34% of startups fail due to lack of product-market fit. Learn how to avoid it for only $15!
Adam is the founder of Dick At Your Door, an e-commerce shop for prank chocolate dicks. What started as a joke quickly became a viable business with real opportunity. Getting viral on social networks and news platforms, turned the eCommerce into a $25k/month business.
February 21, 2019
Sponsor Failory and get your business & product in front of +20,000 CEOs, startup founders, entrepreneurs, developers and marketers every month.
Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...
Want to take ownership over the growth of your business, but don't know where to start? Get 1-on-1 advice from vetted growth experts about your business.
Feeling stuck with your startup and not sure what to do next? Join to get free personalized advice every week from the CEO at Headway. Sign Up for the Live Stream
A 5-minute read that's informative, witty and free? That's Morning Brew — the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.
Hey Failory! My Name is actually Adam and I am the owner of Dick At Your Door. I started this company just over three years ago after spending the last seven years in various sales and marketing jobs. For the most part, I had worked with early-stage startups in the tech industry. I had met so many people in that world I believed weren’t up to snuff on motivation, education, and/or skills. Not to say I’m any kind of a genius. In fact, I’m far from that (re: 2.7GPA in high school and an art degree). I do understand how to work hard and learn from other people’s mistakes. I also know how to read. I was dirt poor so didn’t have much to lose when it came to financial repercussions if I failed (it also meant I had nothing to invest - low expectations).
Basically, I had the itch to start something of my own and see what could happen.
I’ll be the first one to tell you chocolate dicks were not on the radar back then.
Dick At Your Door started when a buddy found a silicone penis mold at a random sex shop on a cross-country drive (thank you Lincoln, Nebraska). My buddy and I thought it would be hilarious to send chocolate dicks in the mail to our friends. Disclaimer: It was hilarious.
We eventually threw up a website to continue the prank and people started reaching out that weren’t our friends. That was the lightbulb moment for us. From there it was perfecting the molding process, finding a real chocolatier (and eventually becoming chocolatiers ourselves), building a secure website that was legit and going forth into the world of dicks and chocolate making.
What started as a joke quickly became a viable business with real opportunity.
When we first created our product, it was down and dirty. Just a couple of dudes in the garage melting Hershey chocolate and pouring it into a cheaply made silicon mold of a penis. Looking back to those first days, it was never even in our mind to create a business around chocolate, let alone chocolate dongs. It was always just a funny prank to pull on our friends.
Slowly, sales started building. In the beginning, it was a very crude design. A straight black box, a stamp we had custom made, some paper mache to avoid broken chocolate, and a handheld plastic melter to wrap the box.
I remember the first time we had 10 orders to fulfill at once. It was a disaster. Took almost 4 hours. It was frustrating and very much not worth our time. Nowadays, we can package and mail 500 orders in the same amount of time. The boxes are custom and ordered in bulk, and we are officially professional chocolatiers. It’s been a long road, and to be honest, I don’t know why we stuck with it. Call it a fun experiment I guess?
We work on creating strong content that is centered around the business of chocolate, pranks, gags, and novelty products. It is a very small niche, so there is a lot that goes into becoming the top-ranking company that sells chocolate novelties. Fortunately, my business partner understands how to set up a website to optimize so we get the most out of the time spent building content. Things like tagging, alt text, thought out page names, and sharing across multiple platforms has really helped us grow into a viable company.
Secondly, we rely on outreach. I spend around 30 hours per week just banging the phones and sending out emails to potential press connections, marketing opportunities, or other companies that may be interesting in what we have going on. It’s very much like your typical sales job in that I am working every day to expand my product to a larger audience.
Lastly, this product is viral in nature. People think it’s funny to post about sending a chocolate penis to someone in the mail. Because most people are not sending it to themselves, we always include an offer code and a way to get to our site in every order. It is a literally a direct marketing campaign paid for by our customers.
When was the last time you talked to a customer about your product or startup idea? A strong strategy is key to startup success. Get a free product strategy assessment and get access to actionable advice from the startup experts at Headway.
Our single biggest challenge was (and continually is), finding and reaching the correct people who are prepared to take action on our products and services. We were a “business” for two years before we found any type of traction anywhere. We were so slow for a number of months in the beginning that we simply stopped updating anything. I would stop paying attention to the site entirely until an order came in, get reinvigorated and write some content, do some outreach, etc, get discouraged, and stop paying attention.
That cycle was on repeat through the first two years.
We finally broke through with a feature in Huffington Post. I had been bugging this comedy writer-at-large at daily for a couple of weeks until she finally gave up and featured our product. That was our “big break” (read: we saw this could be something profitable and real). From that article, we received something like 30 orders which gave us some cash flow to play with. I rolled that into a marketing budget and we were off to the races...so to speak.
Of course, there are also always challenges with summer seasons. We are a delivery chocolate service. High temperatures mean melted chocolate and people who are none too pleased.
Our solutions are always a work in progress. However, we have minimized melting by shipping more quickly, shipping in thermal envelopes designed to keep contents cool, and including ice packs during the hottest times of the year.
We still get a good handful of melty dick emails though. We can’t control someone who leaves a package in the direct sunlight in Atlanta for three hours in July. Just going to have to roll with the punches and understand that will happen.
Biggest disadvantages have always been the size of our niche. Being an e-commerce company, we rely solely on the people that we are getting in front of. If no one is searching for what we are offering and we can’t find ways to market to the people who don’t know they need to buy a chocolate dick, we are sunk.
Novelty products such as ours are very reactionary. That means, people don’t necessarily wait to purchase our products. 99% of our customers saw a funny meme with a chocolate dong or a reaction video featuring our products and pulled the trigger immediately.
That’s why most of my time is simply outreach and making sure people are even aware this type of product exists. We are constantly finding new channels to pursue with our advertising and marketing. Along with that, we have to understand that each social platform is constantly updating and changing. Many times, we are just cracking the code to an algorithm update when it is updated again. It’s a constant battle.
Being a small business means we have a smaller budget than most of our competitors/novelty products services. The Google Adword struggle for top the position is REAL.
Our single biggest mistake has been underestimating our audience. We honestly never believed this would have been something to be successful. it was always just two friends having fun messing with our friends.
That means we went far too long not having a good email list built, no marketing, no real work went into building the foundations of the company. If I had to do it all over again, I would start with a solid website, strong email list builder, and bigger outreach to prospective audiences. I would have gone after more social platforms (Twitter, FB, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc) to gain the audience we were looking for.
Behind those early days mistakes, I would have invested in the chocolate making process much sooner. We spent a couple years bootstrapping all our equipment which proved to be much more expensive (in the long run) and time-consuming.
I would have immediately started making chocolate myself. We spent so much time and energy finding a supplier and a manufacturer who would produce our chocolates. This eventually led to us realizing it was much more efficient to become chocolatiers ourselves. From there, we have been able to teach and train the right people to help grow our business from within, rather than from delegating outside our walls.
PODCASTS! There are so many great podcasts you can be listening to at any given time during the day that will help you along on your journey. Here are a couple I listen to regularly:
Other than that, I am constantly reading blogs and/or books to help keep myself up to speed:
Book I just Read that was great for mindset: The Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
Invite us into your inbox and get immense learning and 80+ deals on tools to help you scale your startup (worth up to $50,000)!