Today I’m thrilled to have Dawn LaFontaine on the show. Dawn was a finalist on the 5 Minute Pitch, my Shark Tank like show with Mike Jackness, Greg Mercer and Scott Voelker where we gave away 50,000 in cold hard cash.
Dawn runs an ecommerce business selling card board boxes for cats. Her products have been featured in Parade, Product Hunt and the Boston Globe. And in this interview, we’re going to talk about Dawn’s triumphs and obstacles in launching her business.
What You’ll Learn
- Dawn’s motivations for starting her business
- How Dawn validated her niche before she began
- How Dawn found manufacturers to produce her products
- How Dawn generates sales
- How to get free press for your products
Other Resources And Books
Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
EmergeCounsel.com – EmergeCounsel is the service I use for trademarks and to get advice on any issue related to intellectual property protection. Click here and get $100 OFF by mentioning the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast.
SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
But before we begin I want to give a shout-out to Privy who’s also sponsored the show. previous a tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now, what is Privy do, well Privy’s an email list growth platform and they manage all my email capture forms and I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Now, there are a bunch of companies out there that are managing email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in e-commerce. Right now I’m using Privy Display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop-up basically user gives your email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store and customers love the gamification aspect of this and when implemented this form email signups increased by a hundred thirty one percent. Now, you can also use Privy to reduce car abandoned with cart saver pop-ups and abandoned cart email sequences as well one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full-blown email marketing solution. So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales so head on over to privy.com/steve and try it for free if you decide you need to the more advanced features use coupon code MWQHJ for fifteen percent off once again that’s privy.com/steve.
I also want to give a quick shout-out to Klaviyo for sponsoring the show whether you are just getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale Klaviyo offers fast simple and repeatable ways to grow now with Klaviyo you can personalize your marketing build your customer relationships and automate your online sales and it is now easier than ever to create amazing email and advertising experiences. Now I want to talk about Klaviyo’s new entrepreneurial growth guide packed with must read blog post case studies and getting started content this guide will help you prioritize what to do next for maximum revenue growth that moving to a new marking problem can be intimidating but Klaviyo helps you get up and going fast with proven technology and countless support resources. Now, you can check out this free content now over at Klaviyo.com/mywife once again that is Klaviyo.com/mywife. Now on to the show.
Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast we will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so can spend more time with your family focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today, I’m thrilled to have Dawn LaFontaine on the show. Now, Dawn was a finalist of the five minute pitch by Shark Tank like show with Mike Jackness, Greg Mercer and Scott Voelker where we gave away $50,000 in Cold Hard Cash. Now, Dawn runs an e-commerce business selling cardboard boxes for cats. This is called Cat In The Box and her products have been featured in Parade, Product Hunt and the Boston Globe and in this interview, we’re going to talk about Dawn’s triumphs, her obstacles and getting started with their business and with that welcome to show Dawn. How you doing today?
Dawn: Oh very good. Thank you so much for having me Steve and it’s truly a thrill in a pleasure.
Steve: So Dawn, How do you feel now that the I’m in a pitch is all over?
Dawn: Oh my goodness. I’m just so utterly relieved. I just I’m just glad I didn’t, you know, didn’t screw it up and I did a good job, and I’m just you know glad to have had the experience.
Steve: Yeah, and I was telling Dawn right before this interview that I thought, you know for the finals at least Dawn’s preparation for her final five minute pitch was amazing. She clearly came prepared. She did a great job and I was very impressed.
Dawn : Well, thank you for saying that that actually means a lot coming from you.
Steve: So Dawn, what’s nice about the podcast is we get a chance to dig deeper into your backstory. Unlike five minute pitch when you only have five minutes, so please tell the audience about your product and how you got started with it.
Dawn: Sure. So I make Whimsical cardboard box toys for cats to think inside the box. If you have a cat or if you know someone who has a cat you probably already know that cats are just weirdly attracted to cardboard boxes. I mean you could leave a box that earrings came in on the counter and a cat will definitely try and squeeze into it. So if you have a cat you probably already keep like an old Amazon box around for Cat to sleep in or hide in or play in and that’s great because you’re meeting your cat’s needs for a cardboard box, but you don’t know where that box has been it’s dirty. It’s ugly and it might be imprinted with toxic inks and my boxes they’re kind of unique. They’re clean. They’re safer cats. I am print them with human grade soy-based inks. They’re environmentally friendly all recycled cardboard their fun attractive their bit of a conversation piece and most importantly, you know cats really do love them.
Stwvw: So, how did you get the idea? I mean, it seems kind of random to me. At least when I first heard your pitch. I was like, wow, I never would have thought of yet.
Dawn: You are not a cat owner.
Steve: Yes, that’s correct.
Dawn: I actually got the idea on a trip with my mother to drop her cats off at the cat sitter. This woman had a really beautifully appointed home. She obviously cared a lot about her Decor but her living room was filled with old shipping cartons, and I know she saw me looking around which is kind of embarrassing now, but she said, you know to be quite sheepishly, you know the for the cats. So I’ve owned cats. I knew they’d like boxes, but it did get me thinking. Why do their owners put up with dirty ugly Amazon boxes In their homes? Why not something, you know, that’s, clean attractive, cat safe, maybe something even a little bit stylish and that’s how the idea for this business came about.
And let me just back up here a minute and say that I often think of quote-unquote great product ideas all the time. And now that I’ve you know involved in this I know it’s not about the product idea but the implementation, you know, that’s the hard part but as I walk through life thinking about better ways of doing normally walk through life thinking about better ways of doing things and when I thought of this particular one I said to myself for a couple of reasons that this is the idea that I should pursue.
Steve: So when you thought of the idea, first of all have you started any sort of business before this one?
Dawn: I just did a little service-related business while I was raising my kids. I’m a professional writer editor. So I didn’t, you know, just a little bit of freelance writing and editing on the side as a way to contribute to the family, bottom line. So I’m not it wasn’t a business in the sense. I didn’t have a website. I didn’t mark it. I mean people came to me so I don’t think it’s really comparable to this kind of business.
Speaker 2: Okay, and are you working full time right now, or?
Dawn: No, I am, this is a perfect job for me.
Steve: Okay. So what kind of full-time job
Steve: I’m sorry so, Cat In The Box is a full-time job for you.
Dawn: Yes. Yes.
Steve: Okay. So when you started this were you working or?
Dawn: No. And in fact as my kids have gotten older I was still home full time with them. I’ve been home with them for 21/22 years or so and they were you know, my son had just had you know gone off to college and actually was graduating college. My daughter was just going into college. So I had sort of even weaned myself off of the freelance work that I’ve been doing as I’m trying to mole what you know mall over what should I do with the rest of my life. I mean, it’s really my age is really a Crossroads in a person’s life. And this is the path I decided to take.
Steve: Yeah. So what were some of your motivations I imagine the freelance work was going well with the writing. Yeah why business?
Dawn: Couple of reasons, one is when my husband and I were first married before we had children. I was really the big Breadwinner in the family. I made you know, as a percentage anyway of our family income a lot bigger piece of the pie than he did and while I stayed home with the kids, it’s just not something you think about at the beginning of the road when there You know newborns or kindergartners even. He’s you know worked for the 25 years moved up through his career. And now he has a really interesting strategic job and I don’t have all that time left in my working life to start over where I was in my 20s and you know work my way up to the point where he is, so it was hard after I devoted so much of my life to somebody else to think of starting all over so, you know to my two kids which I’m happy I did but to start all over.
And then interestingly it’s sort of the same Crossroads here. He actually got laid off from a job that he’d had for 15 years and at that moment I said, well, I mean, I, you know, I got to get back in the workforce. I we got to have an income and I actually just applied to two part-time jobs that I was overqualified for and I was the kind of person in my twenties if I went on an interview, I got a large percentage of job offers that I went after and here I applied to you know, really kind of Modest part time jobs, and I didn’t get either one of them. Snd it started to make me think about you know, what do I really want? Rest of my life and that the idea that I needed to control my own destiny. And interestingly, my husband actually never really ended up having a gap in his work history. He got one from one job to another he got a severance check from the old job and we use that to start this business.
Steve: Okay, and in terms of this business how did you know is going to sell like, how’d you go about validating you before you got started?
Dawn: Had I taken your course from day one. I’m going to do that. This was just like hmm, you know, I’ve owned cats they would like this and that that’s really not a great idea, especially since my product really doesn’t exist. I mean if seen since a few sort of similar kind of things nothing that’s exactly the same but I couldn’t say well oh there you know, so and so is selling a million dollars worth of these things a year. I should be able to grab a tiny piece of that market. I the really wasn’t anything that existed on the market like this and I really didn’t do my due diligence and testing it to start out. Unfortunately.
Steve: I mean, but it was a hit clearly because all this And all this press and a decent Instagram following from it.
Dawn: Right. I mean, I think the bottom line is I cats absolutely love it. That’s not question. I’ve got a million videos and photos showing that they love it. They do love it and the the cat owners really like it too because they are clever and they’re fun and they love to take pictures of their cats in them. The problem that I face is a completely different one had maybe this category existed before I started this wouldn’t have been this issue. But this is this is not an SEO play. I have to convince people that they might be interested in something like this and they’re not looking for me. I have to go out and look for them.
Steve: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, but we can talk about that a little bit better kind of curious about is presumably you’ve never manufactured a product before how did you even know how to get started making this thing?
Dawn: Well, I didn’t and but I am the kind of person who researches something to death anything whatever it is, so that I’m actually that’s the part of the this thing. I think I’m good at so it was you know, I knew what I wanted to make. I’m not a designer. So I had to find somebody to design it for me. But in terms of finding the manufacturer, I just started cold calling and cold emailing box manufacturers cardboard manufacturers in the US and the problem wasn’t finding a manufacturer. It was finding somebody who was willing to work with me was a kind of a Goldilocks problem the big manufacturers who had the capability to do complex designs.
Like what I was asking for we’re not interested in a little business like mine and the smaller companies that would have been thrilled to have me as a customer simply just didn’t have the capabilities. So it was a matter of finding, you know, just that right manufacturer who is willing to work with me and had the ability to make what I was looking for.
Steve: Can you talk about this process though? Is it, was it just literally trial and error to find the right manufacturer or did you use any language or negotiation tactics to get them like a larger guy to work with you?
Dawn: The larger ones really wouldn’t so..
Dawn: No, they and you know often you know, you contact A salesperson through email or through or by phone and they’re generally willing to help and they’re willing to say well I had one guy who told me you’re never going to find somebody to manufacture this in cardboard. You need to do it in paper board, which is the stuff that like game boards are made of or or cereal boxes. And I know that that doesn’t meet the cats biological needs that corrugated cardboard meets so that.
Steve: I’m sorry. Why is that actually I don’t I’m not a cat on her so I don’t know but what’s the difference between paperboard and the cardboard for a box?
Dawn: I mean a cat will probably go into a paperboard box to I mean, they will go into a paperboard box too but it doesn’t quite meet their needs. So I think I mentioned in the five minute pitch presentation that one of the key reasons that cats are so attracted to cardboard boxes and this is something that has been shown scientifically is that cats do not like to live in the temperature of that. We humans like to In the house, I mean, they like it 86 to 97 degrees in our house. None of us are keeping our house at 97 degrees. So they’re basically freezing all the time and one of the really cool things about cardboard about corrugated cardboard are those little corrugations the as you probably know are is very insulating. And so those crates create little air pockets and it makes the inside of a cardboard box very very warm a corrugated cardboard box very warm. And so that’s one of the reasons that keeps, you know, trying to find its way back into a box.
Steve: Okay, and then so you ended up finding someone small to work with you.
Dawn: It’s there. I would say they’re more of a medium sized manufacturer now the disadvantage of and they’re just if they’re great. I mean they do a great job. They’re a wonderful manufacturer, but because I am not a big customer of theirs for example, but right now I’m in the process as you are well aware of readers of Designing a new a new product. And so, you know, they sent me a prototype which is was not what I asked for and you know make my changes send them back I get stuck down to the bottom of the pile. And I got to wait till they get back to me for another iteration. So it’s just a very very long process. It can take months, especially, you know, I would love it if I just gave them my dimensions and they would just make something that shape and size with those size holes and that placement of things but they just they do things their way. They think it’s a better way of doing it and then I got to keep going through various iterations.
Steve: What’s the design process like so first of all, where did you find your designer? And what is the like how do you even design a box? Is there like CAD software for that or?
Dawn: Yeah, well, yeah, they have actually specialized software there. The Box Company actually has employees who are box Engineers. These are people who went to college and two major and packaging engineering which I did not know was a field that either right and I guess to varying degrees they’re good at the designer or the not you know, you know, not just the assembling or the creation of the box, but also the creativity behind the box and I don’t have any design background or ability at all, but I knew what I wanted it to look like. I just could see it in my mind. I just you know, maybe not that great at expressing it exactly how I wanted it. I mean even things like for the milk carton, for example, I have a for folks who are listening. I have a design that’s shaped like a traditional milk carton like a half gallon of milk the little top where the date stamp is
I mean, they couldn’t get the size of that right? I know it doesn’t seem like much but when it’s too small, it doesn’t look like a milk carton and when it’s too big, it doesn’t look like a milk carton. So I kept having to say bigger or smaller bigger smaller, whatever.
Steve: Interesting. So that’s not conveyed digitally in the file in the design file?
Dawn: They have to actually create the design file.
Steve: Got it. Okay.
Dawn: They’re actually like a creative room where they’re actually hand cutting everything to create a prototype. So they’ll create a you know, cut it all out and then I’ll say no and you know, it has to be like this. It has to be like this and so it came back to me and until I got what I thought was the right shape that would fold properly that look like I want what I wanted it to look like and that a cat would be willing to go into and then in terms of the appearance of the box. I worked with a designer that I worked with. I think I mentioned I just I did had a freelance writing and editing background. I worked on a bridal magazine for some years and this was the woman who I added the magazine and she was the designer.
Steve: I see so the process was the designer doesn’t actually design the box. It designs the design then you handed over the Box manufacturer and they turned into like this box file.
Dawn: It was actually just the opposite we started with the shape of the Box first and then she has a design to that shape. So they actually provided her with the outline of what the box would look like and then she had to go and design the design for that.
Steve: I gotcha. Gotcha. Okay in terms of like all the lettering everything they later convert her design back into the box side or they Incorporated together.
Dawn: Right. And that was extremely complex process because publication Printing and other words printing on documents is nothing like printing on a box. There are very very different. And there’s a lot of error when you’re printing on a box. So you have to create a design that allows for for the design to move at least a quarter of an inch in any direction. So it’s really so I mean, for example the cheese box, they really just wanted me to do solid yellow box. I had gone through so many versions to make the little what looks like the Swiss cheese holes. I various different three-dimensional looks but none of those met the needs of their printing press so that we ended up with something that you know that satisfies me, but we went through multiple different completely different looks for that that one that worked for me and for them.
Steve: I never would have thought manufacturing a printed box would be so complicated.
Dawn: Me neither.
Steve: So how much money did it cost you to get started with this?
Dawn: Yeah. I was actually before our conversation. I was looking back through my files. I’m not even sure what to count but I’m going to say somewhere in the order of around 14 thousand dollars that included the printing plates and the cutting dies which were at least half the price up front. That also included the manufacture of the actual boxes and you know some photography and of course the work of the designer
Steve: So interesting. So these are plates that print them. It’s not like a printer that prints on the boxes.
Dawn: Right there. There is a natural like an old-fashioned kind of plate and if you saw the cutting die, I mean you wouldn’t even know that that was going to make a box you would it’s so antiquated looking. It doesn’t even it doesn’t look like something that should be in the modern era but it’s an unusual process.
Steve: Okay. So I guess that provides you with some barriers to entry right? So now that you own this place like the plate is yours, right?
Steve: Okay, and then no one else it’s it makes it much harder to copy this box basically.
Dawn: I think it does and I know there’s a lot of talk and there was even during the five minute pitch process about patents and so on and so forth, but there are other things that that may even be a higher barrier to entry and this this whole process. I mean you really have to be dedicated to do it and you have to have some money up front to spend on these kind of things.
Steve: Okay, and in terms of getting that first prototype and all that it was that expensive? Just working with them like digit to pay them upfront.
Dawn: No, they’re actually pretty generous about that. They wanted my insurance is that I plan to buy something which I I said, yes, of course, but and I guess they would have probably charge me for their time had I not purchased but my intention was to do it and when they got it right then I just had to pay for the printing plates and the and the kind of guys up front.
Steve: Okay, and did you start with just a single design?
Dawn: I started with you. Actually my first thought was oh I’ll do five and I’ll make it climbed all I’m like, what was I thinking I mean, I barely got to out it took me like eight months or
Steve: Oh my goodness. Okay.
Dawn: Between going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth over the sing it took forever. So yeah five was not going to happen and they weren’t going to be bundled.
Steve: All right, so you launched with to and how did you launch that? Did you start a website at first or..
Dawn: I did that was actually the first thing that I did was just start a website. I’ve actually listen to some of your free material and I understood the whole, you know, potential conflicts with Amazon and some of the problems I thought oh, well, I’ll start my own website that all you know, that eliminate all those problems. Well creates all kinds of new problems instead, but that’s what I did. So, you know..
Steve: Which platform did you choose and are you a technical person?
Dawn: I would say I’m not a technical person in the sense that I don’t have a technical background, but I’m definitely not afraid of Technology. I enjoy digging into that kind of stuff and I’m willing to learn. That being said I didn’t think it was a good use of my time to you know, do some of the open cart things that you had also talked about and I really liked the look and feel of some of the Shopify options. So I chose that to start with
Steve: Awesome. And then in terms of the design did you do it yourself or did you get a developer?
Dawn: I’m really a do it myself or kind of person all the way around I’m Frugal I like to save money. I like to see what I can do. And then later on if I have a need I will hire somebody if they can provide a service that I can’t render myself. So the design of the website so far as me and the redesign of the website or at least the front page will be me.
Steve: I actually think it looks pretty nice and I’m looking forward to seeing you redesign as well.
Dawn: As I said it was based on something that you said on your lecture and it really really struck me how it could be improved.
Steve: All right, let’s talk about sales. How did you get your first sale?
Dawn: The first sale was actually through product hunt. So I think the day I launched my website. Site actually wrote a note to somebody at product hunt and first they said thanks, but no, thanks and then immediately sent me another email back and said okay and so..
Steve: For the listeners, can you kind of describe what product Hunt is first? Right?
Dawn: It’s actually a platform for people who are interested in what’s new in mostly in technology and it’s a platform for them for for new products to get exposure to this very interested community and oddly. They also have a slight interested in cat products. I don’t understand..
Steve: I was going to say for product. I didn’t think that your product was a fit. Right?
Dawn: Right and I would say generally know and if it was a dog product it probably would have been a no but oddly they just seem to have some some cat products on there. So that’s sort of struck me and I did find one of the product Hunters who had actually promoted a cat product before I reached out to her directly and So eventually she did hunt the product for me and which means that it got up on their platform and I got some, you know views it didn’t didn’t explode on that platform like some technology products do but I got my first couple of I don’t remember how many was maybe one or two or three? And that was it sales from for product type
Steve: I’ve actually never used product type before so what is the process like of getting on there? And what is the actual listing look like I voted before but I don’t think I’ve ever tried to list anything on there before
Dawn: Right. Well what you see is what it is. So getting onto products, I guess they say that you have just as much chance hunting the product yourself in other words just you know, sort of applying and getting on there. But the backstory or what I’ve read is that it actually pays to have an experienced product Hunter another words somebody who already has a relationship with product hunt and they have a history of promoting successful products and they’re kind of ranked on proud. You can find the ranking of these hunters and maybe there’s you know, there’s a top hundred or so and the hunter that I ended up using was in the top hundred. So for me, I thought it was important to reach out to somebody who had Variants and interest in pet related products.
And the person that I chose so they actually post it for you and they have their own set of followers and that the idea is that you have an established audience already eyeballs that are already on a product looking for what this product Hunter is posting.
Steve: How did you convince this woman to to do that for you?
Dawn: My, I think my writing history does help. I’m good at writing convincing letters with the right tone and the right length. I mean the right there, you know, just..
Steve: I mean, what did you say? I’m just kind of curious if you remember
Dawn: I wrote something a little bit clever something about you know, however many YouTube videos can’t be wrong castle of boxes. There’s like a million YouTube videos about cats and boxes and then just wrote something that was just warm and and hopefully a little bit clever and it caught her attention. And as I said, I think she said no first and then immediately wrote me another note said I changed my mind. Yeah..
Steve: She’s a cat person?
Dawn: She has hunted other pet products. I did not end up establishing a personal relationship with her where I found out whether she indeed is a a pet or a cat owner, but she has hunted other pet products before and I thought that was important because that meant that her audience was interested in pet products.
Steve: And how did you find her in the first place? Is there like a list of the top 100?
Dawn: Yeah, there’s a list of so it’s just her name and she has an unusual name and I just you know kind of did a Google Search and she’s actually in the UK and she has a Consulting business there and I was able to track her down through her either through her LinkedIn page or through a contact form on her on her web page.
Steve: If you sell on Amazon or run any online business for that matter, you’re going to need a trademark to protect your intellectual property. Not only that but a trademark is absolutely necessary to register your brand on Amazon. Now, I used to think that any old trademark registration service would work and that could even try to register my own trademark by myself on the cheap, but I was dead wrong. Securing a trademark without a strategy in place usually results in either an outright rejection or a worthless unenforceable trademark. Now, that is why I work with Stephen Wagner and his team from Emerge counsel. They have a package service called total TM, which provides the same attention to detail and process that large law firms do at a fraction of the price. Now for me personally, I like Emerge counsel because of their philosophy, their goal is to maximize IP protection while minimizing the price. So before you decide to register a trademark by yourself or file for other I could protection such as a copyright or a patent, check out Emerge counsel first and get a free consult. For more information go to emergecounsel.com and click on the Amazon sellers button and tell Steve that Steve sent you to receive a $100 discount on the total TM package for Amazon sellers. Once again, that’s emergecounsel.com over at emergecounsel.com. Now back to the show.
And so you get your first couple sales on product hunt. How did you get all the Press?
Dawn: I have a writing background.
Dawn: I just..
Steve: That comes in real Handy. Apparently.
Dawn: Yeah. I’m glad I have at least one or two skills that I can apply not that’s it. That’s where it ends. By the way. I’ve no desire. No marketing skills. I have no I’ve never sold the thing in my life, Girl Scout cookies, that was probably the last thing I want so right so I’m I know how to write a press release and the traditional media. It’s a little bit about, you know, darts on the dartboard, you know, send out a whole bunch of them and maybe you’re lucky to get one or two people to respond to you and and the thing about also knowing about how to write a press release is that I know what Looking for and so I know what to write in my letter.
Steve: So can you talk about this process? So by pressure release you don’t mean like using like PR web or one of those services. Do you?
Dawn: No, no. You can either write a press release and then sends it along with a personal letter to an editor that you’re targeting. The first thing to do is to decide who you’re going to Target don’t go for the Wall Street Journal first,
Steve: Boston Globe is pretty big
Dawn: Right but I’m a Boston residents. So I went through the the Metro West Section, which is where I live. So I live in the little bit West of Boston and so they’re always looking at the bottom line is journals are always looking to fill a newspaper. They got a lot of newspapers and I gotta fill them. So what you want to do is you got a busy journalist who doesn’t have a ton of time to do a lot of research. So if you can provide everything that they need in your letter for an article links to your actual photographs links to you know to your website all the who, what, when, where, and how of your business in the letter you’re saving them. Kind of work and they might be inclined to publish just for that reason and if they have an interest in your topic in this particular case getting through the Boston Globe door through the Metro West Section door is a great way to get into the Boston Globe because they’re interested in more local business news. So.
Steve: So a couple things I just want to ask you about. So how did you get ahold of the editor or the contact information? And then what’s in this letter exactly just in case someone who’s listening wants to try to do this method.
Dawn: Right, So actually they make it really easy to find their contact information because they want you to contact them. So usually there’s a byline or something like that at the end of the similar article. So look for somebody who’s written an article like one you’d like to be written about your business. So that’s the other thing too. The story has to have a hook. So in my case was really important to do it at the beginning for this particular section of the newspaper for this particular Editor to, so the hook was I just opened this new business. I think I sent it to So it was Saunders and she may have sent it to you. Like I got a little blurb about five minute pitch in one of my other local papers.
Dawn: Same thing, because five minute pitch was you know, that’s that’s an event. That’s a hook. So you have to have a hook. So if you’re you have some news about your business, you have a new product you started a new business and it depends on what your particular local media outlet is is looking for and keep read it and and see what they’re looking for. Then it’s easy enough to identify who writes those stories and usually the newspaper website has all those all the contact information right up there and they’re looking for your email send them an email that contains everything that they need for a story. Wite it clearly make it so
Steve: So what is everything they need for story. They need the story. They need photos. What else?
Dawn: it’s always the who was, that’s that’s a journalist thing. Who, what, when, where, why, and how so whatever your story is try and answer those questions completely for them. Give them every single thing that they would need. Look at a similar story. What’s there? Well, it’s located in such-and-such town. You know, the business does X Y & Z. This is why it’s Unique provide them with great photographs. And in fact, I think I provided a beautiful high color, full color, high quality photos and that section of paper was color that day and I think it was because of my photos. So I got really really beautiful photos in it and I provided that to them and they didn’t have to go doing the work of digging around for it. Provide them with quotes in your note. You can say, you know, whatever whatever you want to say. They published my quotes exactly as I put them in my letters.
So think about what you want to convey about your business first and foremost have write it clearly, right it succinctly and then provide that also in the letter. So you’re almost writing the story for them and it saves them a lot of work and they may be inclined to publish just because they have space to fill and you’ve provided them with everything that they need.
Steve: This sounds like a pretty long email.
Dawn: You know if you looked at my articles on actually can click on them through my website. They’re not that long. I mean newspaper articles aren’t that long? Okay. So we’re doing a big huge feature splashed way that would be different and and they may be interviewing other people and so on and so forth for this there, you know, pretty short little blurbs.
Dawn: A couple had you know sections of a column.
Steve: and once you get in one of these Publications do they lead to sales was my next question.
Dawn: They did actually so the Boston Globe is actually I’m sorry. That was it was another local paper called the Metro West Daily News, which is the really big local paper around here and they have a lot of small little Publications that have different names but they feed all the information into these small Publications that actually gave my that actually had a lot longer shelf life than the Boston Globe even though the Boston Globe had has a bigger readership the small local paper is really what everybody reads and because they have all these little additional papers under different names, but with the same content, I got to go out into all these different communities. So my Story had a lot more longevity that way and I actually got more sales trickling in overtime through the smaller paper than I did through the you know, the one day Splash from the Boston Globe.
And the Boston Globe thing, basically that got all my friends to call me and say hey I saw you in the Boston Globe really led to more sales was my little what MetroWest Daily News are big local paper which has, you know, feeds these smaller papers.
Steve: So interesting going forward. Are you now targeting some of the smaller publications then?
Dawn: I need to have a hook. So the five minute pitch was one had I won I would have probably done more with that
Steve: I see.
Dawn: But it’s in the interim maybe when I release a new product or if you know something else, you know different happens, then I’ll have the hook and I’ll be able to go back to the to the media outlets and do it. But right now there’s nothing to say yet.
Steve: I see okay interesting. It’s interesting how that works. So what else has worked for you in terms of marketing your products.
Steve: Had Instagram had an effect?
Dawn: I’m getting visitors from Instagram and I have definitely had some sales Instagram and I’ve only recently sort of started to crack the nut about Pinterest to and I notice Shopify has a lot of statistics and data that come through which is really helpful about where people are coming from. And so I can see now that now that I’ve sort of started to figure it out that more people are coming from Pinterest now, too. So, yeah, the problem is also one of the advantages of sap of eyes you could see where people are and because Instagram and Pinterest is a worldwide audience and right now I really can’t ship worldwide. I can see, “h that person’s looking at me from Africa. They’re looking at me from the UK and I really just can’t I can’t ship there. So even though I’m driving traffic to my website from these social media outlets, they’re not necessarily driving sales.
Steve: Okay, actually for people who haven’t watched your episode. What are some of the struggles that you have actually?
Dawn: Right. So I big struggle the one that I’m addressing now is that my products are while they’re light. They are far too large to ship efficiently. So and so shipping is ridiculously expensive even in the US but prohibitive shipping internationally and I have a lot of anecdotal demand in other words people reaching out to me personally through direct Messenger on Instagram and so forth. Could you ship this to me tonight? I’m in such country and I have to say no you’ll have to wait for the you know, the next product project. I mean it costs about 60 bucks to ship it to the UK, which is really outrageous. So that’s so the size is prohibitive from the point of view of shipping and it’s also prohibited from the point of view of being able to get retail space and really I can’t do FBA on Amazon. So..
Steve: Okay. So actually how much do you charge for a box and how much does it cost you?
Dawn: Right. So I charge $29.99 right now and that includes free shipping in the US and the shipping cost anywhere between seven and sixteen dollars per box to ship depending on how many zones I’m shipping a And then that’s another negative thing. Also. I wanted to mention about shipping out. I’ll finish your answer your question a minute.
Dawn: But I can only ship to to the further zones through parcel select shipping which is an utter disaster and it’s not something I want to subject my future customers to so in order to. So Priority Mail. I need to get the box onto a certain size. So back to the the margin question the boxes cost. What did I say..
Steve: 99 oh, it’s cost you by 16?
Dawn: right. And so the shipping boxes themselves costs a dollar fifty to two dollars and then to make the boxes I think. Oh, I can’t remember the exact number but something around between 4.50 and five and a quarter. I can remember the exact amount but somewhere around there and it was 90 cents or something for the velcro that’s on them.
Steve: Right? So just curious how price-sensitive these cat lovers are. Like I know pet lovers are willing to spend lots of money for for products that will make their pets happy. I’m just curious how you arrived at $29.99 ?
Dawn: Really it was add up all of the costs and add a little of profit and let’s see if people buy it. And I do think I think I have had comments from people who are not pet owners I about the price of the boxes and I’m not sure if that’s a factor or it isn’t and I won’t know unless I’m able to get the price down a little bit.
Steve: You know, what’s funny is we have international customers and the ones in Australia seem to be willing to pay egregious shipping prices often times much more than the product itself. I think they’re just used to it. I guess..
Dawn: I’m part and I’m not sure if you’ve ever visited Australia, but their minimum wage is about twenty six dollars an hour there. I took that she was a barista at McDonald’s believe it or not loved her job as a true professional and she said twenty six dollars an hour to work in McDonald’s and you know, she can afford a house and a family and all I minimum wage in Australia. So I think that’s how come they can afford to have something shipped to them from the US.
Steve: Interesting, I did not know that
Dawn: me neither until I visited.
Steve: so okay. What were some of your other struggles and what are you struggling with right now? What’s going to happen going forward? Like what are your plans?
Dawn: Well my initial plan. So the very very near term would be to get some additional box designs. I think I don’t have enough to call it really a storefront. It’s really almost it’s almost a one product business, but it it’s a to product business and it’s I don’t think there’s enough choices for different people. So so my first challenge is I’ve got to redesign the Box in a way that it fits in to certain Dimensions that will allow me to ship not only nine zones in the US By Priority Mail at a reasonable price, but also to you know, especially to Europe and maybe even Japan and elsewhere where people are really cat crazy. So right now, I’m in the process of Designing. I think I shared with you at five minute pitch my new design and I’m working with the Box the packaging engineer at this moment to create a design that will be collapsible or packable nice within certain dimensions and within a certain weight.
Steve: Cool, I remember you telling me you actually shipped one of your boxes to Japan, right?
Dawn: I didn’t actually there was a customer that wanted one so badly and I told him it’s just too expensive to ship to Japan. He actually went and used a buyer’s agent someone who purchased from me in the US and shipped it to him. I think I know who it was. So I he was Japanese as well and his job is to do these kind of unusual things. And so this particular guy, he just owns a couple cats in Japan and he posts pictures all the time of my product. He really, you know, his cats really loved it and he really loves it.
Steve: Okay. Yeah. So clearly that guy would have been willing to pay lots of money to ship it. I would guess?
Dawn: he would be yes. I’m not sure how you know if he’s unusual or not.
Steve: So what are some other marketing methods that you’ve tried or in the process of implementing actually?
Dawn: Well in anticipation of offering a new product I am trying to just see if I can get one of my boxes up on Amazon. It’s there now. I gotta watch some more of your videos, Steve. I’m not doing something right. So I searched for it. I can’t find it. That being said I sold a couple through Amazon and one person bought one through Amazon and then went and bought three or four more through my website after that.
Dawn: So I don’t know somehow somebody else found it. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong either in my search or the creation of my listing. So it’s a work in progress, but it but it because I’m really not going to make a profit selling on Amazon. That’s not a priority for me at the moment. It’s just something I’m going to fiddle with as I go along in anticipation of being able to put this other product on Amazon.
Steve: Gotcha. Gotcha. So looking back with your business. Do you have any advice for the listeners who are kind of on the sidelines? Just thinking about starting their own.
Dawn: I would say well first of all, I would say take your course. I’m truly I’m not and I’m not just plug in next. I’m talking to her really I wish now and I said to you at the beginning of this that I’m really really frugal. And I want to see if I can do things myself and you do offer a lot of free materials which are helpful, but not the whole story. So I highly recommend if you have the money to invest in your class to truly start that from the beginning. So maybe you don’t make some of the mistakes that I made right from the beginning like in terms of having a product. That’s too large. That’s something I may have learned a little sooner from you if I’d started it and you know done the process in the right order here, but I would say the other thing is that I know that you devote a lot of your course to choosing the right Niche on the right product and I would say maybe you disagree with me.
It’s not so much about the product. It’s about the implementation and what you learn the starting a business like this is that’s what stays with you if the particular product that you’re trying to sell doesn’t work out that doesn’t matter because the bigger part is all the other stuff that you learn and you could apply that to anything so I would say just jump in and give it a try and don’t blow the bank on the first thing that you try and do I think there was somebody on Five Minute Pitch who had said something about starting with an $80,000 mold for his product?
Steve: Oh yeah yeah
Dawn: And that’s that was one of my criteria right from the beginning one of the reasons I chose cardboard because I have all these crazy ideas about things. Well, it’s got to be cheap. I can’t you know, first order of business is not to bankrupt the family.
Dawn: So don’t bankrupt or family, but just jump in and give it a try and everything that you learn can apply to something else. If in fact the one thing doesn’t work out.
Steve: Yeah, I would actually agree with everything you said I think one of the problems with when people just get started and they have no idea how to get started, sometimes on Amazon you can get away with just a good product right? Because Amazon is not really good from a branding perspective. And then once you get that confidence that you can get some sales and then you start your own website, then you know, it’s all about implementation marketing and that sort of thing and in fact, you know, I think I revealed this at seller Summit. I started an e-commerce store with my kids selling T-shirts. T-shirts completely saturated. It’s going to be all about marketing. So if you know what you’re doing on that front, you’re right the product Almost Doesn’t Matter. Long as you’re really good at getting the word out about your business. And as long as you have some sort of hook and some sort of story to get people to buy.
So Dawn, Thanks a lot for coming on. I really appreciate you being a contestant. I’m really glad we connected through the contest. I’m glad to have met you in person at seller Summit and I thought you’ve just done a great job and I wish you all the best with your business.
Dawn: Oh, thank you so much and thank you for saying that was a complete pleasure talking to you today.
Steve: Oh and on forgot if anyone wants to see your boxes, I where can I find you online?
Dawn: Oh, they can look at the cat is in the Box.com.
Steve: Okay, so The Cat Is In The Box and then everything related to purchasing and all that information is on that site.
Steve: Cool. So if you’re a cat lover, I’ve actually seen her products in person. I’m not a cat lover, but just the design of the boxes. I thought was very impressive.
Dawn: Well, thanks for saying that to that’s that’s very nice to hear.
Steve: All right. Well, thanks a lot for coming The Showdown really appreciate your time.
Dawn: Thank you very much.
Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, If you cut Dawn’s Five Minute Pitch finals presentation, you know that she’s a hard worker and I have no doubt that her business is going to totally blow up. For more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode272.
And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce Merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence a post purchase flow or win back campaign. Basically, all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/klaviyo. Once again, That’s mywifequitherjob.com/klaviyo.
Oh, I also want to thank Privy for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use the term visitors into email subscribers. They offer email capture exit intent and site targeting tools to make it super simple as well. And I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop-ups for any parameter that is closely tied your eCommerce store. Now, if you want to give it a try it is free so head on over to privy.com/steve. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve.
Now I talked about how I use these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store heading over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini-course just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away. Thanks for listening.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com