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Steve started 2Puggles in 2014. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: (source)
Q: How did you get started on 2Puggles?
2Puggles is the result of my experience owning and operating two manufacturing businesses, losing everything after September 11, 2001 and then changing careers to become a teacher. In 2005, I switched to a career teaching marketing in high school. Although I loved teaching I had in the back of my mind that I would like to run a small business.
The best advice I can give to a brand new entrepreneur is to give yourself time to learn. But learn by running the business. Don’t be afraid to start. Don’t be afraid to suck. Do it to the best of your abilities…your best will be better every day if you let it!
My wife and I bought a home that was going to require quite a bit of remodeling with the intention that I would do most of the work myself. As a result of that I bought a table saw and while researching table saw techniques on YouTube I came across a video on how to make a snowflake ornament using a table saw.
It was Christmas time and I was looking for something to make for Christmas gifts, so I made a bunch of oak snowflakes. I do not even remember what made me make them into earrings but I did. Giving about 20 pairs as gifts for people at my school with the option to use them as ornaments or earrings.
The response to the earrings was very positive. With a lot of comments of “you should sell these”. Encouraged by that response, I decided to design and make a few more styles of earrings and attempt to sell them on Etsy. I made about 10 different styles of snowflake and daisy earrings and put them on Etsy in January 2015. Absolutely nothing happened…and the people who were encouraging me to make and sell them were also not interested in actually buying them.
Using my students to help fuel the business
At the same time I ran into my first failure selling earrings, I had started a new semester of marketing classes.
I shared the trials and tribulations of trying to get my business started with the class and noticed that the engagement level, particularly in hard to reach students, was very high.
At that point, I decided to continue my journey to building the business using my students to help me get there and using my business to teach my marketing lessons.
I started a 3-year business experiment that I shared with my students every step of the way. The first year would be learning the business. The second year would be about brand awareness and figuring out what the business focus would be and the third year would be about niching down and becoming revenue focused.
All in all, it has been a wonderful teaching tool while fulfilling my need to run a business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I make everything I sell. The first earrings were a great starting point. They looked great and they were a great starting point but they were not a style that most people would actually wear.
Good things will happen…and bad things are going to happen…but the more you stay with it the good will outweigh the bad.
Throughout the first year my focus was on different styles of wooden earrings I would make a few pairs of different designs and if they sold well I would go back and improve the manufacturing process until they were profitable.
All of the manufacturing is done in 3 areas in my home. I have a 16 foot x 35 foot workshop in the back of my house that houses all of the woodworking equipment. A room in my garage where the laser engraver is utilized and a room in my basement for assembly, storage and a workspace in the winter months.
I started with a $250 table saw, as well as, a bandsaw and drill press I bought at an auction for less than $100. Over 3 years I have upgraded all of my equipment. I currently have a very functional shop. My goal for the next two years is to purchase what I am calling “my last tool” tools that will last me for the rest of my woodworking career and hopefully my children and grandchildren will use them!
Currently, I have the four product lines and in all cases, I use a lot of input from in-person selling to determine what styles I keep and what new products I will introduce.
To start 2Puggles, I loaned myself $100. Now that I think about it I never paid myself back but from that point on the business has sustained itself.
Since it is a part-time sole proprietorship, 2Puggles does not have a lot of expenses that a full-time business would incur. Almost all revenue has been put back into building the business and my workshop to prepare for future growth of the business.