The first priority of any startup company is creating a great product that people will get excited about. The second is figuring out a way to launch your startup in a way that creates attention without killing anyone. When your mascot is a ram and you have lofty ideas for your launch, that’s apparently easier said than done.
When Natalie and I started Ramblen, we naturally selected the ever-popular, rather generic “ram” as our mascot. I don’t think we gave a whole lot of thought to the type of ram that we meant, since the word ram refers generically to any male sheep. When our logo was designed, the designer selected a bighorn sheep, and the Ramblen ram was officially born.
We spent months building content and having our site designed, so as we approached launch, we wanted to come up with a really big idea. Our (first) anticipated launch date was at the end of September in 2013, when Natalie and I would be in Denver for FitSocial, a social media conference for fitness enthusiasts and bloggers. I joked that we should just walk around downtown Denver handing out flyers with a real ram wearing a sandwich board. Natalie thought that was kind of funny and told me to look into renting a ram for the day.
Yes, this was an actual real idea that we had. It’s possible our brains were a little fried from working on the first priority of a startup company, as previously described.
So, I set about researching a place to rent a bighorn sheep for the day. As luck would have it, there is one ranch in the entire U.S. where bighorn sheep are available for sale, specifically for the purposes of releasing to hunt, since they are normally wild animals that you “can’t just rent.” I sent the ranch an email innocently inquiring about the availability of one of their rams for our preferred dates, and about 3 hours later, I got a rather…incredulous phone call.
Ranch: “Hi, did I misunderstand your email or are you looking to rent a bighorn sheep?
Me: “Oh, no misunderstanding! We just need a ram for a few hours to promote the launch of our new website. We’d like to walk it around downtown Denver with a sandwich board.”
Ranch: “You want to…walk it around downtown Denver?”
Me: “Yes. Is that a possibility?”
Ranch: “Umm…no. First of all, bighorn sheep are the biggest of all sheep, so a ram is about 300 pounds. Second, rams are incredibly mean. Even if we did have bighorn sheep for rent, which we do not, I could never give you a ram. They literally ram everything in sight with their horns. It would kill someone. It would be an incredible liability, and you’d have to get a permit through the USDA, plus an insurance policy for the event, and no one would ever insure that. I don’t mean this the wrong way, but this is just a really, really bad idea.”
Me: “So that’s a ‘no’ even if we get the insurance and the permit.”
Ranch: “Well, I can’t rent you one, but I can sell you one. They go for $30,000 full grown and you can do with it what you want after that.”
Me: “Oh. Well, we’re a startup and we don’t have that kind of budget, but thank you for your help!”
Ranch: “I’ll tell you what. I have a baby ram that is only a few months old and completely tame. You can buy it for $10,000, and as long as you return it alive, you can have $8,000 back.”
The conversation ended with me saying we’d think about it and him telling me 8 more times that we would only get the money back if we returned the baby ram alive. Apparently, that’s more of a problem than you’d think. I called Natalie to explain the situation to her and she informed me that she would definitely not return a baby ram, alive or otherwise, because she would want to keep it as a pet. In addition to us losing $10,000, she’d also probably end up getting divorced, so we sadly had to scratch that idea.
I’d like to say that what we actually did for the launch was as exciting as parading a belligerent ram around the streets of downtown Denver, but nothing is as exciting as that. As is often the case with launch dates, ours got pushed back a few months. Instead, we got the fantastic opportunity to launch at the end of November, 2013 at the Route 66 Marathon expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we had our own booth. We also had the wonderful fortune of being able to watch the booth owners across from us make out during the entirety of both days of the expo. It’s no wonder they didn’t sell anything.
Of course, never ones to let a great idea die in vain, we bought ram hats in memory of the best launch idea in history.