By now, I’ve been to Ramp Up Manitoba’s office space several times, and each time I end up meeting a new entrepreneur with a head full of great ideas and a passion to succeed. And that is an excellent way to sum up Nick Danzinger who has just recently started his company, DigiPlus.
As Nick says, “I have a very, very long list of ideas for products and businesses that I’d like to work on but I had to look at my situation objectively and figure out what I could reasonably accomplish with limited resources.”
So, not only is Nick realistic and level headed, he is instantly likable and down to earth. When I met up with him, he was quite excited to get the chance to show off all of his hard work. And by hard work, I really do mean hard work. In a short time, he has managed to accomplish a lot all on his own.
He recently graduated from the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba, so is fresh on the startup scene. And he took full advantage of his situation at U of M. As he explains, “During my time at school I was heavily into entrepreneurship and entered a number of case competitions and business plan competitions. I did fairly well and met a lot of people involved in the entrepreneurship community in Winnipeg, including [Ramp Up Manitoba’s] Chris Johnson.”
It seems that Nick has found his calling, stating that, “I attended networking events for just about every business major, and the thing that struck me most about entrepreneurship was the people. By far, they were the most interesting and had the best stories. I’ve always loved the idea of inventing new products and creating something from nothing, so with a bit of trepidation I decided to give myself a year to focus on starting my own business. I even turned down an awesome job at a very large financial company! That was a tough step, but I know this is something I need to see through to the end.”
So now that you know about Nick, let’s get to know his company. “DigiPlus is a retail business that specializes in accessories for mobile devices, computers, and audio video equipment. We do not sell any major hardware, just products that compliment the devices that everybody already uses. For mobile, this includes cases, screen protectors, chargers, and many other products. For computers and AV, this includes the multitude of cables and adapters to get everything to work properly,” according to Nick.
But why start this company? As Nick explains, “Technology has never been more important in day to day life than it is today, and this is a trend that will continue. I still see people with cracked phone screens regularly, and in most instances damage like that could have been avoided with a simple case and screen protector. Another indicator of the need for DigiPlus I found while in University. On a daily basis, I would see people in desperate need of a charger. Technology is a wonderful thing, but a laptop or a smartphone can’t do anything for you with a dead battery. I also briefly worked at a large electronics retailer and noticed that many customers were fed up with high prices on accessories. All of these things combined resulted in my decision to start DigiPlus.”
It does seem like a simple concept, creating a retail business focused on selling electronic accessories. But, in order to make this happen, he has had to do a lot of work. He personally created his website including taking all of the photos of every product, he found suppliers and he even uses his own house as a warehouse. So, how has this experience been for him?
“It has been quite hectic but very rewarding. It was difficult turning down a job right out of University, but one thing I quickly noticed was how happy I was to be doing my own thing. Every small success along the way reinforces my belief in the business, so I just have to keep up with the pace I have set for myself and work even harder. I am a compulsive list-maker and I have hundreds of things I want to do for my business, so the difficulty lies in staying focused and prioritizing what is most important,” explains Nick in his frank, open and honest way.
The DigiPlus webstore is up and running now, and this summer Nick has seen some success going to markets and events selling his wares, and now he’s looking ahead to where this is all going to go. “The goal of DigiPlus is to keep myself afloat while providing customers with a better value than my local competitors. In terms of short-term plans I would like to attend more events where people can actually see my products in person, such as vendor fairs or tradeshows. I recently added a calendar to the website where people can check where DigiPlus will be each month; I just need to book more events! A network of affiliate retailers carrying my products is the next step, while a permanent retail space is the long-term goal.”
But, what does the public think? Is there a demand for DigiPlus? “The response has been wonderful so far. A lot of people are fed up with the big box stores and my business provides an excellent alternative. In its first week it had almost 500 visitors. Once I start to ramp up promotion of the site I’ll have a better idea of where I’m at.”
Ramp Up Manitoba has played an important role in the development of DigiPlus. As Nick explains, “I probably wouldn’t be talking to you if it weren’t for Ramp Up Manitoba and the local entrepreneurship community. When I was nearing graduation I attended an event called Startup Crawl, organized by my friend Luc Bohunicky who is also in the Ramp Up startup space now. The event visited multiple organizations that support entrepreneurship in Winnipeg and I was simply blown away by Ramp Up Manitoba and AssentWorks. Everybody was so passionate and motivated to help each other. It was really a no-brainer where I should go after I graduated. Ramp Up has provided me with valuable advice from people who are also in the process of starting their own businesses; I’ve avoided a lot of mistakes that I would have made on my own. Lastly, having a professional office to work out of is far better than dealing with all the distractions at home.”
One thing about Nick is that he loves to invent and make things. When I met him, he showed me a simple project that he had been working on, but one that was really quite smart: A touque bag. Wear a touque in the winter? Just take it off your head, it turns into a bag, you put your scarf and mitts right in, and carry it around using handles sewn into the touque. Simply brilliant! That’s Nick!
“My desire to create new things started very young. Early in my life I was addicted to Lego and loved being able to build something from the ground up. I also read a lot of science fiction in my teens and this helped spark my imagination in a lot of ways. To be honest, I don’t know where my desire to create new things will lead me in the future. More than anything, I just hope it can provide me with an exciting life so I never get bored.”
And, so far, he is definitely not bored. In fact, he took advantage of Assentworks laser cutter to start etching logos onto aluminum iPhone cases which opens up all kinds of new possibilities for personal and corporate customization which he is clearly excited about. He test marketed the idea at a number of farmer’s markets in August and the response was fantastic. “People were impressed by the low prices and a number of customers have ended up ordering custom phone cases.”
In such a short time, Nick Danzinger has graduated, been offered a job, turned down the job, and created a company from scratch. That’s impressive, and a nice, hardworking guy like Nick deserves the all the success that is coming his way.