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Take Your Business From Ideation to Tremendous Sales Growth - HelloPluie.com

After building a unique product to help parents easily change their babies' diapers in public spaces, today's guest faced a steep marketing task - convincing owners of public buildings to adopt her invention. Although there was a need for the product, most establishments notoriously treated diaper changing tables as an afterthought.


However, 2023 tells a different story. Today, that product - Pluie Diaper Changing Tables can be found in the restrooms of hundreds of public spaces across 20 states nationwide. It is also the recipient of several notable awards including the TIME Best Invention of 2021, Fast Company 2021 World Changing Idea, and a Chicago Innovation Award Winner. Our guest and Pluie’s Founder and CEO, Addie Gundry, was also recently named to Inc. Magazine’s prestigious Female Founders 100 list of trailblazing women.


If you're currently trying to dominate a market that's stagnant or regarded as an afterthought, or you're about to start developing a new business idea, then join us on the podcast now. Addie Gundry's inspiring story will keep you on the path to success.



 

In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:

  • What it takes to go from product and business ideation to successful execution.

  • Possible benefits of awards and industry recognitions for product entrepreneurs.

  • Ensuring B2B marketing success by getting in the minds of prospective business clients.

  • Doing market research in the right way.

  • Pros and cons of manufacturing in the U

  • 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!



 

Whether you want to change your baby's diapers on the go or you’re a public space administrator who wants parent-customers to comfortably change diapers in your restroom (and become regulars), Pluie has something for you. Visit www.hellopluie.com now and use the discount code: harvestgrowth for 15% off.



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: Take your business from ideation to execution to tremendous sales growth. Today's guest shares her entire journey in a way that will be helpful for any of our listeners, whether you're just starting out or you're looking to grow an eight-figure business.


Speaker 2: 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 be interviewing Addie Gundry. She's the founder and CEO of Pluie, spelled P-L-U-I-E. You can find them at hellopluie.com, again, P-L-U-I-E. She's going to describe in a second the product, and it's a really cool product concept. If any of you are parents or hope to be soon or have been in the past like myself, you're going to get this right away and see the need for it and see why, at least in part, this product has been so successful but she's got a fascinating background and story to share too so I definitely encourage you to listen to this interview. Addie, welcome to the show.


Addie Gundry: Oh, thank you so much, Jon. Happy to be here.


Jon: So I'll give you the chance, first of all, before we get into your background, for the benefit of our audience that aren't familiar yet with Pluie, what is the product? What does it do?


Addie: Pluie is the world's first and only self-sanitizing diaper-changing table for public restrooms. So the ones you often see when you're out to lunch at a movie theater, in the airport, are pieces of plastic that are wall-mounted and come down. It's a great solution. We're glad, as parents, there's something there. However, we have reimagined it and really solved every pain point that parents have. We've created a more comfortable, more convenient, and a cleaner unit. In 60 seconds, the entire surface is sanitized with UVC light. It's a softer foam surface. We have a retractable security strap. All in all, all these first-market features make an incredibly innovative product for public restrooms.


Jon: I have to say, as I mentioned, I'm past this stage now, but we're almost, I shouldn't say almost because hopefully it's a few years in the future, to the point of being a grandparent but I've got kids that are old enough to start having kids at some point in the future, but I've been through here. I've got four kids. They've all gone through this diaper stage, of course. Man, I got vivid memories of some of the restrooms I had to go in, and you've got no options sometimes.

You cover it with paper towels or whatever. How do I put my child on this? I love the solution. It's a real problem, of course, that any parent is aware of. If you've ever changed a diaper in a public restroom, it's gross, or it can be without a solution like this so thank you for solving that problem. Just a little bit more description on exactly how it works. How does the sanitization work on the product?


Addie: As a parent myself, we've all been there with these dirty diapers, and we found that people leave places so it is a problem that it's a representation of creating this best possible guest experience that really places need to step up and do. We're very proud to see Pluie across the country. I'll tell you a little bit about how it works. Open the table, like a changing table, change your baby's diaper, close it, and automatically it triggers the two UVC light bulbs behind a protective panel, and it sanitizes the entire surface in 60 seconds so quick, effective, repeatable. It's really the only way you can guarantee that when you, as a parent, walk into a public restroom, you know that it's safe to put your child on from bacteria, viruses, and things that can be really harmful, especially to the little ones.


Jon: I think the timing is good too. The UV light has been around for a long time, but the understanding of the everyday consumer, or really the belief, is this really cleaning bacteria or germs? Now consumers get it so I think it's great that this came out at a time when, unfortunately, we all know and understand bacteria and germs today better than we did, let's say four years ago with what's happened over the past few years. The nice thing is, is we also understand how to solve the problem, how to kill germs and bacteria in one of those ways is through UV lights, which we now see in many places across the world, really and so there's a lot more credibility behind us. That's a good timing, I guess-- it's worked for a long time, but now consumers believe that it works for sure.


Addie: It's amazing. I had the idea in 2018, began developing in 2019 so pre-COVID, and a lot of questions I was asked was, how does it work? Does it burn a baby? Does it tan a baby? It was just very confusing. Then immediately in 2020-2021, there were zero questions. Whether people understood it or not, it was just this widely adopted solution and with this heightened sensitivity to health and safety, it was immediately effective in terms of marketing. We also didn't have to do a lot of consumer education, which I was concerned, not only for us selling B2B, but us explaining to parents. A lot of that has been done for us because of sort of the last couple of years.


Jon: Yeah, absolutely. Let's get into your background a little bit because this is, I think, a fascinating part of your story. Great product, of course. We'll come back to that in a second as well but before you got to the point of developing a product, we have so many listeners that really have diverse backgrounds that didn't study product marketing in college but they get to the point of they develop or invent a product and bring it to market and some very successful and some still learning along the way. There are a lot of diverse and what I would call non-traditional backgrounds, but yours has to be one of the most interesting or fun backgrounds I've heard in a long time because you've done so much before getting to the point of launching a product. If you could rewind a little bit and talk about your journey before launching the product.


Addie: Let's just start with, I had no experience in what I'm doing, and I think that's powerful. You should know that because if you have an idea, if you're passionate about it, there are so many resources that you can learn how to do it. I knew nothing about baby products, nothing about commercial buildings, nothing about safety and certifications or manufacturing, but I was very passionate when I had this idea. My entire background, I'm young, but I started early. I actually was a very good student but decided to leave college when I was 1 so I did one year and dropped out and was very surprising to my parents, to everyone, because I was so academic in high school.

I was really excited about learning about food and how to cook. This was in a time when social media was just coming out barely so there wasn't a lot around being a foodie and there weren't a lot of opportunities that seemed readily available for people in the culinary world except being in a kitchen. Again, kind of confusing that, why would you leave school to do this but I was really excited about cooking. I ended up working for some very amazing chefs, Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud, some great French cuisine here in the US. I studied abroad. Then I decided I didn't actually really want to be in a kitchen.

I was so young. Actually, fun fact, when I was working in New York City for Daniel Boulud, one of my girlfriends was in college at Columbia University because we were still at that age. I didn't have a place to live and I snuck into her dorm and I slept on her floor for like a year as I worked in the kitchen. The hustle was real and certainly paid off but decided I wanted to leave kind of the culinary world in terms of traditional restaurant work and try to figure out the best way possible to bridge that gap.

I was very fortunate enough to be introduced to Martha Stewart's team and ended up moving over to work for Living, the magazine, and then directly with her so dream job for me as a young 20-something-year-old girl who idolized entertaining and who she was and talk about an entrepreneur who's built quite an empire. While I was working for her, I went to NYU on my nights and weekends to finish my bachelor's degree so it was important to me to continue my education, and was able to do that while working for her.

I then left New York and went to Chicago and began creating food and beverages for large CPG groups. I became a culinary designer for an innovation firm. My job was to create a product portfolio, a pipeline of products for, say, what would the next Doritos products be if they could be beyond the chip. It was the coolest job because I get to come up with all these ideas, go through the consumer research, and then say, "Good luck. Here you go do it."

Talk about like the fun side of ideation, design thinking, consumer research, but then I didn't have to actually go execute. I've learned a lot now on my Pluie journey of there's one thing about having an idea, but then actually bringing it to market is very different. That's where I got my kind of innovation itch, I'd say, but certainly never thought I would do anything kind of in the baby space. I then was cast on Cutthroat Kitchen, which is a fun TV show on the Food Network. I won and then became part of their network and was on the Food Network Star so ended up touring with some of their chefs and doing events.

I was pregnant with my son during this time and got a cookbook deal, so started writing cookbooks. Then when he was about one, I was out to lunch. It was a true aha moment, one of those kind of cheesy but accurate, "I think we can make a better one." We got to lunch, had a difficult diaper change, and I was just instantly intrigued by why hasn't this changed in so long. Why are they so uncomfortable? I got back to the table and said out loud, I think I can make a better one.

That was in 2018. So 2018 then 2019, I began kind of working on this. Nights and weekends I cooked for another 18 months. I'd cook all day. I was pregnant again, so I had another baby throughout all this. She was born in August of 2019 and I had maternity leave from the kitchen. Said if I can raise my first round of funding, I'll leave and pursue this full-time. I was able to do so in January 2020, so three and a half years ago, this became my full-time job. Not to know we were going to be confronted by the pandemic, but it has been a wild ride.


Jon: It's interesting, there's always as you look back on a summary of a story, there's like, "Oh, perfect timing, how lucky or whatever but because the timing was great, the fact that you launched this right before the pandemic, right before we all learned the importance or relearned whatever you want to call it, the importance of getting rid of germs, bacteria, et cetera, around us. In reality, you got to think back to all the preparation you'd done before that too. They got you ready for that time. If it had been two years prior, two years later, whatever it might've been, you still would have made this a success, I'm sure. One thing you didn't mention that I'm aware of, I'd love to hear just a little bit more on is your cookbook story. You also got that under QVC. And as I understand it, you have a sales record at the time sold the most cookbooks on QVC, or is that correct?


Addie: Yes. I was on QVC for my cookbooks. I was on while I was, I swear, like nine months pregnant, like very, very pregnant. I shouldn't have probably even been there and it's live and it's a cool experience. It's just an amazing empire they've created, but they can see for a second how many cookbooks are coming in and they can see what kind of is triggering people's excitement. Me being pregnant and we did hold the gender reveal and they were very into that.

My food is very family-friendly and it was my first kid, new mom, and so broke the sales per minute record for cookbooks. Then funny story, I went back on six weeks after I had my son, which was even crazier to go do this six weeks postpartum. I still broke, I still had a high record, but it wasn't as high of sales. They told me that people love pregnant people so I think there's this like fun trust around it, but anyways, it was an amazing experience and very cool thing to be able to tell Lori while I was on Shark Tank.


Jon: Absolutely. What a great story and connection and really preparation. That's part of your marketing journey is looking at learning how to actually sell. I think there's few places better than a place like QVC or HSN, that live selling environment. As you said, you get feedback immediately. You can see what's working, what's not along the way, and it can apply to not just the cookbooks, but really what you've learned to market your own product. I want to pivot a little bit and talk about market research as well. I find it really interesting that you, I believe, talked to over 650 parents nationwide during the development process. Can you talk a little bit about that and how does that market or how has that market research helped your business?


Addie: I'll tell you one thing, I did it a little too late. A lesson I learned, in the beginning when I had this idea, I think like a lot of entrepreneurs, I felt I can't tell anyone and share it because someone's going to steal it, someone's going to do it. I'll tell you again, like I said, having an idea is one thing, but actually doing it is very different. I would advise if you have an idea you're working on, obviously protect yourself, but the minute I began sharing more about Pluie, I was overwhelmed by the amount of resources from my network. "Hey, I know someone who's done this, how can I connect you with this person?"

I didn't do consumer research right away, but we did right when we started designing the product. I used a mobile research app called dscout. We were able to talk to parents across the country. We would create these missions, they were called, and could ask them to do anything from go into your local grocery store, take a picture, show me what you don't like. It was a very cool way of getting comprehensive knowledge to help us not only validate our design. Either we might've thought something was really important that, wow, no one really cared if we had these handles.

Not only was it helpful of getting new ideas, new feedback, but then also validating or not, kind of the ideas, pain points we thought were there. That was what was really great about it. Also what was interesting that came out of it was not only did we learn about our product, but we ended up really learning a lot from these men and women about the overall restroom experience in public with parents, what their pain points are beyond the changing table. We really use that to help market our product and sell to our customers and say, hey, if we're talking to a stadium or an airport, not only do people care about the changing table, but they care where it is.

If there's a garbage next to it. Is it by a sink? It's been really interesting as we collaborate with these larger enterprise accounts and help them really think through what the future of a restroom is. My advice is get consumer research done as quickly, as early as possible and then you'd be amazed kind of what comes out of it. I will say we had the budget at the time. It was a small budget to do this through the mobile research platform but I think there's a lot of ways now through Facebook groups, through LinkedIn messaging to get feedback from friends and family. I think there's a lot of ways to do it, whether in a kind of a low fidelity, inexpensive way. Obviously it can get really crazy with market research, but any research is valuable and still it's exciting for us to kind of get the word out there.


Jon: Absolutely. I think it's great you brought up the stages. There's different reasons for market research at different stages. The earlier you do it, the more you can change the direction really of your overall business as opposed to minor tweaks. It's the importance of really doing research all along the way so we always counsel people that we work with, companies that we work with that even when we have a success, you can always make it better and research can get some of those answers.

The earlier you can do it, the better, totally agree. Then keep doing that market research, even if it's in inexpensive ways. Some of that means may just be reaching out to your current customers, finding out what they like, what they would change, et cetera, or new potential customers, but lots of different ways you can do it to get those answers back from direct connections.


Addie: Especially with all these social platforms, people love responding. Even in your stories, you can post, "Hey, what color would you want, pink or purple?" It's amazing what people will-- If you have some followers, they'll just click the button, and it's helpful right away. We did it with a color SKU for something we're launching and I was really surprised by how many people liked the navy because I was hell-bent on the cream. Even something as simple as that, it's really interesting. Also, we've done things like we'll give you a $5 Starbucks gift card if you go check out a table and send a picture. There's just a lot of ways to get, I think, some research done in a kind of scrappy way.


Jon: Totally agree. One other thing I find interesting about your business is the fact that your product is made in the USA, which is a lot of entrepreneurs dream. They would love to do it, but it's not easy to try to find manufacturers. In some categories, they simply don't exist here. For others, it's very difficult so it's a process. You have to really want to do it, but there's huge benefits behind it, obviously. Can you tell us, I guess, the first question is, how did you achieve that? How were you able to manufacture here in the US at a price that works?


Addie: It took a while. Our first units, we worked with a design consulting firm to prototype, to go through the safety certification process. They built our first 45 units that we sold. We were very lucky to find this group of people in Illinois because they really did our first production run and then through them, we were introduced to a contract manufacturer called Sanmina. It's a $7 billion global CM. Us coming and saying, "Hey, do you want to make a few changing tables for us here and there," wasn't going to work, but it took about a year and we built this relationship with them.

It was similar to almost pitching to an investor. We really sold them on how we can scale these customers we do have in place and how that will grow. We were fortunate enough to kind of share your financials and they want to make sure that if they allocate space for you in talent, that you will continue to produce. I will say it took a while. It's hard just to gain that faith where I think a lot of overseas manufacturers can take smaller orders. They'll take whatever comes but it was important for us to be made in the USA for many reasons.

One also just being the control, us being able to go there and see it. This is a big product with 83 parts and so the amount of control we can have in the relationship we build is really important and really proud to be manufactured in Wisconsin. We are in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. They have a plant up there. They have plants all over the world. It's really neat to see in a small town, having such a community feel that all these PMs working on it, the quality control. They're all people who live in this town and are really part of Pluie.

Really proud to be manufactured here but it is challenging. It is more expensive. It certainly is. I think there are opportunities to cost reduce right now for us in terms of procurement, we do source globally so things come from all over the world. We're constantly trying to price reduce on part pieces so that we can keep the labor SG&A and that relationship in the USA but it's hard. I do get it. I think there's a reason people need to manufacture overseas and you have to do what you have to do but we are hell-bent on staying here if we can.


Jon: Absolutely. I think even if you start overseas, as you mentioned, sometimes it's hard to find manufacturers that will take on something that's small and every business is small in the very beginning, right? There's a chance to either find a different local manufacturer or find one overseas and then look at coming back. It's still possible later stage, of course, and obviously much easier once you've got financials to prove it and a track record. They know you're going to be around. It really greases the wheels and makes that conversation much easier. What benefits have you found by the fact that you produce here in the US?


Addie: One, we have a lot of control over our lead times so we procure all the parts and then we know the inventory and we can drop ship today. I think that's really beneficial is that things are stored here versus if you manufacture global or overseas and you want to bring all the products and store them here, then you have a warehouse and inventory. What's nice about us here is that we basically build to order. We have stock because people will purchase tables daily online and we have to ship them out but we really control having the part pieces here.

Then if we get a PO for 50 tables, they build them versus having sitting on tons of inventory in storage. There's something really nice about that. I also will say, again, being able to just go there and see it. We go all the time. We touch the-- They, of course, do quality control, but we're constantly making design iterations, making sure we can assemble as fast as possible and it's really nice to be part of that process versus just having to feel very separate from our business. I think there's just a lot of benefits to it. Honestly, a lot of businesses very much care. They're very proud that to be supporting not only companies made in the USA but women-owned and operated. I will say, of course, they want to know the price point and the ROI and why they should install Pluie, but there's been a lot of love and support around who we are as this business building and supporting local communities.


Jon: I agree. I think consumers and businesses are seeing the value of Made in the USA every year, more and more. Ten years ago, a higher price point for consumers or businesses, just because it's made in the USA, it may not warrant it today. They agree with that benefit to a certain point as long as you have the other features and benefits that they're looking after. There's certainly that side of it. The other piece that you brought up to is, I would encourage listeners to think about above the piece rate costs.

There's a lot of other costs that go into either getting your product here or being able to visit the factory or being able to have not as much inventory on hand, being flexible with your manufacturing, the freight costs from coming overseas. Just make sure that all those are calculated in. Sometimes depending on the type of product you're manufacturing, the costs can get pretty close so when you factor all of that in, so it's important to remember those pieces as well.


Addie: What's great is that we know at this scale, the cost for us is as high as it'll ever be. If our margin right now is pretty good, we know we're buying tables by the hundreds. We want to get to scale where we can start procuring parts thousands and ten thousands. I think what's great, and just a reminder, if you're starting out with smaller quantities, of course, your costs are going to be high. It's really kind of inevitable and so that's something that I actually feel is a benefit when we are speaking to investors or other people is that, "Look, we're doing really well with a very high cost, and we can continuously reduce that with scaling."

With working with people in the US, our manufacturer, having them source the products, they have the relationships that us individuals wouldn't have and so they can get better prices too. If they're buying plastic from a supplier in China for other products, they're going to have a better weight price than we would individually. There's also those benefits as well just working with someone here who kind of has those relationships because otherwise, it's us trying to manage them. There's a lot there that the cost is high, but we know it will continue to come down and we're worth it.


Jon: Agreed. Addie, you've won a lot of awards over the years as well. One that I noticed that stands out to me is Inc. Magazine's Female Founders 100, called the list of trailblazing women, but many, many other awards along the way. A couple of questions on that, because we get questions all the time from inventors and entrepreneurs about awards. The first question is value so how has getting these awards helped your business?


Addie: Yes, 100%. First and foremost, I don't know if I should say this, but I'm going to. They're not that hard to apply to. You apply to everything, because also once you apply to one, it's a lot of copying and pasting. A lot of similar questions. Also, it's content you already have. If you've written anything about your business, you have the information. The questions are what value you bring, what problem do you solve. It's information that you already know, and whether you've written it down or not, you could do it instantly.

What's really great about all the awards that we've applied to is, again, you self-nominate, self-apply. You don't need to necessarily be chosen. Obviously, there's a lot of people that do apply for these, but I think what's great is that it's a low cost and a low effort in some sense to share your story. Inc. was obviously an amazing award personally, but then also Time Best Invention in 2021. That was a very big one for us. The application process, again, they can be lengthy, but things you know.

The value for us is that in terms of the time and input we had and what we could share out, the success of it has been beneficial. I will say I don't know if we've gotten any sales from it. One thing I've learned is the importance of marketing. Is it to get sales, or is it to grow the brand? Is it to grow awareness? I think it needs to be realistic of we would get these awards and think, "Wait, why didn't 500 people email us and buy changing tables?" That wasn't what it was for. What it was for was to show our communities on social media, our potential customers that it's validating.

It's like, "Look at this amazing product. It gives us credibility." I believe also if you're fundraising, it really helps. Everything we've shared on LinkedIn about these awards we've won and the recognition we've got, again, just continues to build your reputation as a startup that's really emerging. You'd be surprised by how many people really value that. A little bit of the fake it till you make it too. It's like they might not get you instant sales but all of a sudden, you get so many messages from friends, your network of, "Wow, congratulations. You guys are killing it." I think the constant ability to market that success is incredibly valuable. The award is a great way to do it.


Jon: Well, Addie, you clearly know your stuff. This has been a really fun interview. Helpful for me. I took some great notes. I'm sure it's going to be great for our audience. A couple of final questions for you. One is, are there any resources that you recommend that have been helpful along your journey that you think could be helpful for our audience as well?


Addie: Yes. One is pretty obvious, but we are big LinkedIn proponents. I can find anyone on LinkedIn and I will tell you, people reply. You'd be surprised if you just cold outreach to people, "Hey, you're connected to my ex-boyfriend's cousin." Whatever, get scrappy because you would be surprised how many connections we've made on LinkedIn to then kind of grow the business so I think really dive into that. Then, in addition, we try and read. Our team tries to read different books by entrepreneurs every month just for inspiration.

Recently I read Burn Rate, Andy Dunn, who's founder of Bonobos. Then also really, I do like Bethany Frankel's book about business being personal because certainly as a mom, especially a product that's near and dear to my heart and really my family's livelihood, I juggle a lot with just how to be an entrepreneur, how to be present. I have two young children I have to physically pick up and feed and put to bed so I can't be at my computer around the clock, but I can think around the clock and live and breathe this. I think different resources that kind of validate how you feel about being an entrepreneur and the juggle and struggle is real. It's fun to relate to.


Jon: The juggle and the struggle I love that. That's a great phrase to be coined for sure and it's so true. I know how busy you are. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything I didn't ask that you think could be helpful for our audience?


Addie: No, well, thank you. First of all, I love being here. I appreciate your time. I will say, I think the one thing that I continue to remind myself is to be patient and persistent at the same time. Sales can take a while. Things can take a while so you have to have patience, but then constantly be persistent. You would be surprised how many sales I'll get after a seventh, eighth email. You have to just give time, but continue to be persistent and just remember that you'll make mistakes along the way. There's decisions we've made that weren't the best ones, but you're truly building an airplane in flight. I believe what's meant to be is meant to be so if you're out there, have an idea, share it, get consumer research, and be patient and persistent.


Jon: Love it. I do encourage our audience. Please go check out Addie's website or business' website hellopluie.com. That's P-L-U-I-E. We'll put it in the show notes as well. If you're driving, feel free to go back afterwards and check the show notes. There's a promo code. If you want to get a discount on purchasing a Pluie, they have consumer products as well. Just use harvestgrowth, like the podcast. All one word, all lowercase to get a discount on any purchases that you have. Addie, thanks again for your time.


Addie: Thanks so much, Jon.


Jon: Be sure to check out hellopluie.com to learn more. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you'd like to take a shortcut and learn the process that we've used to profitably launch hundreds of products since 2007, download our secret sauce product marketing campaign cheat sheet at harvestgrowthsecretsauce.com. Or you can set up an appointment right from our website to speak directly with a member of the Harvest Growth team in a free one-on-one consultation.


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