Today, I’m sharing an inspiring case for startups. If you don’t have time to read it now, save it for later. First, let me give you some background info:

  • Founder: Tyson Walters
  • Site: Shed Defender
  • Product: Dog onesie
  • Sales revenue: Over $1.7 million until 2018
  • Staff: Tyson, sister-in-law, mom

Next, I’ll tell Tyson and Harley’s story in the first person. I believe it will be inspiring for everyone.

How are my ideas born?

Harley, our Saint Bernard, brings much joy to our home, but her massive shedding has been a real headache for me. Cleaning up takes a lot of time and is never entirely effective. Taking her to friends’ houses isn’t convenient either, as many dislike having their homes covered in dog hair, and some are allergic.

I tried covering the sofa and car seats to reduce hair spreading and bought premium shampoos hoping to strengthen Harley’s hair. But nothing worked. I couldn’t find a solution on the market, so I decided to create my own. Eventually, I came up with the idea of ‘putting clothes on Harley’.

It took me over a year to complete Harley’s first garment prototype. Initially, I put a T-shirt on her, which looked amusing. Later, I tried various fabrics like cotton and mesh to create the initial clothing samples and observed Harley’s reactions.

Here are some images of my early experiments.

After many trials, I settled on the dog’s onesie — reducing shedding while allowing freedom of movement. My mom helped sew the initial prototype. Then, I hired a seamstress to produce the garment.

When Harley wore this outfit outside, people always asked me where I bought it. This continued for several months, and I realized there was a demand for this product. So, I decided to start a business.

What were the struggles in prototype development?

Creating the perfect sample was not easy. It took me 2 years to complete because many factors must be considered for onesies to meet the diverse needs of different dogs.

Choosing the right fabric was the most challenging, which consumed a lot of time. I consulted and ordered samples from local fabric suppliers, experimenting with dozens of materials, eventually developing Shed-Tex.

Shed-Tex has 2 outstanding features:

This specialized polyester spandex mesh fabric is lightweight, cool, and comfortable for dogs, providing elasticity to withstand the daily activities of active dogs.

It’s made from recycled plastic bottles and is recyclable. This sustainability is a major reason why many people are attracted to buying dog onesies.

Sizing was another major challenge. To fit dogs of various body types, I visited animal shelters and dog parks, where different dogs tried on the Shed Defender. Ultimately, I created 9 sizes, ranging from 4 pounds to 150+ pounds.

Here are some samples tailored by seamstresses to my specifications.

How do I promote products?

Post on Facebook and Twitter.

At each stage of making the dog onesie, I update the progress and showcase results on Facebook, my main promotional platform.

update Shed Defender progress

showcase use results

However, I never expected that product promotion would be harder than designing. My posts on Facebook and Twitter got very few likes, really discouraging. After reflection, I found the problems with the product and marketing:

  • Product photos were taken casually with messy backgrounds, hard to attract audiences‘ buying interest.
  • There was a brand name but no official website or purchase link. These casual posts weren’t enough to get people to comment and buy.

After a year of silence, I became active on Facebook again in 2015, posting updates that showcased my website’s homepage and official brand name.

Optimize product designs and photography.

First, I removed letters from the dog onesie as I realized that most people don’t like big brand logos on their dog’s clothing. Now, it’s a solid color. Meanwhile, I also added sizes for special dog breeds.

Second, refined the product photography. I hired professional photographers and human models, taking pictures of more dog breeds wearing the Shed Defender. My product immediately looked more appealing and desirable.

Open stores in different channels.

I borrowed some money from my family and built my first website with Squarespace. Besides, I am expanding Shed Defender’s sales channels. Now, you’ll find our products on Amazon, and For our most important Amazon store, we hired a professional agency to help us set up and operate it.

Shed Defender offical website

Shed Defender on Amazon

Shed Defender store on Chewy

Run ads on Facebook.

I tried Facebook ads, starting with $1-2 per day and gradually increasing the budget based on results, such as $50-100. I found that combining awareness and retargeting ads worked well, and we constantly adjusted our strategy in terms of audience, copywriting, and design.

Although previous ads increased our exposure, likes rarely exceeded 500. The real breakthrough came when The Dodo, an animal news website, noticed my ads and posted a video about our product. As the video went viral, one of my Facebook posts suddenly got 6,000 likes, with comments and website sales surging. Overnight, we received media inquiries domestically and internationally. Additionally, participating in events like music festivals also helped boost our brand awareness.

Shed Defender post got 6,000+ likes

Shed Defender at American Music Awards

How to get manufacturers for bulk orders after being popular?

The sudden popularity was exciting but also stressful. Because I still didn’t have a manufacturer. Previously, with few orders, one seamstress in the studio could make 1-2 Shed Defenders a day. Now, with over a thousand orders, I had to quickly find a manufacturer to fulfill them all.

I asked around and consulted local fabric suppliers. Eventually, I found a cooperative supplier in San Francisco, a 2-hour drive from my home. It took several months to produce this batch of products. I am truly grateful to my first customers for patiently waiting so long to get their products!

What did I gain from participating in Shark Tank?

Participating in the startup TV show Shark Tank in 2018 was great and unforgettable.

In Shark Tank, each independent entrepreneur presents their product to the Sharks (investors), who evaluate the product’s potential and decide whether to invest. We showcased the Shed Defender and got a $250,000 investment. Although we were on stage for only a few minutes, you can’t imagine how much time we spent preparing from application to filming.

During the show, the Sharks started with questions. Once they saw our sales performance, they became serious, and we got three investment offers. We chose Lori, who invested $250K for a 25% stake.

This experience greatly enhanced our ability to analyze data deeply and view our business from an investor’s perspective, something we had never done before. It also improved my presentation skills, making me more concise and clear when introducing our business.

What I'd like to share with e-commerce newbies?

It seems like my start-up journey was smooth, with problems that were solved. Actually, there were many more challenges I didn’t mention. For example:

We once dealt with a very unreliable factory. We placed an order without thoroughly vetting them and ended up with 5,000 poor-quality products we couldn’t sell, resulting in big losses. Despite this, we persevered. Since then, we have always conducted background checks for new factories and quality inspections before shipping.

As Shed Defender became popular, we were persuaded to make a TV ad and stock up in advance. However, the ad was delayed by six months and was a big failure when it aired. This taught me not to stockpile inventory unless you’re 100% sure it will sell quickly.

In short, always stay alert in entrepreneurship. Pay extra attention to details, especially when things seem to be going smoothly because issues often arise unexpectedly.

For sellers starting out like me, my top advice is to seek help from smarter people whenever facing issues but don’t know how to solve. Don’t try to fight alone. Also, persist during hard times.


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