Along with posts on education and health care, Deal Radar will also be featuring entrepreneurs who have managed to turn adversity into opportunity. Today’s post looks at the story of Glen Malmskog, an electronics engineer by training who had been laid off from his job in the tech industry and switched to becoming an entrepreneur.
Glen had previously worked for companies like Honeywell and Motorola. Burnt out by the constant uncertainty and ups and downs in the industry, he chose to take control of his own future and invest in his own business, thereby generating a revenue stream for himself. In October 2006, Glen decided to make the most of the situation and started Saki Seat, his own company, and began building it from ground up.
The Saki Seat is a bike seat designed especially for dogs, providing dog owners an opportunity to take their pets on bike rides along with them. The idea was born when the recently laid off Malmskog was advised by his doctor not to roller blade anymore due to a degenerative back condition. Glen, an active sports enthusiast who had been rollerblading with his dog Saki for several years, wanted to find another recreational sport they could do together. Just before a biking holiday, he explored his options for a pet seat in various pet stores but was disappointed to find nothing that they could use. So he designed the Saki Seat for his own use. Seeing the excellent reactions he received, he decided to develop, patent and produce it for others, too.
The company is entirely self-financed with additional access to funding, if the growth and inventory requires it. A Saki Seat retails on the company’s website for $49.95 plus $15 for shipping. Over 400 seats have been sold so far and in spite of the current economic downturn, sales have doubled this year compared with last.
The Saki Seat, which has been available for 18 months, can be used for dogs that weigh under 40 pounds. Although there is no direct competition, some sales may be lost to people who have a preconceived notion that the seat isn’t a safe idea or that their dogs may not enjoy it. Several people are unwilling to try it due to the perceived ‘risk’ involved. But it is perfect for those who like engaging activities, the outdoors, and including their dog in those activities. In addition, the seat offers owner of dogs that may not have the physical ability to be so active the opportunity to cycle together. Glen and his dog, Saki, have logged over 3,000 miles together using the seat. It is currently available in 48 states in the US, with limited shipment to other countries in Europe and Asia. It can also be used as a utility device to carry going to work to carry your jacket, lunch or groceries.
The main target group includes small to mid-sized dog owners with outdoor and sporting tendencies. The lower forty-eight states have potentially two to three million such people in the market.
As he is completely self-funded, Glen only plans to grow the business as demand requires. The company is a one-man show, with Glen handling every aspect of the business. It has been promoted through free advertising and Internet outlets. The main source of sales continues to be the Internet, with a few smaller dog-related pet stores and some bicycle stores also carrying it. So far, no bigger name pet stores has stocked the Saki Seat in their inventory. Selective samples given to people in prime target areas has been another interesting way to get the seat noticed. Once people have seen it in use, they search for it through Internet searches, which are monitored through the site’s host. Saki Seat is one of the most visited pet sites, with approximately half a million inquiries every six months.
As Glen says, the company is presently at a very “ground floor” level. A patent for the seat has been approved and all of the materials like the fiberglass and ABS/vacuum molding, are paid for through profits from their sales. As overhead is low, the company grows through the use of the profits, and customers are acquired virally. Customers who have bought the Saki Seat are thrilled and an article in AZ Central reprinted on Cool Dog Hall of Fame, has several customer testimonials, including one from Megan Pauly of Orlando, Fl., who writes, “The dogs get so excited every morning when they see the bikes being put on the bike rack. It’s the best money I ever spent.”
The point of the story is that if you have been recently laid off, you should explore your options in the realm of entrepreneurship. Who knows? You may be able to set yourself free from the shackles of a corporate job!
Steve Jobs on Being Laid Off
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008