by Melissa Stewart
This was my second year at SuiteWorld and while I was wowed by last year’s keynotes from Rachel Zoe, Chief Executive Officer, Rachel Zoe, Inc., and Kara Goldin, Founder & CEO, Hint Inc., it was a little booth the Oracle/NetSuite put together that stole the show and my heart. Did I mention there were puppies?!
Yes, I was inspired by the Women’s Leadership general session. I loved last year’s women’s luncheon and was so glad to see they had expanded it into an entire general session this year. Listening to the speakers and the panel discussions sparked multiple “aha moments” and I recorded the entire session so I could go back and listen again and again. I love that SuiteWorld is growing and expanding these sessions!
But when amazing speakers like Pamela Yanchik Connealy, CFO & COO of Kiva, stepped off the stage and I was left to wander the SuiteWorld floor, I couldn’t help but find myself back at the Dog Is Good booth. I was drawn not only to the puppies but also to the story.
D.I.G. Founders Gila and Jon Kurtz had an idea and recognized a need in the marketplace. I met Gila at SuiteWorld, all smiles and interacting with the attendees flooding their booth. I had to know more about her company and how D.I.G. uses NetSuite to grow their business.
Keep reading and get to know more about the “dog lifestyle” company delivering Dogvergnügen (The joy you feel in the presence of a Dog) to the world.
Can you tell us a little about your story? Where did the idea come from?
I had been training dogs professionally for about 3 years when the Navy moved us to the NWst (Jon is now a retired US Navy Capt). We were seeing the humanization of pets moving from trend to lifestyle and wanted to be involved in the pet space but we did not want to create more pet products. While attending a continuing education conference, I discovered a vendor in the exhibit all selling tee shirts. However, there was nothing compelling- the tees were all white unisex shirts and all said the same thing with an image of a particular breed…” I love my…” I recall standing there and thinking- dogs played such a huge part in my life and the lives of my clients. To articulate “I love my Dalmatian” felt too simplistic to describe the role my dog played in my life and there was nothing stylish about the tees being offered. When I returned home, Jon and I talked about it and he noted there was nothing out there for the dog lover. It was then that we decided we should just try to create something ourselves.
Describe the first 90 days in your business.
The first 90 days involved determining who we were and what we were going to be about, designing our logo and website, researching products and manufacturing, and getting everything lined up to move into the first stage of selling- direct to consumer. This was a part-time effort.
We struggled with a logo to fit the personality of the brand. It also took some time to figure out who we were as a company…what were we good at? how did we want to be perceived? The pet space is a big one and we had to develop our unique proposition and positioning.
How did Dog Is Good go from idea to selling in hundreds of retail locations across the US and internationally?
Initially, we came up with a name and had a few ball caps embroidered so we could apply for a trademark, but we did not launch the concept immediately. The Navy would move us down to southern California before we took real action. I had worn a Dog is Good hat to a dog training session. When my client wanted to know where she could purchase a dozen of them, we had validation that the message resonated. At this point, we started moving into action and started a business.
We knew we wanted to create a brand and the fastest, most cost-effective way to launch was to create apparel we could test at markets. We sold items direct to consumers at local events and used the feedback to work on our messaging. A year later, we decided to take the leap and exhibit at a trade show to sell wholesale to retailers. We picked up only a half dozen customers, but it was exciting and we still have a few of those original buyers from 2008. Getting into hundreds of retailers was a combination of honing our message, creating the right products, finding leads through trade shows, and many, many hours of cold-calling to introduce the brand.
Can you tell us a little bit about the structure of our operation?
We built the brand to become everything- products, services, and experiences.
-We sell wholesale into retail establishments in numerous verticals that include: gift, pet, outdoor retail, resort, and hardware… any retailer who has a customer with a dog can carry our brand and we have programs to support their needs.
- We launched a business opportunity called the Dog is Good Pop-Up Shop. This provides dog-loving entrepreneurs an opportunity to have their own mobile business ( no brick and mortar) using the DIG brand and the support of our team. We now have over 60 individuals operating Pop- Up shops around the country and have built a strong community to help them grow and prosper. We plan to add 100 in 2019, to bring the overall total to 150 by the end of the year.
-We have a robust licensing program with over 30 licensees – These companies use our designs on their products and sell them through their own distribution channels. This makes it possible to find Dog is Good at locations in pretty much any retail vertical and in stores from Advance Auto Parts to Albertsons to Nordstrom!
-We launched an education platform called, Fur Covered Wisdom for people seeking personal growth.
Now you have been out awhile, is it what you thought it would be like? (expectations versus reality)
The expectation of owning a running a company has evolved along with our personal growth over the years. We are not unique in the experiences we have shared in building a successful business. We have had exhilarating moments and moments that downright sucked. It is a journey and the only thing we really ever expected was that we would commit to our vision, show up every day as the best leaders possible, and focus on how we and our brand could serve others. Each day we are grateful that our messaging and brand have touched so many lives.
Did you start with Netsuite?
No, we did not start with Netsuite. Like most small business start-ups, we launched with QuickBooks. Over a few years, we struggled with systems that did not communicate, for example, webstore integration with accounting. A goal back in 2012 was to find a system that we could scale and work with without issue for years to come. After looking at the pros and cons of many ERPs and accounting systems, Netsuite, though not an inexpensive proposition for us, was the only one we found to meet the criteria we had set.
What do you use Netsuite for in your business?
It’s basically part of everything we do with the exception of employee management/payroll and some of our CRM. It is our accounting system and drives the process for the entire “order-to-cash” process, it is our inventory management system, purchasing, Sales force management, and CRM. We have only scratched the surface of the capabilities.
What advice would you give to those considering venturing out to Build their own Business?
Have full clarity around the vision of what you want to create- know what success looks like to you and integrate your life as part of your big-picture vision for your business. It is easy to become consumed by growing a new business. Additionally, focus on sales and know your numbers every day. All the marketing, creation, and “fun stuff”- don’t yield immediate ROI- so everyday emphasis needs to be on sales.
What made you decide to exhibit at Suiteworld this year?
The team at Netsuite wanted to showcase the Dog is Good brand through an experiential activation for the attendees. We wanted to support the Netsuite Team at the booth and help to share the experience with the attendees.
Who gets the credit for the wildly successful “puppies at a booth” concept?
Netsuite reached out to a local rescue group to bring the puppies in for the attendees- They came from Waggin Train in Las Vegas. Although they were available for adoption, none were adopted out at the conference. There is a specific process involved in safely placing a puppy in an adoptive home. While everyone there wanted one, it did not make sense for many- as they would have to make flight arrangements, etc… The rescue group knew that the pups would be adopted in the local community by the weekend as they had several applications in for them. The pups were 10-12 weeks old- a great experience for the pups too, as they benefited from all the socialization.
What were the highlights of your Suiteworld experience?
There were many highlights. Netsuite hosts the most amazing conference, complete with relevant workshops and access to important vendors. Everything we experienced was spectacular, but watching the reaction of people to the brand and the puppies was the most fun.
Everything about who we are as a brand was visible in the reactions of attendees. The impact that dogs have on humans is significant. Interestingly, our brand made an impact without even showing any Dog is Good product. And that’s fitting because as we work toward the goal of being recognized as an “experiential brand”, this Netsuite display really communicated what we share with consumers every day – the experience of “how great it feels to be with Dog.”
The Netsuite team also set us up with a number of interviews with popular podcasts and print publications. Having an activation like this available at a conference or trade show has lasting benefits.
Will we be seeing puppies, I mean Dog is Good, at the next Suiteworld?
We hope so!
How can people get in touch with you?
Want more inspiring interviews? Read Dr. Sonia Chopra’s Toothaches to Triumph Story of Struggles and Success, and Sara Sutton Fell Founder and CEO of FlexJobs Who’s Making Meaningful Work From Home Happen, part of our interview series spotlighting successful women in business.
Melissa Stewart is the founder of SheOwnsIt.com. She is a Purveyor of Possibility, Entrepreneur Advocate and Coffee Addict. She believes that behind every successful woman is her story. What’s your story?