinking in a completely different direction than Thread Wallets. Given Colby’s experience in soccer, they were going to pursue custom soccer socks for clubs and teams. They had a few other products that they were thinking about pursuing, including wallets.

But something happened that changed their mind …

“It was crazy,” said Colby. “We thought the socks were going to be the thing, and I had an order for 5,000 of them already in at a factory in China. But the wallets got way more interest.”

They had tapped into a niche: high-quality wallets with interesting design and functionality. Colby hearkened back to some of the classes that mentioned crowdfunding in college. With his knowledge of Kickstarter and McKenzie’s product designs, they headed to the web to get funding.

They succeeded.

And with that first success, they were off to the races.

The Process of Success

Six months was their deadline. If they had made a decent amount of money through the online store and Kickstarter by that point, they’d stick with Thread Wallets. If not, they’d go into the corporate world.

Within that time, they’d raised $35,000, built a name for themselves and hit their stride in a niche no one else was really reaching.

“It was great,” says McKenzie. “We always wanted to do something different, and we threw ourselves into the business trying to get it off the ground. To see it succeed so quickly was amazing.”

Facebook was an early key.

Social Media Followers Into Customers

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With Facebook ads, they were able to see a 41 percent increase in ad spend return year over year, with many purchases coming directly through Facebook. Effective use of online advertising gave them a good bang for the buck getting off the ground, allowing them to plow more resources into actually manufacturing the goods and growing the business.

Once they’d gotten a foothold with the wallets, they started to expand their line. Today they offer a wider range of wallets and cases, including card cases and phone cases that have the same workmanship and interesting, creative design that was their hallmark at the start.

As a millennial couple with a child, they’ve enjoyed the increased flexibility that being in business for themselves allows. “Yeah, it’s definitely helped with having a child,” says McKenzie.

“We spend a lot of time on the business, but it’s more flexible than it would be if we had been working in the corporate world. We never had to worry about maternity leave or anything like that, which helped us financially.”

Today Thread Wallets is worth over $4 million. They have over 125,000 followers on Instagram and over 50,000 followers on Facebook. From an idea and a prototype McKenzie made in her bedroom, they’ve managed to dominate a whole sector.

What’s been the secret to their success?

“Choosing a niche and sticking with it,” says Colby. “A lot of people try to expand too far, too fast. We stuck with what we knew, then only expanded beyond that when we knew we had a solid foundation.”

It seems to be working for them.

Colby and McKenzie are a great example of a Millennial couple that’s doing it all—raising a family, building a business, and making a success of life. Not bad for starting from scratch.

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Mark Harris
Mark Harris is known as the 'finance guy' around these parts. He also likes to branch out and talk about a variety of other topics from the side gig economy to investing, and more.

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