Kelley Higney is an inspiration when it comes to business. She knows how to improve products with customer feedback, and her business, Bug Bite Thing, does exactly that. They do 8-figures in revenue annually, and was featured on Shark Tank, where she got a deal with Lori Greiner and received her Golden Ticket.
Before she went on Shark Tank they did over $500,000 in sales, and in the time since then they have gone international, thanks in large part to the 30,000+ reviews they have on Amazon. Kelley has done an amazing job collecting feedback from customers and getting reviews.
In this episode we talk about how she tracks and documents all the feedback and how it has helped them expand their business and improve their products. We also talk about what she would do in her first year of business if she were to start all over again, giving practical advice for all entrepreneurs listening.
Bug Bite Thing is a multi-million dollar company that Kelley started, by solving a problem that we all have. Everyone should have one, and I’m also mad I didn’t come up with the idea myself because it is absolutely genius.
“You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to give you the answers.”
“Your customers will tell you how to run your business.”
“Have a clear go-to-market strategy.”
Bug Bite Thing Website: Click Here
Kyle Bringhurst 04:17
Alright, I am here today with Kelly Higney, right. Is that how you pronounce your name?
Kelley Higney 04:23
Kyle Bringhurst 04:23
That’s perfect. How are you doing today, Kelley?
Kelley Higney 04:25
I’m great. Thanks so much for having me on.
Kyle Bringhurst 04:27
Good. Yeah, I am so excited for today. For those of you who don’t know about Kelley, she owns a company called Bug Bite Thing. And you may have seen her from Shark Tank. She actually is one of the very very, very few people who have received the Golden Ticket from Lori so I don’t know if you guys watch Shark Tank a lot but that’s a big deal. She says she only gives out one each season to something that is supposed to just knock it out of the park and bug by thing is the company that got that. So I want to talk a little bit about Shark Tank, but we’ll get there. First, I want you just for our audience to describe what bug by thing is and what it is what it is that you guys do.
Kelley Higney 05:12
Sure. So Bug Bite Thing is a suction tool. And what it does is it removes insects, saliva and venom from bug bites and stings. So if you’re bitten by a mosquito, stung by a bee or a wasp or an ant, you’ll you can literally place the product over biter sting, apply a little pressure to the top of the unit, slowly pull up on the handles, and that creates a vacuum effect that actually draws out the irritant. Hold 10 to 30 seconds, push the handles back down, and you are able to expel that venom to get the relief.
Kyle Bringhurst 05:47
Okay. So how did that come to be?
Kelley Higney 05:51
Yeah, so it’s, it’s It happened by, you know, fate and complete coincidence. So back in 2013, I grew up in, let me just start by saying I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My grandmother started her own company, my mother took it over. And in 2013, I got the unique opportunity to relocate from California to South Florida where my mother was at to start learning our family owned business. And what happened was when we moved, we had a six month old daughter at the time, and the mosquitoes for anybody that lives in Florida understands are a mosquito prone area. You can react terribly to these mosquitoes. They’re no joke out here. So what what was happening to my daughter is she was six months old, and she would get one bite and it would turn into this huge golf ball size. Well, it would be three to five days of pain and symptoms. We were constantly taking her to the doctor to get her on antibiotic creams because nothing was working. The over the counter creams, they were full of chemicals. And I was scared because I was having to put them on so often that she was going to put them in her mouth. And obviously it was, you know, being sucked in her skin. So I was I was concerned.
Kelley Higney 07:10
So I started doing some research. Because none of the home remedies and or anything we were trying was working and we were desperate. And I came across a little suction tool that was being sold through some industrial first aid kits overseas. And I said, Okay, well that’s an interesting concept. It’s removing the irritant versus masking it over and over with creams. There’s no way this is going to work because if it worked, and it was that simple, it would be everywhere. So ordered one in any ways because what did I have to lose? And I, I tried it. And I’ll never forget it. I tried it. I literally got a bite walking to my mailbox because that’s how prone we are here. And I tried it and all the itching, the pain, the discomfort, everything was gone in 15 seconds. And I I was like what, what How is this even happening? So I started trying it on my daughter, who was my you know, the whole purpose of this whole thing was because she was suffering and I was tired of having to put her on antibiotic medication. And it worked and her blisters would just completely be eliminated if we caught it in time.
Kelley Higney 08:20
And what I realized from from the science behind the product is you know, when an insect bites or stings, you what they’re doing is they’re injecting their saliva Venom just under the surface of the skin. And it’s your own body creating the reaction by saying what is that foreign substance under the skin. And it’s that reaction is very causes those symptoms there, it’s a very itchy reaction it can cause swelling, discomfort. So the premise behind the product is if you can remove the irritation and time your body stops going into that full blown reaction you can eliminate the problem. Um, so once I got word that or once we found out and we it was a total game changer for us. We were completely able to go back outside the second she would get a bite, we would use it and she would just move on and we were fine. It caught on very quickly friends and family just in my own small circle. I was here you try it.
Kelley Higney 09:12
Is this a fluke? Is this really helping? I was getting the same results. So I knew at that point, okay, I’m on to something. This is bigger. Other people at least need to know about it because it was a game changer for me and my daughter and there were other moms that were suffering. So I utilizing my background with my mom. We ended up tracking down the factory and I had a whole presentation to them i i said i want this. Every mom in the United States needs one of these. I said you know there’s nothing for moms that the creams don’t work on for their kids. There’s nothing for us. We have no line of helping our children and he loved it and we ended up landing the exclusive distribution rights for the United States. I launched it, I branded it, and I launched it.
Kyle Bringhurst 10:04
That is such a crazy story, you found a product that already existed, it worked really well for you. And yet you somehow were able to go and make connection with the manufacturer or the distributor, and bring it over here to the United States. Walk us through that process a little bit, because I’m sure that there are lots of our listeners out there who have found that something that they want to do already exists in the market, or something similar already does. And for example, for me, a couple years ago, I tried to, I had this watch endeavor that I was doing, it was different than other watches, but I still needed to use those same manufacturers, and just going through the process of finding that manufacturer, and those distributors was so so so time consuming, and I had no idea where to begin. So how did you go about making those connections and finding the people who made that so you could go and pitch them?
Kelley Higney 10:59
I wish our situation was a little bit more crazier, but it was actually very simple. We just sourced on the back of the packaging where it was being manufactured. And I created a very, the best I could at the time, pitch deck and showcase the passion and my business plan and the idea and it caught their attention. Again, the factory, who now we’re we’re partnered with exclusively, they’ve actually converted their factory to bug by thing Europe now, which is super exciting. They don’t sell any OEM product. However, at the time, this was a very new relationship, they were just giving us a chance. It really came across, there was a lot of passion involved in that because it was a personal situation for me. We were the ones that were truly suffering, I was dealing with the doctor’s appointments on a weekly basis. I was I couldn’t put my daughter in preschool because they couldn’t treat her with Medicaid.
Kelley Higney 11:53
It was really bad. And I realized, you know, now that we’re four years into this, there’s that that’s the story for a lot of families, and there was just not a chemical free option that was actually effective. And it resonated, you know, they’ve been trying to get this product out in the consumer market for a long time and the education around the concept. That’s been one of the biggest obstacles, people don’t believe it’s going to work, right? Because something so simple. It would be here already. So trying to change everybody’s mindset that only knows how to treat bug bites with creams or, you know, to mask it and deal with the symptoms versus trying to solve the problem at its source. It’s a new concept.
Kelley Higney 12:39
So there has to be education around that there has to be, you know, you have to overcome that massive amount of skepticism at the beginning. And then that really delves into your business experience, like what did we what were the tools that we did to overcome those things? You know, the skepticism was we we offered 100% money back guarantee, right from the beginning. To give people that credibility i from day one, I’ve always been consumer focused, every response that I’ve gotten every feedback testimonial, I just repurpose it to my customers. And I think that the variety of responses, they’re they’re just real. I mean, they’re authentic. And I think people can call out what’s real and what’s not. And, again, it’s never really been about selling a product. I just want people to know it exists, that are suffering. So
Kyle Bringhurst 13:30
There’s a lot of things that you said, that really stuck out to me there. First one is, sometimes the answer is so simple. And we just over complicate things like finding that district. A lot of times as entrepreneurs or as people who want to start businesses, we think this is gonna be awesome, but I have no word, no idea where to begin. And it’s probably going to actually take a lot longer than I think it will. So I might not even actually try.
Kelley Higney 13:54
You might get your answer in a day that you would be very shocked. Yeah. And you’d be surprised how many people are willing to give you the answers, or at least those little snippets to keep you in the right direction.
Kyle Bringhurst 14:07
You just got to ask 100% Yeah. And then the other part that really stuck out to me is how you are so focused on building a customer oriented business. And that is something that I think there’s really two my two trains of thought on that one is doesn’t matter if the customers like it, as long as I get sales, sales, sales, sales, sales, trump everything. And the other one is, I’m okay having more of a slow burn, and really making sure my customers love this product first, and then ramping up slowly. Both of them can make for successful quote unquote businesses, because you make lots and lots of money and you can develop a really powerful brand that way. However, only one of them is going to create something that is truly sustainable time and time and time again in the future.
Kyle Bringhurst 14:53
And so the fact that you offered a money back guarantee, or that you still do currently as well, from what I know That is something that is extremely, extremely valuable because it shows to the customers that you are going to put your money where your mouth is. And as a business owner, myself, I own a window cleaning company. So our price points are a little bit different. They’re definitely higher than that. But yet at the same time, we have 100% Customer Satisfaction Guarantee, and like money back guarantee as well.
Kelley Higney 15:24
It’s that extra peace of mind. And again, if you cuz I feel like our customers appreciate that, because I was skeptical, I don’t blame them for being skeptical. I, you know, I always try to put myself in their shoes. This is a new concept, this is a new idea. There is science behind it. And you know, that’s where it’s my job to keep that education factor going and keep educating people about what bug bites do to your body, and how we can prevent them and how we can help alleviate those symptoms.
Kyle Bringhurst 15:55
And with that, as well, like, one thing that comes to mind is just that it is, oh, it’s constantly happening. It’s something that you have to do day after day after day. Like, yeah, you can set the systems in place, but it’s something that you have to be proactive about.
Kelley Higney 16:13
It’s also trends. So like for us here at Buck by thing from day one I and again, every CEO and every founder and everybody does things so different. And I love that I love seeing other people’s ideas and the way they do things because it gives me my little snippets to create my own master plan that works for my business. But you know, here at bugged by thing, we’ve been identifying trends from day one, when you know, somebody writes in on social media with a comment. We’re tagging that comment with a trend whether it’s a question about the product, so that way, our marketing team then can create content that solves those questions that are, you know, coming up consistently, whether it’s, you know, an education factor what that people didn’t realize that this cap flips around, right? Something so simple, but you’re able to pick that up through your customer service team.
Kelley Higney 17:03
If those two teams marketing customer service are not communicating with each other. And you miss those trends. We we knew very quickly that our customers wanted more colors, right? That was a trend that we picked up on. So we launched our first color. Last year, we have another one releasing this year, and we’re coming out with a line of them next year, we have a new product launches, again, by listening to our customers, I can’t emphasize enough that your customers will tell you how to run your business. In so many words, they tell you what they like they tell you what, what they don’t like. They tell you how they interpret what you’re putting out there. As far as education, they tell you their feedback. And it’s your job to not get defensive and not say, well, they’re idiots. They don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s very obvious here it’s written in the instructions. If your customers are not doing it, then you’re not doing it right. You need to figure out another creative way to resignate with them or get through to them. And maybe that’s just a matter of time, you know, simple something as simple as time and just constantly putting the same type of content till they really understand and it resonates.
Kyle Bringhurst 18:12
And going along with that too. Like the color thing. That’s something that I personally would never have thought for a product like this would be something that people wanted, but yet you figure it out. There you go. It’s a black one. Yeah, they’ve got a new black one and a black one. And that’s something that just comes from communicating to the customers and hearing from them. And one thing, this is Steve Jobs, ism is an amazing entrepreneur, obviously, he’s done so many good things. But one time, he said something along the lines of our customers don’t know what they want, we it’s our job to give them what they want. And so he took kind of the other side, like I don’t really care about what my customers say. And that’s really like the one thing that he said that I don’t necessarily agree with, because I am 100% about listening to customers, because they tell you everything you need to know. Now there’s a balancing act, because you can’t listen to every single customer, you can’t take every single thing into account and make those changes for everybody. So how do you go about balancing that with your team and the feedback that you receive?
Kelley Higney 19:13
Benchmarks, we set benchmarks, if we start we start logging trends. And if it hits over a certain threshold, we identify that as a valid benchmark that we need to address whether it’s, you know, we need to create more education around it, its content, whether we need to add it as an FAQ to our Frequently Asked Questions on our website. If we need to tweak the way our customer service team is responding to our customers, because maybe it’s not resonating the same way we’re trying to have it resignate with them. But you can’t change anything unless you start to collect data and identify the patterns and that’s something that I pride myself in from day one that we did because I didn’t know where this product was going. You know our product is very unique and a way that it applies to everybody, every category, every person it, it doesn’t discriminate, right?
Kelley Higney 20:05
It you can use it on an infant, you can use it on an elderly person, you can use it on people with sensitive skin. And everybody that enjoys time outside, you know, needs this product. And I, you know, I always joke with on interviews like I tell my customers, what do you do if you’re if you have a child and you’re at the park, and they get stung by a bee? What do you do? They’re screaming in pain, what do you do? Well, now you can pull this out of your diaper bag, or your purse or your your, your glove box or whatever, suck out the venom and your kid can go and play on the playground and not ruin your entire next week. And that’s been the concern. That’s been the consistent feedback that we’re getting.
Kelley Higney 20:48
You know, we, I feel super fortunate. We have over 40,000 testimonials on Amazon at this point. And you know, if you go through and read the positive ones, they’re life changing. They’re people’s real stories, and they’re from every scenario in the book stuff that I wouldn’t even you couldn’t even make up. It’s like, it’s just insane. And that feedback is what keeps us here. But I think going because we’re the ones vetting all that feedback. And it’s like, it’s helping this many people, we got to keep going, there’s so many people that don’t even know we exist, and being able to just showcase that to your team and get them having that same fire that I have, because I’m seeing it firsthand. You know, the trends that’s important, identify your trends early on.
Kyle Bringhurst 21:31
Yes, I totally agree with that. Um, so I want to just to touch on the success that you guys have been able to have, obviously, you guys went on Shark Tank, I think the year before you had done 500,000 In sales, then you went and got a deal with Lori, and you actually had all five sharks who were interested in you, which is very unheard of. So it’s really, really cool. Um, and then after that, I don’t exactly know your revenue numbers or anything, but I do know that you guys are now in I think I saw 25,000 retail locations, you have over like 30, around 30 employees or so. And the one that you brought up that I think is just absolutely fascinating. And really a testament to your hard work is the fact that the distributor, where you got the product from initially, is now your partner. But yeah, by thing that is super exciting.
Kelley Higney 22:22
Yeah. It’s amazing. And we’re tackling this globally. We’re in 25,000 retail stores this year, Walmart, CVS, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and we launched in 25 countries, which is super exciting. So our goal now that we’ve proven our successful model here in the US is to help and keep this going as a global brand. There’s a lot of countries that are dealing with this on just as big of a level as we are and they have nothing and some of our partners are already you know where you’re one where I was three years ago, and we’re being able to provide them those assets. And those things that we figured out with all the skepticism and all the issues and challenges, not issues, but really challenges that come with launching a new concept and a new product. We have we’re three years ahead of them. So we’re really able to help fast track them and bring them up to speed on a lot of that stuff. So it’s really exciting. We have a lot of things in the works. And yeah, our factory in Europe is is is part of bug by three now. And we couldn’t be happier. And it’s been really exciting.
Kyle Bringhurst 23:37
It’s a really cool story. And you guys started in 2017, right?
Kelley Higney 23:42
We started selling out of the house, we ended up I ended up selling when I went all in with bug bite thing after all kind of back up on my story. Because that’s what the beginning, when I discovered the product, it was a game changer for me and my family. I actually started we still were on our sample run, we had like very, very small batches samples, and I sold them at my daughter’s bake sale. And I made my daughter sale. And then when I realized what I was getting tracked down in the parking lot, not during bake sale times. That’s when I’m like okay, I’d better launch a website I got to get this is more than just selling it at farmer’s markets and bake sales now. And that’s when I got really serious. I ended up parting ways with my mom, I was working for her company to do this full time.
Kelley Higney 24:28
And in order to do that my husband and I we ended up selling our house which was extremely terrifying. And we went back and forth a million times. But that was the only way I was able to invest in my first decent batch of inventory. And we moved into a rental. And I went all in. I started I taught myself social media marketing. I was taking Udemy classes I started with $10 a day on Facebook. I feel like I got really, really lucky I kind of came in was launching a product around the same time the influencer craze was taking off. So I got to kind of develop my own methods and programs and style right from the beginning. So I feel like I have a lot of experience in that. And that has really helped us. But yeah, I mean, I started small. And I’ll never forget, it was the first. It was Mother’s Day 2018.
Kelley Higney 25:22
This was before Shark Tank. And I was doing this for about a month and I got brought up in a mom group. And then a news reporter said, Oh, my gosh, what an amazing idea. You know, she, she’s selling these. And everybody was commenting all the local people from the farmers markets were like, Yeah, we got one at the farmers market. It’s so great. And so they ended up coming and doing, they came to my house, and they did a whole new segment piece on me, it was CBS 12 News. And it was at my rental house, literally my rental house, and I had packing stations in my kitchen. And they they aired it. And then it got syndicated the next day to like 20 or 30 new stations around the US and I sold out of all of my inventory that I had sold my house for and like a week.
Kyle Bringhurst 26:07
Was it that I remember reading it was like 10,000 units, or was it 30,000 units?
Kelley Higney 26:12
That was my first batch, I think it was like it was like 15 grand, or something like that was my it was everything. That was all we had. And we went all in. And again, it was really scary. But I we were doing it smart. You know, we had already tested the concept, I was already getting traction on a smaller level where I felt like I could subsidize my income where we wouldn’t, you know, go bankrupt, if I was going to go full in. So we were we were smart the way we did it. But it didn’t take very long once I went all in and I was able to focus solely on this all day, I almost felt the pressure, right, because now I don’t have another backup plan. And this was it. That was my transition. And I had to make it work. So it was really scary. When the inventory sold out, that was my first taste that all it took was people to understand what the product is and what it did. And then it became an impulse purchase definite. So then then after that little taste, it became a media game, you know, how how can I get the press to look at me? How can I get them to hear about my story about this product that’s helping other people. And that’s where the mom on a mission got born.
Kyle Bringhurst 27:23
That’s something that I find really fascinating. And I think you guys have been able to do that obviously very, very well. Because on Shark Tank, for example, a lot of times when it’s an educational product, the sharks are very hesitant, because they’re like, it’s gonna take so much time and money, and just foot power foot traffic to be able to educate the consumers about it. So the fact that you went a different route, and you created this story around it, that was very easy for people to understand and relate to. And then you were able to move to the news outlets and get coverage that way, kind of helps do it all at one time in in a really big, big way that can affect a lot of people at once. So I think that that was a really great strategy that you guys use to be able to educate the mass market.
Kelley Higney 28:12
You know, it was really it was trial and error. I mean, there was a lot of trial and error at the beginning. It was what resume you know, you can’t tell a business owner what’s going to work I don’t believe that because every business is unique. Every customer is going to receive things differently every product is going to be there’s different education around it. There’s different price points. It’s there’s there’s so much variety in business. But you know, the best thing you can do is follow what works for your business. Listen to you can listen to other people and gather you know, their insight and what worked for them but thought but listen to your customer, and how do you apply what worked for them to your business model. And I think that’s set me apart from the beginning there was a lot of people that told me this was not going to work.
Kelley Higney 28:57
I distinctly remember it, you know, it’s ironed in me, this was never going to work as a one SKU item, I was never going to be able to go in at the retail level as a one SKU item. So you know, if you create the demand, the retailers will come to you. That’s all I have to say it happened for us. If there’s a big enough demand for your product, they will find a way. You know, to get it and with our product. It’s an impulse. You know, if somebody’s out and they’re itching, they want to purchase it. And that’s the only reason I even shifted into retail again, was based off of our customers. I was we were at percent primarily online last year. And that shift happened this year because again because enough people enough of our customers have the product where if they’re out and about and they forgot it at home, they want to run out and go grab one and you know that that has really helped us.
Kyle Bringhurst 29:50
I think that reminds me of the story of Sara Blakely, the founder of yes how she created this demand Buy as she would literally send her friends into the store, say, hey, buy these products for me, I’ll reimburse you for the money that you spend. But I just want the, the stores to see that these are moving off of the shelves and create that demand. So she kind of bumped it up inflated a little bit. And then obviously then other people saw them buying it, then it really was able to take off some I love that that statement that you had. Yeah, yeah, I want to jump into the other side of things. So we’ve talked a lot about the success. We’ve talked about how amazing it this whole story has been in this journey has been for you guys, and what you’ve been able to accomplish. But I know a lot of our listeners are people who struggle with fears about business about fears or inadequacies about themselves. And just a really kind of stuck in the process. And they don’t really know what to do. I want to go back to you as a younger, just a younger Kelly, what was some of the things that growing up were struggles for you are some of your big insecurities?
Kelley Higney 31:11
I suffer from pretty bad anxiety, and that I still deal with it on a daily basis, especially being a CEO and all the pressure and all the you know, cards riding on your shoulder. So that’s been something that I’ve had to deal with, I deal with it, it doesn’t go away, I get it gets easier, and it gets better. And I have tools that I utilize to help with that. But it’s there. And getting out of your own head and realizing, you know, I’m an overachiever. So I’m very hard. I’m very self critical on myself. So I think I don’t give myself enough credit sometimes of what I’ve accomplished. And I always feel like I can do better. And I felt like that a lot growing up. You know, I was always a people pleaser. And I feel like I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, I grew up a little different. I feel like I’m realizing in my adult life than other people.
Kelley Higney 32:09
My my family’s all entrepreneurs. So when I talked about growing up in that environment, I ate dinner in a lunch room. My mom was working till seven o’clock at night. So it was I you know, I knew all the mail carriers. By the time I was six, I knew how to answer the phones. I was always taught to think differently. I was always taught to think of how if here’s your no answer, how do you creatively make that a yes, or make it a win win win for everybody involved. So I tried to instill that in as many people I come across as I can. But yeah, that’s one of my biggest struggles is the anxiety portion and the pressure and the fear of failure. You know, I have all these as an entrepreneur and as a CEO, you have these this vision, right? You have this distinct vision, I have the next five years planned out in my head.
Kelley Higney 33:02
But it’s scary, because when it comes to light, and then maybe things don’t play out the same way you see it in your head, you have to pivot, you have to make sure it’s a viable option. And that becomes scary. But just realizing that’s going to happen. Right from the beginning, you’re going to run into that if you go into business and you think you’re not going to have to pivot or you’re not going to have hard days. It’s not for you because it is going to happen. It’s a lot of hours. You know it’s it’s a lot of mental exhaustion, you’re constantly thinking about your business, how to better it and sometimes for me, I struggled turning that off. And again, that goes into my anxiety, you know if, if so and so didn’t do this is this going to happen. And you know, you have to really figure out how to be sound and create that balance and make enough time for yourself.
Kyle Bringhurst 33:54
I love that. I think that that is super important. Just making sure to find time for yourself. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more in the future. One question that I had when you were talking, though, was growing up in a family with entrepreneurs and with business minds everywhere. Did you ever feel inadequate to start a business?
Kelley Higney 34:17
I did. I was scared to death, yes. Because my mom was successful. My you know, and I was doing this on my own right. I I grew up in a business but I am still young. Right? I have a lot to learn. I don’t have that 40 years experience that you know my mom has. So yes, it’s very intimidating, especially, you know, we run into to the generation gap. Now our my mom’s back in the company. She’s a part owner of the company, love her to death. She’s my best friend. We talk every single day we’re in meetings together, but there has to be strong boundaries between us. And one of those is for that reason, you know, she grew up and she taught me everything in her eyes. So when I have a difference of opinion or I see things from a different way, there’s that, that that conflict.
Kelley Higney 35:08
So we’ve gotten really good at bringing ideas to the table and just calling it out right from the beginning. This is this is going to be a subject that we’re going to have a generational difference on, and we need to discuss it collaboratively. And I give my viewpoint she gives her viewpoints, we typically have a mutual party, and then we usually come up with a really good solution that works for both of us. But yes, the people think that when you grew up in a family owned business, you have a handout, it’s in my situation, it was 180% opposite of that it was my expectations instead of here they were here you’ve grown up in this your whole life, you’ve seen me do this your whole life. And I I’m thankful for it, because I think it does, give me a you know, a little bit of an advantage. But the pressure of that is, is pretty.
Kyle Bringhurst 35:58
So how did you push? How did you push through with those feelings of inadequacy because I know that just at different periods of my life, I have felt times where I felt really inadequate about my business ideas or just about other things and it’s really paralyzed me and made it so that I don’t take action toward that. What are some things that you have done to make sure that you keep those fears and those failures under control and in perspective?
Kelley Higney 36:25
One of the biggest things I think has that has helped me is I’m involved in networking groups and I’m involved in networking groups of a variety of them some that have a variety of people in business meaning from the very beginning to very successful so I can see all walks and in between of where they’re at and ideas of you know, where I’m at in my business. I have I network with other Shark Tank entrepreneurs that have been in the exact same situation as us with that fast growth and that publicity because although thankful it’s it’s a lot, right there’s there’s another level to being on a national show like that and being under that spotlight.
Kelley Higney 37:05
So having people that you can vent to and network with and not compare, but just be able to see and bounce ideas off of that made me feel not alone. You know, I even now like if I feel anxious, or I feel uncertain about something all about, I’ll bring it up in my group, but I’ll say what is everybody’s, you know, viewpoints on this, am I am I crazy for feeling like this is this. And nine out of 10 times somebody else has gone through the exact same scenario I’m feeling has already been through, it can give some type of advice to put my mind at ease. So I feel like networking is really critical, especially in the beginning. So again, not to compare yourself, but to be able to have like minded people around you that you can just talk and have conversations and they understand what you’re talking about.
Kyle Bringhurst 37:59
That’s exactly what I was gonna say the Talking is the most alarming thing. Entrepreneurship is very lonely. And so you have to be able to talk I mean, even life life can be lonely if we’re getting real big. So being able to talk about things is super important. One of our past guests, his name is Danny Deaton. He says something that really has stuck with me, and he says your secrets keep you sick. So he deals a lot with addiction, he has an addiction business where he helps people recover from that. So obviously, that applies to that. But I think even in terms of anxiety or fear, if we don’t express that we give that fear and that anxiety, so much more power within us, as opposed to just letting it all out and letting other people take some of that and support us with it. So I think that that is super crucial.
Kelley Higney 38:49
Very true. Yeah, it’s very true. I even in in my scenario, right? You know, I’ll tell people my story about what we’ve accomplished. And, you know, in my head, I’m like, we have so much more to go. But in their head, they’re like, oh my goodness, in that short of time, look how much you’ve done. And sometimes just hearing that, that reassurance and, you know, hearing from other entrepreneurs that maybe have, you know, gotten off to a slower start or whatever, and just being able to share what worked for me and to help them and then being you know, wow, you guys are really doing something really great. You know, I wouldn’t hear that if I wasn’t in those groups. And that becomes very lonely.
Kyle Bringhurst 39:29
Yes, it definitely can be. Um, so I want to go and just talk to you. Obviously, it’s called freedom to fail. We’ve talked a lot about just the mental struggles that go into being an entrepreneur and making sure that we are ready for it. But I want to talk about actual things that have happened in life now. So for you what is your what would you say has been your biggest self created failure in the business or mistake that you’ve made that you’ve had to learn and pivot from?
Kelley Higney 40:01
I think there’s a there’s a few that come to mind, the first thing that came to mind, or that comes to mind with our product, I target right at the beginning, I targeted the wrong demographic, I immediately thought because our product was outdoors, I went right till to, you know, male, demographic, outdoor camper fisherman. And that was not my market. If I would have given up at that point when it flopped, we wouldn’t be talking today. So that was a really big failure at the beginning that took me back, I don’t really, you know, I share it now. But at the beginning, that was a really big struggle, it was a gut blow. We even had a small test run at field in stream stores, which is all male demographic, before we even had any awareness around the product, it taint it, nobody even knew what it was they thought it was another cream sitting on the shelf.
Kelley Higney 40:52
So learning. You know, for us it was we targeted the wrong demographic. The second I went back to my roots and said, Why did I start this brand, it was to help other moms and people like me, that was that didn’t have anything to offer their children. And I went right back to the mom market, it took off. And still 95% of our demographic is women. And now that we have, you know, the women using it for their families, now the men are starting to use it because the women have been using it for the last year. So now we’re branching out. And that’s where the pivoting comes into, you know, the male marketing. Yeah, but that took three years. So that was uh, that was that was rough. The other thing I would say, and I feel like a lot of people that I network with go through this is the hiring, right?
Kelley Higney 41:39
So when you’re a small business, and you go from running this out of your house, and you’re doing everything, I mean, when I started this, I was doing customer service, I was doing marketing, I was shipping all the packages, I was shipping the packages into Amazon, I was doing everything the PR when you get to a point where you can’t do it all, who do you hire? You know, you’re you still have limited funds, who do you hire? And then when that is successful, who do you hire next? And then how do you keep growing? And then at what point do you bring in an HR manager, so you don’t have to deal with the people come, you know, that portion of the business. And that was another unexpected challenge that I ran into, at the beginning, trying to get my management team in place to really optimize my vision, I have a very clear vision. And I want to set up the infrastructure. So we can, you know, continue our brand and launch a line of products under this brand. So it was really important for me to get it right. And I couldn’t get it right, for probably the first two years, you know, until I really was able to identify, you know, that whole Yeah, it’s hard.
Kyle Bringhurst 42:50
So for our listeners out there, I want to be able to help them understand, understand me to understand a little bit more how long let’s going let’s go back to the male demographic side, how long were you targeting them, and didn’t see success before you switch?
Kelley Higney 43:04
So I was still selling them at farmer’s markets and bake sales. When I started launching on my I started a.com. And I started doing that $10 a day, right? We had gained a little traction I had got I had gone through a sales rep group to get into that small test run for Field and Stream. And I just I was targeting them on social media. And the biggest response that I knew it was failing was the comments. I was just reading the comments, all the comments were skepticism, they weren’t even willing to give it a chance. They weren’t willing to be open minded about it. They didn’t want to hear the science, they didn’t want to hear about the clinical trials. It was just completely there was no reception to my product. And it was obvious, because that was not the response I was getting when I was pitching it at those big sales and the farmers market. So I knew there was something wrong. And then when I started obviously targeting, you know, the female demographic and the moms, it was like, I wonder if this would work on so and so Hey, have you seen this? I wonder if this would help them. And there was more of a different tone. And we really very quickly realized it was my tone. It was me, you know, it was me over and over again. And why are we changing something that you know.
Kyle Bringhurst 44:23
There was already a lot of self reliance for sure. And that’s something too, that I really, really respect and admire about you is the fact that you aren’t looking at failures as mistakes or as roadblocks and you are able to pivot and that’s one thing.
Kelley Higney 44:39
Just pivot. That’s how I think yeah, exactly. I don’t find it. I find that the entrepreneurial journey does not have any failures. It’s, it’s like this, here’s your vision. Here you are, there’s gonna be obstacles but your goal is the second it veers you pivot and then you get it back on track. You pivot and you get it back on track and I can’t tell you how many times we pivoted package changes, marketing material, you know, offering guarantees, changing the FAQs, just everything has changed. And I think it’s a continuous thing, right? We’re constantly evolving and changing. So if you stay stagnant and your your marketing materials the same as it was two years ago, there could be a problem with that.
Kyle Bringhurst 45:22
That’s what lets other competitors come in and just take out the market again. You see that over and over? Yeah, you look at Blockbuster. I mean, that’s a dumb example that everyone knows that but they didn’t. They didn’t. They didn’t look at what was coming up.
Kelley Higney 45:36
That’s it. But that’s a perfect example. They put their name and their reputation and their their reach and their customer base, if they would have just pivoted, they would have been Netflix.
Kyle Bringhurst 45:46
I mean, the funny thing about that is they literally had the opportunity to purchase Netflix, and then selling them.
Kelley Higney 45:53
I think I remember when I was younger, I remember renting movies from Blockbuster and Netflix would be in blocked. Yeah, so they like had every opportunity staring them in the face.
Kyle Bringhurst 46:02
No, I love that. Well, I definitely missed them going on Friday nights rented a movie getting some of the popcorn and
Kelley Higney 46:09
Best Movies Apple or my best nights at Blockbuster, we would go in all of our movies and binge watch them exactly.
Kyle Bringhurst 46:16
Yeah. RIP, RIP.
Kelley Higney 46:19
Kyle Bringhurst 46:20
Let’s go into our lightning round a little bit with a few of my favorite questions. My first one is what is your biggest fear now, as a person or as a business owner? What do you struggle with?
Kelley Higney 46:33
I just the fear of failure. I mean, I have, you know, we have so much in the works. And we have so much positivity and for some reason my brain even though everything seems positive, I’m still thinking what’s gonna go wrong, what’s gonna go wrong? And just realizing that you know, what, if something goes wrong, we have plan A, we have Plan B, a Plan C, I already thought it. So keeping things in perspective, I really need to work on.
Kyle Bringhurst 47:00
So what would your definition of failure be like for you personally, what would you consider to be failing?
Kelley Higney 47:07
For me, I would be failing if I didn’t continue to educate the world about our product because the testimonials that are coming in and the feed even from doctors, I mean, we’re we have doctors writing into us now because they’re recommending our product because it’s helping their patients. So when you start to make an impact on that level, it it becomes personal because if I’m not the one advocating and pushing and educating who’s going to be doing it. So my you know, my, I just don’t want to ever stop that I want bugged by to always have that. That voice that voice Yeah, just to eat people to you know, chemical free. Yes, try it first.
Kyle Bringhurst 47:49
The next one is what is one habit that you have that has helped contribute to your success?
Kelley Higney 47:57
Hmm. A habit I mean, I, I think I pride myself at being I tried to be inspirational, I tried to get everybody even on my own team to see what I’m seeing. And I think that really, you know, we have a an amazing team here above by thing. And I feel like every one of us is an entrepreneur, like we surround ourselves with each other. And we’re all on a mission, and we’re all trying to do and accomplish the same thing. And I feel like I pride myself in being able to communicate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and, you know, showcase a little bit of my passion, and that resonates with people. And I think that really helps me as an individual. And obviously, in my business, I have a lot of people rooting for us. And, you know,
Kyle Bringhurst 49:00
That’s awesome. That’s great. The last one in this section is what would be one piece of advice that you would give to our listeners who are going through something similar to you who are starting a business or just some one lesson that you’ve learned?
Kelley Higney 49:16
Have a strategy have a go to market strategy. I didn’t. At the beginning, I started selling them at big sales and farmers markets I literally you know, one of the things when I was coming up with a name for bug by thing I was like what’s going to first it came by accident. I kept saying Richard, who’s my husband? I said go grab me that book. I think we have to figure out you know, a name, we’ve got to get this together and bug bite thing just kept sticking. And then when I said okay, I’m going to sell these at farmer’s markets. I want them to look over and say see Bug Bite Thing really big and go what is a bug bite thing? So, you know, just have a go to market strategy. I was thinking very small. I never thought what happens if this takes off. How do you You wanted to do, you always wanted to stay small, I didn’t know what direction.
Kelley Higney 50:05
You know, in the very beginning, I thought this was going to be a side business for me. So I could stay at home with my children and subsidize my income and make a nice living and try to build this slow. I didn’t realize, you know, once I got started, I was going to get really passionate and see and just keep going. And I mean, at the beginning, you know, first two years were, it was grinding, it was a lot of work, it was a lot of nights, a lot of crying, a lot of frustration, a lot of, you know, figuring it out. But I didn’t know where I was going. And so if you have a plan, and you you know, if you want to be a global brand, if you’re trying to sell it, bake sales and just subsidize your income, you know, for the month, what is your plan? With your product? What are you trying to accomplish with it? I think that is a good starting point. And then you can figure out how you’re going to tackle the rest.
Kelley Higney 51:00
Because obviously, if you’re trying to become a global brand, you need to focus on the infrastructure right from the beginning, how do you start to showcase your brand? What departments are you going to need? Even if you can’t hire them, you still can have a plan? Who’s your first hire gonna be when you hit? What milestone? Who’s your second hire going to be when you hit what milestone? I didn’t have that at the beginning. So I started hiring, as the demand increased. And that became very hairy. Once we were really making a name for ourselves, I had to almost go back to the drawing board and go, Okay, we got to redefine this. What departments? Do we really need to make this operation work? Who do we have? Who can do multiple departments now? And how do we scale this? Yeah. So having a really good go to market strategy, what’s step one? What’s step two, you know, day one, what are you doing day two, what are you doing?