Tell us about yourself.
First, the love of cars and trucks has always defined me as a person. The lifestyle, culture, and utility of a pickup truck is a love I share with 50 million other truck owners in the USA. My uncle gave me my first pickup truck at the age of seven, where I began to learn about trucks and making forts! Also where I made my first custom tonneau cover, with my father. At the age of 17 I started my first business while working towards college degree in biology. I quickly fell in love with “being my own boss” and building a business from the ground up. With no more than $500 in my pocket, my first business grew and eventually sold when I was decided to invest my time and entrepreneurial knowledge in crafting tonneau covers. That is when I started TruXmart Tonneau Covers, in May, 2011.
Who/what are your major influencers?
My influence are my superheroes; my father and my COO, Steve Raivio. These two great people guided and supported me in growing as a businessman. My father taught me to never give up and to face each obstacle as something that will make me stronger, smarter, and better. Steve Raivio taught me everything about ethical growth, customer service, and to always learn something new, each week, month, and year. I wouldn’t be where I am, today, if not for them.
What is Truxmart and how does it work?
TruXmart was founded on the principals of innovation and produces the best tonneau covers in the market, today. What we do is build products that suit the well featured light trucks of today, in a market full of “me too” and status quo. There are 50,000,000 light trucks on the roads in the USA. Light trucks are more fuel efficient and advanced and we believe there needs to be tonneau covers that compliment those trucks. A tonneau cover is the most crucial and complimentary add on for light trucks and only about 22% of trucks have this “must have” accessory installed. That means that an overwhelming 78% of truck owners haven’t found the right product for their truck and that is what TruXmart is here for, to meet the needs of today’s savvy consumer.
What was the hardest part of bringing your product to market?
Our market is very established. The same manufacturers have been making the same product and selling them to the same vendors for decades. Finding distribution in a long established market is hard. In a market full of manufacturers replicating the same cover with very little differences, we’re forging our own path and working to evolve from “another tonneau cover” to a full modular truck bed system with functional usage and innovation as the catalyst that propels us to a new era for tonneau covers and light trucks around the world. We continue to partner with vendors in markets across the globe who desire more than “another tonneau cover”, those who wish to stay ahead of the curve and find value in our innovations.
How has social media changed how you get your product to the end customer?
Social media has helped us by providing new customers insight on our product lines. A truck owner looking for a tonneau cover for a truck can quickly see the positive feedback, reviews, videos, and photos of our products from other TruXmart customers. Amateur video reviews on YouTube and photos and reviews on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter allows new customers to feel more confident in purchasing a TruXmart product since they can clearly see the thousands of satisfied TruXmart supports and consumers, around the world.
What was the hardest part about building a dealer network?
The hardest part of building a strong dealer network is establishing value and trust. We’ve found that over 80% of independent (small to medium) auto accessory dealers have lost faith in manufacturers who “outgrow” them. Building a trusting partnership is hard, not breaking those bonds and partnerships can be even more difficult. It is all too common for new manufactures to work directly with dealers while trying to find master distribution, once this distribution is found the dealers are often long forgotten. TruXmart’s guiding principal is “ethical growth” where we form long term partnerships by supporting those who support us. It is working with these customers that help us ensure we are in touch with new market trends and potential product improvements.
In your opinion, are young people still interested in off-roading/trucks? What would be your advice as to how companies can connect with them?
Of course there is a passion for trucks and off-roading for youth. I was among that segment when I was young and it was support for that love of trucks that brought me to where I am today. I believe that conveying information about our exciting and dynamic market is pivotal to intriguing young minds. All too often companies only release media (photos and videos) just about their products – but capturing young minds by conveying the underlying commonality – “the love for trucks!” – needs to be front row, and center. Companies should connect with young enthusiasts by supporting local car and truck clubs, schools, tech programs, and also by focusing more the big picture; customizing and building something of your very own – finding a “stock” truck and using the products we make to personalize it to suit their needs and style.
What should we look for from Truxmart in the future?
We’re excited about our TruXmart Alpha and the Alpha Helios edition. We cannot release product information right now but we hope to amaze the world with our newest innovations before the end of 2016. The Alpha is going to be the most innovative tonneau cover that will change the direction of our market from just a tonneau cover to the world’s first modular and fully functional truck bed cover system. The Helios? Let’s just say that the Helios is based on the Alpha’s innovative platform but with an added benefit that will electrify our market!
What advice would you give to someone chasing a new idea?
Surround yourself with like-minded positive people and keep your nose to the grindstone. Like my superhero taught me when I was young, every obstacle you face and overcome will get you closer to your dream. The world needs your innovation and your idea, you just need to believe in yourself and your dream - hard work and perseverance will get you there.