#94: From Prototype to $1 Million Run Rate in Less Than 1 Year with ISM’s Justin Kwong

About the Episode:

In today’s episode, we’re talking to Justin Kwong, the founder of ISM, a brand new San Francisco-based company that makes a very fashion forward, stylish line of men’s backpacks geared toward the young professional, as well as a growing line of other products like water bottles and chargers that fit the same design aesthetic.

Originally from Hong Kong, Justin’s spent most of his adult life living here in San Francisco, where he’s worked in various growth, product and design jobs at several different startups.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that he got the inspiration for creating ISM’s first product—the Classic Backpack—after wondering why all of the premium, high-quality backpacks he saw from brands like Tumi, Shinola, and Gucci were all priced between $500 and $1,000, it left him wondering why no companies were making great looking, high-quality backpacks for young professionals that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

It was right there, that ISM was born.

In Today’s Episode, We Talk About:

[02:34] Where Justin’s originally from.
[07:30] How he began to implement his idea.
[09:29] How he created a prototype for his idea.
[11:05] How he found a manufacturer for his idea.
[12:51] How he found his first factory.
[13:43] How he got to the product they’re selling today.
[16:24] His biggest growth channel.
19:49 Search terms that drive traffic to their site.
22:10 His number one piece of advice for anyone looking to start a product based business.
23:55 The best investment he’s made in order to grow his business.

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Connect with My Guest:

The ISM Website

Justin on LinkedIn and Twitter

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If you enjoyed this episode of The Side Hustle Project, I would love your support. Head over to the show on iTunes or in the Apple podcast app and give us a rating please! And as always you can catch every episode on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for tuning in.





8 responses to “#94: From Prototype to $1 Million Run Rate in Less Than 1 Year with ISM’s Justin Kwong”

  1. Katherine Cheung Avatar
    Katherine Cheung

    Thank you for this great podcast, love it!

    1. Ryan Robinson Avatar

      You’re welcome! Thanks for tuning in 🎧

  2. Raza Avatar

    So cool. I love hearing about people who have an idea and do what it takes to get it off the ground.

    I love the idea of IG and influencers. I don’t have a physical product business but one of my goals is to grow my email list with IG shoutouts.

    I also love that organic search and word of mouth are drivers of his traffic and sales.

    1. Ryan Robinson Avatar

      Boom! Couldn’t agree more. IG is something Justin’s done really well… I was taking notes during our conversation too 😂

  3. Mirae Avatar

    Hey! Thanks for dropping off another great episode with amazing insights! Just a small favor to ask and I know it’s not entirely under your control but the sound quality of the guest speaker could have been better.. Because the content is so great I wish I could hear it without having to listen to it very carefully.. Thanks a lot!

    1. Ryan Robinson Avatar

      Thanks for the feedback! And I’m totally on the same page 😊

      Unfortunately the reality is that not all guests have access to a decent microphone, but I’ve been toying with the idea of sending out microphones for guests to use, ahead of our interviews.

  4. Pete Avatar

    Hi Rob, love your podcasts and wanted to ask if you’d considered offering transcripts of them? It would make them much easier for me personally to access the content.

    Thanks again for all the content you share with us all.

    1. Ryan Robinson Avatar

      Good idea, Pete! Thanks for casting your vote on this one… transcripts are high on my to do list to start offering, so hearing this helps me prioritize it!

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