Fred is the co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks and the co-host of the endlessly fascinating Power Trip podcast. I don’t know Fred, but I use Tortuga products. I’ve gone through a lot of luggage over the years and I can definitely vouch for Tortuga, especially their masterfully engineered day packs. There’s a reason Entrepreneur listed them in their 100 Brilliant Companies. We talked about podcasts, advertising, travel & getting things made in China.
01. What’s your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started?
I leave the morning as my main personal work session. One day per week, I have one-on-ones with our team. Otherwise, I keep my morning calendar clear. I wake up naturally (not with an alarm), eat breakfast, then meditate with the Headspace app for 10-15 minutes. After showering, I make coffee and power through the most important tasks on my list until lunchtime.
02. Can you tell me a little about yourself pre-Tortuga? How did you get your start?
After college, I left the east coast for San Francisco and a job with Google. I spent three years working with clients to manage their advertising campaigns. Many of my clients were big spenders, but not household names. Almost all of them were online dating sites. I parlayed those skills into freelance work with startups after leaving Google so that I could pay rent while starting up Tortuga Backpacks. Oddly enough, we spend very little money on Google advertising now.
03. I use a Tortuga backpack, a Tortuga daypack, and Tortuga packing cubes…so you could say I’m a fan. Why backpacks? How did the company get started?
Rather than copying and pasting, check out our origin story here. We’ve written about this hundreds of times.
04. You guys advertise on a few travel podcasts, that’s how I heard about you. Podcasts are a relatively new medium and they seem to be working for you. How is it working? Is podcast advertising something more companies should be looking at?
We started with the Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast. Travis is a friend and loyal Tortuga user. He pitched me on the idea, and we decided to test it out. I listen to a lot of podcasts, travel and otherwise, so I knew that some companies were doing well with podcast ads. I loved the medium. Since Travis was already using a Tortuga, he could speak honestly about why he liked it. We probably wouldn’t advertise with someone who had never used our bags. Those types of ad reads are very transparent on other shows. I would recommend for other brands to try advertising on podcasts, unless they’re in the travel vertical. We prefer lots of availability and no competition there. 🙂
05. Speaking of podcasts, I love your Power Trip show. I’ve seen companies start podcasts and they may post a few episodes and then that’s it. You seemed to have found a happy middle-ground between advertising your products and giving great interviews and travel advice. Why did you decide to do the show and what has the response been?
Once our blog was rolling along, we wanted to test another medium. Jeremy and I both love podcasts, and it was easy to set up and cheap to get started. The only real commitment was our time. We liked that with a podcast, we could speak at length about our business and products and give people a look behind the scenes from the people involved. We’re on hiatus for the holidays now but will be back with a re-tooled version of the show in 2016.
06. Tortuga backpacks are manufactured in China. I went to China a few months back and fell in love with the people and the country. How did you end up deciding to manufacture there?
When we started the company, we bounced between sampling in China and manufacturing the first run in California. The reason we chose China is two-fold. First, Southeastern China is where most of the world’s textiles and soft goods are made. You can find an incredible network of factories, suppliers, and expertise there. Second, our bags are too complex to manufacture in the US and still offer them at an affordable price. Making travel accessible was more important to us than where we make the bags. See also Made In China.
07. Is there any simple advice you could give to someone wanting to develop a new product? What’s the basic process of developing an idea and finding a company overseas that can make it for you?
This is a huge question. I’ve already written about some of it here: How to run a physical product business from anywhere.
08. Are you working on anything new right now that you’re excited about?
Yes, we’ve roughly doubled our team in the last four months and are gearing up for a big 2016 including re-designed and new products and new content to help people travel better. Stay tuned to our blog for updates along the way.
09. What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, podcast, anything really…)
Travel. The more I travel, the more committed I am to our mission and the impact that we can have. The destination almost doesn’t matter, because I can take something inspiring away from anywhere that I visit. In 2015, I visited Thailand and Spain. Both countries made me excited about travel though they were very different.
10. How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind?
On low key nights, I cook dinner then read or watch a movie on Netflix. Otherwise, I’m out trying a new restaurant, grabbing a drink, or seeing a concert. I live in Oakland, just across the bridge from San Francisco. Both cities have an endless amount of things to do and to eat.