Introduce yourself and tell us about your company.
My name is Remy Bibaud and I am the Co-founder and CEO of Pet Perennials. In 2012 my beloved dog Olive passed away as a result of acute kidney failure, she was only seven. Losing her was very difficult as she was my first fur baby.
While her life was far too short, her purpose was two-fold – to show me the unconditional love that only a dog can and to inspire me to help others when they have to say goodbye to their faithful companions. Olive passed on October 5, 2012 yet, her memory lives on in Pet Perennials.
My business partner Lori Davidson and I have created a way for people to reach out to one another in sympathy for furry family members as they are accustomed to do with humans.
Pet Perennials designs and curates one of a kind gifts to comfort someone with a broken heart while honoring the memory of a loyal companion. Our assortment of gifts and cards are the perfect expression of sympathy, like our patented Pet Perennials Kit that grows a sustainable, wildflower garden or our healing hearts candle which has a keepsake heart embedded inside.
Consumers can order personalized packages through our online store by simply selecting the gift(s) they want to send, typing a personal message for the card, and checking out. Our team prepares and ships the package directly to the recipient on their behalf.
Businesses like groomers, pet sitters, daycare providers, kennel facilities, veterinarians, and independent pet suppliers’ can easily send packages as their needs re-occur by registering for a FREE Gift Service account. Having an account ensures they get discounted package prices. Our products are also available for wholesale. Groomsoft Users are able to order our gift packages through their software which is super convenient!
When did you get into this line of work or how long have you been in this position?
Lori and I launched Pet Perennials in 2014. We also filed a provisional patent for our original Pet Perennials product for which we now hold a US Utility Patent. I sold my technology consulting business that same year so I could focus full time building the Pet Perennials brand, developing new pet sympathy products, and creating sales channels to ensure our gifts would get in to the hands of the people that need them the most.
What is unique or special about your brand?
The pet industry is full of vendors offering food and treats, toys, soft goods, hard goods, and even pet technology, but there is a void when it comes to solutions that help people through the end stage of pet ownership.
Every package we send includes a handwritten greeting card, colorful gift wrap, and shipping costs for an all-inclusive price. Yes, I did say handwritten!
On top of that our values – compassion, creativity, convenience and community guide everything we do and ensure that our gifts not only commemorate the special moments, but they connect people so they’re able to move from grieving to fondly remembering.
Did you have a pet that inspired you to start your business/product/service?
As I mentioned earlier my dog Olive truly was the inspiration. She went to work with me every day, a true sidekick. She was a regular fixture in my office. When she got sick, I spared no expense with veterinarians and a specialty hospital. Her kidney failure was irreversible and her health declined rapidly. I made sure her last days were filled with slow walks, lots of cuddling, tender belly rubs, and sweet words of gratitude for being my faithful companion through the thick and the thin of our years together. Olive passed peacefully in my arms on October 12, 2012 on her favorite oversized chair. In the end, the only thing that I could do was ensure that she had a dignified send off and carried my love with her across the bridge.
How does your product or service help pets and pet parents?
Pet loss is very difficult, and the grief can be overwhelming. People that receive our sympathy gift packages are surprised when they find them in their mailboxes and grateful for these timely tokens of care and concern. The sender also feels a sense of satisfaction knowing they helped comfort someone with a broken heart.
What challenges have you faced in running your company or growing your brand?
We probably ran in to every road block a young company could when starting, especially since Lori nor I knew anything about the pet industry. The only relative experience we had was having loved and lost precious companions. Lori is a single mom who raised two daughters along with several family pets. She had to deal with her children’s heartbreak along with her own. Memories of our fur babies would serve as fuel to keep trying.
We started with one product, the original Pet Perennials gardening craft and developed in to a business by necessity. We thought every person that possessed the cremated ashes of their pet would want to buy Pet Perennials to sow a memorial wild flower garden. We had not developed a go to market strategy, but we had a pretty website! We launched on the premise “if we build it, they will come”, we were mistaken.
We had to figure out who our customer was and how to reach them, this led to mistake number two, hiring an expensive consulting firm to figure it out for us. Under their advisement we exhibited at the two largest pet retail tradeshows in 2016: Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo. Talk about little fish in a big pond! We managed to get a few thousand dollars in sales, but not enough to recover tens of thousands spent on travel, marketing, tradeshow and consulting fees. In the end, we still didn’t have a go to market strategy. Pet retailers weren’t that interested in selling products to their customers that related to the death of a pet. They have limited shelf space. Even though discouraged, we pressed on. I admit that I had and still have conversations with Olive seeking her spiritual guidance and an infusion of courage.
How did you overcome the challenges you faced?
With a lot of hard work and a little luck, we found a sales channel that would put our product directly in to the hands of grieving pet lovers. I had been courting a local Camp Bow Wow franchisee for some time. The owner said that he had no reason to buy our Pet Perennials product since they ran a doggie daycare facility, but he loved the flower garden concept and asked if we would send them to their daycare clients in the event of loss… of course I said yes! Then we figured out how. Camp Bow Wow franchisee Jordan and Barbara Murray became our first Gift Service account. Armed with a success story and a fledgling business model, Lori and I spread the word. Call by call, visit after visit our account base grew regionally, then nationally. During this same period of time we expanded our gift options.
I mentioned our pretty website earlier, this was our consumer strategy. Simply having a website, is not enough to convert sales – people have to be able to find you! We didn’t pay attention to SEO, Social, and ads because it was intimidating and ever changing. We were amateurs for sure. We decided to give Amazon a try because they sell everything from underwear to kitchen sinks, so why not our pet loss gifts? While the profit margins aren’t as good as selling direct, it is a necessary part of a consumer sales strategy. Amazon shoppers are able to discover new products and typically once they buy there, they are more likely to buy direct the next time.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice/recommendations concerning your field of expertise that could benefit someone interesting in the pet industry?
- A business won’t succeed on a good idea alone. You have to be willing to do a lot of upfront research and develop a strong business plan.
- Be willing to be a student and get “schooled” from time to time. Be prepared to be a lifelong learner.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are people smarter than you everywhere you look. Be willing to hand off tasks to someone who does it better and accept that you don’t know everything.
Any parting words or thoughts in general?
I would like to share an excerpt from an article I wrote and was published in Groomer to Groomer magazine in January 2017.
- 5 Reasons for Recognizing a Customer’s Pet Loss
Pets are family too! When someone’s family member passes away you would traditionally recognize that loss. For so many pet owners their dog or cat is thought of and treated like family.
- Groomers are “hairdressers to pets”. You have been entrusted with the care of someone’s pet, often for years. The services that you provide to a pet and their owner create a strong and lasting bond.
- Disenfranchised grief. Studies show that grief from pet loss is often more difficult than that of losing a relative. Additionally, outsiders misunderstand these feelings which can leave the pet parent to feel alone and embarrassed about their grief.
- Children take it hardest. If your customer has children you can assume that this may be their first experience with death, so including them in your pet loss condolence is very important.
- Customer satisfaction. An old marketing adage says that a satisfied customer is a repeat customer. Honoring a beloved fur baby speaks volumes. On top of that, the average American owns 3 to 4 pets over a lifetime, increasing the likelihood that when their next dog or cat needs to be groomed, they will call on you!
Pet Perennials Gift Package Service makes it easy for Groomers and other service providers to send thoughtful, personalized packages to their clients and employees. Registering is simple especially if you are a Groomsoft User.