VeggiDome.com: Duncan Burns
There are ENDLESS benefits of selling a product at a home show to a live audience. OxiClean did it, and your business can too. You can fine-tune your messaging in hours rather than weeks or months, and, at a fraction of the cost!
Today, we speak with Duncan Burns, founder, and creator of VeggiDome. He invented the hand-blown glass tabletop produce server and saver to encourage his family to eat healthier. In this interview, Duncan discusses how he used home shows to turn around his business. He shares valuable advice for anyone looking to take advantage of home shows.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
You can watch the full interview HERE
About the Product
VeggiDome is a glass-top produce container that keeps veggies fresh at room temperature, and within reach when you or your family needs a snack in your kitchen, family room, playroom, or even your home office. VeggiDome is the "Cookie Jar" for fresh, whole produce at your fingertips!
Check out Duncan’s fantastic invention at VeggiDome.com, and get $15 off your purchase by using promo code “VEG15”
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Visit HarvestGrowth.com to set up a free consultation.
Jon LaClare: I talk about the benefits of selling a product to a live audience at a home show all the time. You can fine-tune your messaging in hours rather than weeks or months and at a fraction of the cost. Today's guest has used home shows to turn around his business and he shares advice for anyone looking to take advantage of these shows.
Welcome to another episode of the Harvest Growth podcast focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their product businesses. Today, I'm really excited to speak with Duncan Burns. He's the founder and creator of the VeggiDome, a really cool product. He'll show for those of who are watching videos, and describe for those that are listening this product in a little bit more detail. It's again, a really cool product, but he's got a great story behind it as well, and how he is been able to really turn this business into a success. I'm excited for this interview. Duncan, welcome to the show.
Duncan Burns: Hi Jon. Thanks for having me. Great.
Jon: Absolutely. Tell us and our audience a little bit more about the VeggiDome. What is it? What does it do?
Duncan: Good. Now the VeggiDome is an invention that I made to have my kids come home from school and they could have fresh vegetables and fruit out on the table. Because when you come into the kitchen, kids especially, anything on the counter, anything on the table is going to be eaten up. If it's fresh vegetables, that's good for them. When kids do start eating vegetables, they actually start liking them, they figure it actually feeds their hunger a little bit more than some of the crackers they eat, and then two minutes later they're still hungry.
I developed that and I thought back on my background, my childhood, I actually built a greenhouse with my brother when we were in our teens and he was the older one. When I asked him we're growing these tropical plants and they're clinging onto bark with their roots how are they drinking water? The roots are busy holding onto the tree. He turned to me and said, "They drink water through their leaves from the air."
Flash forward 30 years later when I've got kids and I got to try to figure out how to do this thing with vegetables on the table. I realized that if I could just make it into some way in which it was a dome or some sort of container that keeps the moisture in that they will actually generate the moisture themselves and then live off of that. That worked well, but Jon, the cool thing was, as I was continuing to make a mess around in the kitchen, I'm putting pots and pans and glass and stuff together, I actually went to a scientific glass store and it was the coolest bench to sit on when I was waiting in the waiting room because there was all these tubes and stuff like Frankenstein's lab.
Here I am holding some salad bowls that I want them to cut a hole in the top or the bottom of it so that I can have it so my kids can reach in and the bottom or the flipped over bowl on the bottom is open so that the vegetables aren't sitting in water. You want to be able to have two openings. Glassmakers don't like making that by the way. They like making one round thing. I had this cut in there and it really helped my kids reach in. I put a plate on top and they were able to use it.
The cool thing, Jon, is that it made it last longer through the week. I thought I was making something that I was going to have to fill up every day, maybe every other day, it lasted five, six, seven days. I asked a professor at UCLA, we live nearby there, "Why did it make it so that it lasts longer now?" Then he said, "It's allowing the ethylene gas to escape that the plants make-- It's like a growth hormone that actually makes them spoil when they're in the plastic bags, in the refrigerator, it still bugs them because they are affected by this ethylene gas and they spoil."
The interesting thing was at least I was able to notice the difference and I was aware of it so that I made it into then an invention that I patented because I had this proprietary shape that I had cut this glass and made it into almost like if you can imagine it like a donut or a wheel made of glass so that there's an empty part in the middle and an empty part in the bottom out of glass. Really that device, it became the engine or the real core part of the VeggiDome which my kids used and I've been using for now 15 years.
Jon: Oh, fantastic. I love that story. I was taking some notes on here that I think are really interesting. Something from your story is that you started with one purpose and ended up with a second purpose. It doesn't get rid of the first benefit you're looking for of keeping veggies on the counter, your kids see it, they're more top of mind, et cetera. That's awesome. I love that when you discovered this secondary benefit, it became a really important part of your marketing. It's, watch for these things as we learn with our own products.
Duncan: That's really observant of you to say that because what happened was, I was just trying to make it so that the kids would have snacks when they came home from school. Actually, I solved some greater problems than that. It is part of the branding and it is part of the movement of my product coming out there is that it actually can cut some of the food waste that's going on. We're throwing over $100 a month in American families of just produce that we buy from the store it's perfect and then we throw it away a couple four or five days later.
One of the reasons is yes, it's in a plastic bag in the dark so that the ethylene gas is possibly affecting it. The main thing is it's out of sight, it's out of mind. What happens with the VeggiDome is that you wash the vegetables, you put them in this dome that you're going to be eating over the next couple of days. You can still be using the refrigerator. When you buy most of the vegetables, it still maybe goes in there, but you make a salad or something. Instead of washing two carrots, just wash the whole bag, all 9 or 10 of them, trim them, put them in the VeggiDome, and grab the two that you were going to make the salad with. You've got seven carrots on the table for the next two or three days that you can just grab and the kids can eat or you can make another salad.
It makes it visible. It makes it easier to see and eat. We've got a real-- Looking back now I'm feeling like wow. As humans can always choose what they eat, but you know what? We generally choose what to eat what we see on the table. [laughs] You get those vegetables out there, you're not throwing them away, and you're not discovering them a week later in the back of the fridge or in the vegetable drawer.
Jon: Fantastic. Love it. I know part of your story that really helped this brand or this product to take off was how you sell at home shows. I want to dive into that conversation a little bit, but first I'd love to hear you. Our audience has now heard how this story began, how came up with the idea, and we don't need to do a long pitch here, but I do know one great thing about home shows is there's no better area or place to fine-tune your sales pitch. To really fine-tune the message because you're hearing that immediate feedback. I love home shows for that reason. I'd love to hear what's a summary of the pitch that you share to consumers when they come to your booth at a home show.
Duncan: It's really interesting that you bring that up, Jon, because when we went to, I don't know, probably 40, 50 shows, VegFest, Home and Garden Shows, Expose in Arizona and California and even New York state that I was with an experienced-- I have an experienced gentleman on staff. He's my CFO, Philip Nadel. He taught me that in these shows, you really have to hone it down to one story that you get. If you can make them laugh during part of it, or at least the first part, they'll be much more interested in hearing what your story is. It's lighthearted and it's a decent pitch. Now, I must admit it's rusty because during COVID times, literally up until February of 2020, we were doing shows boom, the next week all the shows were canceled for a year.
The idea is that you tell them what it is, but you also want to have it funny. Here's the pitch. Now, VeggiDome keeps vegetables fresh out on the table all week and you can see food and you can eat it. Really, if you think about it this way, you get candy for a Halloween and you can put it in a bag that's like pounds, four, three, or four pounds of candy and you put it in the closet, "Okay, in about two weeks, I'm going to be handing this out to the kids and stuff."
Then that morning of the Halloween, you get a bowl out near the entry area and you pour the candy in there. Guess what? Throughout the whole day, before the kids start coming, guess who's eating up all that candy? You are. Why? Because it's there. Again, you see food and you eat it and you hadn't touched it before because it was out of sight. Think about doing that with vegetables. Now I add on. That's Phil's story, it's funny. He is actually in on it, it comes from the truth. He actually did eat up a lot of his Halloween candy.
Think about this, we do want to think about our health, and it is actually good to eat vegetables. I know that one thing that happens with people and it's something that I'm actually finding out more and more about. We've got a biome in our stomach. Biome, what's that? Let's just think about this. We've got potentially hundreds of billions of bacteria in our stomachs. That's on a good day.
We mess them up with eating things that might not be good for you or whatever, but what happens is that biome is actually connected to your brain. The bacteria is communicating to your stomach, "Hey, I want to have this." You're thinking, "I'm really hungry." If you eat a couple of carrots in the afternoon at three o'clock on one day, the next day, that next afternoon, you actually might start craving carrots.
Why? Again, it's your biome asking for it. If you have good stuff around and you eat good stuff, guess what you crave? Stuff that's good for your body. We have an advisor on board, Jon Sally, he's a four-time NBA champion. He played with Michael Jordan. He played with Colby on the championship teams that they were on. He is a vegan, by the way, he's really into vegetables and stuff. He says, "You know what I put in my body? What do you put in your Maserati? What do you put in your Ferrari? Are you going to put sand and junk in the engine? No, you're going to treat it well. Treat yourself well."
Anyway, I've diverged from the actual pitch that happens in the markets. Generally, the thing is, with the VeggiDome, it's simple, you clean the vegetable, you trim it, you put it in, and you eat it. Then repeat.
Jon: Super simple, love it. It's obviously helping out people all over the world, we all need to, or want to eat more veggies, but you forget about them. It's easy to grab the bag of chips, let's make it easy to grab vegetables instead. Love it. As I alluded to, I've worked in home shows for years as well. Probably not as many as you, but what I have found back even since my days with OxiClean. In fact, I think my audience, a lot of them have listened to my story where I shared a 45-minute story about how OxiClean got started from scratch, how they met Billy Mays back in the day, et cetera. Much of that happened at home shows. Now home shows really introduced the brand to Billy Mays which was one blessing.
After that happened, it was a constant source of learning for them. We've used it since at Harvest Growth with many of our clients as well to really, again, get in touch with your consumers to talk to them face to face, your pitch changes so quickly. For the audience that heard this pitch from Duncan, he's used it many times, but I'm sure it was different on day one. You learn it, but you learn it pretty quickly because what works, you see what resonates, you see what gets me excited much more quickly in a different way than putting in a copy on a Facebook ad for example, which is also good, but this is a different environment, a great way to test it.
I'd love to chat. Let's chat a little bit further. How do you recommend your shows might be different than another creator or founder's show as a product market or show based on the product? How do you go about determining what's going to be a good show specifically for your product or your brand?
Duncan: That's difficult to predict because we think we're going to, let's say a vegan show in Hollywood and we think, "Oh great. It's going to be, they're all pumped up about it." Everybody came there for a different purpose. They all had their money in their hand to buy an expensive $20 plate of lunch, but not necessarily a kitchen device. The flip side was here we were in Phoenix, Arizona, which is not necessarily vegan town, but also it was at a Home and Garden show, much more conservative folks, we had the best weekend ever. Why? Because they're going there to look at how they can improve their kitchen.
They're looking at potentially not spending or spending $2,500 on a grill or something like that. Here they are buying a $50, $60 VeggiDome and it actually helps upgrades their kitchen right there. They were happy to buy it. We sold many of them. Really you have to just go there with your best foot forward and you go with your best attitude and whatever people end up doing as a crowd is going to hit the sales.
Jon: Love it. Often it is a surprise. I will say Home and Garden shows tend to be very good for almost any product category. If it's a home-related product or a personal product, even fitness, things that don't seem like a natural fit, those are audiences that are looking for new things and generally higher income as well. We see great success in that type of show, but as you said, you got to go to a couple. Don't give up after the first one if it doesn't work, it doesn't mean your product's a failure, it doesn't mean the show is terrible, sometimes it takes some trial and error. That's good advice.
Let's talk about the setup process a little bit. Once you get to a show, a lot of people in this audience are, "It sounds great, we would love to do it. I don't even know where to get started." What do you do in terms of booth set up and deciding what to put behind you? Do you need to spend big dollars in your opinion, Duncan or can it be something simple? What's your recommendation?
Duncan: You want to look flashy and have color around, we actually stacked a lot of our boxes up because we have these orange carriers. Having a bag or specially made container so that when people buy things from your booth, then they've got something that they can put it in. I don't know how physical everybody else's product is, but ours is heavy and big. What we gave them was this beautiful orange bag, has our logo on it, but guess what? They walk into the crowd, they're holding these orange bags. When people come to our booth, they see the orange bags they've already been prepped to see, "Oh, this is something that I could buy, or other people are buying maybe I should too."
Having that I think is as important. Having the table not real busy, but literally, have your product potentially there in two or three different ways so that people can see how it would be used in their situation. Again, not too complicated. I think it's really good just to have a table there with a nice cloth, boom, your product is on top of it. Then again, go ahead and order a bag or some way in which people can carry your product. It advertises you as they walk out with their bag.
Jon: That's great advice. There are lots of websites out there where you can get those pretty inexpensively custom designs, even if you're not a graphics expert yourself, most people can upload that. If you can do a word document or a PowerPoint really simply, you could upload one of those. I do encourage. That's great advice for sure. What advice do you have for other product creators out there that are looking to get their product off the ground and grow their business and become successful?
Duncan: I've got two really important things. One is people are sometimes frightened to show it and people are just going to steal your idea. Yes, I totally understand, you should patent your idea if you can. It's really easy. The first patent that you put in is- I've forgotten what it's called. -a proprietary patent or some temporary provisional?
Duncan: The provisional patent is almost free. It's like, I don't know, $15 and it lasts for the entire year as a certain marker that you've got an idea that you are first on base. Get a provisional patent done, but don't be frightened either because here I was with this idea personally, this is an idea that can go into every kitchen across the world. I'm thinking, "Oh, it's so simple. People can copy it."
I did an Indiegogo campaign and it was successful. We were able to raise money for the first 2,000 units. Guess what? It was also a really great way to establish our social media because you're campaigning for the Indiegogo for the crowdfund, but you're also generating messages to send out very difficult work and everything. The main story is don't be frightened because even after I had a huge Indiegogo and all this then sold it to almost 1,000 people, I could have just wrapped up and nobody would've ever thought of it ever again.
You think that people can look over your shoulder, people, it's better to get out there and reach out and talk to people and talk about your idea. People are very frightened at things being stolen. It's not going to happen unless you start selling 100,000 units. That's when the people start noticing and maybe trying to copy it. [crosstalk]
Jon: True, and no matter what you do they end up copying in some way or another once you grow anyways. It's about my opinion, build your brand well, build a quality product that will protect you.
Duncan: They'll be so frightened, but go for the IP, and obviously if you're looking for investors, they're going to want to have protection in place. Also, don't be frightened to yell from the mountain tops is what I'm saying.
Jon: Agreed. Well said
Duncan: Last year, after four years, we were actually able to get the utility patent for the VeggieDome.
Jon: Oh, fantastic. Congratulations. [crosstalk]
Duncan: The other thing I was saying in developing it's really good to talk to people. There's a lot of resources out there in terms of how you're going to develop your idea, how you're going to even package it, and things like that. I've got a quick story about my packaging. You really do need to listen to people when they talk to you and they're experienced, but on the flip side, you got to also talk to your customers and think about your customer base.
You've got a new invention or you've got a new device, you're going to be cutting your own path. You can't just go by somebody else's old weathered path even if they're experienced. I talked to somebody about packaging for glass. I had never shipped glass before. I was going to ship 2,000 glasses bowls across the United States. Of course, it was a problem that I'd never dealt with. This person who had been packaging and exporting, importing stuff from China for 20 years told me, "Oh, with glass, you're going to have to count on a 3% breakage rate. That's just going to happen and you should fill it up with styrofoam. Like when you get a television or something, it's all just complete styrofoam."
I thought, "You know what? My customers are more natural or more healthy, they're not going to want all these styrofoam in their house when they open it up." I talked to my supplier, and I said, "Can we do something that is not filling up the styrofoam?" He said, "Yes, we can fold pieces of cardboard and cut them in shapes so that when you put it in there, it's stacked, and the cardboard that's folded holds it in place in the box." It's turned out cheaper. It turned out to have 0.01% breakage rate.
Duncan: It was way off the chart. Listen, we never had to worry about breaking. We shipped all over the United States. What I'm saying is, listen to the experienced people but develop your own path and listen to your consumers. Do you understand?
Duncan: Don't treat them just like other corporations would do. Isn't that an interesting story? [crosstalk]
Jon: Yes, very creative. I think it's a good way to think about it. Your creativity doesn't end when you come up with a great idea, or a great product. It's about, you've got a lot of steps beyond that. It might be figuring out a unique way to do packaging or getting attention in a crowd with bright orange bags, et cetera, but keep that creativity going. Think of the marketing, the packaging, and other elements of the business as well. There's so much more to do beyond just the development of the product.
Duncan: Presentation, that's your user experience.
Jon: Agreed. Duncan, do you have any resources that you would recommend? Books, podcasts, or conventions, things that have been helpful to you in your business?
Duncan: I'm really in the midst of doing a capital raise right now. It's a seed round capital raise. I'm really focused on that. There are ways in which you can get systems where you're interfacing with LinkedIn. If you want to talk to people professionally, I really do think that being able to do a search on LinkedIn and then start finding people that are experts in what you do. There's a lot of different ways in which people are affiliated with your idea.
Let's say with the VeggiDome, it's about vegetables, it's about health, "Oh, I can talk to nutritionists or doctors and people like that through LinkedIn." Can I recommend one person that I've dealt with who's just been amazing? Literally took my company up to another level and just from his process is Izzy Lozada, L-O-Z-A-D-A. Izzy Lozada ad his crew made it so much easier for me to understand the processes of doing my fundraising. Again, we have this whole, it's like an automated process that we search LinkedIn for people who would be literally interested in my product. Guess what? They see me on LinkedIn. They see the product. Already, people who are not even interested in that product are not going to be bugging me. I'm going to be focused. Then I use a system where I'm in touch with them.
There's an automated system of getting-- It's like, "Oh, it's been a week or two. I haven't heard from this guy, I'm going to get back in touch with him." I'm sure there's a lot of those systems out there, but make it so that you are not spinning your wheels so much just to make contacts and just to reach out to people because then you can relax. When you're talking to a guy like Jon, you know all the other knick-knack stuff is being taken care of a little bit so you can focus on being present.
You have to be real and have integrity and know what's going on in front of you.
Jon: That's good advice. It can be done whether you're raising funds and finding people on LinkedIn or using marketing automation tools on your YouTube or Facebook campaign, but look for these tools that can help you that's not everything manual. You can remove so much time, effort, and issues from your shoulders. Problems, really it can be removed. Then you can much more successful and have more free time, which I know every product marketer is looking for that for sure.
Duncan, I really appreciate the time you've been able to spend on this interview. Thank you so much.
Duncan: Great, Jon.
Jon: This is great advice you've been able to share. I loved hearing the story, and I know our audience will as well. I will say, for the listeners, please go to veggidome.com to learn more. That's V-E-G-G-I-D-O-M-E. There's no E from veggie in the middle there, veggidome.com.
Duncan: The E escaped. That was the ethylene gas that cut out.
Jon: Good way to remember that.
Duncan: No E on that. Jon, I really appreciate what you are doing with Harvest Growth. I think it's really appreciated, and I think it's something that's growing. You're really fixed on something that's important. I appreciate it.
Jon: Oh, thank you. Thank you. I love what I do. I can't complain. Every day is a lot of fun. I will say you've been kind enough for our audience to give a discount code. If you go to the website and use the code, VEG as in veggie, VEG15, you get $15, not 15%, $15, which is fantastic, off of your purchase. That's a great value. Go check it out. If nothing else, go check out the product, even if it's not the right fit for you, but see the work that Duncan has put into this and celebrate it really and learn from it. I would say also-- [crosstalk]
Duncan: I do want people to be healthier. Go ahead. If anything is, I just want people to eat-- Go ahead, eat more vegetables, guys.
Jon: Perfect. For our audience, be sure to check out harvestgrowthpodcast.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode and you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and leave us a review at iTunes or Google Play. Thanks so much. Thanks, Duncan.
Duncan: Thanks, Jon.
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