Cynthia Garry-Jones found ScratchnAll in 2008 in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I invented ScratchnAll, which is designed as a self-groomer/scratcher used by animals large and small.
How did you come up with your business idea?
As a horse owner, I realized that there is no "easy" way for a horse to scratch under its chin other than by bringing one hind foot forward to the head area and balance on the 3 other legs. I thought "there must be a better way." I made a prototype and affixed it to the barn. In just a few days, I began finding horse and donkey hair on it and this was my "AhHa" moment. With forward thinking I also realized that other animals may enjoy using it in basically the same way; hence, the name "ScratchnAll" was given to it and the idea was born. Currently there are 13 different types of animals enjoying the product.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
This is not my first business. Prior to this I was selling air purifiers and also providing shoes to seniors with diabetes. Additionally, I owned a specialty-type frozen food business for 13 years and sold it in 1991.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
As soon as my AhHa moment struck me, I knew I needed help in the design phase. I located an extremely talented man in Oklahoma who has been designing toys for 22 years. Rod immediately understood the concept as he has 17 horses of his own. He became my point person for design, and manufacturing process.
I then hired a well-experienced patent attorney. The largest part of my expenses during the first year were legal costs, which included the attorney's fees, and applications for patents and trademarks. Although I am glad to own the patent and trademarks, knowing what I know now, I believe I would forego the patent process and costs and strictly focus on the trademarks. Depending on the invention I would suggest that entrepreneurs weigh the costs against the importance of a patent - again, depending on the product.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
I had 3 enlightening visits with SCORE and its counselors. It was there that I was advised that no business plan was needed as long as I didn't have to borrow money. The plan wasn't needed because I applied for a home equity line of credit.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
This business and my prior business have been done from home and I am thankful for this opportunity. The benefits to this strategy are the fact that, in my case, I warehouse my inventory in my barn because it is non-perishable and I love being at home with my animals. The only challenge is the fact that it is easy to become distracted and lose focus.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
This is a good question. I suppose the first greatest cost-saving tip would be to do as much work as you can possibly do yourself and remember that it will take 2 years before one realizes any amount of income.
My second cost-saving tip would be to look for a manufacturer in the USA. I compared my cost of manufacturing in China with the cost of manufacturing in the USA.
I was very fortunate in that I located a company that is 16 miles from my home. I have saved in shipping, insurance, inspection, postage, time, unexpected customs fees, unexpected additional shipping costs and the totally unexpected cost of retrieving my mold from the manufacturer who I paid to make the mold AND the product. After my Chinese experience I was wishful of a new set of nerves which is priceless.
My third cost-saving tip would be to shop around for labor. When I recently located a manufacturer in the USA the quote for merely packaging my product was $.60 per item which I thought was exorbitant. Many senior centers throughout the country have lost their state funding. With just one phone call I located one of these centers near me where the members are determined to keep their center operational. The seniors are more than able and very willing to perform tasks such as packaging, etc. in return for a donation of $.10 per package.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
I would advise and encourage others to use local resources for manufacturing and packaging and listen to the ideas and advice of others.
Thanks for the advice, Cynthia. Good luck with your invention!