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Taking an accidental business to the next level

Our journey into entrepreneurship began in 2012 when we launched a Kickstarter campaign.

The story goes back a little further, however, to 2007 when we rescued a kitty named Mr. B. He quickly became our hobby as well as a kitty, and over the years he became the inspiration for many a Mr. B-related project, like the Mr. B line of "holiday" postcards and the Catronica electronic music album.

So when we saw the Barfing Squirrel Gravy Boat posted on Laughing Squid (originally via Reddit) we just HAD to make one, Mr. B style. Since Ginger is a fine glass artist, she made the first gravy boat with her own hands.

A photo of Ginger and Lewis with their kitties

Giggles ensued upon first and all subsequent uses. We snapped a few photos, took a video, and thanked Laughing Squid for the excellent inspiration.

Dabbling in entrepreneurship

Our first post on Laughing Squid ended up getting a lot of shares—enough that a friend convinced us to try putting together a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (which was a relatively new thing at the time).

So, we launched a Kickstarter campaign, doing ALL the work (all the videography, all the ads, all the social media, all the branding) ourselves. The campaign was successfully funded, we ordered a small batch of boats from a manufacturer, and suddenly we were in business.

After the first batch sold out, we took a several year hiatus. Despite the fact we weren’t making more gravy boats, however, the product kept getting shared, tweeted, and liked all over the interwebs. All sorts of folks kept asking us for one (or three). Now, we knew the Internet was made of cats, but we had no idea there would be such a positive response!

We were just thinking it was time to do another run when the puking kitty gravy boat showed up on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher show!

Bill Maher discussing the puking kitty

Relaunching the puking kitty gravy boat

The internet had spoken and demanded more puking kitties, so we adjusted the design and brought the cats back in 2020.

However, after an initial round of orders from people who had been waiting on our subscriber list, we hit a sales lull. The whole “put it out there and it will go viral” plan looked like it needed something more concrete to drive up sales.

For our first launch, we did all the marketing ourselves but that took a lot of work and time—the kind of free time we no longer had after becoming a family of four. What’s a busy entrepreneur to do?

That’s when we discovered Fiverr. What an amazing resource—instead of doing everything ourselves, we could hire experts to help and concentrate our own efforts on strategy and delegation.

In a matter of weeks, our web presence went from a simple signup page and some cat tweets to a sleek Shopify site with Facebook integration, blog posts, a month of social media posts to draw on, and an ad campaign in the works. We’ve even hired two comedians for some copy! Check out the final results of this collaborative effort on our website.

Tips on working with freelancers from Fiverr

It hasn’t all been all roses but we’re learning the ropes. Here are a couple of tips we’ve picked up from our experiences:

  1. If you’re interested in working with someone on Fiverr, message them first before hiring them out of the blue. They might be busy or not a good fit for what you are looking for.
  2. When you submit your “Requirements” (aka instructions) for the job, be detailed and thorough. This is the only record with Fiverr that counts when it comes to the directions you give to your freelancers.
  3. Take a look at Fiverr artist’s portfolio to see if it’s what you’re looking for. We were only disappointed with one gig whose quality of work did not match their photos, but they did make up for it with excellent customer service.

As an entrepreneur, you have to stay flexible and adaptable, and learning how to work with freelancers effectively can be a great way to pursue whatever new idea you’ve got.

How we’re navigating entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Puking Kitty Gravy Boat 2020 campaign started in early February, when COVID-19 was still overseas and a distant concern.

Halfway through our Fiverr adventure, however, California went on lockdown. Then other states joined the ranks. This didn’t have a huge effect on our freelancer relationships since most of the folks we’ve hired are from other parts of the world—but hiring freelancers online can be a great way get help while (supporting other small business owners) during a time when offline options might no longer be available.

Just this week, we hit another hurdle. Our fulfillment warehouse has to shut down for two weeks for COVID-19. This means that on the day our site went live, we could not fulfill orders directly from our website. Luckily we still have supply on Amazon, but once that goes, we’ll need to put everything on pause until the fulfillment house is up and running again.

We’re adjusting and staying flexible by reaching out to our Fiverr talent and asking them to pivot from driving product sales to gift card sales and newsletter sign-ups. Many of the small businesses affected by COVID-19 are focused on driving revenue by selling gift cards—this offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to respond to the pandemic, and it’s a way for communities to to support small businesses.

What we’ve learned along the way

Over the past few years, we’ve learned a few key things through this venture. One of the biggest—and our pro tip for other entrepreneurs—is this: don’t try and do it all yourself! Get help from friends, delegate to the specialists, and seek out ways to amplify your efforts.

Another big learning is to stay flexible and move quickly when something isn’t working. When we first launched our business, we did everything ourselves and relied entirely on organic sales through social media. Now, we’re refining our marketing efforts and finding ways to adapt to different hurdles we’re facing.

Finally, we’ve learned to look for opportunities within each challenge. With our sales impacted by COVID, we’ve also found this is a perfect time to work ON our business instead of just trying to increase sales. We’re strategizing, creating new content, and continuing to build that email list. When lockdown lets up, we’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

Ginger and Lewis Ames

Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.

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