Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
The program is entirely based on my experience as a successful dog treat bakery business owner and is the second successful side hustle training program I’ve launched. (The first is Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!, which I speak about in this Starter Story.)
Since launching the program in November 2020 to mostly my existing audience (which consists of people looking to start their own business, whether it’s a side hustle or a replacement for their full-time job), it has consistently brought in five figures a month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before Diva Dog Bakery™ was a program, it was my dog treat business.
Not long after graduating college, I was working full-time and trying to work my way up the corporate ladder. On the side, I had started a fun hobby/side hustle baking healthy dog treats, which started simply because I wanted to feed my dog a cute, good-for-her cupcake for her birthday.
I really focused on taking a regular dessert and turning it into a gourmet lookalike dog treat. I created dog-friendly cupcakes, s’mores, and brownies, just to name a few!
I was making a few hundred bucks a month selling to friends and family, but I was so focused on being a corporate success that I didn’t think of taking it beyond that.
That is until the Great Recession came along and BOOM. No more corporate job!
I had to suddenly scale my little side hustle into a full-time income to keep a roof over my head.
Pretty soon, Diva Dog Bakery™ became a full-scale business. I sold in multiple places to be as diverse as possible.
I started selling in-person at the local farmers’ market. As my business grew, my amazing parents set up a booth at a different farmers market across town so we could be in two locations at once. Additionally, I also sold pre-orders, so customers could pick up their order at either location.
Fun fact, this was back when technology wasn’t quite up to par as it is today with using our cell phones as pay terminals. We relied on cash, the occasional check, and an old-fashioned credit card swiper!
I also hopped on Etsy to grow my business nationally. I loved waking up to new orders and seeing the word ‘sold’ over and over again.
This turned out to be quite successful, so I hired a web designer to build my Diva Dog Bakery website. Again, online shopping looked a lot different 10+ years ago. It was quite challenging creating a website with a shopping cart, processing orders, and creating a shipping system.
It was a great learning experience and helped me land quite a few wholesale accounts across the country to various pet boutiques.
I was even invited to participate in the Emmy Awards gift bags!
I followed this path for several years until I got back into the corporate world (which I eventually quit for full-time entrepreneurship!). I wound the business down as life had other plans for me, but I always knew I would revive the business in some way.
Trust your systems. If you’ve honed something that you know works, don’t be afraid to duplicate the process and try it for a new project. If something works - and works well - keep it simple. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
In 2016, I launched a program that teaches students how to start a side hustle as a Pinterest VA (virtual assistant) called Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!. The program is based entirely on my success as a Pinterest VA, and it’s been on my to-do list ever since to do the same thing for a dog treat business program.
I’ve learned so much since launching that program and I wanted to see if lightning could strike twice by applying the same techniques to launch the Diva Dog Bakery™ program.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Unlike my first program launch experience, I wasn’t fumbling around with new-to-me tech - I knew exactly what I was doing, which made things so much easier!
I spent about two weeks fleshing out a general outline, two weeks putting together all of the material in our curriculum platform (Teachable), and another two weeks creating launch funnels and workshop slides.
Knowing I would one day relaunch Diva Dog Bakery in some capacity, I had kept all of my products, supplies, and information over the years. This really came in handy when creating the program content. Plus, I can use it as an example when students ask questions.
I hired subcontractors to design a simple one-page sales page, update my logo, proofread the course content and create a recipe book as part of the training material.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As with Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!, launching this program was made easier because I had a built-in audience.
Not only could I launch to my Believe in a Budget (my personal finance blog based on my experiences with both saving and making money) audience, but I could also launch to my Become a Pinterest VA TODAY! audience. Between the two email lists alone, I was able to directly email over 50,000 people.
I launched with a free live training workshop with a pitch at the end to join the program. I learned from my other program that this sales technique works very well, especially if you offer an exclusive coupon during the training workshop.
Because of my built-in audiences and proven sales techniques, sales started coming in immediately. I was excited to surpass my launch goals!
To get to this point, I spent about $2,500 on contractors and setting up various platforms for various parts of the process, from web design to graphic design to proofreading.
I could have done this work myself, but I wanted to be efficient and get everything ready quickly. In less than two months, we were able to build the program, launch, and switch to evergreen.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I immediately turned the live training workshop from the launch into an evergreen workshop with a great post-workshop sales sequence.
With Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!, outside of two public launch periods, the program is ‘behind-the-scenes evergreen.’ In other words, people can only access the sales page if they watch the workshop, and the cart is only open for them for a short period of time.
I briefly experimented with that approach with Diva Dog Bakery™, and while it was getting sales, I wanted to try something new.
Because the Diva Dog Bakery™ program is a much lower price, I realized people might just want to buy the program without watching an hour-long workshop.
I changed the sales page to allow people to sign up for the workshop or immediately purchase the program, and sales shot up right away.
Currently, I’m only promoting the program through my existing audiences, a handful of great affiliates, and the occasional Facebook ad, like the one below.
This is the only ad we have been running since we launched and it’s performed really well for us. Again, when something works, we stick with it!
If you have an existing audience, don’t be afraid to leverage it. You worked hard to build that audience - take advantage of it!
Because the program is so new and different, word of mouth has really helped. This is a really fun side hustle that you can do from your kitchen!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I am having so much fun! I was in a bit of a creative rut and Diva Dog Bakery™ was exactly what I needed - and apparently, so did my audience!
The program became profitable on the first day of launch and has been smooth sailing ever since, generating five figures a month.
I was a little worried that lightning wouldn’t strike twice, but I knew I had to get the program out there to see what would happen.
Right now we are averaging a little under $11,000 per month in gross sales. I spend roughly two hours per week on maintenance, such as responding to emails (which I am currently training a team member to take over soon) and participating in my program’s community to help students.
I believed in the systems I had developed, but selling a program about starting a Pinterest management business is a totally different animal than a program about a dog treat bakery business!
While our program about Pinterest requires regular maintenance due to the ever-changing platform, my dog bakery course information is always relevant. This means I have to make very few changes to the course material!
Seeing the program’s success has been exciting. At the moment, my main efforts are focused on providing value to the paid add-on community. In the second half of 2021, I have some exciting additions planned!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
First, trust your systems. If you’ve honed something that you know works, don’t be afraid to duplicate the process and try it for a new project. If something works - and works well - keep it simple. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Second, if you have an existing audience, don’t be afraid to leverage it. You worked hard to build that audience - take advantage of it! My audiences have gotten to know me over the years through my blog, program, and student testimonials, so there is definitely a built-in trust factor. I like that people know I deliver a high-quality product and am focused on getting my students results!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For our curriculum, we use Teachable, which is the best online course platform out there.
For our online community, we use Facebook Groups. We use a different platform for Become a Pinterest VA TODAY! (called Circle), which I considered using for this community, but I decided to start with Facebook because, well, it’s free! For the type of content generated by this community, it works well.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Referring back to my other Starter Story, developing friendships and forming mastermind groups with my peers who offer similar services has been the best source of information and inspiration.
While this is an online program, it involves making a physical product. Anytime I see something fun and creative at the local hobby store, an advertisement of ‘people’ treats or fun packaging ideas, I take a picture and share it with my students.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Also referring back to my other Starter Story, my biggest suggestions are:
- Don’t be afraid to try something new and different
- Don’t compete with other people - instead, analyze what your students and audience (non-students) want
- Don’t spend too much time in the research phase - take action and be okay with imperfection
- Be authentic and true to yourself
And finally, invest your energy and time into something you enjoy. I am constantly referencing my dogs in my emails and videos and I like being able to share my dog treats with other people. I never feel like I have to sell the program to anyone because it’s a natural part of my life.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m not currently looking to fill any positions. My dogs are working as unpaid treat testers right now, and I should probably put them on payroll first before I think about hiring anyone else.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Diva Dog Bakery has provided an update on their business!
5 months ago, we followed up with Diva Dog Bakery to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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