Hao Jiang – Co-founder of CookieCutterKingdom

Setting micro and macro level goals and taking the time to reflect against those goals periodically. It’s incredibly easy to get swept up in the day-to-day, so having checkpoints has been vital in making sure we’re being productive towards the right direction.

Hao Jiang is the co-founder of CookieCutterKingdom, which uses 3D printing technology to offer you thousands of cookie designs in various sizes. A former management consultant with deep roots in technology, Hao and his partner, Ravi Pidatala, unveiled the first-ever online customization platform for cookie cutters, allowing bakers to create personalized cutters with imprinted text. You can design cookie cutters, many customized with names and dates, to add a pop of festivity to all special occasions. www.CookieCutterKdom.com

Where did the idea for CookieCutterKingdom come from?

We really believe in letting the customer drive the business, so our business idea came from our customers – bakers. We are solving a common problem in the baking industry: the high cost associated with fulfilling custom orders – that is, when a customer requests a custom cake, set of cookies, or cupcakes that require a unique shape or design. Typically, bakers either cut out hundreds of shapes by hand onto cookie dough or fondant or just turn down that business. What we’re creating in CookieCutterKingdom is one of the largest collections of cookie cutters in existence, which includes thousands of shapes and sizes coupled with a technology solution that automatically generates a cookie cutter from a picture that bakers upload, allowing them to interact with and order custom cutters in real time.

What does your typical day look like?

Well, if we’re doing things right, there shouldn’t really be a ‘typical’ day, at least in this stage of our company. We’re 6 months in and experiencing a lot of growth, which means that change and flexibility are the norm. If I can cross off all the items on my list and be out of the office by 10 p.m., I’d call that a pretty good day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Our team really brings everything to life; we’ve been incredibly fortunate with finding amazingly talented people – Lisa Myers is our social media guru and Josh Fang is our 3D printing lab manager. The tools that we use are all homegrown. Ravi and I come from technology and data heavy backgrounds, so that is very much infused in every aspect of our business – from using 3D printing to manufacturing all of our products, to mining data to drive strategic decisions.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The downmarket trend of more sophisticated desktop 3D printers. Not only because our products are 3D printed, but also due to the tremendous disruptive potential they have in almost every consumer-facing industry.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Setting micro and macro level goals and taking the time to reflect against those goals periodically. It’s incredibly easy to get swept up in the day-to-day, so having checkpoints has been vital in making sure we’re being productive towards the right direction.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I briefly worked with someone who had a reputation for throwing team members under the bus in front of clients. The turnover for this particular team was 80%. It was a real extreme example of what happens when you don’t put people first. Every business is a people business, and I know that every success that I’ve attained is built on top of the shoulders of others.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Two things – Start earlier and do faster. I think if you were to plot out a line for job experience and another line for the tolerance of risk, there’s a sweet spot for the right time to start being an entrepreneur. That spot is obviously different for each person, but I probably could have started a year or two earlier.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Thinking of ways to be disruptive and offer value beyond the traditional business services is something that’s always on my mind. I think that one of the responsibilities and opportunities we have as entrepreneurs is to push the envelope and re-evaluate how traditional products and services should be delivered.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Finding ways to get our hands on data has been monumental in driving our decision making. We data mine pretty much everything from products to sales, to social media in order to see exactly where we should prioritize our time and resources.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

For me, being an entrepreneur is dealing with small failures frequently. I haven’t experienced a single, building-toppling failure, but recognizing that failure is a part of the process is important. It’s easy to get weighed down and stop – countless aspiring entrepreneurs do it and go back to the workforce – but overcoming failure is part of succeeding.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Start a secondary marketplace for selling and buying used / refurbished new technology, such as 3D printers. It’s a service that’s offered by retailers and manufacturers, but not something I’ve seen in an open marketplace. You’ll be able to anticipate the growth along a product adoption curve (early adopters > early majority > and so forth).

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

My first passion was music and theater. I grew up in a school district that had a very heavy focus on the arts (that’s rare, I know) and spent most of my childhood in auditions, performances, and shows. Looking back, it’s one of the most valuable experiences I could have had, as it prepared me to be comfortable with rejection. Now, I am able to quickly reflect and focus on the next big thing.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I would recommend everyone to take a look at import.io – it’s a really easy-to-use data-mining tool that puts the power of data in the hands of anyone! Think about what you can do with a list of prospective customers or a year’s worth of industry transactions.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Keith Ferrazzi’s ‘Never Eat Alone‘ has always stuck with me. Maybe it’s the catchy title, but in essence, it talks about the power of building real relationships and starting conversations. Talking to 10 people about your business and getting 10 different perspectives is so much more powerful than hiding away an idea in secret.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I’m not going to cite anyone famous here, because the people who have shaped me the most have all been people I know and worked with intimately – and, unfortunately, my network doesn’t include the likes of Seth Godin or Warren Buffet.

Saishree Shetty: Director of Technology at Arent Fox – Provided great insight on empowering teams and turning individuals into superstar performers.

Derick Masengale: Partner at Deloitte Consulting – Showed me how building trust is much more effective at closing sales than trying to sell.


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