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Trep Talk

Why This Entrepreneur Launched in Record Time, But Kept Her Company a Secret Until Blastoff

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
7 min read

When Nikki Kauffman had the idea for her company, Normal, she knew she was onto something hot. Really hot. And so she didn’t sit around on the idea. She acted. In lightspeed.

“The industry is ripe for this right now,” said Kaufman from the floor of her brand new flagship retail store and factory. Normal makes customized, 3-D printed earphones for $199, delivered in 48 hours. The company embodies a lot of hot topics right now -- mobile commerce, 3-D printing and mass customization -- and “brings it all together in a big sort of way,” Kaufman says.

Kaufman began working on Normal in September of 2013, transitioned out of her role at consumer products company Quirky by October, and then went headlong into raising money, pulling a team together, developing the product and building an app.

Her progress was rapid. By Halloween, she had secured $5 million in funding from a combination of venture capitalists and angel investors. This year, on July 9, Normal started accepted pre-sales and one month later, on Aug. 9, the Normal headquarters, factory and retail store opened in New York City’s central borough of Manhattan.

Despite the shot-out-of-the-cannon hustle, Kaufman didn’t start talking about her company until July, just before the app launched and customers could place pre-orders for a pair of Normal earbuds. Up until then, her team worked under the radar, in stealth mode.

“It was tempting to break the news,” she says. But. “I didn’t want to leak part information without the customer being able to experience the entire flow, without being able to download the app, order their normals, and really experience the brand.”

And while Kaufman got the earbud operation off the ground and launched in under a year, she isn’t slowing up the hustle. She expects Normal to grow in size and product line. For example, there are currently eight 3-D printers in the main Chelsea factory location, but the space was designed so that more printers can be easily installed when demand exceeds the existing production capacity. Also, the business name, “Normal,” does not identify the company as an earphone company. That means that if and when Kaufman is ready to expand Normal into other products, she can do so under the same umbrella brand.

Watch this video to learn about how Normal was able to launch so quickly, why news of the launch had to be a secret and how Kaufman is already planning for growth.

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