Plenty of would-be entrepreneurs have no idea what kind of business to start. Doug Burgoyne and Trevor MacCaw were no different.
For more than a year, the pair brainstormed startup ideas weekly over bagels at a Vancouver cafe. These weren’t group daydreaming sessions. Rather, the pair were engaged in a sophisticated planning process that led to the potent idea behind Frogbox Inc.—No. 14 on 2011 the PROFIT HOT 50 with two-year revenue growth of 753%.
The Frogbox concept is straightforward: a rental service that delivers and picks up reusable plastic moving boxes at clients’ homes. The journey to this simple business started by setting some house rules about the kind of company Burgoyne and MacCaw wanted to create, based on companies they admired. They liked the way 1-800-GOT-JUNK? had turned a common problem into a profitable business. They loved the way Whole Foods Market had built a strong brand around healthy eating and organic foods. And they admired the way Lululemon had parlayed a memorable product into strong global sales.
Using these firms as role models, the pair decided to create a simple, cash-based business that would lend itself to franchising opportunities, with a strong environmental bent. And the brand would be built on customer service, a value that Burgoyne had long been passionate about.
With these parameters in place, the pair started looking not so much for ideas but for problems to solve. One was fresh in mind: Burgoyne and his wife had recently moved to Vancouver from Ohio and had been charged hundreds of dollars for cardboard boxes that soon grew “moist and disgusting” in their garage. Maybe, the pair thought, others hated paying for cardboard, too.
Moreover, market research—gathered mostly by interviewing friends and reading online customer feedback—had suggested that the moving industry had a bad reputation. This, reasoned Burgoyne and MacCaw, made it a perfect sector in which to apply outstanding customer service. Plus, the industry hadn’t seen much innovation in years; offering an environmental alternative to cardboard boxes—such as, say, plastic box rentals, which cost the same as cardboard—proved to be a simple, practical innovation.
With that framework in place, the pair took six months to ponder how to eliminate systematically any customer inconvenience they could think up.
When it came to thwarting competition in a non-proprietary business, customer service would be key, but the pair also knew strong branding would go a long way. To that end, they spent some time choosing a name, Frogbox, that was at once memorable and evocative of a green alternative.
The founders’ early legwork allowed Frogbox to launch into a very eager market. Fuelled largely by word-of-mouth business and an appearance on TV’s Dragons’ Den, the firm has grown to consist of 17 locations across Canada (16 of them frachised) and three in the U.S. If all goes as planned, there will be 30 Canadian and 100 U.S. outposts by 2014. It goes to show that with careful consideration, even the simplest business ideas can prompt out-of-the-box growth.