A Business Model Innovation Story With Tips & Treats From the Owner


Did you know that Airbnb, Venmo, and Uber were each began during the Great Recession? Economic crashes look like the worst time to start a small company –but not if you’ve got an innovative business model that matches a new […]

Did you know that Airbnb, Venmo, and Uber were each began during the Great Recession? Economic crashes look like the worst time to start a small company –but not if you’ve got an innovative business model that matches a new requirement in a brand new atmosphere.

I wished to talk with somebody whose innovative new company is taking off in the present climate. With this article I interviewed former Silicon Valley merchandise manager turned small business entrepreneur, Alex Willen, to discover how he is pivoted business models so as to compete in our brand new, socially distanced atmosphere. The best portion of this interview? It is about dogs!

From boarding up Strategy A to thawing out Plan B

Alex had spent the previous ten years working as a product director for technology startups in Silicon Valley when he decided to change his entire life, move to San Diego, and begin his own company.

This was a year agoback when traveling was reaching all-time highs, commutes felt endless, and unsupervised pets were ruining furniture throughout the country. So Alex got started on Strategy A: establishing a business plan for a dog-boarding business in the San Diego region.

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But the world changed. “I was days away from closing an SBA [Small Business Association] loan and beginning construction once the pandemic hit as well as the bank froze its small business financing briefly.” Weeks later, when banks were beginning to issue loans , it was clear that”carrying out a massive loan to open a company driven by people traveling and moving into the office was not a excellent idea.” Plan A was in trouble.


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Alex decided to cut his losses and move away from a brick-and-mortar company into a more innovative, digital business model. “I was creating a meat-based frozen treat mix for my dog, Cooper, for some time” and saw a possible market there. So Plan B became Cooper’s Treats, a high-end dog treat company that works entirely online.

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Getting down to the nitty gritty of puppy treats and ecommerce

While you can discover frozen sweets on the current market, some dogs–such as Cooper–just like meat. So Alex took the recipe he had been using to satiate Cooper and turned into the Pupsicle mix.

Alex consulted with reliable vets to be sure that the products are safe and every recipe had a crude analysis done. The crude analysis is that the typical nutrient testing for pet food in the U.S. and was $250 per taste.

He began by getting a packaging and logo designed and preparing a Shopify website. Let’s dive in a little deeper to see how his business model innovation came into life.

Product packaging and logo design made simple

Getting a excellent logo designed does not have to be costly. You may look to sites like Fiverr or DesignCrowd, where freelancer graphic designers provide their solutions for one-off requests.

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Alex ran a design competition on 99Designs to discover a symbol he liked best. The winning designer supplied him with the electronic file types he had to have the ability to use them on his site, marketing materials, and custom packaging.

To find custom packaging created, Alex just ran a Google search for mailer box printing and compared the prices and choices on the top few results. He picked UPrinting, picked the packaging merchandise he desired, uploaded the logo image file from the programmer, and had custom packaging in hand a few days afterwards.

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Obtaining an ecommerce platform reside in no time

Alex uses eCommerce program firm Shopify to conduct his business online. Shopify lets him create a complete site with a secure payment gateway and offers integrations to third party shipping partners.

While he is still working on the best shipping options for your business, Alex is now using USPS using a flat rate for all U.S deliveries, and offering free shipping for orders over $50. This strategy lets him concentrate on proving the company model and attaining market needs without letting shipping costs scare off potential new clients.

While Alex does social websites and Google ads, an informational discussion on Hacker News has been an unexpected driver of website traffic and sales.

“I was not planning to post anything on [Hacker News] about the company,” Alex shares. “I just developed a habit of surfing it every morning while I was working in Silicon Valley, and I happened to find a thread asking about what people are working on and decided to post inside.”

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Well, dogs and puppy treats were quite a hit, and Alex’s post ended up driving about 10,000 website visits–and he sold out of everything in stock. This came as quite the surprise, so Alex had to kick things into a higher gear than expected to fulfill all the orders. However, he shares,”thankfully almost every email I sent about shipments being delayed got an encouraging reaction.”

Business model innovation that involves a difficult pivot from Plan A to Plan B should not be carried out in a silo. Your current network of colleagues, older colleagues, your Facebook friends, or, like Alex, the online classes you participate with regularly, can be places to search for ideas and perhaps even unexpected customers.

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