19: Interview with Mat Hofma & Erik Polumbo from Mini Materials

Today we feature Mat & Erik from Mini Materials who make miniature construction material.


What kind of business do you run? When did you start it?

Minimaterials.com started out of my house as an e-commerce site for miniature construction material. We officially opened “the doors” in March of 2015.

What inspired you to start this business?

I had been wanting to start an e-commerce site just for fun, nothing to make a ton of money on – just a learning experience. Someone on Reddit made some mini cinder blocks and I thought they were the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I tried to buy them, but he was sold out, and the price was ridiculous. I knew I could do it better for cheaper, so I did. I learned to 3D design, print, cast molds, and pour concrete and that was that.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I’m a graphic designer who loves to make things. I like to do woodworking and other related activities in my spare time. I also have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, I want to be my own boss and provide something to people in a way that I think it needs to be done. Mini Materials provides that avenue and with the assistance of my partner we are growing the business daily.

What would you recommend a new entrepreneur? How to get started?

Just keep pushing. I’ve had weeks where I didn’t get sales – and I started to get down, but I stayed up late every night making more and better products, and now I get several sales a day.
Another key thing is finding a partner. Every day I was on Shopify and the dashboard had a little icon stating something like “Startups are 70% more likely to succeed when they involve more than one person.” For a long time I didn’t want to because I had worked so hard for so long by myself, but I knew that finding the right person and sharing the experiences would strengthen me, and more so strengthen the company.

Do you produce the materials yourself or do you outsource this part of the business?

We produce several of our products including the miniature cinder blocks which is and should always be our main attraction. We do outsource some other products that we sell as well, but all of our products are made in America.

What would be a typical use of these miniature blocks and have they been used in a way you didn’t expect?

Our biggest market is the fingerboarding market, where customers are building their own structures to use to perform tricks. We’ve seen others use them for miniature displays of buildings or furniture pieces. One of our biggest orders was to the Navy where they were using them out in the field to erect on-the-go strategy dioramas to assist in training exercises. The uses seemed to be endless right now and everyday we have a customer show us something cool they’ve designed using our products.

What is your daily routine of running your business?

We do daily order fulfillment and marketing, and weekly product and design. We try and meet weekly to discuss new product, new customer expansion, and maintain the fun-nature that started Mini Materials.

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?

Best – the ability to get a product we believe in to the hands of people that want them worst – not having enough time in the day to build the business in a way we’d like to. We’re still working 9-5 jobs, so everything we do is before work or after.

Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?

We are all over Reddit – Entrepreneur. We just got offered to be on a podcast called The Product Startup which should debut sometime in early March. We listen to it frequently and incorporate some of the advice discussed throughout the episodes. We use Facebook and Instagram and try to attract specific niche market customers that will intern spread our brand throughout the eRetailer world.

Do you read any discussion forums about business?

Again we are consistently on Reddit Entrepreneur and Networking. A great deal of our website traffic comes from Reddit referrals. We use comments and suggestions liberally to test and see what does and doesn’t work.

How do you stay productive and not get distracted?

This is tricky, life always gets in the way but we do our best to devote a few hours a day to the business as it is still evolving. We hope that it soon can get to an autopilot stage and we can focus our attention less on defining our niche and market and exploring more into growth and more efficient production.

What are your future plans for the company?

To be the Internet’s largest miniature supplier. Our follower-base on social media platforms is constantly growing. We do a good bit of promotional giveaways to try and use other similar interested folks’ following to attract a wider audience. We want to be mini-big!

To learn more about Mat & Erik’s business please visit Minimaterials.com.