Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet toys but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Shawna Theobald, Founder of Lil Monsters Bird Toys, located in Cadillac, MI, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the sole person behind Lil Monsters Bird Toys, where I design toys for small parrots that encourage natural behaviors such as destruction and foraging. I also offer a highly personalized subscription-based service called Bongo Box. My customers are primarily those that have smaller parrots like budgies, cockatiels, and conures, who have struggled to find toys for their birds that engage them. Parrots are such intelligent creatures, and in the wild, they spend most of their day looking for food, flying, socializing, and starting a family. When we bring them into our homes, often they have clipped wings, are housed alone, and are given a stationary bowl of food. This lack of natural activity can cause behavioral issues stemming from boredom, such as screaming, plucking, and destroying household items, as well as health issues from being sedentary or overeating or chewing unsafe materials.
Tell us about yourself
I started out making toys for my own birds long before I started selling them. The ones at the pet store were not geared toward my small birds, even though they were marketed for them. They were made of materials too hard for small beaks to chew and interact with, so I spent a lot of money on items they wouldn't play with. I am part of an online parrot community where I saw that there was a demand for products like this beyond my own home. I tossed a few quick toy ideas on Etsy using the parts I had bought for my own birds, not really expecting them to take off. To my surprise, they started to sell almost immediately. When someone messages me to tell me their parrot has never played with toys before, but they will play with MY toys - that's how I know I am doing something small but important.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I do everything myself, from toy design, building, shipping, and social media, all while caring for two kids. My biggest accomplishment was being able to quit my day job and focus solely on Lil Monsters after my first year in business.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I would say the hardest thing for me has been making a realistic schedule. Especially in the beginning, I was working every available moment, as I was afraid of losing momentum. That is just not sustainable, and I've learned that scheduling time where I am focused on my family, and time to relax, is just as important as working.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have a good pricing strategy. Don't ask your friends and family what they would pay for your product or service, as they may not be your target audience. If you can be confident in your prices and are in front of the right people, it will sell.
- Post on your social media often! It can be the best free advertising. Try to go for quality over quantity by posting things your target audience is interested in; having 2000 engaged customers on your Instagram is better than having 10,000 follow-for-follow people who never look at your content. Don't feel like you need to pay to boost every post, either.
- Don't shy away from paying for a website or marketplace listings. If you only look at the price and go with the cheapest option, you may find that you will need to completely redo your website in a year or two as you grow. In my five years, I have had to change website hosts twice, and it is a ton of work to migrate. Be honest with features that you will want in the future, and pick a host that will grow with your company.
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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