Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jess DiGregorio, Founder of Pocket Pet Pouch, LLC., located in Johnson City, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is the first subscription box service for Hedgehogs (other small pets are welcome!) that I launched in November 2018. Each shipment includes a PocketPetPouch, all sewn by me to fit the surprise theme of the month. Themes have ranged from pirates to honey bees and many others. Our customers are mainly hedgehog owners, but we have had a select few guinea pig owners and even a bearded dragon once.
Tell us about yourself
Initially, I was a tailor. I started my apprenticeship in 2010 and worked as a tailor for about three years. At 22, I moved to NYC and started working as a seamstress director for a small organic microfashion collection by Daria Einhorn. A few years later, I returned home to Binghamton, NY, and all I had left were my three hedgehogs. I joined a small community of hedgehog owners in 2015. I started rescuing hedgehogs through the welfare hedgehog society.
I saw that pet stores only carried a select few items suitable for hedgehogs and decided, why not make my own and start sharing them with others? Dipping my toe in by beginning to sell a little on Etsy. I saw that I was getting a good flow and had almost no competition. Since it was hard to predict how many supplies I would need to meet the demand (fabric yardage and packaging), the subscription business model started to make sense.
Subscribers would technically "pre-order" by signing up. I would have about 2-3 weeks to fill the orders, giving me time to prepare everything in advance. Three years later, seeing my subscribers and customers excited about their next box motivates me the most. The messages and Instagram posts make every single one so much more exciting, and I am always brainstorming new ways that I can surprise them.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Completely bootstrapping my business from the ground up. Financially I was ultimately broke after a divorce, and I had no prior knowledge or education on how to start a business or even build a website. The website was constructed entirely by me, thanks to countless nights of youtube binging and online research.
I still run it today, and I am behind all of the customer service emails & interactions. Other accomplishments include getting the much bigger companies, such as Symptom BSF and Exotic Nutrition, on board to share their products with my subscribers. The minor feature in a Forbes article on Pet Subscription Boxes was also pretty cool.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The balance of being the boss. From website management and product orders to sewing, social media marketing, coming up with theme ideas, and most importantly, making sure all hedgies are getting their best snuggle each month.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Vet your influencers. Ensure they interact with their followers and have a thorough knowledge of your niche.
- Don't slack on your bookkeeping. Even if it's slow initially, ensure everything is in order so you are ready when it hits the fan. Find a good accountant. Some accountants are unfamiliar with the subscription business model, so you may have to walk them through it. Google sheet everything.
- It's okay to let go of a customer. At times, your product may not be the right fit for them. They should be able to cancel easily. Most are hesitant to enter into a subscription because they have been burned before by dishonest companies. Life is unpredictable for everyone, especially with pets, and it will be easier for you and your company's reputation in the long run. Focus that energy on keeping your existing and loyal ones happy.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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