Finding Entrepreneurial Success Without Building a Company from Scratch - CrocodileCloth.com
The old model of creating a business - discovering an idea, testing the idea, improving on the idea or discarding it - is fraught with uncertainty and risks. But as today's podcast guest - Bryce Kenimer, Sales Director at Crocodilecloth.com - reveals, entrepreneurs can eliminate these risks by buying an already successful business and introducing it to a new market, bypassing the need for Idea or Market validation.
This strategy helped build Crocodile Cloth® into a successful business. On today's show, Kenimer shares that experience with us, providing tips on how to get started, common mistakes to avoid, and the biggest drivers of success.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
How anyone can start even without a lot of money.
The single most important thing to do when entering a new market, even if it's already saturated with competitors.
How to effectively combine digital and traditional distribution platforms and marketing platforms.
How an in-depth understanding of the target market and their buying journey influences business activities and structure.
Why networking and business partnerships are crucial for success.
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, click to watch the full video interview here!
Visit Crocodilecloth.com to learn more about Crocodile Cloth®, and their versatile brand cleaning cloths which are made of low-lint, non-woven, highly-absorbent materials.
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? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare: Buy then build. Today's guest shares his story of acquiring the rights to an existing product from a European company and launching it in the United States. They've grown to several thousand retail stores and a prolific presence on major e-Commerce retailer websites in a very short period of time.
Announcer: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know. Harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now here's the host of The Harvest Growth podcast, Jon LaClare.
Jon: Today I'm really excited to have on our show with us, Bryce Kenimer. He's the sales director of Crocodile Cloth. This is a great product. I don't say that just because they're a client of ours and we enjoy working with them, but it's phenomenal. You got to check out the website. It's crocodilecloth.com. I encourage everyone to go there. You'll learn much more about the product and a lot of learnings of their business and how they've really been able to grow it over the years in our conversation today as well but before we get into the details, Bryce, I want to welcome you to the show.
Bryce Kenimer: Thank you, Jon. I'm excited to be on here. Look forward to getting into it.
Jon: Great. Appreciate it. First of all, if you can just describe for our listeners, what is the Crocodile Cloth?
Bryce: Good. Crocodile Cloth is an oversized, pre-moist cleaning cloth. It's a larger product, so it's basically a gigantic industrial wet wipe. It's 10 by 15. It's very strong. It doesn't come apart easily if you're using it to clean up a tough surface or object, and also it stays moist for longer. The product doesn't dry out quickly. We actually have a never-dry guarantee on the product. For 12 months after the purchase date, if it dries out, we'll replace that free of charge.
The thing about the product that we hear a lot from our consumers, which really adds value for them is the versatility of the product. You can use it on hands, on your face, on tools, and surfaces. It's used at home. It's used by industrial contractors, but it's one of those products where you can use it on your hands and your face, and it doesn't leave it with a film or a feeling like there's something, a residue left over on it. Sometimes you hear contractors, for example, say that they're on the job and they clean up their hands with another wipe.
Then eat something and they'll taste the chemical of the wipe in there, in their mouth when they're eating, because it came off in their food. The versatility is really what I'd like to highlight there. It can be used on almost any surface. People use it on leather. People use it in cars and all areas, on painted surfaces as well. It also is usable on the skin. It doesn't dry your skin out. That's what Crocodile Cloth is. It's bigger, stronger, and it stays moist for longer. Those are probably the main highlights of the product.
Jon: One of the things I love about it is we use the phrase a lot in marketing for cleaning products, tough yet gentle or things like that, where it's strong, but it's gentle, and oftentimes it's an exaggeration, but the cool thing with Crocodile Cloth as you summarized really so quickly is using it for your hands and your face. Cleaning off paint, oil, gunk on your hands. Then obviously, probably start with your face first, right? The same cloth can go on your face and wipe things off.
Our skin on our face is so much more gentle, but it's safe for it. Doesn't leave behind, you said, a residue, a smell, et cetera, and it's not rough on your face. I could never imagine doing that with a Clorox wipe or a Lysol wipe or things like that because they work, but they're not gentle. I think chemicals are really helping. For me, I think, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think one of the reasons this works so well is the material itself has some scrubbing features on it. It's the way that it works is with some abrasions scrubbing, et cetera. It's not just chemical driven. Is that true?
Bryce: That's right. We actually have three different main substrates or cloths that we produce this product on. One is our original fabric which is smooth on both sides. One is our power scrub fabric, which has a gritty side to it so it can really help lift the aggressive stains, and then finally, we have a smooth fabric which is biodegradable. There's three different ones that we use for our main product lines, which are the original biodegradable and then the product, which has a rough side to it.
The chemical definitely has an aspect to it. The amount of chemicals helps and then the cloth itself. The smooth substrate does act more like a microfiber cloth or a cloth than a wipe. When you picture a wipe, we try to really differentiate and create a new space in the market with the pre-moistened slots because the wipe really has the reputation of being very plasticy and not feeling like a cloth at all, but this is more like a microfiber cloth and all the little spaces and the aperture on the wipe itself will help to lift up the dust.
Jon: You talked a lot about how there are different versions of the cloth too, but it's so versatile, any version of these can be used on a lot of different surfaces and clean up a lot of different types of messes, essentially. What do you find are the most common uses that people use Crocodile Clothes for?
Bryce: Most common uses are one for cleaning off your hands after you've done some dirty job. We hear a lot about how people-- One demonstration we'll do at trade shows or in demonstrations or customer events is we'll put gray stuff on your hands, and clean it off before [unintelligible 00:05:51]. That's expanding foam, it goes by different names, but it's a very aggressive adhesive. That's just one example, plumbers, putty or pipe dope, things like that. People get on their hands and it just helps to clean off different materials on their hands. Cleaning up your hands is one thing.
The versatility on surfaces is the next thing we'll hear of people using it to clean up the inside of the car, the cup orders, all through the car. It's really nice to use. We do get quite a few questions about using the product as a shower wipe or something like that. Folks that don't have access to water use the product quite a lot for that. While we don't market it as such as a shower wipe or a body wipe, there's plenty of different names in the market for that type of product. It does get used by folks who do not have access to water. It could be at a new build construction site.
It could be camper RV. We get that quite a bit from consumers where you don't have access to water. I don't know if that appropriately answers the question. On point number two, at home too, there's a lot of uses. We use it in our house and we find new uses for it all the time. For example, I was dusting off our wood stairs at home, was one use that we had it for and then it just has a lot of different uses at home as well, which is something that we've brought more to the fore this year.
When we started the product and launched it here in 2018 and 2019, we focus mainly on the professional user, which might be a contractor or a mechanic or something like that, but really the home use system a lot more to the fore this year. Those are probably the main three ones that I'd highlight for it.
Jon: Okay. Yes, it makes sense. In my personal usage, we've been enjoying really replacing microfiber as you talked about you can almost compare it. If you use a lot of microfiber cloths. My wife makes fun of me because we have so many of them. Ever since my days with OxiClean, we've launched and marketed dozens of cleaning products, just because of my background and every shoot I'm buying new stacks of microfiber cleanup stuff in the background or whatever it might be.
I've just brought that into my personal life as well. Ever since starting to work with Crocodile Cloth, I've really replaced a lot of it. You've got that wipe to take with you, like you said, in my car, at home and for us around the office and our studio and that kind of thing, it's awesome that you can use it, throw it away essentially. It's much smaller and you're not washing these big things in cloths, all the time as well. It's been an awesome product for sure.
Bryce: It's a one-step cleaner. I think that's one of the things you've highlighted. There are a lot of things in that market, which are two or three-step. For example, you might have a spray and a paper towel. That's what we would consider a two-step, which is workable and a lot of people use it. It's just less convenient and then there might be a paste that you scrub on and clean off but you have to have a paste and a scrubber and then something to clean it up with, in the end, maybe even a rag and a bucket of water. The convenience of it I think is what you highlighted as very much a strong feature on the point of this product [unintelligible 00:09:09] point there.
Jon: Yes, absolutely. Let's get into the business a little bit in terms of what's been working and how this business has really grown. You mentioned you brought this business over, bought it in 2018 from a company over in the UK. So many of our interviews for our listeners you're familiar with, a lot of the people we speak with, our guests are the actual inventors or creators of the product. This is a great example of those that are out there listening.
Hey, I want to start a business, but I'm not an inventor. I don't have an idea. You can find other successful businesses. In your case, Bryce, like you guys did in your team, brought it over from overseas, something that was already for sale in Europe and now you brought it to the US and have really grown from scratch for the most part here in the US. You didn't have to create it, but you've found something great, brought it here and then of course, created the market for it.
Really dived into the market itself. As you think back, you talked a little bit already about starting with B2B, working with plumbers, electricians, et cetera. Then it's added on, I should say, the home market, cleaning up the kitchen, bathroom, et cetera at home, but let's rewind a little bit in the early days of the company, shortly after you guys bought it and started to grow it. What were some of your early successes?
Bryce: That's good. I'll just pick up on one of your points that you made in the introduction to the question. You mentioned a lot of your listeners on this show are inventors or a lot of them are wondering about inventions and whether they can start a business and not being an inventor. I came across a book which I found very interesting. It's called Buy Then Build. There's a lot of conversations around this topic about whether it's better to start something from scratch or whether it's better to buy a business which is already existing and then grow it from there.
That's what we did here with Crocodile Cloth although it was not operationally existing here in the North America market. We did take an existing product with proven existing success in the market we were going after and brought it to this market. I think you said what some of our early successes were, I would tie it back to the ability to have focus or the courage to be focused on a particular market. When we started here, we focused solely on the industrial, more contractor professional users, basically.
It could have been a painter or a mechanic or HVAC contractor but we really went after all those target markets directly and focused on those. There's a lot of different applications for this product. You have disinfecting wipes, you mentioned Clorox earlier. It's a pretty saturated market. There's disinfecting wipes. There's pet wipes. There's body wipes. There's makeup wipes. There's pretty much a wipe for anything you could think of. There's horse fly wipes. There's all kinds of different wipes.
What we did here first, which I think contributed to some of our early successes, I wouldn't say we stand out as the successful company. We've made as many mistakes as we've had successes but I think focus really helped us to make progress in the first part of our business here. A lot of what we did was actually pretty grassroots. Like we would go door to door to different locations in Ohio. There's central Ohio. We'd go down to Southern Ohio and Northern Ohio and just see who was out there in the marketplace.
We'd talk to actual people in the stores, more in like retail or supply house type establishments and find out what was actually driving their business, who their clientele were.
We'd often get referrals for good contacts to speak to in their company. It was all focused in that one market which was the professional. I think that was what really helped lead to some of our earlier successes. For example, we found there's an industrial co-op, they sell to mom-and-pop stores across the United States.
I think they have about 5,000 or 8,000 dealers internationally but probably 4,500 to 5,000 in the United States. There is one called Otago. It's not a well-known company because they don't brand their stores with their name, but they supply a lot of the mom-and-pop stores like the hardware stores that you would've gone to growing up probably. They came from a focus on hardware stores and professional users. That's what I would encourage is the courage to have focus on a particular market or on your target market. In particular in terms of the company. I think focus is always what helps grow the business. As the saying goes, where focus goes energy flows.
Jon: Well said. I think I would add onto that your positioning too, which you alluded to so it's the audience but it's how you talk about your product. Positioning it towards this professional audience and you can always grow it right over time. That's a great way to grow your business eventually. In the early days, it's so much more expensive to go broad. Just try to sell to everybody at the same time. It's almost impossible in the early days. You can get there though.
You start with that focus and you grow as you go forward. One more thing I'll add. You talked about the Buy Then Build, that's a great recommendation to check out that book or at least to think about that process. There's other ways to do it. I know you guys acquired the business, for those listening that may not have the resources to do that or are looking for something a little smaller, potentially, a license deal can also work especially bringing things from overseas, where it might be successful in Europe, South America, Asia, whatever it is, finding those and orchestrating some sort of a license deal where you pay on a percentage basis.
There's a lot of different ways to do acquisitions. It doesn't have to be a bunch of money out of pocket in the beginning. It can be a percentage of sales as you go forward. It's a great piece of advice, I think for those out there listening that are looking to start something new even without having to come up with the idea. In your case, Bryce you found this product. You know it works. It's been selling elsewhere.
It takes down the risk a lot and gives you a lot more of the learnings of what's working. It's going to be a different market if you bring it from overseas but you can still start with more learnings you otherwise might have. Now, today, you talked about how you got into some smaller mom-and-pop retailers or started geographically and then grew from there. Today, you're in home Depot. Are you in every Home Depot store in the country? Is that right?
Bryce: I think effectively yes, but technically no. I think we're in about 1,900 and some change of the 2,000 or 2,200 stores.
Jon: That's a great win. How'd you guys originally get into Home Depot?
Bryce: Home Depot was a good experience for us. It took a lot of these opportunities in my experience, start as more of a B2B sales type exercise and then they grow into a marketing exercise. It was pretty unglamorous in the beginning. It's just finding contacts at these stores, finding who would be responsible for purchasing such products there. We basically had appointments with the buyers there and we did trials in a few regions for them.
I think when they saw the success of the product in a few regions that was what helped them get behind the product and grow it out to greater. Obviously, a buyer is not going to want to put a lot of money and time behind a product that they haven't proven. That's just not common sense. They like to try a little smaller risk opportunities in particular markets or in particular areas. It was pretty basic story of finding who the contact would be, setting up appointments with them, having sales conversations, and then trialing out the smaller areas.
I would say that's really how it's gone for a lot of our clients. Like Napa was really a similar experience. It takes a lot of time and energy and commitment to making it work and believe that there's actually somebody at that company who will talk to you and who will be responsible for this whether they want to do it right now or not. Whether it's Home Depot or Napa or some of the other hardware people we've sold to or even the other co-ops that we've worked with like Do it Best or True Value they're pretty similar experience.
It's just first you need to get in with them on a business-to-business type relationship. After that, it's really more about driving consumers into the stores to purchase the product. I know Jon I'm preaching to the choir here. You know a lot more about that than I would but it becomes more of a marketing exercise because just because you land the product like if we work with Walmart or something like that, just because you land the product on their shelves doesn't mean that A, that your sell-through is guaranteed and B, that you'll be there next year.
Really, the marketing side or consumer demand for their product really trumps everything. If you have a good sell-through for a product, doesn't matter who the buyer is, who your contact is, they'll want that product. It deserves a place on their shelf. If you take the lackadaisical approach on the other hand and just let it take its course, that's when there'll be some curve ball which you didn't expect.
On a more marketing side, it's a very granular type of thing. We go through a lot of efforts between our own staff, subcontractors to find out what is going on at the store level, what we can do to help grow sales nationally. I don't remember what the question was but that's some of the experiences that we've had with our different retailers and partners. If somebody, I think I saw a conversation that Sean Riley was having from Dude Wipes. He's not exactly a competitor, but another product in the wipe market.
He was just mentioning if there's somebody that gets behind your product, get behind them, make it a two-way street. I think they sell their product a lot into Walmart and other retailers, but it's really important to get behind and really put your money where your mouth is with these larger retail customers, especially, or even the eCommerce because you need the sell-through and demand to be there to be a long-term customer.
Jon: Yes, well said. I really like how you talked about starting with B2B sales and morphing into consumer marketing or marketing in general. I said B2B marketing could be in this case too and it's great advice. So often we see a successful sale into a big retailer like Home Depot or Walmart, as he mentioned, or potentially others. Then like you said, you get lackadaisical. Like I got this big win, it's not going to last forever without marketing. It's a transformation, really.
Your sales will continue driving other products in et cetera, but you got to get stuff off the shelf. People aren't going to find, especially with a new product, something different. You got to drive people into the store, make sure they're aware of it and bring it off. That's a great way of putting it. You talked about retail brick-and-mortar sales. You guys also do a lot in the drop ship or eCommerce space working with online retailers. How does that differ from brick-and-mortar?
Bryce: There's a quite a few differentiations that we find. The way that you send customers to them is one thing. We sell on Amazon and other eCommerce places. There's a few that really stand out as marketplaces and some that are more just an online presence, which doesn't drive much traffic, but I think it's really the way you bring customers to the location. For in-store, it's a lot more ambiguous of how you get customers to go into the store and purchase the product. Tracking the sales, once you actually get them to do that is a whole another enigma, and then ensuring that you have the right data on an ongoing basis.
On eCommerce, it can be a lot more hand-to-mouth and a lot closer ability to track how the return on your investment is going. If you're sending something to an Amazon store, obviously it's very different. You might have brand strategies where you're targeting your brand keywords or brand search terms, and you might have non-brand keywords where you're targeting other people's brand or just generic phrases in the industry, which people search for when they could land on your product.
I think it's really the way that you bring customers to your product. The other thing about eCommerce for us is our product is so big and bulky that it's hard to perceive the value without actually touching and feeling the product first. It's a show-and-sell product, which is harder to demonstrate online. Sometimes we find that people start with a product from a brick-and-mortar location, and then they continue purchasing their product online more conveniently once they actually know what the value is of the product.
Demonstrating the value of somebody in eCommerce for us, for our product has been more of a challenge because of the size. Our products are just so much, the wipes are bigger. They're 10 by 15, they're thicker, and there's 100 of them or 80 of them in a pack. If you look at the amount of product that is technically compared to a competitor who might have-- If you have say like a 6 by 8 product in the [unintelligible 00:23:58] that's 6 times 8 times 80, that's 3,840 square inches. If you have a 10 by 15 times 80, that's 12,000, so that's like 3X the amount of product in there.
It's hard for people to see that this is not just the wipe, this is different than your average experience with a wipe. That's been one of the differences that we found is explaining the value to a customer who've never used it before. That's where it comes back to cost proposition probably becomes more interesting of a metric for us to watch versus pro as, as well as reverse. Hopefully, that helps answer the question.
Jon: Yes, absolutely. No, that's great. It's a good way of putting it, I like when you talked about the combination of brick-and-mortar, really driving education, or touch and feel awareness and then repurchasing on eCommerce. I think worked really well together in terms of two marketing channels. That's awesome. Bryce, this has been an awesome interview, really fun. I think really helpful for our audience. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would be helpful for our audience?
Bryce: That's good, Jon, I've enjoyed it as well. I think there's a few different things out there, which I would recommend. One is if you're doing .com sales, whether it's on Amazon, like an FBM approach fulfilled by merchant, or if you're doing your own eCommerce website, Deliverr, D-E-L-I-V-E-R-R has been a great service for us. I think a lot of your audience would be familiar with them. We've just found them very helpful in there, I don't know if transparency's the right word, but just simple programs maybe .
They had competitive rates and they were able to connect with our platforms and really help to turn around our Amazon. Where it's been difficult to get space and the attention from Amazon, the backup of having product and Deliverr warehouse is synced as a fulfilled by merchant skew for some of our existing products has really helped to ensure that we can keep that flywheel going for our product. Deliverr.com, I think they were just purchased by Shopify has been very helpful.
The other thing I just mentioned is the value of networking. We really found it to be incredibly helpful and there's a lot of folks out there like yourself, Jon, and many others that really want to help. Whether it's more of a mentor informal type thing, or whether you meet somebody at a trade show, I think it's important to have relationships that can help you navigate through, that have been through it before. Maybe there's somebody that's done the Amazon journey if that's something you'd like to do, or somebody you sort into retail probably in your circle that you could already speak to about it. I think those are the two main points that I'd leave with the listeners from our standpoint.
Jon: Well, thanks, Bryce. Again, really appreciate it. For the listeners, please go to crocodilecloth.com to learn more about Bryce and his business. What a great product it is. We'll put that in the show notes as well, so if you're driving, go check it out later. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode, you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your own consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and be sure to leave us a review. Bryce, thanks again.
Bryce: Thank you, Jon. Appreciate it. It's been a pleasure.
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