Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Summer Pierce. I’m the Co-Owner, Co-Inventor along with my husband Bill Pierce who is the CEO & Co-Inventor of the product known as the POP IT PAL! Billy and I are from Monroe, Michigan and have been together since we were teenagers and have been married for 15 years. Together we have 3 beautiful, amazing children. We are just your normal hard working family who had an idea for a new product that had never been created before. We decided not to sit on our idea, but to act on it. We wanted to teach/show our children that if you have an idea, you should go for it and make it happen no matter what obstacles come your way.
We started our company Unique Obsessions, LLC along Billy’s cousin Kayla Roof VP of Marketing & Sales and her husband Collin Roof VP of Engineering & Logistics.
We sell the POP IT PAL which comes in 3 versions peach, brown & glitter edition. We also sell our Pimple Pus and Glitter edition Pimple Pus. The Pop it Pal is the world's first ever pimple popping simulator!
We have a broad range of customers that range from 5 years old and up. Some of our customers purchase the POP IT PAL for a gag gift, a fidget toy, just a toy to play with and then we also have customers who have a skin picking condition called Dermatillomania.
The POP IT PAL for these customers serves a different purpose. I have received multiple emails from numerous customers who suffer from this disorder.They have told me how this product has changed their life. As the person who came up with this idea, to hear them say that really touches my heart. For me to think I had an idea for a product that my husband was able to bring to life has made a difference in other people's lives makes me feel as though, just maybe I’ve helped make a difference in this crazy world we live in.
After launching our website on January 19th, 2018 we ended up going viral within the first two weeks of selling our product online. We did over $100,000.00 in sales within 8 days and almost 200k in February 2018 the second month since we launched. We never imagined that we would go viral or that we would end up on season 10 of Shark Tank, The Today Show, The Doctor’s and Pickler & Ben! We’ve done many Radio Show interviews and have had over 50 articles written about us through different magazines and online articles! We definitely never would’ve imagined that BuzzFeed, Forbes, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, Aol. and Yahoo News would’ve wrote stories about us! We’ve had over 50 million views worldwide.Fast Company actually dubbed us “the next fidget spinner”. I’ll never forget opening up my browser to Aol.com and seeing my product on the front page. It was AMAZING to say the least.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea came to me while my husband Billy and I were driving. As we were driving down the I75 on our way back from seeing a sick relative, we were bouncing different business ideas off of one another like we’d done many many times in the past. When all of a sudden I said to Billy what if we could make a pimple that actually popped like a real pimple? Just like the video’s we watch on YouTube?
Following our first viral video, we did over 100k in 8 days! At this time and up until December 2018 we have been making them by hand! We hand built over 10k POP IT PALS in that year!
Billy instantly looked at me and said I think I can make that! I immediately searched all over the internet to see if there was anything like this that existed. I couldn’t find anything at all. That’s when I grabbed a pen and paper and we started thinking what it would look like, what could we make the pimple pus out of, what to name the product & our business.
Billy and I have been together since I was 14 and him 17. As far back as I can remember we have always talked about owning our own business or inventing a product one day. Every time we would have an idea I would look it up and it would be taken. I wanted to be original. I didn’t want to bite off someone else’s idea. So it took years to finally think of something that wasn’t yet created, but we were determined.
I’m a Licensed Practical Nurse and I have always loved gross things like picking pimples. My husband Billy has his Associates in Business Management and a background in Managing Production Manufacturing, but he loves gross things just as much as I do.
Anytime either one of us gets a pimple the other person will spot it and it’s all over. Whoever has the pimple is now laying down with a spotlight over them and the other person has the pimple popping tool in hand, ready to get at it!
At the time we created this product we had just moved to South Carolina, Billy had taken a position with Samsung and since we had moved somewhere we knew nobody, we didn’t have help with the kids.
Since we didn’t have family to help with the kids I was not working any longer. I really wanted to find a way to contribute financially. When I had the idea for the Pop it Pal I had done a google search and could not find anything anywhere like it at all. So I knew at that moment that this would be something that had never been invented yet. At that time though I really had no idea what the public would think of it.
I wasn’t sure if people would be totally disgusted or intrigued and interested in it. We built it with the intention of starting a business, but we had no idea if it would sell or not. The day that we went viral is a day we will never forget. At that moment when my phone was sending me notifications (making a cha-ching noise when we make a sale) one every 1 -2 minutes sometimes less, I had a realization.
I thought to myself... wow! We went from not knowing how it would be perceived to selling one every 1-2 minutes! I was overcome with happiness, joy, thankfulness and I was scared to death. We had no manufacturing set up. We made everything by hand, down to making the pus, filling the pimple pus bottles and having to hand-label everything. At that time we had only 70 made up ahead! That first day we went viral we made $13,050.00.
We were so excited but what were we going to do? We instantly started with good customer service and were honest and upfront with our customers letting them know that we were on a six week wait.
Thankfully, they were very nice and understanding. It took us from that day which was February 2, 2018 until May 15th 2018 to get off the six-week wait. Thank God for family! My parents, as well as Billy’s parents, dropped what they were doing to drive down immediately and help us. Two of my sisters were able to come as well as one of Billy’s sisters and her husband and our niece.
Billy and I were so appreciative of everyone's help. While we were working hard making, filling, packaging and shipping the orders, Kayla was handling everything else and her husband Collin was hard at work looking for a manufacturer.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When designing this product, my husband Billy had to think of what would feel the most realistic.
We found that medical grade silicone was definitely best! Although expensive, it was worth the money, because other types of silicone doesn’t have a realistic feel and were too hard.
The first prototype was made from a small wooden box, with little wooden sticks glued to the lid. Billy poured the silicone in the box, put the lid on it and waited on it to finish curing. Once it was finished curing in order to get the silicone out of the box he had to actually break the box because the silicone wouldn’t peel out.
Once we had it out of the box we put candle wax inside, but when we tried to squeeze it, it wouldn’t work correctly. It didn’t have that pop and the wax was hard. Billy then started doing some research on what does the human pore look like… he found out it’s kind of similar to a teardrop. We loaded up the family and went to hobby lobby. We found these tiny footballs that you can string on a necklace or bracelet. We also bought a plastic pencil holder with a lid.
He was able to drill holes into the lid, put the wooden sticks through the holes and hot glue the footballs to the end of the sticks. Billy then poured the silicone into the plastic pencil holder and placed the lid on top. When that was finished we were trying to think what can we make the Pimple Pus out of? We tried boiling flaxseed which turned into some sort of clear snot mixture that we attempted to drain off but didn’t work.
Then a few days later while Billy was applying chapstick he said the idea just came to him. Chapstick melts when you apply it but stays formed when in the applicator. He looked up the ingredients of chapstick and found that a lot of them use beeswax. But we needed the beeswax to be thinner so it would come out of our pore he had made.
We started looking at oils, I went to the store and picked up regular cooking oil and seen on the back that it may contain peanuts! I knew with the amount of people with peanut allergies that kind of oil wouldn’t work. Then I saw Olive Oil and it was only made by pressing olives so there was nothing that was harmful about it. When I got home Billy took the beeswax and olive oil and melted them together. Billy then used a dropper to put the oil/wax mixture inside the fake pores he had made. He let it sit for a couple minutes and then I heard Summer!!! Summer! I did it! I’m thinking there's no way because we had been working on it for so long now. He brought it over to me and had me squeeze it and it WORKED! He had done it!
We did it but would people really like it? We weren’t sure so we decided to contact some close friends and family members. We collected 8 of our closest friends and family members addresses and sent them out. We asked our friends and family to give us their honest opinions. Every single one of them said they loved it!
Now that we had our product we needed to package it. I went out and bought cellophane bags, cellophane clear wrap to wrap the POP IT PAL’S in, bottles to put the Pimple Pus in and droppers to put inside each package.
While Kayla was working on writing the directions, I went and bought stickers to use as labels on the Pimple Pus bottles and on the outside of the cellophane bag to seal the packaging. Once we had everything we needed, Billy would build the POP IT PAL, I would then fill them with PIMPLE PUS, I would cut the rolls of clear cellophane and wrap each Pop it Pal in it. I would then put the Pop it Pal inside the cellophane bag along with 1 bottle of our hand filled & hand labeled Pimple Pus, 1 filling tool and the folded directions.
Building the website
Now when we contacted Kayla Roof who has her MBA once we had the prototype for made, she asked us “What platform are you guys selling on?” Billy and I looked at each other and said what the heck is a platform!? We had no clue and we had no clue on how to create a website… I had been attempting to create one for days and was seriously struggling.
Thankfully Kayla took over and built an amazing website. We spoke with Kayla and her husband Collin Roof who has his Masters in Mechanical Engineering that night and asked if they would like to be apart of this business/journey with us to which they happily accepted! Now that we had this product with good feedback from family and friends we needed to protect it and it’s name. The day that we had a working prototype was December 26th, 2017. We immediately that day we filed for our patent.
Then on January 19th 2018, we launched our Facebook and website and within 2 weeks and $35 in facebook ads I received a private message from LAD Bible asking if they could share the video. I had no idea who LAD Bible was so I got on our group text with the 4 of us and said hey these people by the name of LAD Bible want to know if they can share the video.
Kayla immediately said umm YES! We gave LAD Bible permission that day to share the video. About an hour after hearing from LAD Bible we started getting more and more social media sites asking if they could use the video and add GIF’s to them. We, of course, said yes.
Here’s an example of one of the videos that went viral.
As soon as the social media sites started sharing the videos, the sales started coming in! Our apartment then turned into a full-time manufacturing facility with family members coming down from Michigan to help us lol!
Following our first viral video, we did over 100k in 8 days! At this time and up until December 2018 we have been making them by hand! We hand built over 10k POP IT PALS in that year! We were on a 6-week wait and thankfully our customers were very nice and understanding. We were just normal people making a handmade product out of our house. Family and friends came down to South Carolina to help us build, fill and package the POP IT PALS.
Since there had never been a toy like this made before there was no mold for what we were doing. We contacted a management company who helped us find a manufacture overseas. The mold had to be made, once the mold was made our manufacture would send us samples which took about 3 separate times before we finally had a product that we felt was as good as the one we hand built. This process took 10 months start to finish.
To initially start this business it took $7,500.00 out of pocket. That was for silicone and start up items. Once we went viral the money was made back! We were able to use the funds that the business made and pay for the patents, lawyer fees, packaging design, trademarks and manufacturing start up.
Our 1st packaging:
Our 2nd packaging:
Our newest Packaging:
During those first 2 weeks before we went viral Billy and I would sit on the couch and watch the traffic on our website through Shopify. We would see a person get on, then they would start a cart then all of a sudden they would leave. We would be like no!!! Why didn’t they buy lol! We were so new and nobody had heard of us, they didn’t know if we were legit or not.
If you have an idea or dream, do not sit on it! If I can do this, anyone can! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We’re all human and we learn from them.
Lessons learned from the start up process would be once you have your prototype made do some research and find potential manufactures before you start selling your product. That way if your product does very well you know exactly where to go to start producing it on a mass scale.
Another lesson would be is that Amazon is huge, people love to buy from their site. As a seller, actually selling your product on Amazon can be very aggravating. I say this because before we became entrepreneurs I would order from Amazon and never actually look at who was selling the products I was purchasing. Since starting the business we have learned if you don’t have a full patent (not just pending) or trademark (brand registered on Amazon) people can hijack your listing and sell counterfeit versions of your product. So as people are buying from what “they think” is your listing because everything looks the same, you have to read the fine print to know who your buying from. When the buyers receive their orders which have the same name as your product, product can look the same but may be inferior to yours in many ways. The buyer will either assume this was the real thing and give you a bad review or they will recognize that it is a counterfeit and leave a review saying YOU are selling a counterfeit product. You as the seller will then call Amazon and tell them what’s going on and they will do nothing to help you, if you do not have a patent or registered trademark.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We have found that social media, the ads you can create has been the best way for us to attract and retain customers. You can create a video of how your product works or show someone else using the product and enjoying themselves.
There are many different tools for creating videos. A really good one is Animoto which allows you to create videos that look professional and you can use them to create an ad. You can add in different Gif’s, text, stickers and combine multiple videos.
Also, being able to say As Seen On Shark Tank and that we’re invested in by Kevin O'Leary aka Mr. Wonderful has also been a unique tool we’re able to use when advertising.
It’s amazing how you can target the people who you know are buying or interested in buying your product. The power of social media is huge. It took us from selling 1, 2 or 3 a day to in one day making over 27 thousand dollars!
Our Shark Tank experience was honestly amazing. Shark Tank is a huge T.V. show! We have watched Shark Tank for years and so have my parents who watch is religiously.
In February of 2018 a producer of Shark Tank contacted us, he had seen the article that Fast Company wrote about the Pop it Pal. He said if we wanted to apply to the show that the deadline was in March or April.
We, of course, wanted to apply. We were beyond ecstatic when we found out that we had made it onto the show! Everyone who is involved with the t.v. show was so very nice. We will never forget walking out and pitching to the Sharks. We were, of course, nervous but we nailed the pitch!
We had been practicing for months so that we hopefully wouldn’t mess it up. I told Billy that next to having our children that going on Shark Tank was the coolest most amazing thing we’ve ever done.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Unique Obsessions, LLC future is very exciting to think about. We have lots of ideas for new products and are currently in the process of our 2nd Unique Obsession.We’re very excited to be doing a product test run with Spencer’s!
We have quite a few things working in the pipeline, we’re very excited to see what’s going to happen in the future.
We are profitable, but we have learned that running a business is not easy. It takes time, money, hardwork and dedication. Often times I will be asleep and will hear my phone go off with either an email, social media message/comment or even a text. I will wake up out of a dead sleep and squint to see the message so I can respond right away.
As business owners we want to be available for our customers at all times and while you’re asleep the other side of the world is awake and on the go. So as you lay in bed asleep someone else is awake and working just as hard as you are and it could be your competition.
Our ultimate goal is to get into major retail stores and create all types of Unique Obsessions (new products). I have to say the day that I walk into a major retail store and see the product that Billy and I invented will be one of the happiest days of our lives and I will most definitely cry tears of joy!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Since starting the business we have learned that a pending patent or trademark really does not help you at all. Until your patent has been fully issued or your trademark has been fully registered other people throughout the world can copy your product and call it the same thing.
Of course it sucks to watch people make money off your invention, but if it wasn’t popular or something that was sought after, then they wouldn’t be making counterfeits!
About 60 days after we launched our product, we started seeing counterfeits. At first, I felt like someone had my child. It was devastating and I thought to myself this was my idea something my husband and I worked so hard on, to build and bring to life. Now there are people ripping us off!
I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was hard and brought me to tears a few times. I would pray every night and ask God why is this happening? As a hardworking normal couple that invented a product it’s hard to take a look around and see the counterfeits out there making money on our hard work, our blood sweat and tears.
Then it hit me.
I’m looking at this the wrong way. Of course it sucks to watch people make money off your invention but if it wasn’t popular or something that was sought after, then they wouldn’t be making counterfeits!
Now I choose to look at it as a compliment. Unfortunately, our patent is still pending, patents take a long time for approval. We send cease/desist letters to the people infringing on our pending patent and once it’s issued we will do what needs to be done. We let them know we will be taking further action when our patent is approved.
Because it’s not ok for people to steal other people’s ideas. It took us years to come up with an original idea but we never stopped. We were always trying to think of an invention. If you put your mind to something, you can accomplish anything.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The platform we use is Shopify which has been awesome. Shopify has an app for your phone that will alert you when you make a sale. When someone purchases your product it will make a cha-ching sound which is fun to hear.
The Shopify platform is very user-friendly and has many different reports such as your conversion rate, online store sessions by traffic source, sales by social source, average order value and total sales attributed to marketing campaigns just to name a few. The only thing I think that they should add is a scanning sheet.
I fulfill and ship all of our orders through Shopify, eBay, and Etsy. I also use to fulfill all of our Amazon orders until we switched to FBA (which means Amazon fulfills the orders). When we started shipping hundreds of orders a day I remember the post office asking if we had a scanning sheet.
A scanning sheet would include all of the orders that you are shipping that day and would allow the post office to just scan one barcode for all of the orders being shipped.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
We have always been huge fans of Shark Tank. So when the opportunity came about for us to be on the show, we jumped at the opportunity. Being apart of Shark Tank was such an amazing experience and thankfully we were able to land a deal with the one and only Kevin O’leary aka Mr. Wonderful! My husband and I really enjoy listening to Kevin O’leary’s Podcast Ask Mr. Wonderful. There is a lot of use information on his Podcast.
Dr. Matthew Loop, DC is a Social Media Revenue Strategist is Billy’s Cousin and Kayla VP of Marketing & Sales Brother. He has also been very resourceful to us. When it comes to social media he’s an expert!
Kayla Roof who is our VP of Marketing & Sales has her MBA. She is also a Business Advisor and creator of The Work from Anywhere Business Academy. She helps women create purpose-driven businesses that allow them to work from anywhere.
Billy and I were very lucky that when we started this business we had family who had the knowledge, skills and schooling in marketing & sales which were skills that we lacked. I believe that’s why the four of us make such an awesome team. The four of us also have a strong Christian Faith and we know that whatever happens, happens for a reason. We want to somehow make a difference in this world. Part of our mission is to spread kindness into the world. Inspired by our daughters movement, we will be donating a portion of every sale to charities that support kindness and the anti-bullying movement.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice for other entrepreneurs who would like to invent a product or start a business would be... If you have an idea or dream do not sit on it because if I can do this, anyone can! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We’re all human and we learn from them.
Growing up Billy and I both struggled in school. We were both in educational support classes, school was hard for us and we’re not ashamed to say that. Billy was determined to get his Associates in Business Management and I was determined to get my Nursing License.. At the time our three children were ages 1, 4 and 6 when Billy obtained his Associates and I went to Nursing School and received my Licensed Practical Nursing Degree.
So if you’re reading this article and you struggled in school or feel you don’t have the skills and think to yourself there’s no way I could start a business or invent a product. I’m here to tell you that, YES YOU CAN. If I can do this anyone can. If you sit on your idea someone else will have the same idea and they will act on it.
If you’re thinking of inventing a product or starting a business and you're not sure of what to do to get it started, please feel free to email me [email protected]. We want to see people succeed. If the journey and things we’ve learned along the way can help someone succeed, then we would be more than happy to help.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re looking for a Sales Rep that can help us achieve our goal of getting into the big box stores.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Instagram: @popitpal
- Twitter: @popitpal
- [email protected]
- [email protected]
- [email protected]
- [email protected]
- [email protected]
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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