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From Idea Validation to Product Launch: A Story

About two months ago, one of my ideas was rejected. Not by customers, investors, or even strangers. This idea was rejected by some of my closest friends.

So here was my idea…

There’s a limited edition movie poster company called MondoTees. They get local artists to redesign movie posters in a really clean way and only produce a very limited amount of them.

MondoTees tweets when a poster goes on sale and within a few minutes it is sold out. (The aftermarket on eBay is even more insane.)


So my idea: MondoTees meets Tacos!

I would find famous artists online to draw their favorite tacos and sell limited prints of them.

Of course, this was going to be easy–MondoTees was doing already doing it (minus the tacos). Plus I just knew the artists (and restaurants) would promote the posters to their fan base and within minutes everything would be sold out.

I cold emailed an artist named Will Bryant to help:

I really wanted to work with Will so I was persistent (without being too annoying). Tip: Too many people don’t use multiple channels when trying to reach someone. And they don’t use tools like or Boomerang.

Then I added him on Facebook:

…And finally Tweeted at him:

Will loved the idea and started working on the design as I worked on the next step.

(You can probably see where this is going…)

Then I reached out to some good friends who I KNOW love tacos and pitched them the idea of a taco poster for $25. The responses I got…

“Uh… so you want me to buy a print for $25 of a taco? I’ll pass.”
“Yea, not my thing Noah.”
“No one loves tacos as much as you do.”

Obviously, I was a bit disappointed not even my close friends would buy a limited edition taco print. After all, I have a large network and every business idea I have works, right?


So I learned one thing: Taco Posters won’t sell.

At this point I had three options:

Option #1: Disregard my friends opinion/advice, tell everyone taco posters are the next big thing, and place an order for 1,000 taco posters while I set up a website and ecommerce. 

Option #2: Give up on the idea entirely.

Option #3: Figure out what people really want to buy.

(Again you can probably see where this is headed.)

The idea wasn’t dead, yet.

Remember: When you get a rejection, it’s your greatest chance to learn why the person is NOT buying and what they WILL buy.

Then I remembered how when I wear a specific taco shirt around town I get an insane amount of attention from females. It’s really strange but it makes sense since tacos are an aphrodisiac, right?

Time for validation experiment numero dos. I texted some friends and called others and asked, “Yo, you know that taco shirt I wear? Would you want one?”

Here are the responses I got:

“HELL YEA. Hook it up.”
“Show me the TACOS!”

Next, I posted a picture of me in the shirt on Facebook and posted a price of $25/shirt.

After I got 15 orders via PayPal (no ecommerce, no website — people just sent me the money) I closed off sales and started looking for a manufacturer.

Did you notice I hadn’t spent ANY money up until this point?

(This happens to be the biggest breakthrough for our previous course Monthly1K. People have a blast coming up with ideas, trying to validate an idea, then trying another until they find one that they can get money for….before they’ve spent a single dollar of their own money.)

I ended up connecting with some guys from Betabrand — they make funky clothing for hipsters and people who like to be unique — and we started talking about having them manufacturing the shirt.

And the Taco Shirt was born. I paid Will for the design once orders started from Betabrand.
The shirt is on super high quality fabric, has the sexiest of tacos designed by Will Bryant, and will be on peoples bodies in the near future.

Now, I quickly learned that a high quality, button-up shirt is more expensive than a regular t-shirt. The key thing when pre-selling is setting the expectation and showing the customer the value they will get.

Remember I only charged $25/shirt to start, but every person who bought at the pre-sale price still gets it at that cost and was notified while I was talking with Betabrand.

While, it’s never been my intention to sell taco shirts I’m damn proud that other people will be wearing them all over the world.

Takeaway: Almost every business idea is guaranteed not to work out the first try. Validate, validate, validate. (Click to Tweet)



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11 responses to “From Idea Validation to Product Launch: A Story”

April 15, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Beautiful! How can l get the shirt? Iam in Africa.

July 28, 2015 at 1:18 pm

I have tried similar ideas before with many products. Never worked for me. I think the key here is Marketing which Noah is very good at and most of the people are not! I challenge anyone else to repeat this. It makes for a good story where gropies can salivate but it is pretty much unrepeatable unless you have Noah’s marketing talent. It will be akin to me lifting 200kg bench press and then telling Noah..”See, super easy to do, just lie down, stretch your hands and lift!” Of course he will not be able to do that 🙂

Rachel Bigum
November 28, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Greetings Noah! My name is Rachel and I am writing to you in desperate need of your help. Its almost christmas time and my brother saw a shirt like this one at Target. He fell in love, but they didn’t have his size. Ever since my brother has adored this shirt and has wanted it so badly. I thought for Christmas I would do my best to find it for him, its become quite the fiasco. I know that the shirts are probably sold out, but if you are reading this I would love it if you made another batch of taco shirts only with a white button up. You would be granting my Christmas miracle.
Hopefully you get this!
Thanks for your time, Rachel

July 12, 2014 at 7:18 am

Hi Noah,

I follow your blog and all the sites associate to you and AppSumo,
Your articles are always a great resource for me. I like how easy it can be to validate an idea.
Unfortunately I don’t have many followers on social media nor do I have a lot of friends that are passionate about the same topics.

I started to design some t-shirts and phone cases two months ago. I put them on my store at* to keep costs low.

I have problems validating it. I lack of marketing skills I guess. I build a few backlinks to rank higher with my products, but I haven’t made a single sale so far.

Maybe I should submit a few designs to Betabrand, but I am not sure if my designs fit to their marketplace.

Any advice for marketing and selling customizable products?

Tyler Banfield
April 26, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Pivoting is something that people write about all the time in regards to tech startups, but it’s really cool to read a story that involves a physical product!

Peter Munnerlyn
April 17, 2014 at 10:11 am

Great tips here, Noah.
One question. You mentioned you didn’t spend any money before creating the t-shirts. Did you pay to make your FB sponsored? Or was that a free credit?

Todd Nagle
April 16, 2014 at 9:59 am

Hey Noah & team,

I agree with the overall main message here. Thanks for sharing.

I have some additional perspective to offer.

1. Our friends, even the closest ones, don’t necessarily share our passions. Assuming they do can be dangerous. We often have them in our lives due to circumstances or because what’s different and contrasting vs similar.

Lesson – Surround yourself with people who help fill in your gaps to bring out the best in you. They may not be the best people for feedback.

2. There are more than 7B people on the planet. Even with the worst odds, there is likely a significant number of people who share the same or similar passion and idea as you.

Lesson – Is the number of people who share your idea sufficient for you? Is making it a valuable business idea the measure or supporting the cause? More importantly, are you willing to do the work to reach those people?

My two cents. Thanks again for getting the grey matter going on this one.


April 16, 2014 at 8:55 am

Thanks for sharing, Noah. Great post and example about the importance of validating (and not giving up on a good idea). Just ordered my shirt! I’m looking forward to wearing it at our next Taco Tuesday at Sleepy Giant.

April 16, 2014 at 8:04 am

I bought one of these taco shirts from Betabrand. I wore it for the first time to a weight watchers convention. It was such a hit that seven “dieters” attacked me and literally ate the shirt off my back. I spent the next thirty minutes “playing dead,” because that’s what you’re told to do if a bear tries to eat you. I still have bite marks around my nipples. Luckily I wasn’t also wearing my lasagna boxers.

So I used the same techniques in this post to validate an idea as a compliment to this shirt. It’s called Hunger Repellent. Just spray a little on the shirt before you go out and you won’t have to worry about hungry “dieters” eating it off your back.

If you’re interested, and I know you are, please send $150 to my paypal: buy @ hunger repellent dot com.

Noah, I suspect you to be particularly interested, since you mentioned the shirt getting a lot of attention from the ladies (I assume you only attract women who are “dieting”).

Show me the MONEY!!

April 16, 2014 at 5:02 am

Yo Noah,

Thanks for the hook up. I’m looking forward to wearing my taco shirt in Croatia this summer.

Let me know about the 2 hour session, as I’m ready for some Marketing props amigo.


April 15, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Hey Noah … just curious, you validated the shirts at $25 … but the cost could be well above that I guess? If you have to price it significantly higher (30-50%+ more), then can you really say that the idea is validated? Are you willing enough already to take a risk and put the shirts in production when the idea is validated at a lower price point than you can sell it at.

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