I met Alejandro during my freshman year at UCLA. After getting to know him, I knew he was going to do something amazing with his life. He's just that kind of guy. Fast forward 3 years later, and here we are. Not only has Alejandro co-founded his own company, but he is also the proud owner of a hilarious + profitable Snapchat account. In this interview, Alejandro offers great advice to both budding entrepreneurs, and those looking to learn more about social media marketing.
Name: Alejandro Rioja, 21
Hometown: Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Hey! Thanks for joining me, please tell readers a little bit about yourself!
Growing up, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur/inventor. I moved to Los Angeles as an international student at UCLA, and kind of fell into the Computer Science major. I applied as a Math major, and after I got accepted, the computer science department sent me an email. They told me I seemed to be a good candidate for Computer Science, so I figured, they may know better than I do, so I’ll give it a try. I’m grateful for that decision since I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities through the major—you know, a lot of internships, and the ability to work in tech.
If you were to audition for American Idol, what song would you sing?
- “Rap God” by Eminem
If you could create your own crayon color, what would you name it?
What differentiates Flux from other portable chargers?
I like to think we have two key advantages over our competitors:
- Specification-wise: Flux has two built-in cords that work for iPhones & Androids, so you don’t have to attach your own cord. The shape of our portable charger is also distinct from others, which are usually shaped like a brick or a tube. Flux also resists drops due to its sleek aluminum back *smashes flux on ground* (hahahaha)
- Brand-wise: Not many people associate a brand to a portable charger, you usually just buy one based on its price and specifications, so we wanted to differentiate ourselves. We looked at what the top portable chargers were at the time, and bought ten of the best selling on Amazon. From there, we examined each of them and recorded information in a comparative matrix— like what is their brand name, how do they package their product, and we found that most of the chargers did not have a recognizable brand. We wanted to come up with a brand product that was more valuable than just the product itself, so that’s why we are so strong on building the brand “Flux.” You can check our Amazon listing page.
Where did the name “Flux” come from?
It comes from a mix of 3 things:
- We were looking for a short and easy to pronounce name that was hard to misspell, and also easy to recognize in different languages, ideally 4-6 characters, one syllable.
- Flux is also the flow of electrons in physics so we were thinking that makes sense for a portable battery.
- Lastly, flux is also a pun for fu*k… as in fu*k my phone ran out of battery!! when your phone dies, now you wouldn’t say “fu*k!” but you say “Flux!!”
What does the Flux Team look like right now?
The team is made up of three other people, Miles Anthony, Max Bronstein and Kate Anoufrieva. All of us are UCLA undergrads— there are three seniors and one sophomore (Kate). After we each graduate, we are all going full time.
Flux has been doing really well for a recent startup, where did you guys begin in starting your company?
Miles & I went through the Startup UCLA Accelerator program , which is a summer program that helps you to build a company (I highly recommend it for anyone thinking about a startup). They walk you from idea to customer discovery, to pitch, to product in just a short amount of 10 weeks. They give you resources, feedback, and a $5,000 equity-free grant to start your company. Most of those funds were used to found the company: early mockups of products, and paying for our summer rent.
Where did you get the idea for Flux Chargers?
So me and Miles went to a party, approximately the second week of the program, and my phone died. I was looking for a charger, and one of my friends gave me this bulky, heavy charger. It was just so uncomfortable and awkward to carry around; that was the epiphany moment of “Flux Chargers.”
We decided to make a product that was sleek and easy to carry around. Our initial idea was to create a product that could give you just 10% of charge, to get you out of emergencies, but it turns out you can actually make full-charge, full-size batteries that aren’t too big.
Once you had your initial prototypes, how did you get the word out about Flux?
We launched the product around September of last year, week 9 of the accelerator program, and during week 10, we had a trip to the bay-area. During our bus ride from LA to San Jose, at every stop, I was selling the chargers—you know at gas stations, and In-n-Outs to get some early feedback on the product and also some revenue going. We wanted to use the money on marketing, SEO, and blogging. For the first couple of months, we had a full fledged sales force. Everyone was a UCLA student, and we sold on the streets in Santa Monica. (Check out Alejandro’s top tips for selling on the streets!)
How have sales been for Flux since you launched?
About 6 months ago, we ended the physical sales, went completely online, and have been going really strong on SEO. During the early days, we weren’t even making one sale a day, maybe one every couple days or so, but once we cracked the SEO game, we started coming in with more and more sales and more people now talk about Flux. We sell about 1,000-2000 chargers per month now; in October, we made 37K in revenue.
What are some techniques to increase your website’s SEO?
Blogging is one of them, and becoming an expert in your field. The way that Google ranks you on Google search is how authoritative you are and how many people link back to you. If you produce content that is valuable, people will naturally link back to you and that will increase your score. The better the sites that link to you, the better your SEO. So for example, if we could get a link from New York Times, that’d be better than links from 10 other blogs of lower domain authority. On our blog at Flux Chargers, we have an article titled “14 Best Smartphones With Largest Battery Capacity (October 2016)” and so if you are searching for that, it will lead you to our site. The idea for our blog posts is that we can convert you as a blog reader to a buying customer.
You have a very popular Snapchat (known for his rapping!!) how did you start that?
When I first got Snapchat, and was watching people’s stories, I found it boring. People were snapping about stuff like what they ate, and I wanted to stand out somehow. I had never heard rap before coming to the USA, and sophomore year I was rapping all day, my roommates would come in and I would be rapping. I thought, why don’t I put it on snapchat? So then, I created the youngslacker channel.
I started shouting people out.. those who were shouted out would show their friends, and mutual friends started adding me.
I would post these rapping stories and people would laugh, so I thought “well, people like it, so how can I make a little money from it, since I am spending so much time on it.” So I started marketing on Snapchat selling my own Flux and Young Slacker products. Soon enough, other people found value in my audience and started working with me. Now, I have sold over thousands on dollars on snapchat for brands like Nike, DollarShaveClub and Sprite.
How do you market on Snapchat?
First, you need to build an audience. It doesn’t matter how big it is, just if they care about what you have to say. You can have a very small blog, like ours, but if you can reach a hundred people that read the blog, and then take action on it, its better than having 10,000 people that pass through the blog without taking any action. For my Snapchat, I started with a close group of friends, and they cared about what I posted.
I started working with different companies, and the first few times, I reached out to them and worked based on commission—I told the companies, “Hey send me some stuff and give me a code.” I thought if they use my code I’ll get something out of it, and there was no risk in doing it. It was like affiliate marketing, and people were influenced by what I was showing.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
I think the hardest part is just to get started. A lot of people pitch me their ideas, and have good ideas, but they don’t act on them. I had that problem too. It was more about the fear about I don’t know this, or that, and I don’t have this…. but the job of an entrepreneur is to know those things, learn those things, get those things. Go partner with someone, go learn something and iterate, make A/B Tests on your idea…. The hardest part about flux was getting started, going out and selling it on the streets, and since then it’s been easier. There’s no better time in history than 2016 to start a company.
It’s also all about the branding. A brand sets the expectation of an experience. The key of good branding and marketing is repetition, repetition, repetition. People won’t hear you the first few times, but by the 5th or 6th this will know your product like no other, and then they become brand ambassadors and tell their friends about it. This all creates a snowball effect for word-of-mouth and can catapult your company towards more success.
Here’s a video in case you wanna see how ~sleek~ the Flux Chargers are 😂👏
Thanks so much for all the advice Alejandro! You’re the bomb.com 💣💣💣
Hey Guys! Serena here 🐼💕
Alejandro has kindly offered my readers a 15% discount on Flux Chargers! If you’re interested in purchasing one, head on over to Flux Chargers and use the code: SERENA at checkout!
Before I even interviewed Alejandro, I bought Daniel and I each a Flux charger–I got the black one for him, and the white one for me 😉. They’ve saved us SO many times when we’ve been busy, out & about! If you have any questions about the chargers or if you want my honest opinion on them as a user, please don’t hesitate to either shoot me an email or DM me on Instagram! I promise they make great gifts 😄👍
Much Love & Thanks for Reading!