Being an entrepreneur is in my hard wiring. I’ve had my own business since 1981. Believe me, it’s not for everyone. You have to be the kind of person who not only can tolerate – but also loves – risk.
So right now, in the worst economic climate, perhaps ever, my partner – programming and creative wizard, Caimin Jones – and I are in the throes of launching Pawfun.com – our new custom photo t-shirt site for pet lovers. Call me crazy, and I’ve certainly been called worse – but I don’t think there’s been a better time for a startup than Q1, 2009.
Despite the dreadful state of the economy, people still love their pets and want to show them off. And we all need a good giggle, which is what Pawfun is all about. (The images in this post were created with Pawfun’s Design Wizard in seconds)
Other companies sell products similar to Pawfun’s, but they don’t make it fun – which we think of as our secret sauce.
The Perils of Consulting
For 10 years, I’ve been helping household-brand companies create their online strategies for generating brand loyalty that will drive traffic and sales to their sites. Sometimes it’s rewarding and fun. But it’s mostly like pulling teeth.
Being a new media strategy consultant is often tough sledding because of the need to have buy-in from committees and other agencies; the abject terror of the new that is inherent to corporate culture; plain old fear, and the dance of responsibility to stakeholders. And of course, there are lawyers and the bean counters. Never forget the lawyers and bean counters.
Pawfun: Our Social Media Laboratory
We think of Pawfun as a social media marketing laboratory – an opportunity to take what we know works, and apply it into a business we own that we can turn on a dime.
With not one dollar spent on advertising, we used our well-established social networks to generate more traffic in our first three days than some major companies get after years online. We launched before we were really ready because our first promo is about Obama pet mania. Wait another week, and it might be old news. It went viral in less than 48 hours through Twitter and posts on this blog. And we even made some sales. :>)
I’ve never met my partner
Caimin and I have worked together on a variety of big social media projects over the past five years. But we’ve never met. He’s in Italy and I’m in New York, and we only spoke on the phone for the first time this summer. We do most of our communication in IM and email, and it works great. Happily, we’re both blazing fast typists. And we both do fine without a lot of sleep.
When we launched, it quickly became obvious that what we are selling was not clear to our potential customers – like how to buy a custom photo-t-shirt emblazoned with a photo of their pet. Re-doing the homepage led to a revise of every page, which is almost complete. Sales responded quickly.
The beauty part is that we can change everything – and we already have – about how the site looks and works. We don’t need committee approval, or IT approval, or anybody’s approval for that matter.
We’ll be tweaking and expanding and working crazy hours for a long time to come – joyfully, because Pawfun is ours, all ours, and we can use it to delight, amuse, engage, and sell to people who love pets as much as we do.
We’re on a journey out of consulting, and I plan to chronicle it here from time to time, mostly to share what we’re learning. So please stay tuned, and hey, please take a look at Pawfun.com And if you like it, please tell your friends, and your Twitter network.