Shark Tank has seen its fair share of amazing pitches, but how many times have you seen every Shark in the tank with a dog on their lap! Ben & Ariel Zvaifler, Co-founders of PupBox scored a deal with Robert Herjavec for their company PupBox. I had the opportunity to catch up with Ben and hear how their mission to help provide puppy owners with all the information they need to be the best puppy parent pawsible!
Jay: Making a pitch on Shark Tank is an exhilarating opportunity that can transform the future of a company and turn it into a raging success. So many entrepreneurs talk about the amount of preparation they put into their presentation. What was that like for you? (especially bringing dogs into the tank!)
Ben: You’re absolutely right Jay, we were definitely both excited for the once in a lifetime opportunity to score a deal with the Sharks and nervous about making the best possible presentation. We practiced our pitch in our living room dozens of times and debated back and forth on the idea of bringing puppies with us onto the set. As the saying goes “you only have one chance to make a great first impression”, and we knew we needed something that would both catch their attention, and allow them to connect with our product without going too far. We made sure to have different names for each puppy relating to each Shark, and as soon as we let the dogs out every Shark had one on their laps! Once we got that out of the way we were able to present our pitch with a lot more confidence.
Jay: Your decision to bring the puppies into the Tank certainly worked! But what made you so sure they were going to like it?
Ben: How could you not like a fluffy puppy in your lap! But you are right, the puppies were a bit of an unknown for us because we weren’t sure how they would react on the set. Maggie added an extra twist too, we had her on a leash with us but she definitely wanted to play with the puppies during the entire pitch. I’m amazed it all worked out so well to be honest, it could have been absolute mayhem!
Jay: What inspired you to create Pup Box?
Ben: As the saying goes “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Like so many other entrepreneurs who pitch on Shark Tank the need to find a better solution to a personal problem we faced was exactly how we started. When my wife and I got our first dog, Maggie, we wanted to be the best puppy parents possible. Yet after watching videos on YouTube and attending various Big Box Store training courses we were more confused than before we started. We felt that everyone was telling us something different. We knew there had to be a way to create a leading authority, or resource that would provide puppy parents with everything they’d need during puppyhood.
Jay: Tell me about how you launched PupBox and got some of your initial customer traction.
Ben: When we started Pup Box we needed a low cost strategy to on-board some early adopters and determine whether there was enough of an audience to support our model. We found that Social Media Marketing provided a great outlet for us to achieve this goal. We found that our customers loved to share photos of their puppies on Instagram, and often times they had a dedicated Instagram account for their dog. We launched an influencer marketing campaign and on-boarded a few larger puppy accounts to help us spread the word. This strategy worked really well for us, and we quickly started to scale our base of influencers, who we call ‘Celebripuppies’. These brand advocates loved the product and were able to reach way more potential customers than we could through our efforts alone. We then turned to our customers for help. We host photo contests with our customers and encourage them to share photos of their puppies and their box every month. All of the sharing really creates a snowball effect that allows us to acquire a lot of new customers with a minimal customer acquisition cost.
Jay: So how does the model actually work? Do I receive everything at once or does PupBox grow as my puppies grow?
Ben: Our structure is to connect with puppy parents from the earliest moments of puppyhood. We offer a monthly subscription which will literally walk you through everything you need to know, and provides products that match the pups stage of development. The price is around $30 per month and the box include 5-7 full size products as well as a comprehensive training guide. To give you an example our 2-month old box comes with some training and development information about house-training, crate training and welcoming your puppy into the home. The products in our 2-month box range from an organic carpet cleaner to help with accidents, soft plush toys to keep in the crate, and gentle puppy treats. As the pup ages we move into information and products that relate to teething, then adolescence, etc.
Because we connect with our customers when their puppies are so young we’re able to build a level of trust and loyalty with them. When they graduate from our puppy program we roll everyone over to an adult ‘Discovery Box’ in order to retain that customer for as long as possible. We also offer an online store so customers can come back and order any product they love, and add these products to a future shipment. Like everything else in life or business, if you prove your value and create genuine trust your customers will come back for more.
Jay: What has been your biggest lesson learned from a marketing perspective?
Ben: Great question Jay, and I think it’s so important to realize that you won’t win every customer or succeed on every platform and that’s ok. To really find success you need to focus on what works. For us that was Instagram. It’s photo driven, it’s highly used and visited by millennials and so we’ve put a lot of our focus there. We encourage our customers to post pictures of their puppies and share their experiences and that allows people to become familiar with what we do even before they come to our site. Once you have proved out a marketing channel that works then you can systemize that channel and move on to the next one. This is really how you create sustainable growth.
Working with Robert and his team has really introduced a great new marketing channel for us in the form of PR. We didn’t have a PR strategy in place at all before Shark Tank, and with all of Robert’s relationships in the press and media his team has been able to secure some great interviews and features for us. Robert has opened doors for us that were previously closed and that has provided continuous exposure that is really helping us grow.
Jay: If an entrepreneur approached you for advice on starting their own business today, what would that be?
Ben: Get out and get after it! I think many people let their fear of failure stop them from really following their dreams. Fear is a great catalyst for success because it forces you to plan ahead and make the right decisions, but it should never inhibit you from experimenting and finding what works. Never be reckless and throw darts at the dart board. Look for objective results and get creative to find marketing channels that work. I congratulate anyone who is daring enough to take that first step because I know myself how hard it can be. If you believe in what you’re doing and put in the hard work then you have a great chance to succeed!
PupBox is the brainchild of Ben and Ariel Zvaifler, and their 3 year old furdaughter Maggie. Maggie was born in September of 2013 and quickly became the queen of the castle. Sitting atop her plush queen size throne Maggie would demand treats and toys from her servant parents. Ben and Ariel wanted nothing more than to spoil and please their baby rotten, but the toys and treats they brought home from the big box stores were not suited for the changing needs of the furbaby queen.
We know what it means to be a devoted puppy parent, and we are here to walk you through it to make sure your puppy gets the very best!