Chicken diapers: great idea or proof that with a little passion and the right marketing push people will buy anything?
Perhaps it’s a little of both. According to the Baker family on their Pampered Poultry website, the diapers “offer you and your home protection against the inevitable,” and by “inevitable,” they mean your darling hen or rooster dropping a double all over your carpet, floorboard, or forehead-while-sleeping.
“People were probably surprised when they started coming out with dog diapers,” said Brenda Baker. “I mean, it’s just another animal at this point. They’re just as friendly, they’re just as cute, and there’s just as much breed diversity, so why not chicken diapers?”
In comments to WMUR 9 in New Hampshire, where Pampered Poultry operates, company owner Julie Baker revealed how the idea came into being. She and Brenda were watching a dog show and noticed how owners brought each of their canines “all decked out” in a variety of different clothing accessories.
Inspired, Julie decided with a laugh to do the same for her pet of choice at the next poultry show, “which is kind of ridiculous if you’ve ever been to a poultry show,” she said. “It’s pretty casual.”
The Bakers were surprised by spectator reaction, and were even more taken aback when they began getting requests from other chicken owners. (Apparently, a lot of chicken owners think of their cluckers with as much affection.)
When the business went online, it opened up an even larger market. Today, Pampered Poultry ships about 100 to 150 diapers per week, Julie Baker said. Needless to say, the idea isn’t as crazy as you might think:
They’ve also moved in to chicken saddles, which according to Baker, are more practical in that they protect a hen’s feathers during sex.
That’s right. A rooster gets so worked up when he’s with his special lady that he starts ripping her feathers out by the root. Unfortunately, hens don’t have the option to file charges, so Pampered Poultry made it to where they don’t have to bother.
The diapers go for $12.50 each for a single or $11 each if you buy four or more. Saddles are quite a bit cheaper, which is good news if you have a particularly promiscuous hen. For the large size, you’ll pay $8.50 each or $7.50 for four or more. All other saddles are $7.50 / $6.50 four-or-more.
As crazy-ridiculous as these ideas sound, the company’s offerings have all the right ingredients for success. Here are five lessons your startup could learn from it.
1. A product that stems from what you’re already passionate about.
At one time, the Baker family owned “as many as 100” chickens, according to Julie Baker. Even today, with their hands in a lot of different pies — raising a variety of other farmyard animals, making petting zoo appearances for children’s birthday parties, and attending poultry shows, they still find the time to name, care for, and clothe a combined 30 hens and roosters. That’s dedication.
2. A guerilla marketing approach to a highly targeted audience.
The Bakers did not set out to turn this into a business, but they recognized the potential once those initial reactions occurred. The poultry show was a cheap, effective way of starting word of mouth, and by capitalizing on a market they already knew, they were able to reach the highest volume of customers, who were most likely to buy and/or spread the word.
3. An eCommerce platform and low overhead.
An extension of number three, this was the most logical next step after creating buzz with a small test market. Websites and eCommerce platforms are cheap to set up and maintain, and they negate the need for a storefront. Furthermore, the Bakers do all the production, sales, and shipments on their own while also recognizing other revenue opportunities (the petting zoo parties, for example).
4. A product that provides a service and/or solves a problem.
Amazingly enough, chicken diapers have a practical reason that goes beyond pampering your poultry. When attending a poultry show, Baker said, owners have to spend a lot of time cleaning their chickens only to place them down in a crate where they are likely to, for lack of a better word, crap on themselves and wallow around in it. By the time a chicken owner arrives at his or her destination, they’ve got to start over and go through the cleaning process again. Chicken diapers keep that waste in check and reduce cleaning time. They’re also great for owners, who think of these creatures as pets.
5. A highly focused niche market.
While customers all over the country put in orders with Pampered Poultry, Julie Baker admits that it’s “a pretty specialized market.” Keeping her sense of humor about the niche, Baker adds that there isn’t “a ton of people walking around saying, “If only I had a diaper for my chicken.” And that’s a good thing. The market the Bakers have created is one that’s too small to attract the attention of major corporations. This enables them to control pricing and distribution. While not every product will play to this specialized of a market, it’s good to recognize the ones that do. As for the ones that don’t, you can still find ways of differentiating your brand from the competition.
What do you think of Pampered Poultry’s line of chicken diapers and saddles: over-the-top or genius?[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]