It is nearly 10 months to the day that I received my JackBack from JackBacks.com and wanted to write a long-term review of how the back has held up. In preparation for the review I reached out to Adam Baumgartner, Founder of JackBacks to ask him some questions about the company and how they market their product. Not only was he kind of enough to allow me to interview him for this site, but you can really get a sense of his enthusiasm for what he does with JackBacks.
For those of you that don’t know, JackBacks offers an array of wooden backs and cases for your Apple products. (Which can be found here: http://www.jackbacks.com/collections/parts) Specifically for my review however I will be talking about their custom engraved wood replacement backs for your iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s. Without going into a lot of detail, which I’ll save for the review, you can complete the replacement of your iPhone’s back in less time than it would take to remove an iPhone from its box for the first time. (Did you know: Apple intentionally makes opening the box slow to build anticipation?)
Adam, let me first thank you for taking the time to allow me to interview you about JackBacks it is really exciting to hear about you and your company. To begin with how did you come up with the idea to create JackBacks?
In 2010 when I first purchased my iPhone 4 I was immediately on the search for a cool case to keep my phone protected. I rocked a Griffin case for a while, but it kept getting stuck in my pocket and was wearing really badly after a few months and was outright ugly from wear and tear. Also the bulk of having a case on my phone was really annoying. So I decided to go case-less. At this point I was loving my phone. It looked great and felt great without a case, and I was just loving it, until the dreadful drop. Haha, yep I dropped the thing from maybe 2ft and the back shattered. So I went to apple to get it fixed and they said it would be $200. I decided to look for parts online and fix it myself. I realized that you could buy metal backs from China and thought this was brilliant, so I bought one and popped it on my phone. It was great, but after a month it fell apart and I was back to a busted phone. On the search again for new parts I found that I could buy just the bezel. I figured I could make my own back out of wood. A few weeks later I had my bezel and 7hrs later I had my first JackBack. I was in love once again.
Creating a startup like this must be hard, what obstacles have you had to overcome?
Creating JackBacks is the hardest, most stressful, crazy, fun, intense, and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I had no clue what I was doing and didn’t know the first thing about business. I come from a fine art and web development background, so getting a website up and running was easy, but everything else was completely new to me. I struggled with everything from production, to packaging, to shipping, to marketing and so on. I learned pretty much everything I know about business form a few books and a lot of experimenting. The most helpful thing I have learned is that doing something is always better than doing nothing.
What tools do you use to make your products?
We use specialized hand tools like veneer saws, a wood rolling press, random orbital sanders, and one very special tool a 40 watt laser cutter and CNC machine. Much of the finishing work is done by hand with, sandpaper, wood sealer, and polishing oil.
How many people work with you?
For the first year of JackBacks I did everything myself. It was pretty intense, and kind of crazy. Around June 2011 I found the help of a professional laser technician, and in October 2011 I recruited a friend of mine to help with the production process. Now we stand 3 strong David Marshall (Laser Technician), Chandler Dethy (Production), and Myself (Anything and everything else).
What has been your favorite design to etch onto a JackBack?
There have been so many different designs to come through its tough to say. A few months ago we did this really cool wave etching, and a few weeks ago there was this awesome inspirational quote, lots of people seemed to like that one.
How closely do you follow Apple iPhone rumors?
Hah! Rumors are rumors. I do read Gizmodo and Engadget so I stay up on things, but I really don’t read into them very much. With the iPhone nothing is final until apple makes the announcement. I mean look at last year, there were even cases made by a Chinese company’s that were made large and ultrathin with a teardrop. Then we got the pretty much same phone. When the design of the iPhone changes, JackBacks will change. I realize that we won’t be making back replacements forever, and probably not for the new iPhone, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’m always excited for change. It helps us to think differently and push things forward.
Has Apple or anyone else contacted you in reference to copyright concerns?
Nope. We’re not really too concerned about copyright unless we go to make a large order of the same design. Also we stay on the safe side and will never etch Apple logos or any other trademarked logos or designs.
I thought it was great foresight and very clever to come up with a wooden case and stick on back for the iPhone and iPad, do you see this as the future for JB?
Thanks. Yeah I definitely see the full wood cases and skins becoming the new hot selling items for us. If the new iPhone has a replaceable back we’ll make back replacements for it as well and we will continue to make the iPhone 4/4S back replacements as long as people still want them and keep buying them.
Have you made any distribution agreements for your wood cases and stick-ons?
No big distribution agreements yet, but we are working with a local Verizon store and have high hopes for the future.
What about partnering with any artists to release a series of backs?
We will probably do some sort of design series at some point but right now are really happy with doing things custom.
Have you considered targeting a selection of popular Android phones and tablets?
Nope, the Android market is so scattered and unorganized. There are so many different phones and so many different things happening at the same time. I just see that as a world of confusion. In my opinion the Android market is a mess.
Follow up: What about the Kindle or Nook? They seem a little more consistent and popular.
We haven’t really considered these either but the Kindle might be something we explore in the future.
Now since by back ground is in Social Media marketing and it interests me a great deal, Do you think your use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have played a big part in the success of JackBacks?
Just reading the word Facebook made me minimize this doc and go check my Facebook, Hah! Facebook and Twitter are great for any growing business, and have been essential in the growth and success of JackBacks. They allow amazing one on one interaction with customers, and allow us to create a deeper connection with all people. A lot of the time I really just feel like I’m talking to my friends.
What other sites do you use for JackBacks?
- Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jackbacks)
- Twitter (@lumberjackbacks)
- Tumblr (http://jackbacks.tumblr.com/)
- YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/radambomb)
What about the feedback you get from social media, do you like it?
I freaking love it.
If you get negative feedback how do you handle it? How does it affect you?
Negative feedback is rare but it does happen, and when it does it is hard not to let emotions take over. People are generally good at heart and aren’t out to get you, and I try and keep that in mind. I usually try to handle negative feedback in a timely manner, (within 24hrs) and in a positive way. I am a big believer in the power of positivity, and always strive to do my best to resolve things in a polite and positive manner.
Do you manage your social media yourself or does someone you work with do it?
All of JackBacks social media is 100% me. I think that’s the way it should be, and as long as I’m in charge that’s the way it will be.
What about an outside agency?
Well there goes my sales pitch. Just kidding. How do you track your inbound leads from the web and social media? What tools do you use?
Every once in a while, but rarely. Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, Shopify Analytics. I believe time is better spent creating, designing, brainstorming new ideas. Numbers are just numbers, and there are no numbers at all if there’s no progress.
Do you advertise on social media sites?
Yep, we do a little bit of Facebook advertising and a little bit of Google advertising.
What do you think is an acceptable price per transaction for advertising whether it is on social media or search engines?
It depends on the campaign. If it’s a short specific campaign a higher CPC is acceptable, but if the campaign is more general and is going to last a long time I’ll shoot for a lower range.
What other sites have reviewed JackBacks that you’d like to mention?
The big ones are Gizmodo and Mashable, but there have been many others (see http://jackbacks.com/reviews)
- “Lightning Review: All iPhone 4s Should Have Handmade Wood JackBacks” By Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo
- “Personalize & Protect Your iPhone With a Handcrafted Wood Back” by Jennifer Van Groove of Mashable
I know from my own purchase you can thank Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo.
Jesus is a great guy and I can thank him enough for taking the time to talk to me and check out our products.
Adam, Thank you for the time you have put aside for me for this interview! It was really great seeing the personal side of the man behind JackBacks.