How Our Side Project Generated $51,365 in 60 Days

Dec 11, 2014

It all started with the moon face emoji.

We’re big fans of the moon face emoji. It’s by far the most used emoji in the Need/Want Slack channel. The cheeky look on its face makes us crack a smile every time it comes up. It can be relevant to almost any situation.

  • Just made a sale? :moonface:
  • Can’t make it into the office today? :moonface:
  • Just lost a bet? :moonface:

After a while our moon face emoji usage got serious. Not content with the default moon face emoji, we photoshopped Marshall’s face onto it. This turned the already wonderful moon face into a true work of art.


The Emoji that started it all and our “improved” version.

This planted the seed for what became Emoji Masks. (EDITORS NOTE: Emoji Masks was sold many years ago to new owners) We wanted to launch before Halloween, but that meant we had about 60 days to find a factory, produce the masks, ship them, take product photos and setup a Shopify website selling them. It was going to be tight.

Getting Started

The first thing we did was jump on Alibaba and search for mask factories. We sent out a detailed description of what we wanted to as many factories as we could find. Because we were so pressed for time, we didn’t have the luxury of getting production samples before entering full production. We just had to take a risk.

We went with a factory that we thought could do the best job based on some grainy photos of other masks they had produced previously. They started work on producing some molds for us based on the designs we provided them. A few days later the factory sent us these photos.

On the left is a picture of the mold used to create the first mask. On the right is version 1 of the heart eyes mask.

The factory informed us that the dimensions we originally provided them were way too big. The mask was next to impossible to wear and wasn’t at all structurally sound. Before we entered full production, we needed to make the masks smaller.

This random plate we found was the perfect size.

Deciding on a new size for the round Emoji Masks was easy. On the other hand, the poop emoji was a little difficult. It couldn’t just be the same width as the round emoji as then it wouldn’t cover up enough of your face and the eyeholes would be unusable. We devised a pretty low tech way of figuring out the correct size.

Entering Full Production

As soon as we figured out the correct sizes for the masks, things started to get moving. A few days passed and the factory sent us some photos of the molds they had created for all of the mask designs.

Molds for all masks, now the correct size.

We bet big, and decided to order 5,000 masks. 1,000 of each SKU. To produce that many masks, the factory needed 15 days production time and 7 days for shipping. Because the masks are relatively small and light, it made sense to air ship everything via DHL rather than put it on a boat (which is much cheaper but takes 30 days minimum).


While the factory was working on production, we got started on the branding. To our surprise, both and domains were available for $10 each. We registered them straight away and contacted our logo designer buddy, Simon Gustavsson.

We wanted something fun and friendly. After spending some time on Dribbble searching for logos that had a similar feel to what we wanted, we sent everything over to Simon. He got working. As you can see below, we went through a few iterations, with many more not pictured.

Initial logo sketches
Some logo and color exploration.
The final logo!

The Masks Arrived

All 5,000 masks eventually arrived at our office. We went in early, eager to finally touch and feel them.

We excitedly opened the boxes… but we were a little disappointed. Because we didn’t get samples ahead of time, the masks were a little bit thinner than we were expecting. Additionally, the included band was too short for an adult sized head.

These two things combined made the masks slightly “wrap” around your face which wasn’t the look we wanted. Most of our disappointment stemmed from originally thinking we’d try to sell the masks for $10-12 a piece.

We quickly realized if you added another string to the mask, it solved the problem of them wrapping around your face. We put them on and immediately realized they still served their purpose: to make for hilarious photos. We planned for a $5 per mask price point, and then had some fun.

The masks are perfect for photos.

We got a little bit carried away in the office that morning. Taking pictures and posing with 5,000 emoji masks.

Marshall posing next to 5,000 emoji masks.
This is what $29,950 worth of emoji masks looks like.

All that was left to do was to take some product photos and throw up a Shopify store.

The Photoshoot

It was a wet and dreary day. We all had a ton of other work to do, so nobody was in the mood to take product shots.

The first thing we did was go to the bar across the street from our office and do shots of tequila. In hindsight this was a great idea. It loosened everyone up and the photos that we took that day turned out great.

A behind the scenes pic of our photoshoot.

We Almost Didn’t Launch It

At the last minute, we decided it may be best to not launch Emoji Masks.

The evening after the photoshoot we had a serious conversation about not putting any more time into it. We discussed packaging everything up and selling it on Flippa as a ready to go business for someone else. We agreed we’d be more than happy with a $5,000 “buy now” price.

We have a lot of other, more critical stuff going on at Need/Want. Plus we were bummed the masks weren’t as perfect as we imagined. On top of all of that, the original plan was to launch it by October 1st to have adequate time  before Halloween. It was now October 14th, just 16 days away from Halloween. Selling everything to break even seemed like a wise option.

We decided to sleep on it.

The next day we started editing photos and putting the Shopify store together. Once completed, the store looked awesome. The pictures really swayed our opinion.

“Screw it, let's just put it online and see what happens.”

The Launch

On Thursday October 16th – just 15 days before Halloween – we launched.

The plan was to submit Emoji Masks to our favorite product curation website first thing in the morning. By sheer coincidence, Jon woke up at 4 AM and submitted Emoji Masks to Product Hunt. He went back to bed for a few more hours.

At 9 and 10 AM, we were both awake and checking our phones. We were already number 1 on Product Hunt for the day, and had around 20 orders. Awesome!

Our account on the morning of our launch.

Before we both headed into the office, our eyes were glued to our analytics app. Being number 1 on Product Hunt for the day was driving insane amounts of traffic. We were pretty surprised since it was still so early in the day.

A screenshot we took of the Product Hunt homepage for that day. The same day the new iPad and iMac 5k Retina was announced!

Launch day ended with just over $5,000 in sales. It was a blast.

This was Jon’s email inbox over a 40 minute period.

Things slowed down on the second day (Friday), and then really slowed down on the weekend. We were extremely happy with how the launch had gone.

Then… things got crazy.

Things Went Mental

We woke up Monday morning to see a huge bump in sales. After looking into the source, we figured out Emoji Masks had been written about by the Huffington Post.

After the Huffington Post article we started getting picked up all over the place.

A iMessage conversation between Jon and Marshall

We were featured on Huffington Post,Buzz Feed, Cnet,Wired, MTV, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Dailydot, Elite Daily, HypeBeast, Geekologie, IncredibleThings, DudeIWantThat, Oystermag, BizJournal, Bustle, Cheezburger, and many, many more.

Note the time and battery level. That’s what happens when you spend all day checking your phone!

We made over $10,000 that day from exactly 500 orders. It was crazy.

TV Appearances

During all of the press, some TV stations and shows began reaching out.

First, a news station in D.C. explained they were going to get their anchors and weather man wear the masks during a Halloween morning segment.

Someone tweeted this photo at us. It was very cool to see!

Then, one evening Marshall happened to see an order notification for a larger than normal amount. To our surprise, it was going to “Jimmy Kimmel Live”. We were now backordered, so Marshall immediately emailed them to see what we could do.

Seeing the order come in and Marshall reaching out 8 minutes later.

The guy called Marshall’s cell phone, and explained they were possibly going to do a bit on Jimmy Kimmel Live using the masks. At 6:30pm we overnighted 15 masks to L.A. for 9am delivery the following morning. They even shared the script for the bit they were going to produce.

The script for the Emoji Masks bit they wanted to do for the show.

Sadly, for whatever reason, the bit never happened. :moonface:

We then nervously accepted an invitation to go on our local Fox News station to talk about the masks.

This was a picture Jon snapped just before Marshall and him went on air.

You can watch how horribly awkward this was here.

Interestingly, this Fox News appearance drove 0 sales.


All of this press and sales were great, but now we had this huge problem of shipping out 5,000 emoji masks by hand.

We normally use a fulfillment company that’s setup for volume. However, with every new product we give them, there’s a long setup process. We didn’t have the time for that. Delivery by Halloween was the deadline, and fast approaching.

Jon had already planned to be out of town the weekend and week before Halloween. Down 1 man, Marshall came in on Saturday and got started. Step #1 was to put together the boxes. They start flat, and need to be folded and taped together.

Putting together 500 boxes took Marshall over 15 hours. To be clear, this was only taping together the boxes. That did not include picking product, nor filling the box, and printing the label.

Marshall starting to put together boxes

When Monday morning rolled in, Jason and Justin joined to create a mini fulfillment line.

We thought: It will be a lot of work, but…

Surely we can fulfill 5,000 masks with 3 people.


Our little assembly line picking and packing Emoji Masks.

Things were starting to get ridiculous. For one, we were running out of room.

We could barely move around our two offices, there were so many boxes.

We did this for 5 days straight. After a while, we got pretty efficient with the whole process. But it wasn’t enough.

The final straw that broke the camel’s back came when we had a sad realization. With Marshall, Jason, and Justin all working a line, we stopped to take a break. Marshall counted the number of orders we had fulfilled…

In the time it took us to fulfill 30 orders, we received 60 new orders. We weren’t even getting ahead!
The moment Marshall realized orders were literally coming in faster than we could fulfill.

We couldn’t take it anymore, Marshall called our fulfillment center and begged for an emergency “all hands” meeting. We were desperate.

They graciously accommodated us. With about 15 people in a room at their office, they came together and expedited the onboarding process, and began helping us get out thousands of orders the very next day. We can’t thank them enough for coming through like that.

…And Then Panic

Finally, everything was now under control. So we thought.

All of a sudden we started getting tons of support emails from customers saying their tracking numbers showed their orders were going to the wrong address.

It turns out, when we were sending our fulfillment center shipping info copied from an exported addresses CSV file, we made a HUGE mistake. Our fulfillment center has a specific format they need to use, so the standard export spreadsheet doesn’t work. We had to copy it column by column into theirs.

In doing this, we’d managed to pull one of the address lines from the BILLING address column rather than the SHIPPING address. Because of this, some of the addresses were completely messed up. Masks were being send to addresses that didn’t actually exist.

Ohhh. Shit.

We weren’t sure how many orders were effected but it was very possible it was going to be all of them. ALL 5,000 masks ALL going to the wrong address.

Any mask that gets sent to an incorrect address would eventually get sent back to our fulfillment center but we’d get charged a “restocking fee” and there’s no way that the masks would arrive before Halloween. We could potentially wipe out any profit we would make due to the restocking fee AND have thousands of angry customers wanting a refund.

Luckily, we figured out only a relatively small number of orders were effected (around 100). This was still awful and it really sucked for the people effected. We refunded everyone who was and apologized profusely. We did our best to re-direct the shipments when possible, or rush re-delivery when not. If you’re reading this, we’re so sorry again!

New and Improved Masks

We needed to order more masks from the factory to fulfill all the backorders we now had sitting in Shopify. We wanted to make sure the next batch of masks were perfect so we got some samples this time.

The new masks would be much thicker and have longer string. The string could be tied behind the mask to accommodate for different sized heads.

This is how we communicate with China.

The new samples arrived! And they were awesome. They were color-less for sampling purposes.

New, improved versions!
Jason testing out one of the new and improved Emoji Masks.

The Numbers

Thanks to Jason, Justin, Victoria, Roberto, David, Sunny and UnitedFSI for making this all possible.

We talked about this whole process in a little bit more detail on this episode of our podcast.

If you found this post interesting, you can follow me on Twitter @marshal.

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