Lou Rice was breastfeeding her son Archie one night when disaster struck—she dropped her Kindle on his head.
While that experience was upsetting for both of them, it sparked an idea for Lou and her husband, Ben, to create a solution.
Ben fashioned a silicone strap with staples to attach Lou’s Kindle to her hand and prevent any future dropping incidents. Lou tested it out over the next month and absolutely loved having the grip and security of the strap for comfortable one-handed reading during those long middle-of-the-night feeds.
With that, the Strapsicle was born—a side hustle now generating over $50k a month selling innovative Kindle straps. Not only that, but Strapsicle is on pace for its first-ever 6-figure month after recently going viral on TikTok and Instagram.
You can hear the entire story on the Side Hustle Show podcast.
Ben, Lou, and Archie courtesy of Stapisicle
Getting the Strapsicle manufactured
After positive initial testing, Ben and Lou explored whether there were any similar products on the market and found very few competitors. The products they did find were rather unappealing.
“They had like little metal claws, or they’re very industrial-looking, and nothing kind of sleek and stylish like our straps are,” Lou says.
This gave them confidence that a sleek, stylish silicone strap custom molded to fit Kindle devices could be a winning product. Luckily, they had a manufacturing contact in China through a friend to produce prototypes and ultimately fulfill inventory orders.
It took a few rounds of back and forth with the factory to perfect the design of the very first Strapsicle strap. Once the final production sample was approved, Lou created an online survey and distributed it through Facebook, friends, and family. The feedback assured Lou they were solving a real customer problem, given the enthusiasm expressed by existing Kindle owners.
With this validation fueling their desire to develop a solution for Lou’s initial dropping challenge, they decided to move forward and place a minimum order quantity of 500 units for about $2,000, including shipping fees.
Giving away product
After the first inventory shipment arrived, Lou and Ben were paralyzed on launching for months. But after listening to a podcast that inspired her, Strapsicle officially launched online by giving away products for free. Customers only paid the shipping costs and were only asked to provide feedback about the strap.
This approach allowed Lou and Ben to build community and start a dialogue with real customers using Strapsicle on their Kindles. Plus, it enabled the gathering of user-generated content and reviews to aid subsequent marketing efforts.
Lou spread the word online primarily through Facebook communities like female entrepreneurs groups and local neighborhood groups. She also made posts on LinkedIn and her personal Instagram account, yielding almost 100 sales in the first month.
Marketing on BookTok
Never one to stand still, Lou soon stumbled upon BookTok — an engaged subculture on TikTok obsessed with reading and raving about their favorite books. She soon realized BookTok participants were an ideal target market, given their affinity for Kindles.
Lou decided to experiment with a micro-influencer affiliate marketing strategy. This involved searching relevant Kindle hashtags like #Kindle and keywords to find nano and micro-influencers on TikTok and Instagram with small but targeted followings between 2,000-3,000 followers.
She reached out to many micro-influencers, offered them free samples to try, and provided discount codes they could share with their followers to drive sales.
The micro-influencer content spreads brand awareness and creates more user-generated content for Lou to repurpose on Strapsicle’s social channels. She continues nurturing relationships with her influencers by sending new products and keeping in constant contact as they drive more and more traffic and sales.
This micro-influencer strategy and the initial free giveaway enabled Strapsicle to gain significant organic traction in just its first three months in business.
Launching on Amazon
They knew the power of Amazon but also understood the importance of driving external traffic to the listings. So Lou implemented referral bonus links and affiliate marketing through multiple channels back to the Amazon product pages.
She continues contacting micro-influencers on TikTok and Instagram that cater to the Kindle niche. By providing them with Amazon discount codes instead of codes for Strapsicle, any resulting sales still credit the influencer while allowing the customer a seamless Amazon shopping experience.
This ongoing effort provides the essential external visibility to help Strapsicle’s products rank higher in Amazon search results. And the high placement then enables more organic sales.
Hitting $50k+ a month
Flash forward to today, and Strapsicle is flying high at over $50,000 monthly in sales between Strapsicle.com and Amazon. Lou credits consistent effort delivering micro-influencer seed content and wide distribution of affiliated links driving external traffic to Amazon product pages.
The crowning achievement thus far has been a single viral TikTok video that generated over 2 million views. Combined with a “The 9 Best Kindle Accessories to Shop on Amazon Under $35” PR roundup Cosmopolitan published, including Strapsicle, the widespread exposure pushed Lou’s side hustle over $100k in sales in its first month, topping six figures.
Learning from their mistakes
Despite breakout early success, Lou admits they’ve been figuring things out as they go. From pricing changes to get the optimal value-based customer conversions to sizing mixups that led to negative reviews, they’ve endured their fair share of lessons about selling on Amazon.
One hard lesson came from a factory quality control issue with their manufacturer sending the wrong-sized units to Amazon warehouses. It wasn’t caught initially, leading confused customers to complain about ill-fitting straps.
Lou used the opportunity to respond with thoughtful comments personally, send replacements from their Shopify-fulfilled inventory, and ultimately change disappointed 1-star reviews into delighted 5-star raves.
This attention to individual customer care reminds Lou that Strapsicle isn’t just another faceless corporate entity. As a bootstrapping startup and family passion project self-funded from her corporate salary, every sale counts.
Lou also began receiving feedback that the versatile silicone strap design helped readers suffering from arthritis, Parkinson’s, and nerve damage comfortably hold Kindle devices and alternatives from Kobo that usually slipped from their grasp.
Word spread and a woman with cerebral palsy even wrote to Lou and said, “You’ve changed my life.” While Lou initially set out to solve a simple problem for exhausted parents like herself, this discovery added a greater sense of purpose and refinement to the brand’s vision.