Jake Johnson is a 30-year-old Boisean who used to manage restaurants. He “was tired of making someone else a ton of money with very little appreciation,” he says. So he found a product he believed in and used loans and savings to open a business selling it.
You can find Johnson now at Grain Audio Boise, the audio-equipment business he owns and operates in the Boise Towne Square mall. His kiosk is on the mall’s upper level, between Starbucks and AT&T. The kiosk opened in September, and he doesn’t yet have employees, so his workday typically stretches beyond 11 hours.
Grain Audio makes audio-listening gear. Its hallmark — and what gave the national company a strong backing on Kickstarter — is the wood materials used to make the equipment.
“We sell anything from headphones to Bluetooth and bookshelf speakers, all made from [Forest Stewardship Council]-certified walnut,” Johnson says. “Custom-made speakers with a warm and natural sound.”
His kiosk also sells ear buds.
Q: What makes Grain Audio unique and sets it apart from your competition?
A: It’s a truth-in-music [approach] and has been lost over the years by speaker companies amplifying the tuning of their products, which changes the dynamics of how the artist recorded the music. Our product gives a warm and natural sound, with a crisp clarity from our speakers wrapped in walnut for great resonance. Each product is hand varnished for a quality look and feel.
Q: What challenges have you faced? How have you met them?
A: Going through the lull of preholiday season sales and trying to build brand recognition. I pushed through by investing more money and developed relationships to help expand the brand within the Treasure Valley. [I set up meetings] with companies such as Treefort Music Fest, Proof Eyewear and radio stations to let people know what we are doing and that we are here to stay.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in the next three to five years?
A: We are looking to expand into a brick-and-mortar location that can be replicated nationwide, to give customers a unique experience and not be just another brand on the shelf at a big-box retailer.
Q: Any tips for fellow entrepreneurs?
A: Just trust in yourself and your ideas, and take the leap. Things will never happen unless you make them happen. And whatever you decide to do, be passionate, as this will be your life.
About Grain Audio
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $99 to $799
Type of business: S Corp (Infinity Group Boise d/b/a Grain Audio)
Startup costs: Close to $15,000 for kiosk location
Projected first-year revenue: $140,000
Expecting a profit: March 2016