Good Thursday, dear readers. Our Smart Man Online, Ken Halloway, is an entrepreneur and a pet lover, our favorite kind of person! Ken grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and attended college at The University of Arizona. He tells us that he worked for a small, independent film company, Active Entertainment, for 11 years, making movies such as Ski School, Meatballs 4 & Ernest Goes to Africa. Then, in late 2003, “kat” moved in -- which sparked his idea for his My Personal Pet Book project. (read on, dear readers, to discover who kat is...)
And, as you read today's interview, we encourage you to keep your eyes out for puppy paws. Puppy paws, you say? Yes, puppy paws...that lead to marvelous places... and will help someone win a gift certificate for your very own My Personal Pet Book. Watch for the puppy paws and check the rules at the end of this interview.
Lip-sticking: This is going to be a different interview from one's we've posted in the past. You have such a unique product, and have approached the print-on-demand market so differently, we must ask our readers to truly think out of the box today. Tell us exactly what got you started on the My Personal Pet Book project, from the concept of the idea, to the first printing?
Ken: The idea originated from three things; a stray cat who made my house his house, enough time on my hands to play around with digital imaging software, and a friend with a very old cat that was in poor health. The concept was arrived through the first two – I could envision being able to make a wonderful story – by putting pets into scenes and story lines that in real life they couldn’t do.
About the same time, I decided it would even be better to have the cat or dog tell the story and dedicate it to their owner. The first mock-up was made for my friend, timing being of the essence, and was a smaller, soft-backed version, and without the wonderful graphics work that the designer, revDesign, provides now.
However, the look in my friends eyes when she read the story with her cat in her lap, told me that this was something that people would love to have. Having said that, I really wanted to make this with more substance, (hard-bound and larger), so I spent about two months trying to find a vendor who could-- print with a high-quality digital printer on 10” x 10” paper, hard-bind it with a high-gloss cover AND do the digital imaging work required, (taking the 12 – 15 photo files that our customers provide, and integrate them into each scene template, so that it truly appears as if the cat or dog is in the scene).
Puppy paws...follow them here, but remember to come back...
Easier said than done – particularly given that I wanted, and needed, to price this is a gift item – no more than $75.00 each – and the quotes I was receiving had a cost of over $100. The result of my efforts found me talking to a small printing company in China – the only vendor that could deliver the book at a cost that would still allow me to charge a gift-category price of $67.95 (plus S&H).
From there, we had to create templates for each story, go through some QC, and then have everything else setup that an internet retailer needs, (shipping, website, billing etc.) All very nice – now you have a product that you can deliver – but no one knows about it! (the blogosphere knows now!)
Lip-sticking: We expect that you are a pet lover. Dogs or cats? Hampsters or gerbils? Ducks or geese? Tell us your favorite pet and one kind of pet you'd never own.
Ken: I have been lucky to have grown up with cats and dogs – it seems like there were always two of each. I gravitate more towards cats – and when I printed the initial 750+ sample book order, I chose to use a cat as the “model.” This turned out to be a mistake, as dog owners by far provide the greater percentage of our customers.
A pet I would never own … hmmm…. a capuchin monkey. I’m told we had one as very small children, (not quite sure how), but the landlord didn’t take too kindly to the monkey hanging on the drapes. Evidently it wasn’t potty-trained either. What? No port-o-potty’s in the jungle?
Oh look...puppy paws! Where do they lead...they lead here...
Lip-sticking: Pets are big business in America today. We have a dog and a cat and consider them full members of the family (although the dog, a Shepard/Lab mix is NOT allowed on the bed or the furniture) and we can easily see folks spending money on all sorts of pet supplies -- what do you think attracts folks to My Personal Pet Book?
Ken: A couple of things; First it’s a great way to show off your cat or dog – certainly your friend’s pet didn’t go to the jungle or shopping on Rodeo Drive AND have their adventure commemorated into a story book. Second, it is absolutely unique. My Personal Pet Book is THE ONLY provider of a hard-bound, story book that tightly integrates your cat or dog into the story. Third, it is reasonably priced. I can’t tell you how many people, who have knowledge of the cost of printing individually produced, hard-bound books, are amazed at the price we are selling them for. (including Jane and her team at WME Books.)
Lip-sticking: Let's get to your website -- Jane is disappointed there isn't an 'about us' page. Did you leave that off purposely, or did we miss it in our search?
More puppy paws: click this link and then come back or you won't win your prize!
Ken: A rightful scolding Jane – at the time we created the website, we were concentrating on the front and back-end functionality, more than the marketing. A new design is certainly in order – along with the “about us” section. Thank you for the reminder! (we look forward to announcing it, Ken.)
Lip-sticking: We expect, as a good businessman, that you're already looking ahead to the winter holidays (yes, it's true, in advertising, winter begins in July)... can you tell us if you have a holiday story planned, or...some other treat? And, as we see on your website, we can purchase our own book and have it delivered in 3 weeks, so...if one is smart enough to prepare for the holidays...will the 3 week timeline still stand?
Ken: We are very focused on the winter holidays – as the majority of our sales are made during this period. Monthly magazines are the main priority now, along with efforts to get on the national morning shows – I don’t suppose any of Jane’s readers are close to Oprah! (we wish!)
We do have a new story planned for the holidays – “Viva Las Vegas” – guess who’s taking a road-trip to the Gambling Mecca? And yes, you can order any of our stories by December 4th and still receive them in time for Christmas. (hooray!) Puppy paws at this blog? Search and find then reurn for complete instructions...
Lip-sticking: If you have the stats, can you tell us which gender buys more of your product, or, writes to you more? (we can take it...we think it's women but...if it's men, so be it.)
Ken: Yes, Jane, you are right – it is women, by about a 5 to 1 margin. We did believe from the start that this product would be predominately purchased by women. Not too difficult to figure out however, as I’m quite sure that the majority of non-essential pet products are purchased by women – and I understand this amount has been exploding over the past couple of years.
Lip-sticking: Could you imagine yourself having come up with this really neat idea...were it not for the Internet? Your website, though it's missing that 'about us' page, and the story of how My Personal Pet Book began, is quite professionally done...without it, how much harder do you think it would it be to market your product?
Puppy paws...aren't they cute? Find out where they go...but you MUST come back...we aren't done yet!
Ken: Not possible – (from my perspective). First off, I would have to rely upon receiving CD’s in the mail with the photo files - instead of enabling our customers to upload them directly to our website. No Internet means no way of an on-demand explanation of what our product is and how you can order one. A toll-free number? Response by mail? No thanks.
Lip-sticking: Now, tell us true...do YOU shop online-- maybe for for pet supplies, shoes, gifts, movie tickets, flowers??
Ken: I shop online for all hotel, airline reservations, some clothes purchases, movie tickets on occasion and yes, flowers for mother’s day. We do have some customers that are reticent to give their credit card number over the Internet – and then we just call them up and receive it over the phone. Thank goodness that U.S. laws are sufficiently tight that credit card fraud usually has little monetary repercussions for the victim. (another set of puppy paws, dear reader...they lead...here...can you remember?)
Lip-sticking: Off the wall, what's your favorite television show...and why? Do you watch TV while you're on the Internet?
Ken: Television – in this order – The Daily Show, The Chappelle Show, The 70’s Show, The West Wing. I recently purchased a Casio keyboard that I’ll play with my right hand while I’m browsing the web with my left. The good? It teaches you to play without looking at the keys. The bad? My left hand hasn’t touched the keyboard in sometime.
Lip-sticking: Last question: why don't you have a blog??
Ken: I’m more of a fictional writer – although I only read non-fiction. If I were to start a blog it would take away from the startup of two new story lines; One for children, ages 2 – 4, and one for golfers – where they are placed in famous golf holes and some fantastic fictional holes, (10,000 foot glacier anyone?). I think Jane would approve of that.
Here we are at the final puppy paws...and here are your instructions for winning your very own My Personal Pet Book...find the four sets of puppy paws at the links provided (we confess -- some links are red herrings) and put them in the comment box of THIS post in the right order. First person to supply the correct links, in the correct order...WINS!!! Happy Day! And thanks to Ken for the idea.
What's not to like about that?