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How to Build a Guitar Pedal Company

People always ask me...how did you do it? How did you create a guitar pedal company coming from a 9-5 job? Let's dig in. 

For those of you who don't know me, I got the itch to create Siren Pedals back in the summer of 2019 and launched it 3 months before the pandemic hit. I launched with a total of 3 pedals and 3 more followed later by that summer/fall.

It has been an incredible journey thus far and there is still a ton that I am learning but I'll show you how I made it to this part of my journey.

To keep this as simple as possible, I'm going to keep it at 5 simple steps.

STAGE 1: DEVELOP A BRAND

So, the first step is easy and probably the most enjoyable part of the journey and that is definitely your brand.

1. Come up with name: At this stage a thesaurus will be your best friend and just start playing off different word combinations that inspire you.

2. Create a Style Guide: This is the stage where you build a logo and create a style guide. A style guide basically is a roadmap for what colors and fonts are acceptable when showcasing your brand. In the case of Siren Pedals, here are variations of my logo and I simply use black and white as my primary colors.

3. Buy a URL: You can purchase domains from so many different places these days. A good place to start checking availability is Domainr. It's such a quick and easy way to check what is available.

4. Choose a platform: In the case of Siren Pedals, I went with Shopify which allows me to upload my products and as well as buy that domain we just discussed.

STAGE 2: OPERATIONS

We're going to switch gears now and go from the most fun part of a creating a guitar pedal company to my least favorite - the paperwork and managing the operations side of the business.

1. Business Type: Determine the type of business you want to be. There are many choices including a sole proprietorship, C-Corp, S-Corp, and LLC. I went the LLC route to provide myself and the company more protection. A sole proprietorship doesn't provide you much protection in the event something bad happens and the C-Corp set up is overkill for a new start-up like a guitar pedal company.

2. EIN: One of the very first items you'll need is an EIN. This is basically like your Social Security number for your business. Check with your state's web site, and you should be able to find the proper next steps.

2. Business Banking: Once you have an EIN, you should be able to open up a business banking account. This is necessary evil so you can accept payments from customers.

4. Trademarks: Trademark your company name. You can check the U.S. Database of existing trademarks and make sure to reserve yours - especially the name of your company and you choose to trademark each of your pedals if you desire.

There are other pieces of paperwork required like developing a privacy policy, shipping policy, etc but will save those for another day. The ones we just mentioned are the big ticket items.

STAGE 3: PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Next up is the process of actually developing your guitar pedals. To do this, you'll need three primary needs:

1. Hire an Engineer: If you don't know anything about schematics or engineering, I would suggest you a contract with an engineer. I didn't have the bandwidth or capacity when first starting so I made the decision to hire someone who already had the expertise so I could my talents and strengths on other parts of the business.

2. Hire an Illustrator: I'm also not an illustrator or designer so I did the same thing here. I found myself an illustrator who could help bring my pedal ideas to life from an artistic perspective.

3. Hire a Builder: If you have the bandwidth then start building the pedals yourself. I found this was pretty easy to learn but I quickly became strapped on time so I hired someone else to help me. If you find yourself in a similar situation, hire someone to help you build your pedals.

4. Choose Your Packaging: There are several options on this front. Ultimately, you need to decide how you are going to package your pedals and what are you going to include in each box - a sticker, pin, etc? The choice is all yours.

STAGE 4: DISTRIBUTION

Once your guitar pedals are ready to sell, you'll need to decide your primary distribution channel.

1. Direct to Consumer: My home base is SirenPedals.com. This is where I do most of my business and what is great about this option is that my margins are much higher as compared to if I sold my pedals at a wholesale amount to a retailer. For instance, if I sold a pedal for $200 and the cost to build that pedal is $100, I keep the other $100. If I was to sell it to a retailer at a wholesale amount, they would typically want a 40% discount which means I'm selling them the pedal for $120 and only making $20 on that transaction.

2. Retailers: Now, I don't want to sound too negative about retailers. They can be amazing for your business since they have the distribution you won't have as a start-up. However, the only way to really win here is through volume. In other words, you have to have your pedals in a lot of stores to really make this worthwhile and beneficial financially.

STAGE 4: MARKETING AND SALES

And finally, we have marketing and sales. This is where the hustle and grind really begins.

1. Social: Social Media: This is a must-have in today's competitive environment. You need to create a business account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Those are the 4 I would start with but be cautious of stretching yourself too thin. You need to be active on all of them but pick one of them as the primary vehicle to dedicate most of your time and energy.

2. Podcast or Blog: If you still have bandwidth remaining then I would suggest starting a podcast or blog. All of this will help continue to build visibility for your new guitar pedal company. It's the very reason I have Siren's Sonic Renegades podcast and why we also blog regularly on SirenPedals.com.

3. Paid and Organic Growth: And, that leads me to my next point. There are only two ways to get traffic to your main site. You can do this either organically or from paid options. Organic growth comes from efforts like blogging as we just discussed where you are creating little deposits that will eventually compound over time. Or you can fast track that effort and pay for traffic by buying ads on platforms like Google, Facebook, or Instagram. You'll get immediate eyeballs on your guitar pedals but you'll always have to pay to play if there is no organic base.

So, that's how you build a guitar pedal company. You need to be mindful of these 5 stages we just discussed. I hope they give you a sense of direction and empower you on your journey to create something amazing in this space.

Disclaimer: I share the path I took to create my guitar pedal company, Siren Pedals. The thoughts and tactics are my opinion alone and shouldn’t be taken as concrete counsel. Please consult with your own business and financial advisors when embarking on the creation of your own company.

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