Every dog owner has been through the same struggle: you scrub and scrub only for an hour later to smell the stench of wet dog and every piece of furniture they touch. I know this struggle all too well. It all started as a 3rd-grade school science project where I had to create an invention that no one has seen before. Immediately my mind went to my pet pug, Mojo, whose hatred of the water was becoming a problem for both of us.
My goal was to make the bath time process easier and find a way to dry him off completely. After trial and error, I eventually created an invention called the Puff-N-Fluff. You place your dog in it right after you towel dry them from the bath, then once you put their paws through the elastic holes, Velcro the top, and tighten the drawstring on the neck and tail, you simply connect the flexible tube to any household blow dryer and your dog is dry in minutes. Gone are the days of having to chase my hyper dog with a blow dryer.
Since that 3rd-grade science fair, I have been involved in the operation of the business, including things like attending meetings, shipping products (I have gotten to know the UPS workers very well), attending conventions to pitch to customers, marketing, sales, and manufacturing. By 5th-grade I had begun manufacturing the product and was asked to be on Jimmy Fallon’s 3rd episode of his show to demonstrate my product. In my sophomore year of high school, I was asked to compete against another inventor on Steve Harvey’s show, Funderdome. I actually still get asked to give product presentations and have weekly meetings from college.
Although growing up pitching my product to every possible customer may not be very conventional, I have definitely learned quite a few lessons I still live by every day:
- The first to come to mind, as cheesy as it sounds, is perseverance. I can’t even begin to count the number of times someone had laughed in my face not only at the product but at the idea of a young girl running a business. Although the side comments and laughs hurt, I never let it stop me. Even though I still get the occasional laugh, I’ve learned to accept it, smile back, and use it as fuel because little do they know the success of the business.
- The next tip is to always have a plan and execute it. A plan gives you a direction to go in and goals to achieve. Having a vision is essential to growing your business. Start off with small achievable steps and go from there.
- I also wanted to mention the power of knowing your audience. Whether you are pitching the Puff-N-Fluff or talking to a customer in your pawn store, you should always be ready to adapt. By this, I mean adapting your tone/language to fit your customer- figure out what they need and go from there. People will quickly lose focus on what you are saying if you stray away from their goal or need.
- And finally, I wanted to stress the importance of social media for starting a business. In the beginning, I made an advertisement that would play in the background of tradeshows and was posted on YouTube, but in the era of online entertainment, someone took the video and made it into a 20 second clip that went viral. That viral video spread awareness of the product faster than I ever could have imagined. Immediately, I saw spikes in people viewing the website and knew that it had to be redone quickly to make it easier for customers to purchase the product. I’m not saying a viral video is needed to start a business at all, but that a website, Facebook page, or Instagram page can not only spread awareness of the company but even give the customer reassurance. If it takes too long for the customer to find how to buy the product or find the location of your store, then it could be a lost customer.
Although a dog dryer may not be very similar to a pawn shop, running a business comes from the same basic principles at its core: perseverance, executing a plan, knowing your audience, and spreading awareness. Every entrepreneur shares that same spirit and grit that molds our day-to-day life and makes us just a bit crazy.