Conventions are a smart way to bring together a bunch of like minded people. In the US there were more than 13,000 pet stores pulling revenues of $15.9 billion in 2013 alone (IBIS World), and SuperZoo in Las Vegas is one of the biggest pet product conventions, attracting a lot of key players in the industry. So this is definitely where a lot of business gets done.
In 2009 I attended SuperZoo for the first time by buying a booth and being an “exhibitor”. I showcased my Chinese factory made 2nd generation BirdBalls (which won 2nd place for best New Dog Product). It was extremely satisfying to be so well received by the store owners who attended the convention and placed pre-orders for BirdBalls, as well as the promising interest from major distributors, and of course receiving the Best new Product award. I really do think that it was a great way to launch BirdBall at the time, and to go from samples to pre-orders to mass production. However, now that Kickstarter and other such crowdfunding sites exist, I have shifted my thinking that those sites are a potentially a better way to launch a product. Not only is there the potential through Kickstarter to reach more way more consumers directly, but Kickstarting is also a possible method to execute a product launch with substantially less money invested. I do think that SuperZoo, the HH Backer Convention, and Global Pet Expo, however are undoubtedly super important places to expose, network, and sell product once production in dialed in.
But, because I am not currently in production, did not buy a booth to showcase my products, I decided to attend SuperZoo this year just as an “attendee”, which is free! 🙂
So here were my goals and gameplans that I thought were possible to accomplish:
1. Check out the manufacturing competition
2. Establish and build rapport with distributors
3. Consider companies that might make good partners
I’m going to say that I fully accomplished #1, and made a little progress on #2 and #3….
Here are other impression from Superzoo that I think are worth mentioning:
Walking around this year at SuperZoo among the more than 600 exhibitors it was plain to see how many companies produce the same products. I’m guessing that this is because these products were not patented. So with so many different brands making and selling the same things, two things were made clear to me once again……
1. Getting a strong patent is super important.
2. The personal relationships between the manufacturers and the distributors determines who and what gets on the shelf.
But while all of these thoughts are important and I am glad I was reminded of them, I left the convention most importantly perhaps with clarity about what major action needs to happen next. I need to launch a Kickstarter for Fetch Pro and BirdBall together. Showcase my products, and raise the funds to produce and sell my products. Patents are great, networking is great, prototypes and samples are important, but nothing beats having a lot of inventory ready to sell, and the best way it seems to get the inventory is to have a lot of orders directly from the consumers.
So first things first….
MOST IMPORTANT NEXT STEPS!!!!!
1. Make a budget for a producing a batch of both Fetch Pros and BirdBall
2. Make a Kickstarter Video showcasing the products and outlining the budget needed to accomplish the production. (who will help with this step…. Elance?)