Lynette Cano has an already successful (and cult-following fan base) pet product business after a very short period of time. She was kind enough to share her Amazing Selling Machine story with us, and even some of her secrets to success!
About my Amazon business
Sancho & Lola’s Closet is a Premium Pet Products brand sold online on Amazon and at select boutique pet shops, whose mission is to help abandoned Pointer and Pointer mixes find their forever homes. One day I will say our company helps ALL dogs. I will get there, but you have to start somewhere; I chose to start with Sancho and Lola?s Rescue here in Texas.
My success so far
I received my 25K badge in just a little over 3 months after I went live. I would likely be at 30K a month right now if I didn’t have to deal with out-of-stocks!
I am currently selling 800 units a month, but I have a product that does not have an infinite supply so I now have 4-5 other products in the works.
It seems I have developed a cult following. I have customers who have ordered 5-6 times in 3 months, and some that have only ordered 2-3 times but they order 4-6 units at at time!
How I got there
I provide above and beyond customer service (sometimes I will send a free product to someone with a “thank you” note attached after I notice they have ordered 4-5 times…) And it’s not from me, its from Sancho & Lola.
I write a lot of the copy in the voice of Sancho & Lola. I just signed up for the Copy Command course so I can write better.
If customers have any issues, I write them a personal email in great detail addressing all their concerns or at least educating them. My listing itself is informational, but some people just don’t read all of it.
I also started packing my own product since my manufacturer could not guarantee me consistency, but not sure I can keep this up as I do not have ANY assistance as of yet— just me doing everything!! But consistency in my product is huge for me and I am willing to do what it takes.
What inspired me to start my business
I rescued my first Pointer when I was 16 years old and worked at a veterinary hospital that had a litter of nine, six-hour old puppies that were due for euthanasia because they were not ?full breed.? The Vet said: “At least he does the humane thing by bringing them here, a lot of breeders just dump them in a lake so they don?t have pay anything.” I stole one from the litter (with the Vet’s blessing) and bottle-fed her until she was old enough to eat. She lived to be 14 years old and was a beautiful GSP/ Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix.
Over the last four years, my husband and I adopted two German Shorthair Pointers, both abandoned and found by a rescue in bleak conditions. Sancho, our male, was severely abused and after four years, still suffers from extreme PTSD. Pointers are high-energy dogs that often get mistreated because people do not give them the exercise they need and they often become destructive. We adopted our female Lola 15 months ago. She was left emaciated with a severe case of heart-worm. It took three painstaking treatments and over a year to get rid of them. Since fostering or adopting more dogs was out of the question in a town-home, I was hoping to figure out a different way to help other abandoned Pointers coming from similar circumstances. Even though I volunteered at events, I wanted to do something on a larger scale.
Meanwhile, I had been itching to start my own business for 3 years. I wanted it to be something I could manage from anywhere, especially home so I could be with Sancho and Lola. I used to daydream of inventing that next big product that would end up on Shark Tank. When I heard of the business model that involved private labeling products and selling online, I thought, “This is great because I don?t have to invent anything to get started.” I could just harness my expert dog product shopping skills to source products for other dog owners who, like me, are very picky about what they buy and are willing to pay for what they want.
I took this passion for researching the best products for dogs and combined it with my desire to help our rescues. I created a logo that has a likeness of Sancho and Lola that says “Premium Pet Products with a Purpose.” Then I set the goal to donate a percentage of profits to our Rescue. Once I got going, I realized that I could not only help rescued dogs get the veterinary treatments they need and find forever homes, but through social media I could generate more dog rescue awareness by discussing the kind of condition most of these abandoned dogs are in when they are found or surrendered. Many dog shelters are forced to put sick dogs down because they can’t afford to treat them. With donations, dog rescues are able to get them the veterinary care that the dogs need and find fosters to take care of them. But more is needed. More funds for veterinary care, more volunteers at events and more people to foster.
What I was doing before I started my Amazon business
I was in Fine Wine & Spirits Sales for 15 years in as many aspects of the business one can imagine…Retail Sales Manager, Fine Wine Wholesale Account Manager selling to restaurants and wine shops, Import Fine Wine Portfolio Manager marketing to key distributors, Tequila Market Manager for a boutique distillery, Wine Director for a fine dining restaurant. I had to quit the industry because it involved a lot of travel, hours, and heavy case carrying that I could no longer handle due to debilitating health issues. I had to quit working completely from 2009-12. In 2013, I slowly went back to work, part-time in Accounts Receivable for my husband?s law practice.
How I promote my Amazon business
The following are some examples of ways I promote my Amazon business. I attend local Rescue events. I am an active member in several Facebook groups for people who love dogs, especially sporting breeds and I give them coupon codes. I do giveaways and promotions with a local boutique pet store. I give out business cards and samples at local dog parks. I have a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and website for Sancho & Lola’s Closet where I post pictures of our support at the Rescue events, announce coupon codes and share helpful content like dog food recalls, canine health tips, etc. And of course, word-of-mouth advertising through friends and family.
My primary customers
People who love their dog like family and do not gamble on their dog’s health is my target market. People who say, “I can get that a lot cheaper at Walmart” are not my customers. Since we are such a new brand, most of our customers have come from the marketing I have done within the GSP communities on Facebook. Though these folks initially buy with coupon codes, a lot of them do re-order paying our regular retail price. They appreciate our mission, that our price is very competitive on Amazon and that our price is a steal compared to prices they pay at their local boutique pet store. Their continued support has helped us get and stay on the first search page of Amazon for our specific category, so we are getting more new organic sales from general Amazon shoppers every day at our retail price. This is ideal because my profit margins are very slim.
My best business achievement
Since I have had my business for less than a year, I would have to say my biggest achievement was pulling the trigger to get started, and allowing my gut instincts to decide what products to choose. I had read books and listened to quite a few podcasts on starting an online business but I seemed to be stuck in that ‘paralysis by analysis’ stage for over a year because I wasn’t sure what passion I wanted to focus on. I had been studying holistic medicine for 5 years to heal my own health issues and was quite successful, so the health industry did appeal to me. However, now that I was feeling better, I noticed that the majority of my energy was spent with Sancho and Lola. Exercising them, researching dog food and treats, grooming them, training them etc… Having been around dogs most of my life, I was an expert in these topics. When people meet Sancho and Lola, I am often asked if they are show dogs because of their healthy coats and muscle tone.
I realized that if I could harness my passion for creating the healthiest environment for my dogs with my desire to help our local Pointer Rescue, I would have a no-brainer niche. I did not have to do “best product research” because I already knew what dogs liked and what was healthy for them. I knew what people who have active dogs shop for and what attributes are important when making their product selections. I realized I could trust my intuition more than online ‘product selection’ tools. My instinct told me that we also had a great story to tell with Sancho and Lola and how far they’ve thrived with the love and care given to them, all starting with the volunteers and fosters from our rescue. If you need a shorter answer, my biggest achievement is that, by leading by example, I have created awareness in my community and on social media for dog rescues and how important it is to support them.
The advantages of working from home
Like most people, I hate the stress of traffic and the time wasted going to and from an office. I used to manage a restaurant that was over an hour drive there and back so my 10 hour work day was more like a 13 hour one. Secondly, it is a big money saver to only have to fill up my gas tank once every 8-10 days. In outside field sales you are filling up every other day. Thirdly, after being in wine sales, where the way you present yourself to your buyers and their customers is critical, I love not having to wear make-up every day. I traded my business suits and heels for yoga pants and sneakers.
Most important of all, I get to be home more with my babies… yes, my four legged ones. Staying home more also means you get to prepare your own food– this is huge when you are trying to eat ‘clean’ every day. I haven’t eaten processed or fast food in over a year. Sometimes I miss those fancy wine dinners, but I have lost almost 15 lbs from just being home to eat my own food. I wish I could say I have more time to work out, but I am still in the growing stages of my business and since I am a perfectionist, I have actually had less personal time than ever before.
Where I see my business going
I would like to have at least 4-6 more products, expanding into custom making products for sporting breed dogs. I cringe when people tell me I should add those cute dog sweaters you see on Pugs. There are lots of people already making or sourcing these. Nothing against them, but people who buys these types of sweaters with bows are not my target customers. Now make a superhero-themed, waterproof collar that is also a GPS tracking device … THIS would be my customer! In one year, I hope I have at least one VA (virtual assistant) so that I am not too stressed and I can focus more on product development and perhaps travel more. With a home-based business you can run your operation from anywhere you go, even at the beach!
Matt Clark is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Amazing.com, a serial entrepreneur, and investor. He’s been featured on Forbes, CNBC, and Entrepreneur.com.