The quarter was over and our entrepreneurialism course was gone forever. But, we had a great product; an actual physical object that we could take from our hands and place into potential consumer hands. But the question was would we want to take the risk? Did we want to spend all of our life savings to go further into this “thing” we call business? I mean all of us were smart kids with good GPA’s and even in the most turmoil of times, we still had jobs lined up…although we all knew that boredom would follow with those chosen careers paths. But was the risk worth it…to start from scratch.
Personally, I like taking risks, but I like doing it in a way that includes great calculation. For instance, an average Joe goes to Vegas to play poker and relies solely on pure luck. He drinks his drink and attempts to conquer a game, having very little understanding of his cards and what they mean; he has no real sense of combination or statistics and most of time, that person is going to end up both broke and drunk (sorry if I offend anyone). But if that same guy read up on his poker and practiced with friends or on the computer before he attempted his methods, he would have a much better chance of winning.
So we decided we would test the waters before we would jump full on into the dangerous river. During my spring break of my senior year, I decided to ditch the Mexico trip filled with booze, girls, and possibly some of the most memorable times in my life… and headed to San Diego, California to make an attempt at selling the Dura Doggie Disc. We had not even produced packaging at this point and it was a long shot, but in the long term end of things, it seemed well worth it. For instance, if I failed, at least I got to practice my sales skills by cold calling stores and if I succeeded, then we had a business to start and grow. I drove the four hours south that I needed to and finally landed in the downtown area of San Diego where my older brother lives. The skyscrapers were all new, the weather was sunny and perfectly warm, and there were dogs of all sizes and breeds everywhere you looked. I had thought to myself, no wonder San Diego was voted as one of the friendliest dog cities around. It truly was amazing and I was excited and scared all at the same time.
The next morning, I woke up from my brother’s comfortable couch, shaved, showered, brushed my teeth, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed out the door. The previous night, I had made a list of stores by searching for “pet stores in San Diego, Ca” on Google maps and inputting them into an excel spread sheet. At the time, I did not have a GPS device so I would input the directions from one store to the next into a column next to the store name on my sheet…it was so inefficient (I recommend buying the GPS device and saving yourself a lot of time). If I’d get lost, then the whole day would be ruined. Luckily, I stayed the course and made it to about ten stores that day.
When I arrived at the first store that I was going to pitch to, I almost didn’t do it. I was thinking, “What am I doing right now?” As I mentioned before, we didn’t even have packaging, and I had never done this before, and I could almost guarantee that this store never heard about us before either…but I finally realized that it didn’t matter and did it anyways. I walked into a great store called “Dexter’s Deli” in Del Mar and it was crowded. Situated very close to the beach, this store was clean, organized, and had a great style to it. I waited till the crowd drifted out the store and approached a lovely lady named “Paige.” She asked me what she could do for me and I went into my little speech about how we started and what our product is…she order some on the spot. I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t. I was filled with joy and more importantly, a sense of relief.
After I gave her the discs, I headed to the next spot and boom, once again they ordered on the spot. I headed to another store and although they didn’t order right then and there, they eventually placed an order. Keep in mind that not every store I went to really appreciated our story and our product…I definitely got the cold shoulder at some places and it’s just the way of the game. But my high from the initial stores was still going strong. Over the next five days, I got almost twenty stores to carry our product and they continue to re-order to this day.
What seemed like a risk was nothing but a mere bump in our rode to success. It takes courage, and a little bit of fear to be successful. I say fear because fear is what keeps you in check and allows you to reason whether something is feasible or not. Had we not done that test and just rushed into business with no fear, we could have lost a lot of hard earned money had our product been a fluke. But instead, we tiptoed in a little before we fully devoted our time, energy, and resources…we took a very calculated risk.
This is our story about how a few college students took a class project and ran with it. Keep reading and more stories to follow of our life in the entrepreneur’s shoes and how we took a small dog toy company and made it huge.
President, Dura Doggie