When is the best time to leave your stable day job and take the leap to run your product business full time? Rick Perez, the Co-Founder of CoolBeds4Pets.com shares his story of making that transition and how it helped drastically improve the profitability of his business.
Husband and wife team Rick and Jennifer Perez founded CoolBeds4Pets.com after years of participating in dog sports where they gathered tons of expertise about what makes the best possible dog beds. This podcast provides valuable information for those trying to scale and grow their business and have it become a full-time gig!
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
You can watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/Pk_RHxMKC2U
Check out their full line of products at https://coolbeds4pets.com/, and get a 10% discount off of your purchase by using promo code “harvestgrowth”
Jon LaClare: 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 business. Today we're speaking with Rick Perez, the co-founder, along with his wife Jennifer, of CoolBeds4Pets.com. Cool Beds, the number 4, pets.com. I encourage you to check it out, but first, let's hear about his story, the product, how he came up with it.
It's a fascinating story and quite an impressive line of products as well in a unique category that you may not have heard about, but if you're a pet owner, a dog owner, this is something you definitely want to know about for your own pets, but certainly, for the business story we're about to hear today too. Rick, thanks so much for joining the show. I really appreciate it.
Rick Perez: Hey, thanks, Jon. Thanks for having me.
Jon: Why don't you tell us first about CoolBeds4Pets, so your business. Now the product is just called Cool Beds, or is it CoolBeds4Pets?
Rick: It is. Primary, it's Cool Beds. CoolBeds4Pets.com is just our website, I guess you could say or where to find us. Cool Beds is our flagship product. We're a manufacturer of water-activated pet cooling products. We have been in business now for a few years, but this year has been our real breakout year for us. We're really excited.
Jon: Likewise, I'm excited. Talk about your story of growth and how it's been successful, especially this year as you're really growing the business. Let's explain a little bit more to the audience, what are these Cool Beds? Why would a pet want a water-activated Cool Bed?
Rick: Good question. Our beds are superior on the market. Our Cool Beds are water-activated. They will hydrate for about an hour and one hour gets you 5 to 10 days of cooling power basically. We like to say cooling power or cooling. It's a tremendous product for people who have dogs or pets that have a hard time keeping cool or, for instance, if somebody didn't have air conditioning or if they were traveling say in a car, or they were doing some activity.
Our beds are completely mobile, you can take them, put them anywhere, and they are super durable. We make them all here in Colorado and they're a product that has been around for some time, but we have taken the product and made it our own and made it better, made our own improvements to it.
Jon: How do you guys come up with the idea? I know you're in the industry of working with dogs for shows and for sporting events, et cetera. Can you talk a little bit about that on you being in the industry, how you realized the need and came up with this product?
Rick: Yes. We used to show dogs, AKC showing and we used to show pugs and we had Saint Bernards. They were very hard dogs and pets to keep cool, especially the pugs. We had met our pug mentor. Her name was Dory Carnell, and Dory was wonderful. She was actually making our products and she would set up her booth at the AKC shows. Dory, we met her, I guess it was just early 2000s, and then Dory passed away in 2009. We carried on and right around 2017, 2018, we were looking for new cooling mats for our pugs.
The ones that we had, the original ones, they were still working, but they were at the end of their life. We needed new ones and we couldn't find the ones that we wanted that we knew worked, so we decided to make our own. The product that we came out with is improvements upon the original, but I owe a lot to Dory Carnell.
I always say that our company stands on her shoulders for sure. That's how that came about. Now, we made improvements in that some of our products have grip stop on the back. Grip stop is a PVC fabric. It's a wonderful fabric in that it allows us to put our mats anywhere. We can put them on hardwood floors, on carpet, and they don't harm any surface. It's like surface protection, and it also makes it so that it doesn't slide around if the pet gets on it and gets rough with it.
Jon: Before the interview started, you and I were trading, I guess, war stories, or a lot more about this than I do about dog diving. I happened to shoot an infomercial many years ago with a dog diving event, that's where I learned what it was. I know your dogs have been through that in the past. Could you talk about that? What is dog diving?
Rick: It's a wonderful sport. It's a must-see. It's better seen than explained really, but essentially, there is a length of-- you get your dog up on this platform, if you will. It's a dock, if you think, a length of dock, and then at the end is a pool and it's about 40 feet of water. The dogs take off from the dock and the owners toss a toy usually into the water and the dog chases it into the water and dives into the water.
Boy, the one that we were at this past fall, we went to the North American Dog Diving championship. That was in Springfield, Missouri, and boy, the dog who jumped the furthest was Sounder. He jumped, I think it was the length of the pool, which was close to 40 feet and just incredible. He's a Greyhound dog. He's quite fast and agile. It looked good in the water.
Jon: Yes, it's fun to watch. For our audience, I encourage you-- Look, if you look up Dog Diving and try to see something on YouTube at least, and maybe get out there in person and see it at some point. With dogs that are into sporting events like that in the outdoors get overheated, and your product is for them, for sure, but also for everyday dogs. Every dog can get overheated in different environments. When are the best times or most opportune times that you find that your product is most helpful to dogs out there? When they're doing what types of activities or when the owners are in what locations?
Rick: After walks are great, after the dog park especially on a real hot day. One thing that we always try to bring awareness to is never leaving a pet in a hot car and stuff like that. Certainly, in those situations, you want to have air conditioning or air going, but our cooling mats are there to help supplement and be a tool for those times when your dog and your pet, I say pets because we have other customers besides dogs, but it's there for when you need it.
We've heard from so many of our customers who will travel across the country or who go camping, we have a lot of sporting customers who are hunters. Then we have our customers who have health problems, specifically, Wildly Hannah is her name on Instagram. She's the cutest little dog, she's Wobbly Hannah to the rescue, and she has cerebellar hypoplasia, which makes it so that the dog is off-balanced. It looks like they're walking spastically, if you will, spastically. They cannot regulate their body temperature. For her, our product has helped tremendous. What took her two hours to maybe cool down is just maybe taking her 15 to 20 minutes with our product.
Jon: You talk about, on your website, heat-related injuries for dogs. I think most of us go to, dog in the car. That's the one you hear about, these sad stories of when people leave their pets in the cars, whether by accident or whatever versus carelessness? I think it's more than that though. As I read through your website, there are other maybe heat-related injuries we don't think about on a day-to-day basis where your product could come in and really be if not a lifesaver, certainly a provider of more comfort. What are other heat-related injuries that you see with dogs?
Rick: Mostly, it's going to be from overheat exposure, from after heavy exercise, maybe a dog who is left outside during the day who doesn't maybe have access to a cooling spot there. Our product can probably help that situation. Help an owner maybe feel a little bit better about where their dog-- and the comfort of their dog because we're just trying to use it as a tool to help our pet companions cool down. That's where I would say the most heat-related injuries is going to happen is after activity or during travel, of course.
Jon: Yes. Something to be careful of, for sure, as dog owners. Let's jump over to the business side, not all of our audience is going to own a dog and this may not be the right product for them of course. Everybody listening is connected to typically in some way a product business, whether an inventor, founder, product marketer, in some way, that's why they're listening to the show. It's really to learn how do they grow their business? I'd love to hear some of your stories of how you found success. You mentioned how over the past year, have really grown. What have been some of the catalysts or sources of growth for you recently?
Rick: Good question. Really for us, I had resisted for a while when we first started the business to get on Instagram and to do the Instagram marketing. Then I found that once we did get on Instagram, that that's primarily where we gained a lot of traction, then we got, of course, onto Facebook. I think that over the summer, our presence on Instagram and doing advertising there really helped drive our sales and our traffic.
I mentioned before the podcast started that we had a mention on BuzzFeed in the spring. Boy, that really helped us too, that really just kickstarted everything. We went from pretty much being no sales to sales. It was tremendous in that regard. After that, we didn't look back in that way. Of course, we're coming into now end of fall, winter, so things have slowed down a little bit, but that's to be expected.
Yes, that's been primarily our growth, Jon has been through the presence of social media and that sort of advertising, and grassroots, I got to say. Probably grassroots through doing our events, doing our in-person events, and just trying to be there as an in-person, be the founder and face of the company.
Jon: Yes, for sure. You mentioned, I think your BuzzFeed example is a great one where we hear that a lot in success stories where you work so hard on getting a business off the ground, and then there's one catalyst, one big event that can help drive it. It's not enough by itself. One mention on BuzzFeed, it's not going to create a business forever. It gives you momentum, gets the word out in other areas.
Now you've got other influencers contacting you and getting on more social media and people are familiar with the brand. It's that starting point if you take advantage of it in the right way. I want to ask a couple of questions on that one. First one is, did you do anything to achieve that BuzzFeed mention, did it come out of the blue? Did you work with a PR agency? How did that happen?
Rick: No, no, it was completely organic. One day in the spring in April, we all of a sudden started just getting orders. We quickly went and searched, where are these orders coming from? We quickly found that it was coming from a BuzzFeed mention on Instagram. That seemed to just spur, and it's interesting. I would say it was more lucky. We just got luck of the draw maybe, but we got lucky there, but there's in business and in life, I think you do need a little bit of luck.
Jon: I think that's true. Having seen so many success stories and failures along the way, people had struggles too. I think luck comes with hard work and with a good product. This never would have happened if you hadn't been out there pushing this story along, but also developing a great product that they saw, promoted, and it grew from there.
Luck is certainly part of it, but having a good foundation to start with, it definitely helps. Now, the other part of that question then is, after BuzzFeed, you talked about how it's really propelled your business forward. You took a great thing that happened to your business, how did you turn that into continual sales from that? How did you take advantage of that great opportunity that came along?
Rick: Well, we rode the momentum for a couple of weeks after that, and we were quickly producing our beds. I was working a full-time job, then I stopped working full-time and focused full-time on Cool Beds. That was helpful. Then I had my business partner and social media guru, my wife, Jennifer, she really was instrumental in helping to drive the social media aspect of it.
That was a key driver just continually-- I think we had to put out two, maybe three Instagram messages at least a day. It seemed like it was at least one or two Instagram posts per day. Then we were running coupons and we were running as much media as we could possibly generate just the two of us bootstrapping our business because that's it, we're the investors, so we're just doing what we can do.
Jon: I think that's interesting thing that you say, it's a string I've gone down many times in interviews too, of when to make that decision to maybe leave a full-time job and focus full-time on the business. I think it's, if I could put words in your mouth for a second, we'll see if you agree to this, but a lot of people are in a job.
They come up with a great product concept but don't have the revenue to leave their job and focus on it or don't have investors or whatever, until you get that great opportunity. For you, that sounds like it was BuzzFeed, brought in a bunch of revenue, gave you a chance to do that. What you realize, I think is when you can focus full time on the business as a great idea that that's what's going to help propel it forward. That's what's going to drive success.
I always encourage people, it's so scary to walk off that ledge and start the entrepreneurial journey and maybe leave what feels like a stable job or whatever. Many people would say they wish they would have left earlier. Any comment on that coming from you on the change, I guess, in that you've seen the business when you were able to move away from being this side focus to now full-time endeavor for you.
Rick: Obviously, it gave me time to really pinpoint and focus in on producing inventory and making contacts in terms of trying to get out to other events, trying to get our business located. You're right, it's a tremendous opportunity to be able to work on your business full time. I think that for me, it's you're taking a risk.
At the end of the day, I've been talking to Jen about this for the last week about not letting fear drive you and your decisions and how we need to just believe in the process and believe in the business that we've created. That's it, you have to believe. You have to believe in yourself and you have to believe. Otherwise, if you don't, you could start second-guessing yourself all day, and that is bad news if you do that.
Jon: Agreed. I have to tell you, I love interviews with product marketers and founders like yourself because some people never took a leap. Some of the biggest, these big success stories you hear, they go out and get investors and it's never that risk. There's a certain passion that comes to your business when really you need it to work.
It is a leap. It is that faith, that trust it's going to happen. It makes a difference. There's a certain difference in the businesses that is, and definitely, in the long term, I think success and potential of it as well when it starts that way. It's hard, it's scary, but you're a great example to many out there to make that leap and find a great product first. Once you've got that product, being able to get behind it and really trust in the success that's going to be there.
Jon: Let me ask you, along the way- I always ask this question. Are there resources that have been helpful to you that you'd recommend to our audience, books, podcasts, things that you've seen that really have been helpful for you?
Rick: Yes. For me, I've always just had an entrepreneurial mindset. This isn't my first venture. This isn't my first business. My other business one that I had in-- I think experience is where I'm going with this, by the way, Jon. I had a food vending cart, a permitted food vending cart in downtown Denver. I had a great time doing it and I learned a ton from it. I've learned that really there's nothing better than just experience, going out and trying something and probably failing at it.
You're not going to do it-- If you do it your first time, then kudos to you. For me, I have a general community college educational background. Nothing big. I took some business classes there. For me, I think that also too, in terms of people who are influential in my life, I have a long-time friend who was the best man in my wedding to Jen, and we're high school sweethearts.
He has been really an inspiration in my life in terms of what he's had to deal with in his own personal life. He has MS. To see him and to talk to him about business and what we're doing, that's where I think I draw a lot of inspiration from that, and to my wife. She is amazing. She is my rock and my soul basically. Those are the influential people in my life right now.
Jon: Well said. We'll make sure she listens to this and hears that after this take.
Rick: Get some kudos, right?
Jon: That's right. That's great advice though. I love the way you answered that question. At the end of the day, failure is an amazing school if used correctly and realizing that it's okay, too. Failure is part of the journey for almost everybody. Even the most successful businesses out there started off with some failure, and oftentimes, very big ones in the beginning.
You mentioned your friend with MS, that's by no means a failure, but it's a struggle. It's very similar. Failure and struggle, I think are learning opportunities for us where difficulty is really what refines us through the process. I think that's, as you said, a great resource to think about it that way. Is there anything I didn't ask that you think would be helpful for our audience?
Rick: No, Jon. I think you covered it. I think I got it across exactly, the need for our products. Aside from the fact that it does say, CoolBeds4Pets, I have to mention that some of our customers are actually rabbits, bunny rabbits. There's I guess a market out there. There's quite a few pet bunny rabbits out there. Bunnies are one of those animals that cannot regulate their body temperature, that was a surprise for us. We did not anticipate that as being a market for us. That was something [unintelligible 00:24:00]
Jon: It's great to get those learnings. I think many of the interviews I've done, I've heard these stories where the business started in one direction, and then you learn like, "I didn't know this audience was interested." Sometimes, it's a pivot. I'm not saying bunny rabbits are soon going to be the driver of your success, but it's being open to it, that it's going to be incremental sales for sure, and learning that it's not just dogs, not just cats. It grows beyond that, but looking for incremental opportunities in a business can really help drive further growth. That's great.
I want to mention, for our listeners, be sure to go to their website, which is coolbeds4pets.com to see his [unintelligible 00:24:38] you're watching on video. Coolbeds4pets.com. He's been kind enough to give a 10% discount if you use the promo code, "harvestgrowth" one word for a 10% discount on the website for any of their products.
Please, go to the website and visit, learn more about the product and Rick's business that he's built here. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowthpodcast.com to see any other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode and 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. Rick, thanks again so much for joining us today.
Rick: I'm glad, Jon. Thanks again for having us. I really appreciate it. Have a great day. Happy holidays, guys. We'll see you.
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