Meet Ronak Patel of Code&Quill. Ronak comes from a family with a background in business. He talks about why he went from the world of software as a service to the notebook market.

Q. What is your background Ronak?

My name is Ronak Patel, and I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I went to the College of William and Mary where I received my degree in Computer Science. My family is comprised of Indian immigrants who all took the entrepreneurial path, and eventually got to the point where they now own and operate 11 hotels in Virginia and Texas.

Spending my entire life in the hospitality industry, I decided to build a modern, affordable, and cloud-based hotel management platform while I was in college. My partners and I raised funds from New York investors and moved up there right after graduation. With that company now taking on new ownership, I decided I wanted to expand my understanding of product-based industries, while still utilizing my familiarity with technology. eCommerce looked like a fantastic place to start, and I had a product in mind that I myself had a need for, which is where Code&Quill began to take shape.

Q. What is Code&Quill?

Being a software engineer, I spend a lot of time expressing my technical ideas and visuals on paper. It’s quite common for creative professionals to first put pen to paper in order to get a sense of how they’ll design whatever they are trying to make. This applies to designers, developers, architects, engineers, etc. With that in mind, I remembered that, just a few months back, I found myself scouring the internet and different retailers to look for a notebook that really catered to the kind of use cases I had for my dad to day work, but couldn’t find anything that really fit the bill.

code&quill originI figured that if this was a problem that I was running in to, there must be plenty of other individuals like me who must also have the same pain point. I figured the only way to know is to validate the idea from the masses, and one of the best ways to do that now-a-days is through Kickstarter. If I was able to hit just a few hundred interested individuals, and reach a certain amount of pre-sales through the Kickstarter platform, I knew that there would be a market for this type of notebook, and so I decided to create Code&Quill. The mission is to provide well-designed tools that help bridge the creative, visual parts of our minds with the technical, problem-solving parts.

Q. What’s so unique about your notebooks?

Quite a few things, actually. Our notebooks all contain 100GSM, acid-free, finegrain paper that won’t wither away over time. It’s thick and durable, so bleed-through isn’t an issue either. They are bound with thread in a way that allows the notebooks to lay flat; no longer do you have to deal with the book closing in on itself while you’re writing. Because of the binding, the pages won’t fall out regardless of how much time passes.

The size of the notebook is important as well, as it doesn’t fit into any of the standard size definitions like A4, A5, etc. Both our hardcover notebook (the Origin) and our softcover notebook (the Traveler) are 7.7” by 5.5”, giving them a little extra width and a little less height than the standard. Most of us can make more use of additional horizontal space on a page, and our custom size allows our notebooks to keep their portability while adding a bit more usability.

code&quill originMost unique would certainly be our page layout. All the left pages inside of our notebooks contain a dot grid pattern, perfect for sketches, technical visuals, and wireframes. The right pages implement our special Indentation Rule, which is a narrow rule with horizontal tick-marks underneath each line every 5 millimeters. This is very useful for structuring your notes, lists, and in my case, indenting code. It provides for a very easy and helpful way to give your writing a bit more structure for whenever you choose to go back to it.

Q. So you were on Kickstarter, what that experience like?

While many people may believe that it is a simple matter to throw some pictures and a video together to launch a Kickstarter campaign, it’s actually quite an endeavor. You only have one page and one video to share your entire story, as well as your value proposition, so every word and every image has to count.

Code&Quill currently only has one member: myself. That meant that I had a ton of work to do in order to maximize the amount of visibility that the campaign would get, and I knew that going in based on the research I had done. I had compiled a list of bloggers, websites, and social media influencers that I thought would be helpful in getting the word out. Of course, the most useful was getting people excited about the company and product and having them share the campaign with their own network.

Once I had all the preliminary work done, like getting product samples in, getting the video made, and taking great pictures, I began putting it all together on Kickstarter. As soon as I launched, I began reaching out to those on my list and asked if they would like to cover our campaign, and if they’d be interested in reviewing the product once we got review samples in. Of course, the conversion rates for those types of things are quite low, but that was completely alright. Even a small amount of press was good.

It was important that I keep my backers engaged throughout the length of the campaign, and I think that helped me quite a bit. The campaign was set to last for 30 days, and I had posted about 15 updates throughout that time. After the campaign ended, there were plenty of backers that told me that they really appreciated the constant communication. Of course, they are all helping a new company and product be born, and want to feel as if they are part of the process. And they are! So it was important to me to keep them updated on every little thing, which naturally took a good amount of time, but was worth it in the end.

The campaign, overall, went very well; we raised a little over $46,000 in 30 days, where we had set out to just raise $11,000 for it to be worth making the product in the first place, and achieve the amount of validation I felt was necessary. There was a lot of work involved with constantly working on getting people to cover our campaign, begin starting conversations with potential partners (retail, custom orders, etc.), and working with social media every day to continue the engagement. However, it was a fantastic way to test the potential market, and now it’s clear that there is certainly potential here as far as business is concerned.

It’s important, in my opinion, to have all the logistics ironed out well before the Kickstarter campaign launched. You’ll have more than you can handle on your plate during the campaign and afterwords, and if you don’t know where you’ll be manufacturing your product, how it’ll get to your customers, and how you’ll market it, you’ll be scrambling afterwords and will likely piss off your backers (who are your biggest evangelists) and potential customers with a shoddy experience with your company from the get-go.

Q. Why’d you choose Shopify?

This was an easy decision. I want to focus all my attention on building great products, and getting the word out about what we’re doing. Shopify had all of the integrations we were looking for (and a whole bunch we didn’t even know we needed) that made it SO much easier to focus on the product and the market, without having to worry too much on the logistics side of things. It was easy to get up and running, and directly interfaced with our fulfillment center so that orders from our site are directly relegated to them. We don’t need to deal with shipping, packaging, and labeling ourselves, with saves a LOT of time. I couldn’t imagine doing this on my own without Shopify.

Catch up with Ronak

Ronak can be reached via email at ronak [at] codeandquill.com.


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