Design school is where the ego goes to die. Students are given weekly projects, each of which ends up splayed across classroom walls and picked apart by everyone in the room. Only the thick-skinned survive.
Joey Cofone, one of the founders of Baron Fig, was one of these surviving students. He noticed something interesting in-between the massive moments of carnage that many called “class.”
The realization was simple. His fellow students were all using two tools, a laptop and a notebook. For some reason, all the laptops were the same, but all the notebooks were different. They were different brands, sizes, colors, and more. When Joey looked at his own shelf of notebooks he realized that he, too, had a wide array of notebooks.
It was as if everyone were on an unspoken journey to find the perfect notebook.
What did he do next? Nothing. Well, at least not with notebooks. Joey finished the rest of design school and went out into the world to design professionally. Despite moving on in life, however, he couldn’t stop thinking about how dissatisfied he was with notebooks every time he opened one.
One day things came to a head. Joey was having dinner with his friend, Adam Kornfield, at a small Thai restaurant in New York City. He was leaning on a red and white picnic-style tablecloth, going on about his notebook problem for the millionth time.
Suddenly, having had to sit through this conversation many times before, Adam stood up and slammed a palm down on the table. Fellow restaurant-goers stopped talking to see what the commotion was about. Joey sat back, waiting.
“Let’s just make the damn notebook ourselves,” he said.
Joey, along with Adam and their friend Scott, began working immediately. He emailed over five hundred thinkers around the world—people like designers, writers, illustrators, accountants, architects, musicians, hobbyists, etc.—and asked them one simple question:
“What do you like in a sketchbook or notebook?”
All-in-all they sent hundreds of emails (to strangers!) thinking that maybe a few people would respond with feedback. What actually happened blew them away. People were responding by the hundreds. Over 80% of the cold emails got a response, and Joey ended up having conversations with over four hundred people around the world.
The team took all the feedback they received and distilled it into Baron Fig’s first product, the Confidant Hardcover Notebook. It took five months and dozens of iterations, but finally it was done.
Joey, Adam, and Scott were left with a single product, barely any cash, and only an inkling that it might work. This was back in 2013, and a new platform was just taking shape: Kickstarter. At this point very few people had heard about it, but for the fledgling team it was the only viable path.
In a nutshell, Kickstarter allows creators to present their dreams to the world. If people like the project, they can pre-order the product to make it happen.
They published their project under the title of “Baron Fig” with a modest financial goal to fund the first production run. The campaigned ended in 30 days, with over 4,200 supporters who pre-ordered nearly 9,000 notebooks—which was more than 11x their original goal.
Just like that, the seed of Baron Fig was planted thanks to thousands of thinkers from around the world. Today Baron Fig has released more than 50 products, sells much more than notebooks, and ships to over 50 countries.
As always: a major thanks to everyone who continue to support us. We can’t do it without you. Thank you.