Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
My name is Adam Elliot, and I started Dick At Your Door, an e-commerce shop for people who like to gift pranks, gags, and funny novelties to their friends and family.
Our main product is an anonymous prank you can send people in the mail. When they open the package, it looks like a fancy box or expensive present. However, when they actually open the package, it’s a 5oz. solid chocolate penis.
Yes, you read that correctly... Dick At Your Door sells chocolate penises you can send as a fun prank to friends and family.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I grew up on a farm in Southwest Iowa. Being from a small town, there aren’t many things to keep you busy, so you had to be creative. This always led to drinking cheap beer you stole from someone’s parents, ramping old cars on the dirt road bridges, and sometimes... prank wars. I guess that’s where I started thinking gag gifts were funny.
After art school, I moved out to California to be a photographer full time. I failed. Failed miserably. After one year on the west coast, I hated photography, I was broke, and had taken a job as a telemarketer. It was the worst.
What started as a joke quickly became a viable business with real opportunity.
Before launching e-commerce storefronts, I worked in sales and as a sales consultant for startups in Southern California. That’s a fancy way of saying, I spent a lot of time pitching new ideas and products to people who didn’t necessarily want them. I’ve always enjoyed talking to people, so it was natural to start getting into sales after my failed art career. I discovered that I was pretty good at understanding what people wanted.
Dick At Your Door started when a buddy found a silicone penis mold at a random sex shop on a cross-country drive (thank you Lincoln, Nebraska). My buddy and I thought it would be hilarious to send molds of this in the mail to our friends. Disclaimer: It was hilarious.
We eventually threw up a website as a joke to continue the prank and people started reaching out that weren’t our friends. That was the lightbulb moment for us. From there it was perfecting the molding process, finding a real chocolatier (and eventually becoming chocolatiers ourselves), building a secure website that was legit and going forth into the world of dicks and candy making.
Describe the process of creating the initial product and launching the business.
What started as a joke quickly became a viable business with real opportunity.
When we first created our product, it was down and dirty. Just a couple of dudes in the garage melting Hershey chocolate and pouring it into a cheaply made silicon mold of a penis. Looking back to those first days, it was never even in our mind to create a business around chocolate, let alone chocolate dongs. It was always just a funny prank to pull on our friends.
Slowly, sales started building. In the beginning, it was a very crude design. A straight black box, a stamp we had custom made, some paper mache to avoid broken chocolate, and a handheld plastic melter to wrap the box.
E-commerce is all about finding the right niche and understanding the people in that niche.
I remember the first time we had 10 orders to fulfill at once. It was a disaster. Took almost 4 hours. It was frustrating and very much not worth our time. Nowadays, we can package and mail 500 orders in the same amount of time. The boxes are custom and ordered in bulk, and we are officially professional chocolatiers. It’s been a long road, and to be honest, I don’t know why we stuck with it. Call it a fun experiment I guess?
To add to that, the biggest hurdles were, and have been, finding trustworthy manufacturers who can provide quality packaging at a reasonable. It’s all been trial and error for us, which I wish wasn’t the case. Ultimately, we found that spending the necessary money to find a quality manufacturer for our products have been worth its weight in gold. You pay for what you get.
How have you attracted new customers and grown the business?
It took a long time to get to the point where we were getting one order per day and even longer to hit five a day. To be honest, it wasn’t until I was laid off from my corporate job and committing a lot of time to building the brand that we began seeing any type of marketable success. Getting canned was the best thing to happen in my professional life. Funny how that works.
We are lucky in the fact that we have a shareable product that is viral in nature. When we launched our website, we pushed a bunch of social media to build awareness. People love to share our Facebook, Instagram, etc with each other. That’s where we spend most of our time. Everyone loves a good meme and we have found our niche there. Comedy and dicks sell. We are always working towards that next viral post. Valentine’s Day is prime right now.
Of course, all arms of marketing are going to be important (SEO, Content, Adsense, Adwords, Facebook Advertising, sharing, interviews, etc). We don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket. However, social media has provided us with the most immediate and trackable metrics.
These are the three of the most important takeaways I've found in regards to growing sales:
- Content is king
- Don’t oversaturate your followers with product posts. 80/20 rule
- (80% non-product / 20% product marketing)
- Build an email list
Where you are at now and what are your plans for the future?
About eight months ago, I decided it was time to dedicate my full-time hours to the business. Since then, the business has grown almost 10x. It’s been a total grind with no real time off, but it’s been the most fulfilling professional step I have ever taken. I am excited about all that I have learned and all I have left to learn. I know that corny, but I don’t care. I love selling chocolate dicks.
Short term goals:
Growth and systems. We would like to be able to start stepping away from the nitty gritty more this year. That means taking on a more administrative role, rather than chocolate maker, shipper, marketer, owner, etc. With the correct operational systems in place, that transition will be much easier. Automation plus smart people in the right places will help us grow while taking some of the pressure off of ourselves.
Long term goals:
Build the brand to something outside of dicks. Who knows, really. If this venture has taught me anything, it’s that you can succeed in anything if you can execute with good systems and are willing to get through the really terrible times.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Google Cloud
- SendInBlue Email Marketing
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources for your business and why?
Podcasts & online resources:
- Tim Ferris Podcast - Don’t listen much anymore, but that was a great motivator to get me confident about starting my own company
- How I Built This podcast.
- Calm App - life is stressful and crazy. Mindfulness meditation has helped me so much in how I manage that stress.
- Reddit - reddit.com/r/entrepreneur // reddit.com/r/smallbusiness // many others - Reddit is a great community where you can learn new ideas, methods, systems, and meet like-minded folks who are doing the same thing as you. It can be kind of lonely when no one around you is doing what you’re doing. Reddit helps give you a network to learn from.
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience - You know when you get so immersed in a project that hours go by and you don’t even notice? That’s flow. This book is about how you can train your mind and body to have a better/easier way to fall into that and become more productive.
- Who Moved My Cheese - Dealing with change in your life.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People - Staple of the entrepreneur handbook.
- Anything Malcolm Gladwell - He has a great way of presenting ideas and methodology that translate well into my business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
E-commerce is all about finding the right niche and understanding the people in that niche. For our products (and my other companies), I have never tried to be the most successful out of the gates. It is too big a mountain to climb and will leave an entrepreneur jaded. Most niches have enough opportunity in it to carve out your own little piece and grow from there. That’s what we have done.
That being said, a website owner must concentrate on always having solid content for readers, customers, and especially Google to take note of. SEO is the long game and it’s not exciting, but without a long-term strategy, you could be up shit creek. What happens when social media changes? New Algorithms are released several times a year on these platforms. Those updates have a high chance of screwing up your old methods. Having multiple strategies and back up plans will save you time and money in the long run.
Network. I am lucky to live in a metropolis. There are incredibly smart people who can offer great insight into growth. They can help avoid potential pitfalls.
Just start. You may fail, but holy shit it will be fun. If you are laying in bed at night dreaming about building something on your own, do it. You will be ahead of 99% of the population by just starting. As stupid as it sounds, just doing the things you need to do when you know you need to do them will help you succeed.
When your current project blows up in your face, that means you know understand how not to do something in the future.
“The master has failed more times than the student has even tried.”
“Sucking at something is the first step to being really good at something.”
It will be embarrassing to suck and be new, but don’t let that get you down. People will think what you’re doing is stupid and you’ll feel stupid sometimes. That’s the way of it. If you can get past that part, you’ll be in a good spot. The way I used to get through it was imagining myself six months from that moment laughing at how much I didn’t know back then and how much I had learned. It's always exciting to learn.
Where can we go to learn more?
Check us out on our website dickatyourdoor.com, and find us on social media at:
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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