Before he found out the studio audience on Steve Harvey’s Funderdome had awarded him $50k, Studio Stick Founder Brandyn Armstrong was already planning for what he would do with the money.
“Honestly, I thanked God for winning before I even hit that stage,” he said. “It’s not that I was overconfident, I just had this feeling that it was going to work out because I prepared so hard and believe so much in my business.”
Armstrong’s instincts were right; he won when his competitor “cashed out,” taking a smaller prize in exchange for bowing out of the competition. It turned out to be a wise move. Studio Stick gathered more votes and would have won the $50k regardless. However, if Armstrong would have gotten fewer votes after choosing to stay in the competition, he would have walked away with nothing.
“I told myself going in that it was all or nothing and if I lose—it is what it is,” he said. “I’m glad it worked out for me, but I’m also glad that my competitor was able to take something home too. Even though we were going head to head, I know how bad it feels to pitch and go home with nothing, so I was happy for him.”
Now, Armstrong is pivoting from his big win into his recently launched Kickstarter campaign, which will raise the rest of cash he needs to take Studio Stick into commercial production. The campaign offers the option to pre-order the product or simply make a donation.
The crowdfunding site traces the roots of Studio Stick and Armstrong, who grew up impoverished in East Cleveland, lost both his father and one of his close musical collaborators and dropped out of High School before turning things around and founding his company.
His first entrepreneurial success came in 2015, at Cleveland State University’s CSU’s annual business competition, StartUp Vikes, where he won $1,500, and met two engineers who would later join his team. He later connected with JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Program, where he began by refining his investor pitch and perfecting his value proposition and overall product messaging.
‘I learned so much in those early pitch workshops,” said Armstrong. “I tell everyone, there is no substitute for getting up in front of people and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”
Armstrong soon joined the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program, where he received intensive business assistance to help him organize and market his business. The program also helped him connect with Great Lakes Innovation & Development Enterprise (GLIDE), who eventually awarded Studio Stick $25,000 in funding to help get the product to market.
He credits the pitch style he developed during this period, as well as his background as a performer with helping him overcome his nervousness about appearing on national TV for the first time.
“One way I’ve learned to cope with nervousness during pitches or presentations, whether it’s at a JumpStart event or Funderdome, is to imagine that everybody came to see me and only me,” he said. “It sounds like a small thing but it helps me capture the audience’s attention. And honestly, when I started talking to them like they are all there just for me, I feel like they start feeling that way themselves.”
Even with the support he has received, it takes a great deal of money to bring a new product to market and Armstrong has struggled at times to find it all. Still, he has persevered and kept his eye on his long-term goal, which is now in sight.
“If I would have stopped just because I couldn’t find all the money I needed, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” he said. “It’s like I tell all the younger kids I speak to; if you have a dream work at it. Take action and have faith. If you fight through enough obstacles and don’t let them stop you, you will reach success. I really believe that.”
To learn more about Studio Stick and contribute to Armstrong’s crowdfunding campaign, click here.