Leili and her partner, Kevin, have made a successful business creating and selling designer cat collars and harnesses online at supakit.co. While they’ve been able to outsource their production, they’re still feeling like the business is very hand-to-mouth and they’re looking for a way to level up and really grow. There are a lot of directions they could go in and they’re trying to figure what their next step should be in order to scale.
Sometimes even if your business is going well, it’s hard to see a clear path for what your next steps should be. It can feel like there’s a million different options, but you have only so much time, and then you fall into a trap where you’re so focused on spending it well that you don’t end up accomplishing much of anything. Where I get to with Leili is finding a way to hone in on the one thing you think will get you where you need to go, and doing that really really well.
Leili’s problem is that people have a hard time finding her brand. It’s even gotten to the point where one customer contacted to her to tell her how she’d been looking for something like the harness she bought for such a long time, and almost seemed to berate her for being so hard to find. She’d like to change that, and I have a hunch that leaning into influencer marketing and creating real partnerships could get her what she’s after.
I’m a paid advisor and affiliate with ConvertKit, for example, and something that makes it a great relationship for me is the fact that I’m able to offer my audience a forty-five-day free trial of their product, as opposed to the usual thirty. It makes me feel special, like I’m able to offer my audience even more value. We look at how Leili can do that with special deals and even limited runs of customized products tailor-made for the key influencers she wants to work with. [Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and affiliate for ConvertKit.]
It’s important to remember that the relationship is what matters with influencers. The percentage you might offer them should be more of a bonus than anything else, a thank you. We dig into how to make that feel genuine, and how to turn that into the kind of brand recognition that makes a difference.
What You'll Learn:
How to build a relationship with influencers that gives both of you the value you're looking for.
Pat Flynn: What's up everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 1069 of Ask Pat 2.0. This is a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur in need just like you, and I'm here to serve, and I'm here to help. Today, we're talking with Leili from Supakit. S-U-P-A-K-I-T, Supakit.co, and this is a company that creates high end, really cool designer cat collars and cat harnesses. “Cat collars and harnesses that your cat will adore,” that's what they say. This was an amazing conversation. It's a UK-based company, and the founder, Leili, needs some help scaling. She's got the systems down. She's growing, it's a very successful company, but she's looking to get more people finding her site, so how do we do that? We're going to talk about that today, and you'll hear in this conversation a light bulb moment. I want you to look out for that. It's the moment at which Laili realizes that, wow, she's always had this capability to do this strategy, and it's going to work out very well. I think you'll see how excited she is, and hopefully you can get excited about it too. Again, you can find her at Supakit . . . let's see, S-U-P-A-K-I-T.com? Or .co? Supakit.co, that works. How about Supakit.com? I'm literally checking this live right now, as I'm recording this. Supakit.co, looks like where you want to go. Supakit.co.
Before we get to Leili, and before I just forget that I'm recording a podcast, I want to talk about FreshBooks really quick. FreshBooks is an amazing company to serve you, and help you with all of your financial needs, organizing all that stuff, from your income to automatically tracking expenses, to even making it super easy for you to create invoices that you can send out to people that you bill. So if you do any coaching, consulting, if you bill anybody, check out FreshBooks, because they can do it for you in a very, very, very quick way, and it looks very professional, so you can get paid faster. You can even actually see who has yet to open those invoices that you send out, so you know how to follow up, and who to follow up with. So you can get paid, because you deserve to get paid if you're doing good stuff for people. FreshBooks.com/askpat is where you go for a thirty day, all access free trial. Again, one more time. FreshBooks.com/askpat, and make sure you just enter “Ask Pat” in the “how did you hear about us” section. All right, here's today's conversation with Leili from Supakit.co.
Hi Leili, thank you so much for joining me today on Ask Pat 2.0. How are you doing?
Leili: I'm really good. It's such a pleasure to be in touch with you.
Pat: Yeah, I'm excited that you're here, and I'd love for you to take a moment really quick to introduce yourself to everybody listening, and what it is that you do.
Leili: Okay, so a bit about me. My name's Leili, I'm based in London as you can probably tell from the accent, and I'm the founder of a luxury cat accessories brand called Supakit. We were founded, I guess, 2016 it all began, and probably similar to quite a few business owners, the business kind of strung out of a personal need, and a discovery that there wasn't really a product that fitted the bill. My partner and I, Kevin, who runs the business with me, we have two cats. They hated wearing collars, and we'd either remove them at every opportunity, and ditch them in other people's gardens, or they would climb under a fence, and it would get snagged, and it would come off. So eventually we gave up and figured how important can a collar be? Unfortunately, we discovered how important a collar can be when our cat went missing, and it was a horrible three days. We luckily got her back, thanks to the kindness of a guy on Twitter, amazingly.
Pat: Oh wow, no way.
Leili: Yeah, the joys of the internet.
Pat: Yeah, right?
Leili: When we got her back, we just realized that we couldn't go back to how things were before, and we really had to crack this collar issue for her. She's microchipped, which a lot of people do, but it's only useful if you can get the cat to somewhere that has a microchip, and when they're roaming the streets, especially if your cat's really adorable and cute, they're willing to fuss it, but they're unlikely to bundle a cat that they've never met before into a car, and drive it to the vets. So visible ID, we realized how important it was, and we just went on this journey to create a collar that our cats would actually wear, and keep on. And we discovered that natural materials are really important because, for cats, the world is a sensory world where smell is really important. So we came up with this design, and then we started to share it with people, and that was the beginnings of Supakit, and our breakaway collars. Then about a year later, I gave up work, because things were getting really busy in Supakit. I used to be a TV executive.
And then last year we added a new product to our range, which is the harness. It was something our customers asked us for, and really born out of this growing awareness that cats are trainable, that they enjoy structured time outside with their owners, and a harness is a really safe way to do that, so we developed a harness. Last year, we outsourced all of our manufacturing to some amazing artisans in Spain, so that's freed up a lot of headspace for us. That's us, really.
Pat: This is so cool. I'm looking at the website now. I see it as us.supakit.co. Is there a general URL that people should go to in case they're in a different country?
Leili: Supakit.co is a good place to start, and then you can end up on your local store, and with local currency. Supakit.co.
Pat: Yeah, this is amazing. The website looks great, the branding is awesome. I see this sparkly leather colors right here that are apparently back in stock, which sounds like it was once out of stock, and things have been going pretty well. Congratulations, what an amazing store. You two to go behind it. I love this stuff, and as you might know, I'm doing a lot of stuff with physical products right now too, with an invention of mine, and it's just been a completely different world. I just want to pick your brain for an hour here, but anyway, this is about you. I'd love to know what's on your mind with Supakit. How can I help you?
Leili: We are really lucky. We're in a nice place, in that, like I said, we've outsourced our manufacturing, so I've got more brain space for the business side of things. And we have amazing feedback from our customers. Our reviews just fill me with joy, and it feels so good to be serving people, and solving a problem that I once had, and I know how awful it is. So that's lovely. What we're struggling to get our heads around now, is okay, we've got a nice base, and we've got a bit of headspace. What next? One thing we're really keen to do is to grow the business. We've always been bootstrap, so we don't have large amounts of money to invest in marketing or product development, we have to be quite canny about things. I'm just grappling with what is scaling the business? Is scaling the business making sure more people have heard about Supakit as a collar and harness brand? Is it growing Supakit to apply our principles of cat-centric design to other products? I suppose those are the two main avenues I'm toying with. The reality is that we're growing at a nice, organic rate, but it would just enable us to do so many more things if we level up a bit. I don't know if it's possible, even. I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts, Pat.
Pat: It's definitely possible, and I have some ideas, but I'm curious. When you say “level up,” and “allow yourself to do more things,” what are those things that you want to get to, that growing the business, in your mind, would enable you to do?
Leili: In terms of serving our customers, at the moment we hold small amounts of stock, and I would love to be able to just have a bit more of a buffer, in terms of . . . it just gets all a little bit hairy if someone wants to return a size, and I'm quite hand-to-mouth in terms of our relationship with our manufacturers. That's something I'd like to do. We have a lot of other product ideas that I would love to do, but I don't want to get distracted, and I need to stay disciplined. In terms of our personal life, I work full-time in the business, but it's only just paying the bills. Kevin's working with me for no pay, and that isn't sustainable really long-term, so there's a financial basis, I guess, to the desire to grow the business.
But more than that, actually, for instance, a customer bought one of our harnesses, and loved it the other day. And she sent me a message, and she said, “This is the harness I've been looking for all my life. I'm going to keep it forever, it's great, but I had to work so hard to find you guys,” and she was almost telling us off, and I feel like that's something I want to fix. There's things all in the mix, they're all, I guess, things that are swirling around my head. I'm not sure if one really pops to the fore.
Pat: To me, it sounds like you're about ready to start scaling things up, but you want to do it in a smart way that doesn't mean you grow out of what you've built, and the brand recognition, the reputation that you've been able to build right now, too, so that's a big challenge here. I'm curious, have you done anything to get more exposure yet, or have you been growing organically so far?
Leili: We do some paid ads, and we advertise on Google Shopping, and Google search, and those are fine. We're pretty active on Instagram, and have a nice community there. We're doing a few things we've already set up for this year, that I'm quite excited about. We're becoming the sponsor of a podcast that specializes in cat explorers, so that's a nice a way to touch a community that obviously is really close to our hearts, and is into us.
Pat: I was going to say, are there any other audiences out there that would be interested in a product like this? Who else talks about, and shares information, and resources, and products to cats, and podcasting is a great place to start. I'm encouraged that you are looking to there. What else have you done?
Leili: In the past, we've done quite a lot of work with influencers, and bloggers, and they've tried and tested our products, and blogged about them, and shared them. We've had really nice experiences with that. I guess I've been a bit bad at doing it recently, in terms of keeping all the plates spinning, and that's probably something that we should pick up again.
Pat: If you were to pick one plate out of all the plates that are spinning, which one would you be most excited about, and think would give you the best results?
Leili: I love working with people, and I think that it's such a joy to interact with people who have really similar passions. For me, talking about cats all day is not a hard job, so it never feels like work, and it's really lovely to work with influencers, and people with a voice in that space. So I would definitely be excited to do more of that.
Pat: I love that. What's stopping you?
Leili: Time. I don't want to just . . . I don't know, bung somebody some product, and never speak to them again. And so I suppose I have been putting off doing it until I have a magical clear window of time in my diary, which funny enough, never really materializes.
Pat: I was going to say, I think we all know that there's never a right time, right? I was thinking about my wife and I, when we were looking to buy a house, we were like, “Oh, we've got to wait until the right time,” and we just realized . . . even having kids, we were just like, there's never going to be a right time. We all look for these signs, or somebody to tell us that this is the thing to do, and honestly, most of the time we just have to believe that it's the right time to do it. And if you truly know in your heart that this is the right thing to do, then go and do it. I think that when it comes to . . .
I was really glad that you said you love working with people, and influencer marketing is something you've tried before, and it's something you want to do more of, because when I told you I had some ideas, that was where I was going to start first. It could just take one person to begin to start helping word of mouth spread, and it doesn't necessarily mean you have to ship a hundred of these to a hundred different influencers. I would say that the better way to approach influencer marketing is to make a strong connection with a couple people instead of a hundred people, and see what you can do to help them. See how your products would serve their audience, and maybe even do a special giveaway, or something. “Here's one for your cat, and if you wanted to give one to your audience too, here it is.” Those kinds of things work very well. I know a lot of people struggle with that, and I don't know if this is how you feel too, but it feels like you're asking for a lot from them.
Leili: I have felt that, because I know how much work it is to create content, and so I am conscious of making too many demands on people's time. But I guess actually, when I've done it, people are just so happy to do it, and they do really enjoy the product, and so it all flows. So I need to not listen to those voices in my head.
Pat: We all have those demons in our head that are just trying to stop us for whatever reason, and we all have different reasons for that. I definitely think that would be the best first place to start, in terms of getting exposure, and growing. Another thing that works really well with influencer marketing, I know this as an influencer in certain spaces. Whenever there is something special that I could offer my audience, that's different than anything anybody else can get, for example, and this is more in the techy world, but I'm an affiliate for ConvertKit, which is an email service provider. They offer me, as an affiliate, a very special thing, which is a forty-five day free trial for my audience, versus what most people get, is a thirty day. So I feel very special as an influencer. I go, “Hey, audience. I've been able to work with this company, and get something for you that you can't get anywhere else.” So I feel like, as an influencer, that I'm actually doing my audience a service. You know what I mean? [Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit.]
Leili: Yeah, I love that. I think that's really cool, and I hadn't thought of that. We're really well placed to offer things like that, because we only sell through our online store. There's a lot of capacity for us to offer exclusives of things that can't be acquired or gotten anywhere else. I love that, that's cool.
Pat: Yeah, and because you have a physical product, and because you're doing smaller runs, there's some interesting things you can do with the influencers related to that. And I know this because with the SwitchPod, which is me and my buddy Caleb's little tripod invention for videographers, we had an influencer come up to us and say, “Hey Pat, can I have a thousand of these? I will sell them to my audience, but I don't want black, I want pink. Can you make a thousand pink ones for my audience, because they all love pink?” I was like, “We could totally do that,” and there we go. It takes a little bit of extra effort, but there's a thousand people who now . . .
And what's cool about your product, and products like the SwitchPod is the cat community, I'm sure, other people who know cats know each other. And so somebody sees one of these collars or one of these harnesses, and they go, “What is that? Where did you get that?” And they start talking to each other. This is where it's different than with online stuff, where it's like, “Hey, I saw you taking that online course.” Nobody says that, but with these things, people spread the word. So if you did a special run for an influencer that you knew is going to have a big impact, “Hey Janey, you have this amazing cat audience. Can we make 100 of them for you that are just in your brand colors?” That would make the influencer feel very special. That would make their audience just want to get it before it runs out. There's some scarcity involved there. You don't have to do special manufacturing runs however, you can use the stock that you have. You can say, “Hey, we have a hundred set out aside for you, and we're going to add this little accessory to it, just for your audience.” Or you can do a special coupon code that expires on a certain day. There's a hundred and one ways to do it, but I think if you approach it as, “Hey influencer, I'd love to help you, and we can both win at the same time,” then that's when it works.
Leili: I absolutely love that idea. We love making products, and the idea of the creative joy of working with an influencer to create something uniquely for them, that their audience would be excited about, and that they can deliver for their audience, I think would be so fun. I really like that, and for me, it makes the interaction feel a bit more equal as well. There's something that we both take away from it, and it feels a little bit, I guess, one-sided.
Pat: That's great, I love it. It sounds like you're excited about that.
Leili: Definitely, definitely. My head's going already.
Pat: Good, and what I love about these conversations is we always, on Ask Pat, discover a lot of things that were kind of always there for us, but it just took somebody to almost give you permission. I don't know if this is something you've thought of before, but do it, and this is why I don't want to just start dumping a hundred other ideas to scale for you, because then we start to get mixed up, “Oh, well that sounds cool, this sounds cool.” I think you found the one thing that you can use your extra time for, to expand, and reach those goals, and I think you'll find that, like you said, it's going to be really fun. It seems like you really love working with people, and this is the perfect way to mold that with the product you've created.
Leili: I really love that. I'm really excited about that, and I like the fact that it's a true collaboration, and also creative. I think that'll be really fun. Much more fun than crunching numbers on pay-per-click. So yes, up my alley.
Pat: That's so great, and I imagine that if you do this for one person, and another influencer sees it, they're going to come to you and go, “How can we get our own line?” Or, “How can I put my signature on that collar?” It's just going to take a life of its own after that. Even if it doesn't, you can reach out to influencers after you do one with one that you might have already a great relationship with, and go, “Hey, we did this for Janey's audience, and we're offering this to other influencers that are handpicked. We love you, and the little work that we've done together, we'd love to do this again. Would you want a special color, or a special accessory for your audience only, and then we can make this a win for both of us?” I also don't know if you have an affiliate program for people, but that would be an add-on bonus. You might not even need that, but if you had an influencer know that they would have their own special kind of product, plus five, ten percent commissions on that, that's just fuel to the fire that they'd already have.
Leili: That's really interesting. I'd been thinking about affiliate programs, in that it's been on my to do list, think about affiliate programs for a while. You've given me the nudge I need to have a look at it more seriously. People do naturally talk about products, and if we could harness that, and give people a way of getting something back for their sharing Supakit with other people—
Pat: Yeah, it's like a bonus. You don't want to have people come on and go, “I only want to promote your thing because I'm going to make a load of money from it.” It's these influencer relationships and these other kinds of partnerships that you have. “Oh, and by the way, we'd love to also pay you for anybody you send over as a thank you,” and that's like, “Wow, these guys are amazing. That's so kind.” That's the kind of response that we've been getting from our physical product, and how we've been able to leverage influencers. It's when we reward them as a thank you for the already great feedback they've been giving, and the sharing and supporting that they've been doing. I think this is all perfectly aligned. I'm down to just say we found it; we found what we needed to do.
Leili: I think we've cracked it, Pat. That's great.
Pat: That's awesome, I'm excited. Leili, really quick, where can people go to find out more about Supakit, and all these great things you have going on?
Leili: Okay, so our website is supakit.co, so S-U-P-A-K-I-T.co, and we're also really active on Instagram, and that's @supakitstore.
Pat: Awesome, we'll find you there. Thank you so much, and if you don't mind, maybe we can reach back out to you in a number of months, and just see how things go?
Leili: I would love that, that would be great.
Pat: Awesome, thank you so much.
Leili: Thank you, Pat. Take care.
Pat: All right, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Leili. Again, you can find her and her company at Supakit, S-U-P-A-K-I-T.co, and if you want to get coached just like Leili did today, and discover some breakthrough strategies, and thought processes for you and your business, all you have to do is go to askpat.com, hit up the application button right there in the middle, and fill that sucker out, because that's how I'm going to know whether or not to reach out to you. Now I cannot reach out to everybody, but the truth is I won't reach out to you if you don't apply, so apply there. You can also see the other shows in the archive as well, and I just want to say thank you, you're amazing. Team Flynn, thank you for subscribing to the show, thank you for all the ratings and reviews.
Ask Pat is one of my favorite shows to record, because I get to literally help somebody live on a call, and record it for you, and I just want to give a big shoutout to everybody who, over the past year and a half almost, has allowed me to break apart, and build back up their business.
It's just, I feel so honored about that. Thank you all of you for listening in, and helping to support the show, too. So thank you, I appreciate you. Team Flynn for the win. See you in the next episode.
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