Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Kyle Capel and I am the founder of Hand Held Legend, a DIY upgrade shop for vintage handheld consoles. If you are as old as I am, you’ll remember the day you opened up your first Nintendo console and impatiently waited for mom or dad to figure out how to hook it up. After the crisp sound of a cartridge inserting into its plastic slot, you were ready to be taken into another world. Whether it be a 90’s Christmas morning or a special birthday, each of us can be taken back to parts of our youth when hearing and playing the games we grew up on. There is nothing that can replace the nostalgia old gaming consoles and the controllers that come with them.
Even though decades have passed, many of us still have an old game boy somewhere in a drawer or closet waiting to be brought back to life. Hand Held Legend does just that. We bring old handheld consoles back to life with DIY modification and upgrade products. Whether it be a modern backlit display, a new colorful shell, glass screen or rechargeable battery, Hand Held Legend has what your game boy needs to enhance your sense of nostalgia. What would your ten-year-old self have given to play Pokemon Red or Blue version in the dark? I would have given more than I am proud to openly share and you probably would have too.
The majority of our revenue comes from the sale of display modifications for the Nintendo Game Boy. Our Game Boy Advance IPS display is one of our best sellers, replacing an old reflective LCD with a modern backlit LCD. Those dreams of playing in the dark have become reality. Too young for the Game Boy Advance? Older gamers may find a 4-LED backlight for the original Game Boy DMG more familiar.
No matter how old you are there are at least once game boy consoles that you can identify with, girls and guys alike. Here is a list of some of the most popular mods for each console:
Game Boy DMG (Original):
Game Boy Pocket:
Game Boy Color:
Game Boy Advance:
Most of our customers are males between the ages of 13 and 45. Nearly 40% of our sales are international. Revenue averages about $27,000/month and is growing. The first quarter of 2020 posted a 30% increase in revenue over the same period in 2019.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Hand Held Legend was born while I was in graduate school for a degree in the medical profession. In order to effectively study, one needs an escape for the mind; I found my escape restoring old, broken and dilapidated Game Boys for about 3 years. Not only did I have fun repairing, but I also found that I could make a buck or two modifying and upgrading old consoles as not everyone can complete technical mods.
I started off Hand Held Legend in my graduate school apartment with an old kitchen table and a soldering iron. Initially, I was selling 1-2 modified consoles per week as I completed and listed them on eBay. Soon enough this became time intensive and I searched for a way to bring in revenue while still maintaining time to study. Surrounding student loan debt is a great motivator!
To that extent, I began to create our first product, an LED backlight for the original Game Boy. This was something I had seen done before and it was not a novel or propriety idea although I thought I could make one better and keep a portion of my cost of goods sold. Sales started slowly as we had zero brand awareness. I had to engage with the local online internet community of gaming obsessed nerds like me. Soon enough the word got out but we have gone on to sell over 25,000 backlight panels for the original game boy console alone.
Learning how and when to stock when your lead time is anywhere between 5 days and 5 weeks. Having a proper inventory with labeling and hands-on control is important to keep from wasting resources on unnecessary purchases and keeping high demand items in stock.
I learned a lot about the fundamentals of running a business through the first few products we launched and the mistakes and successes that came along with it. From margins to taxes, the wealth of knowledge I acquired through experience has stayed with me to this day and has helped me successfully run my second business in retail.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Fortunately for our first product, led backlight panels do not require extensive tooling costs. They are easily cut to size and customized to fit any display. Backlight panels fit behind the original Game Boy LCD and allow it to be lit from behind. Many modders started out trying to repair vertical lines in the LCD and found an opportune time to do some upgrading.
Alibabawas my main source of manufacturers. Late nights were spent communicating with suppliers equipped with half learned English. I sent drawings and acquired quotes learned how to transfer money internationally and safely, and waited patiently for DHL to deliver my hard-won goods. Alibaba and AliExpress continue to be a good resource to source new products although anyone will have access to what is listed on their platform. Today there are many knock-off products of what we created and we are forced to constantly innovate and change product offerings.
International money transfer could not be easier today with Transferwise. Fully mobile-capable, there is nowhere that I cannot do business overseas.
Today we are offering a variety of modern LCD upgrades for various consoles which currently are our best sellers. IPS and TFT displays are giving better resolution, contrast, and color than ever before. Not only can you upgrade your display but also your shell color, button color, add audio amplifiers, power regulators, rechargeable battery packs and more.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching our company was quite anticlimactic as it was as simple as a Shopify store and one product. Presto. As we got some recognition from the community in Reddit and other social media sites, we started adding one product at a time and built up working capital. It has taken seven years of consistent and predictable growth to get where we are today.
I am proud to say that the company has avoided debt up to this point. An initial investment of $400 and some tools were made in order to start sales.
Early in the process revenue was doubling every year. Constant investment into new products and inventory helped to achieve that growth. Even though we were making money, the capital was reinvested to help create a larger and more diverse store. I did not draw much of a profit for about two years as I put my time and resources back into the business.
Influential YouTubers were also important in helping spread the word about Hand Held Legend. This Does Not Compute was and still is a good partner on youtube.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
It is my belief and experience that treating people with respect and kindness will go a long way in building a business. We have always aimed to provide top-notch customer support, response times and generous return/refund policies in order to build loyal customers. We use Zendesk for customer support and it is worth every penny.
Aside from this, original marketing efforts were aimed at creating content for SEO heavy websites such as Reddit, Youtube and instructables.com. Instructables was the first website we did anything in and it greatly helped to bring in customers and traffic for our mods. You can see an old example from 2013 below:
I would strongly suggest new businesses use the services of other websites and creators to get the word out. Everything does not have to be done in house, rather use the resources and expertise around, many of which are more efficient and cost-effective than doing it yourself. Send free products to influencers and people willing to review what you can create.
Traffic was slow for the first year and grew as we added products and content. To this day, I still think our website lacks the quality content I think it needs. Professional videos, written instructions, and media could elevate our site to the next level and provide a better user experience.
I am currently pushing products to eBay and Amazon from Shopify in order to increase awareness and sales avenues. It has proven more difficult than it looks as there are many roadblocks when trying to add products to Amazon that seem to take forever to correct.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Revenue in 2019 was consistent with 2018 and 2017. We have noticed a 50% increase in revenue in Q1 of 2020 in light of some new products and advancements within the community.
We have also partnered with another company in hopes of bringing customs made electronics to the community, including rechargeable battery modules and more displays.
Good entrepreneurs understand that business is always personal. The relationships with customers, partners, associates, and employees are critical building blocks to establishing a trustworthy business that can stand the test of time.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Inventory has been a constant struggle. Learning how and when to stock when your lead time is anywhere between 5 days and 5 weeks. Having a proper inventory with labeling and hands-on control is important to keep from wasting resources on unnecessary purchases and keeping high demand items in stock.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Shipstation has been the best shipping app I have ever used. I cannot imagine running an eCommerce store without it. We can efficiently and effectively print shipping labels and pull inventory with the least mistakes and quickest processing.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
EconTalk has been a podcast I like to listen to get away from the numbers and into another avenue of thought. Focusing on one area for too long can give you short-sightedness and a lack of an overall larger picture.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Good entrepreneurs understand that business is always personal. The relationships with customers, partners, associates, and employees are critical building blocks to establishing a trustworthy business that can stand the test of time. You can’t get very far by yourself, teamwork is key.
If you are just getting started, do just that, start. Education is expensive and it might take time, energy and resources to learn the skills and acquire the knowledge to create a successful business.
Hard work is seriously underrated. Spend the time and energy making something great. You can’t do that with Facebook ads and a product you want to dropship.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are considering moving into a warehouse to accommodate a full-time employee and improve our inventory selection, quantity, and efficiency. Any interested persons in the northern Philadelphia suburbs, please contact [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Founder of Hand Held Legend
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