TORONTO, ON / ACCESSWIRE / November 18, 2021 / It was a journey we didn't anticipate taking a year ago, from our customer conversations to accelerated R&D and a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Founded in 2019, Kabo's mission is to give dog parents healthier options than retail pet food by delivering fresh meals customized to each dog's needs. During the pandemic, our goals shifted along with pet parent priorities. Our subscription service gives our customers a safe, accessible way to get dog food to their door. We've also supported our community through other access concerns, such as finding open clinics amidst the vet care shortage.
Like any company, Kabo faced challenges during the pandemic, but we've also seen a lot of growth and exciting opportunities.
One of my Kabo projects has been the development and launch of our first retail product, Monch Bar, a healthy snack bar for dogs. Leading a product launch during the pandemic has been an enriching and challenging experience. Now that we've completed our Indiegogo campaign, I've got a few lessons to share from our accelerated R&D and crowdfunding journey.
1. DON'T WAIT FOR THE ‘PERFECT TIME'
If you sit around waiting for everything to be perfect before you launch a product, it'll never happen. Facing obstacles requires us to think strategically, but they shouldn't hold us back, especially when market trends, good or bad, are hard to predict.
If we had shelved Monch Bar until the first lockdown was over, a whole year of lockdowns could have passed without getting anything done. We also wouldn't have caught the tailwinds that ended up benefiting us- the ecommerce boom and the increase in pet ownership.
It's clear why ecommerce is on the rise and expected to stay that way- our relationship with online shopping has been fundamentally altered. In dog food, there's been a shift to online delivery. Pet adoption and pet retail sales are on the rise, because people are stuck at home and looking for comfort, with less expenses and more time on their hands.
When Kabo's customers suddenly had more time at home with their dogs, it gave us the chance to listen to their concerns. When they looked for a dog nutrition option they could take with them as they got outdoors, we knew we had found a need that wasn't being met.
It's about trusting your gut, but from an optimistic point of view. Many entrepreneurs have been operating this way, seeing how far they can get under the current limitations. It's easy to see what isn't working, but if you can accept that there are things outside of your control, you can focus on adapting the ones that you can control.
2. THE ONLY CONSTANT IS ADAPTABILITY
According to FoodNavigator, "consumers really want to talk right now," whether to discuss changes in their behavior or test new products. We started doing more surveys and calls in 2020 while our customers had more time to spend with their dogs and more time to chat with us.
McKinsey & Company says the pandemic has given companies an opportunity to digitize their development and accelerate the testing process, improving outcomes and speed to market. They reported that large brands were getting products to market in eight weeks, rather than a year previously. That may not be everyone's experience, but as a young, tech-driven company with a built-in DTC audience, Kabo was able to bring our product to crowdfunding within eight months.
There were a million things we would have loved to do differently, but we didn't let those stop us. It would have been great to go to local dog parks like we did in the early days of Kabo, handing out samples and talking to dog parents face-to-face. Going remote means losing that in-person magic, but it also creates opportunities to innovate. We can quickly jump on calls with customers, and conversations with them can be recorded and used for quotes and testimonials later.
Developing a physical product can mean spending time running around to do the detail work- visiting the manufacturer, the material supplier, the packaging supplier, and touching and feeling all the samples. We saved time on travel and learned which core activities had to be done in person and which ones were the nice-to-haves that can really eat up your schedule.
3. THE ‘WHY' SHOULD ALWAYS MATCH THE NEED
You need to have a good "why," as in a product hypothesis that you can test by talking to real customers and continually checking if it matches their wants and needs. Any innovator can come up with an initial vision, but the ones that succeed listen to what people want and have the flexibility to adapt their idea. They need to draw out the right information, without asking leading questions or confirming their bias.
Our initial vision came to us as our customers were noticing challenges in their dogs' health, training, and diets. Finding a treat to take on the go stood out. A lot of the options available are unhealthy, dehydrating, or just inconvenient to carry. There are hundreds of options for humans to grab a protein or granola bar, but nothing like that for pets. We needed to make a natural dog treat designed for multiple purposes, like walks, hiking, or training.
We realized we could speed up R&D by reaching out to our D2C audience to test the product before making it. We would have previously expected retail product development to take us one to two years, but this newfound access to our customers gave us a competitive advantage. We've tested things with this community before, or offered special, limited-time products. We know them and their dogs through their health profiles, their orders, and our ongoing communication, so we knew who to reach out to for testing.
When we tested our MVP, more than 85% of testers wanted it added to their ongoing fresh food delivery. We ran Facebook ads to confirm a wider need and to test for bias in our audience. The product was prepared for crowdfunding in eight months, with delivery coming this summer.
TO INDIEGOGO AND BEYOND
One piece of advice that is specific to crowdfunding- you have to be ready for the "U" of your campaign. There's going to be buzz at the beginning and the rush to grab it before it's gone at the end. But if you're not careful, the middle will really lag. We kept our supporters engaged by adding more value when we could, such as holding Instagram Live sessions with vets and other pet-focused businesses we wanted to highlight.
I'd advise reaching back into your network, no matter what industry they're in. You'd be surprised how willing people are to support you, or how much they'll be interested in your product. All the little contributions will breathe life into it. And those tailwinds I mentioned, higher pet ownership and more disposable income for people working from home, were another positive force in our campaign. It wouldn't have happened without investors, family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers who were willing to take a chance on something that hasn't been done before.
Our Indiegogo was fully funded in seven hours, and we raised more than double our goal. With our shelf-stable, individually packaged product, we can reach new audiences throughout the U.S. and Canada. Using the infrastructure we've built with Kabo and the more than half-a-million meals we've delivered to dogs across Canada, we proposed a new idea and demonstrated that we were the company to make it happen. We get to shape the future of not only our business, but the pet food industry as a whole, because we're looking at it with a fresh set of eyes.
For more information regarding our unique dog services, please visit our website at: https://kabo.co/