Last week, a product that I made in my kitchen was featured on ABC’s The View during one of their Deals & Steals segments. Here is the back story on how this all came together.
As you know, I break down and reverse engineer direct-to-consumer and e-commerce businesses. I do this to see what the competition is doing but also to spot interesting ideas and vet if they are viable.
For the past 4 years, I have operated a weighted blanket brand. Late last year, our product was part of a relaxation box. In that box was a product called Therapy Dough. We had been looking for a complementary product to our weighted blanket that we could use for promotions and lead generation (give us your email address and we will send you therapy dough).
I called up this company that was featured in the box with us to see if they would white-label the product for us. I was told no. Then I thought, well, I could just make the product. It’s just playdough with aromatherapy scent in it.
I was curious, could I create a therapy dough brand and generate a decent amount of revenue from it. Like I do with all these companies I write up now, I went and reverse engineered this other company’s business. I found that in December of 2020, leading up to Christmas, they were processing about 30 orders a day through their website. These weren’t crazy numbers, but I knew they had more of a focus on their wholesale business. I estimated that they did about $300k-$400K of yearly revenue from their website and I guessed they did about $1.5M – $2M from their wholesale business. These numbers were big enough to start a complementary brand to our weighed blanket.
December 2020 – Creating The Product
I started out making test batches in my kitchen. I googled playdough recipes and tried to learn everything possible about what makes the best and softest playdough. After about 20 different batches, I settled on the recipe I would go with.
During this period of time, I would record making these batches and turned them into TikToks. I was hoping that this content would build interest in the product and start an audience. I would then use this audience to launch the product. However, getting traction on TikTok was harder than I thought and these videos never really took off.
January 2021 – The Launch
I had made many batches with the recipe I landed on. It was time to launch this brand. I decided on the name Soothe Therapy Dough and I went out and got the domains and social handles. Since my TikTok plan to build an audience did not work, I had to come up with a new idea. I wanted to get people to try the product and I wanted to get people on my email list.
I came up with the idea of a sample giveaway. I would put about an ounce of dough into a bag and send those out as free samples. I posted on Instagram that I was giving away free samples. All you had to do was follow our Instagram page and sign up (aka give me your email address).
On a Sunday morning, I boosted this Instagram post. I went back and checked about an hour later and I had about 1,000 people sign up.
I pressed refresh, 1,500 people.
I pressed refresh, 2,000 people.
I pressed refresh, 2,600 people.
Within a couple of hours, over 5,000 people signed up to receive a free sample. I had to pause the sign-ups. Each sample pack would cost me about $1 to get out the door (including the postage).
I quickly spun up a Shopify site and put the samples behind a paywall. At first, I charged $0.99 for the sample packs. But Paypal shut down my account (for reasons I still do not understand, but it had something to do with the transactions only being $0.99). I opened another PayPal account and raised the prices to $2.99. Paypal let this go.
It ended up taking me about 3 weeks of day and night work of making dough and packaging to ship out those 5,000 samples.
By the end of January, I made the full product live on the site for purchasing.
February 2020 – Leave It On The Porch (Facebook Shopping Group)
I found out that a Facebook group, Leave It On The Porch, posted about the free samples in January. I reached out to the creator of this group to see if I could offer their group a special offer. She agreed, and we did a live event on her group page. This live event led to over $2,000 of sales.
March 2020 – MOLD
I had no history of baking or making play dough before this idea. I made a batch that I forgot to add the salt in. I loved how soft the product felt without salt. However, I did not know the purpose of salt in the product. And I did not know what was about to come.
The therapy dough is made from all-natural products (think pizza dough). As I have now learned, salt is a natural preservative. A few weeks into March, I started to get reports back from customers that their product was growing mold.
As you could imagine, I was horrified. No one wants a product that grows mold. I got more and more reports that customers’ products were growing mold. I came to the realization that all products manufactured in March would be affected due to the recipe being adjusted for limited salt.
I sent out an email to everyone who had purchased. I alerted them I had identified an issue and their product may be affected. I offered to replace or refund everyone’s order. This was costly, but it was the right thing to do.
Since this issue was discovered, the recipe was corrected, and we have not seen any mold issues since.
Growing Pains Over
It took a lot to get this product off the ground. There were a lot of learnings along the way (some of the costly). But after a few months of operations, I finally had the process set, and we were ready to grow. We used the same model that we used to grow our weighted blanket brand: influencers, wholesale, and events.
We reached out to influencers whose content aligned with our mental health focus. We typically had the influencer do swipe up stories on Instagram, but we would also try TikToks and Instagram Reels.
We had already created the channels of wholesale through our weighted blankets. We introduced this product to those partners in our channel, and a few partners picked it up. In September, we had a 20,000 jar order from one of our partners.
In April of 2021, the therapy dough was featured on 40boxes.com. 40 Boxes was a concept created by Tory Johnson during the pandemic. During the 14-day period we were featured, we were a top-selling product on the website.
ABC’s The View
Last week, Soothe Therapy Dough made it’s TV debut on ABC’s The View during their Deals and Steals segment. Over the past few years, our weighted blanket products have been featured on similar shows. These spotlights can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars of sales in a matter of hours.
For me, it was a surreal moment to see the product I created in my kitchen be shown on TV to millions of viewers. Within 24-hours we sold out of all of our products on the Deals and Steals show.
Production of the product has long since been moved to a 3-party and I have taken a back seat role with this brand as I explore new opportunities (I have a passion for coming up with new ideas and getting them off the ground).
I can see this therapy dough brand growing got $5M+ in annual revenue in the next year or two. The direct-to-consumer segment is growing, wholesale opportunities are growing, and we have yet to explore this as a corporate gift.