Heartfelt and Handpicked Sympathy Gifts
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your company.
My name is Remy Bibaud. I am the Co-founder and CEO of Pet Perennials. I will be launching a new blog series for Pet Perennials called “Pets Inspirations”. The series will introduce new or interesting business owners from around the globe that have been inspired by a pet to start a business or have dedicated their professional careers to helping our furry, feathered, or scaly companions. I figured I should kick off the series by telling Pet Perennials story.
In 2012 I went through a few personal experiences that required me to make changes and difficult decisions. I ended a long engagement and had to say goodbye to my beloved dog Olive. The latter was the most heartbreaking. Ending my engagement was not only necessary, but one of my best decisions to date.
It is said that when one door closes, another opens. Today, I can say that both experiences led to something great. If I had not ended my engagement I never would have met my best friend and partner, Steve, in 2015, and Olive served as my inspiration for Pet Perennials which my Co-founder Lori Davidson and I started in 2014.
Pet Perennials makes it as easy as 1-2-3 to send thoughtful, personalized pet sympathy packages to someone with a broken heart. We have designed our personalized gifts and curated our packages to bring comfort to the pet lover while honoring the memory of a cherished companion. Our company prepares and ships curated packages to pet lovers on behalf of individuals and businesses every day across the USA.
Each package includes the selected gift, handwritten card, colorful gift wrap, and shipping costs. Additionally, our items are designed to be eco-friendly. With the help of key suppliers we are able to produce the finished goods in the USA. Pet Perennials is healing hearts and our land, one package at a time.
Consumers can order personalized packages through our online store - they simply select the gift, type the message for the card, and check out. We prepare and ship the package directly to the recipient within 24 to 48 hours of ordering.
Businesses such as groomers, pet sitters, daycare providers, kennel facilities, veterinary clinics, and independent pet suppliers benefit from the convenience of a gift service account to easily send packages as their needs re-occur. Orders are submitted via phone, fax, email, or text message. Our products are also available for wholesale and on Amazon.
When did you get into this line of work or how long have you been in this position?
Lori and I co-founded Pet Perennials in 2014. We also filed a provisional patent for our original Pet Perennials product - our sympathy gardening kit - for which we now hold a US Utility Patent.
That same year I sold my technology consulting business so that I could focus full time on 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?
Let’s face it, the market is full of vendors offering foods, toys, treats, hardware and even pet technology, but there is a void when it comes to products and solutions that help people through the end stage of pet ownership. Pet Perennials’ unique line of products and service brings comfort to grieving families while uniting communities of pet lovers.
Our value is in our compassion, creativity, convenience, and affordability.
Did you have a pet that inspired you to start your business/product/service? Or that encouraged you to be in the field that you are in? If not, what inspired you?
Olive was my first pet as an “adult”. She went to work with me every day, a true sidekick. She was a regular fixture in my office on the north shore of Pittsburgh. When Olive was seven she fell suddenly ill. I spared no expense at her veterinarian and at a specialty hospital attempting to figure out what if anything could be done about her acute kidney failure. After 12 days of hospitalization there wasn’t anything more to do - it was irreversible.
Olive wanted and deserved to go home with her Mamma, and so she did. However, her youthful, athletic body declined rapidly. I counseled with a hospice vet from Pet Loss at Home and made end of life arrangements for her. I was not prepared for this to happen, since she was only seven. Needless to say, I made sure that 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 could carry my love with her across the bridge.
Do you have a pet or pets that join you at work, what are their names and roles?
Harley is my 4 year old Labrador Retriever mix and goes wherever I go. She is responsible for taste testing treats and piloting other potential dog products. Snookie and Pumpkin are Lori’s feline sidekicks. Snookie is known to steal pens and Pumpkin gets in to some mischief of her own at times.
How does your product or service help pets and pet parents?
Our unique gifts are thoughtful, eco-friendly and designed to bring comfort while honoring the memory of a cherished companion. Pet loss is very difficult and the grief can be overwhelming. People that receive our sympathy gift packages are both 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 in knowing that they helped to bring comfort to someone whose heart is broken.
Our Gifts Include:
- The patented Pet Perennials Kit is a gardening product that allows pet owners to actively participate in creation of a special memorial for their pet. It is a craft that the whole family can do and produces beautiful perennial wildflowers that keep a pet’s presence alive while helping the environment. The cremated remains of a pet can be included if desired.
- The Healing Hearts Candleis made of natural soy and has a cotton wick. It is infused with lavender and chamomile essential oils. A keepsake stone heart with a special message is embedded inside every candle and the stones hold Feng-Shui properties.
- The Crystal Rainbow Suncatcheris a timeless, handmade keepsake that combines metal jewelry findings with a cascade of colored crystals representing both the colors in the Rainbow Bridge and the colors in the Chakra system. The crystals in this gift recast sunlight in gorgeous shades throughout a room.
- The Rainbow Bridge Memory Mughelps someone to start or end their day with sweet memories of a cherished pet! The Rainbow Bridge design wraps the entire mug and says “Someone over the rainbow is thinking of me” for a gentle reminder that those we loved and lost are never far from our hearts.
What challenges have you faced in running your company or growing your brand?
This is a funny question… we probably ran in to every road block a young company could face when starting off, especially since neither Lori nor I knew anything about the pet industry. The only relative experience we had was having loved and lost precious companion. 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. Through our shared experience a seed was planted and the memories of our fur babies would serve as inspiration to keep trying.
We began with a product, the original Pet Perennials, and developed into a business by necessity. We thought that every person who possessed the cremated ashes of their pet would want to buy the product to sow a memorial garden that also helped the environment. 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”. Sadly, we were mistaken.
We needed to figure out who our customer was and how to reach them, which led to mistake number two. We hired a consulting firm and expected that they would figure this out for us. As a result, we exhibited at the two largest pet retail tradeshows in 2016 – Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo. Talk about a little fish in a big pond!
Considering our booth location at each show was less than desirable, a lot of buyers did stop by to see the new kids on the block. Many even cried recalling their own experiences with pet loss when we shared our story. Despite these emotional connections, we only managed to get a few thousand dollars in sales from each show, which was not enough to recover the tens of thousands spent on travel, marketing, tradeshow and consulting fees.
We still didn’t have a go-to market strategy, we just followed the advice of where others thought we should be. In the end, pet retailers weren’t really ready to discuss, let alone sell products to their customers that related to, the death of a pet. Retailers sell toys, consumables, soft goods, hard goods, and technology within a limited space. There simply wasn’t room on the shelf for Pet Perennials even though on any given day a customer walking through their door would know someone hurting from the loss of a fur baby.
Discouraged and in debt we still pressed on. I have to admit that I had and still have conversations with Olive seeking her spiritual guidance and courage.
How did you overcome them?
With a lot of hard work and a little luck, we found a customer channel that would enable us to get our product in to the hands of grieving pet lovers. I had been courting a local Camp Bow Wow franchisee for some time when finally the owner said that he had no reason to buy our Pet Perennials product since they were a doggie daycare facility. However, he loved the flower garden concept and asked if we would be able to send them to their daycare clients in the event of loss.
Of course I said yes! Then we had to figure out how. Franchisees Jordan and Barbara Murray became our first official Gift Package Service members. Armed with a success story and a fledgling business model, Lori and I spread the word. Call by call, visit after visit our membership grew first regionally, then nationally. At the same time we also introduced more one-of-a-kind gifts to expand our package options.
Earlier I mentioned our pretty website. This was our consumer strategy - except nobody knew who we were, what we did, or how they could get to us. We learned that pretty doesn’t pay the bills! SEO, Social, ad words all sounded so intimidating, so we ignored them. We just needed something to go “viral”, then we would be on the map! I shake my head and shrug my shoulders looking back at this now.
We decided to give Amazon a try. They sell everything from underwear to kitchen sinks (I know because I ordered a farm sink on Amazon and some underwear… for Steve of course). We still sell our products to consumers on Amazon today. While the profit margins aren’t as good as if we sold directly, it is a necessary part of our consumer sales strategy.
We have learned from our mistakes. In 2018, we began to invest a little time, energy, and dollars in to SEO and Social. This year we will up the ante with a brand refresh, optimized website, and full digital marketing strategy to reach consumers that want to send thoughtful, personalized pet sympathy packages to friends and family. We will also be expanding our gift selections to help commemorate the many milestones that people and pets celebrate together from new beginnings to birthdays and poignant moments in between.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice/recommendations concerning your field of expertise that could benefit a pet’s and/or pet parent’s life?
I would like to offer some advice to anyone who is interested in starting a pet related business.
- A business won’t succeed on a good idea alone. You have to be willing to do a lot of evaluation and research upfront to develop a strong plan of attack. It is much easier to modify a plan than it is to keep creating one on the fly.
- Be willing to be a student and to get “schooled” from time to time. My two degrees and prior business success doesn’t guarantee our future success and neither does Lori’s years as an actual school teacher. Therefore, we consider ourselves lifelong learners.
- 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. As the saying goes “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”.
Where can someone get information or access the products or services discussed?
Any interested readers can check out www.petperennials.com, to explore our heartfelt and hand-selected gifts!
Any parting words or thoughts in general?
I would like to share an excerpt from an article I wrote that was published in Groomer to Groomer magazine in January 2017.
5 Reasons for Recognizing a Customer’s Pet Loss
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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. It is as easy as 1-2-3 to sign up and implement: https://www.petperennials.com/gps