“The business has always been run from a laptop,” says STICKY WICKY’s Cathy Dodds. When the family-owned business was young, they lived in a small house and Cathy worked at a desk under her daughter’s bed. “I worked around the clock,” she says. “I would often hear, ever so politely, ‘Do you think you could get a quieter keyboard?’”
“The business has always been run from a laptop,” says STICKY WICKY's Cathy Dodds. When the family-owned business was young, they lived in a small house and Cathy worked at a desk under her daughter’s bed. “I worked around the clock,” she says. “I remember a head popping down from the top bunk asking, ever so politely, ‘Do you think you could get a quieter keyboard?’”
The business was intimidating to start. After Cathy’s husband, Pete, quit electrical work, the Dodds cashed in their savings and mortgaged their home. Family and friends were supportive, but the pair was strapped for cash and had to secure the intellectual property rights as well as the first shipment from the factory.
The then-new Alibaba helped them find all the components they needed, and fortunately, the public has embraced their product and their story.
“People love the ‘tradie turned inventor’ story,” says Cathy. “You know why? Because it is a good story.”
STICKY WICKY initially only sold its products online, but a segment on Better Homes and Gardens led to retail stores taking interest. From there, they started getting more and more calls, and the business took off.
Now their products are in more than 500 stores in four countries, and they’ve forged partnerships with school programmes, coaching clinics, and disability programmes.
If we had had a Plan B, I’m not confident we would have stuck to Plan A.
“Getting into retail was good, but it sure complicated distribution,” says Cathy. Teaming with Rebel Sport meant they had to automate their ordering system and required a 3PL warehouse. This was the way for two years before engaging a Melbourne-based distributor.
“It was expensive and the margin was skinny but we knew we had to give to get. The volumes would surely come…”
Success breeds success, and gaining distribution partners in other markets allowed them to more easily meet factory minimums.
Cathy says cash flow was a big problem when they started because it took them much longer to realise their financial plan than they expected.
“You just don’t know when you start out – you couldn’t possibly know because no one has done this before,” she says, and once you hit the point of no return, financial pressure starts to build and it can quickly become debilitating.
The second big problem they faced was time management. “Without the luxury of having a team of people working with me, I get caught up in the minutiae of life,” says Cathy. She says it can be easy to become so wrapped up in trying to hit the next milestones that people forget to stop and take a little time to celebrate their successes.
In STICKY WICKY’s case, these included receiving their first online order, seeing their product in a retail store, seeing their first commercial on TV and exhibiting at the New York Toy Fair.
That sort of drive is important for startups, though, because turning an idea into a product requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Don’t worry about Plan B, she says. “If we had had a Plan B, I’m not confident we would have stuck to Plan A.”
“When you fall in a heap – and you will – give yourself a moment to rest and then pop back up. Surround yourself with supportive people,” she says. “Beware the Eeyores of the world. They’ll never help you achieve anything.”
But why not listen to the Eeyores? Why take a chance on it?
“Funnily enough, the first question many people ask Pete is, ‘How did you get your Mrs on board?’ When I saw the kids play with the first prototype and I saw the excitement it generated, I was in.”
Jan is a Sydney-based writer and editor whose work has been published in a stable of titles including the National Post, The Daily Planet and Edmonton Examiner. He is currently Editor at ShortPress.