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Ep. 010: On Launching a Pet Tech Product — The Lisa Lavin Interview

Listen how Lisa Lavin explains her launch of PetChatz, the revolutionary pet technology product.

Hear how she wisely began with solid “voice-of-the-consumer” research to work out many issues before the launch.

Discover how she raised capital, found a manufacturer, and shifted from a traditional brick-and-mortar retail selling strategy to a more successful e-commerce, direct-to-consumer distribution model.

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Podcast Timeline:

0:47 – Introduction to Lisa Lavin – Founder and CEO of Anser Innovation, and developer of PetChatz.

2:38 – The “Give Me The Basics” Podcast Segment

2:44 – In her own words, Lisa describes what makes her product so unique to her customers.

5:11 – Lisa talks about how the PetChatz idea was founded, via a serendipitous lunch with her friend, Mark Kroll, who was a top medical device inventor. She explains that she “came from a long line of entrepreneurs.”

9:04 – Lisa talks about how she applied her background of doing “voice-of-consumer” research to test the PetChatz 1.0 product. She explains how they “learned a lot” and spent their whole next year in re-development. Then, during the beginning of 2016, when they re-introduced the PetChatz product, it became “one of the “Best in Tech” at the major Consumer Electronics Show.”

11:20 – Lisa further explains what she learned from the product testing period, and how she originally assumed the product was going to sold through bricks-and-mortar stores. And then how, instead, e-commerce became her main distribution channel.

13:10 – The “Tell Me How” Podcast Segment

13:26 – Lisa gets into the specifics of how she raised money for the business, and how it took three times more money, and three times more time, than expected. “Oh, my gosh, the lessons that I’ve learned.” 99% of investment came from the local investment community. She explains how she learned that you really have to understand your investor.

16:07 – Lisa describes the main topics in her investor presentation deck. She recommends having a “brief,” with five slides. Additionally, they had a full business plan and private placement memorandum. “You have to pitch and pitch and pitch.” “You have to refine your pitch and your deck, always ask for feedback.” “A lot of lessons there.”

17:32 – Lisa describes two key things that she learned in raising capital – that investors invest in the horse and the jockey. Do they believe in the CEO and the people behind the CEO? “We put together an amazing board of directors.”

19:34 – Lisa advises anyone to bootstrap their company as much as they can without raising capital, if they can. Her first round of capital was raised from good investor networks.

21:17 – What were the top reasons for investor rejection, early on? The male investor, who is not the typical pet parent, did not understand the concept. “You kind of have to understand the pet-parent mentality.”

22:40 – Lisa talks about how she found a manufacturer for her product. “We’re very, very lucky to have identified this manufacturer in our home town.”

24:25 – Lisa describes the difficulty in creating the PetChatz product. “Oh my goodness, yes.” “Developing the hardware is hard. Even more difficult is the software.“

25:47 – Lisa talks about the common issues that exist when working with a manufacturer. She describes how “your manufacturing partner is critical here, and the ability to work through the issues together is so important.”

27:30 – Lisa describes selling her product to retailers and how they realized that e-commerce was a better opportunity for them.

29:00 – Lisa explains how she determined the pricing of her product.

30:35 – Lisa talks about the product mix, and how they arrived at the optimal mix for the company.

34:00 – Lisa describes how they are marketing their product on limited budgets. “Very creatively, I will tell you that.” That was part of the key learning. “We’re all about leveraging social media.”

36:00 – The Let’s Get Personal Podcast Segment

36:25 – Was it Lisa’s destiny to start PetChatz/Answer Innovation? She explains how she believes in destiny, and that things happen for a reason. “I was presented with this huge opportunity.” “It became clear to me that I was destined to start this business. “ “Wow, I have to do this.”

37:48 – Lisa describes her biggest joys of launching her company. “Creating a new product that delights customers.“ “I love creating disruptive technology.“ “Most importantly, I love the creation and working with a group of people that are just as passionate as I am. It’s just sheer joy.”

39:04 – What has been Lisa’s biggest frustration? “The time and money thing.“ The fact that it takes three times as much money and time as originally expected. She goes on to say that it made her a much better business leader.

40:40 – Lisa describes experiencing self-doubt as an entrepreneur. Sometimes “the only thing that I have is my faith. The only thing that I can do is believe.” “There’s self-doubt that pervades every single entrepreneur’s life, it just takes faith.”

42:05 – Lisa describes how entrepreneurship has changed her. “I am absolutely not the same person.” She talks about how she faces challenges: “there’s a solution to this, we just have to find it.” “My perceptions of problems have changed immensely.”

43:49 – Lisa talks about what she has learned most about herself, since being an entrepreneur. “Just how much strength that I have. It really comes to understanding the fortitude I have internally.“ “To handle great strife and challenges and still accomplish our goals.” “I am a product of all the smart people around me.”

45:20 – Lisa talks about who has been most influential to her. “My family.” Additionally, “I have so many mentors that have changed me, that have gone above and beyond.“ Including Marti Morfitt (former CEO of CNS).

47:00 Lisa offers closing advice: “When bad things happen, just remember that the best thing is next.” “Surround yourself with smarter people than yourself, step outside of your comfort zone, and meet with those people.” “Sometimes you just need to believe.” “Don’t give up.”

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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