We’re spilling the beans on one of our clients. These are the takeaway business lessons we gleaned from a recent interview with Brian Wilkin of DUDE Products, including a sneak peek of what’s in store next for the DUDEs.
Note: This transcription includes excerpts from a 20-minute interview with Brian Wilkin of DUDE Products.
Brian Wilkin: [Laughing] The DUDE brand, in general, is really who we are. We, the co-founders of the company, have been friends forever–literally since grade school. We’re fun-loving, light-hearted, sarcastic, blunt people and that’s how we try to communicate to customers through the DUDE brand.
Customers identify with the authenticity of our brand. It’s one of our core values. No matter how many products we come out with, we stay true to that authenticity.
Business Lesson 2: You can be passionate about your work and still value flexibility.
ORBA: Give us three words to describe the culture at DUDE.
Brian: Passionate. We work hard to create a brand and products that benefit our customers.
Flexible. We work remotely, but always work together.
And fun. We really do enjoy waking up and doing what we do everyday.
Business Lesson 3: When expanding into new markets, conduct thorough customer research into the necessary lead times and inventory orders to avoid cash flow issues. Also, failures are nothing more than great learning experiences.
ORBA: Are there any failures that you see as pivotal in creating DUDE as we know it today?
Brian: I don’t know if I would categorize them as failures, necessarily, but there’s always ongoing and new challenges.
As one example, we acquired a large retailer, which meant our products were in more stores than ever before. It was a different category of retailer. We were familiar with grocery retailers, but this particular retailer was in the drug/pharmacy category. We just didn’t really know, in terms of forecasting, how much product they would actually need and how fast it would move on the shelves. We used the comps (comparables) of our grocery performance and that turned out to be very highly overestimated. We bought way too much product creating some cash flow issues and inventory backlogs.
In the long run, it was a great learning experience because, going forward, we’ve really focused on acquiring as much information from any new customer in the months leading into a new launch.
Business Lesson 4: Outsourced accounting frees up your time to focus on more strategic business operations.
ORBA: What major goals have you achieved since hiring ORBA?
Brian: We didn’t have many business, accounting and/or financial processes in place, so that’s definitely been a big advantage of bringing ORBA’s Cloud CFO Services on. We’ve streamlined both our financial accounting and reporting–we have packages every month now.
I was previously doing all the day-to-day accounting, so partnering with ORBA has freed up time to concentrate on more strategic things, outside of journal entries.
ORBA: What?! You didn’t like doing journal entries?
Brian: [Laughing} It was alright.
Fair enough, Brian.
Brian (cont’d): We got a test with Walmart for one of our products in 2017 that went really well. We’re just waiting on details from the buyer, but it sounds like they will be taking on a couple of our products!
Update: after this interview, as of June 2018, Walmart rolled out DUDE Wipes 48ct flushable wipes in 4,500 stores and DUDE Wipes 15ct individually packaged, on-the-go, flushable wipes in 2,500 stores! No. Big. Deal.
Business Lesson 5: Trying to make it on Shark Tank? Pick your timing wisely and, if nothing else, persevere.
ORBA: If you were to go back in time and repeat your appearance on Shark Tank, what might you do differently?
Brian: Honestly overall, I really don’t think we would change anything.
The first year we went to the Chicago tryout was 2012. We didn’t even have an actual product, we just had a mock-up of DUDE wipes and a little skit to make it funny. We got decently far in the process, but if we had made it on the show that year, they would’ve torn us apart.
The following two years, 2013 and 2014, we made it further along in the process. 2013 was actually our first full year of sales and 2014 was a good growth year, but we were still really small. Then in 2015, we landed our first big retailer. We acquired Kroger (Family Stores). It turned into a selling point we were able to speak to on the show.
Before we mentioned the Kroger acquisition of 1800 stores, the Shark Tank judges were like, “[W]hat the hell are DUDE wipes?” The Sharks perked up and started to realize the DUDE opportunity was a legit one.
Business Lesson 6: When preparing to expand your business, ensure you have cash to fund the new products and be prepared to adapt to customer-driven demand.
ORBA: You recently expanded your product offerings. How did you know it was the right timing to do so?
Brian: You don’t ever really know.
DUDE Wipes have grown a lot. It’s still our core product and, as it’s grown, it has freed up cash to pursue other avenues. Although cash is part of the reason we’ve been able to expand product offerings, our customer base and loyal DUDE followers want to see more products. We hear great feedback from them and always ask the customers what they want from us next.
How we’ve always rolled out new products is to: Run a small test, launch it online, see how people like it, see what the feedback is and then make tweaks from there. Nothing is going to be perfect initially, as we’ve learned many times.
Business Lesson 7: Have a product test-run that performed well? Celebrate your wins!
ORBA: What’s your favorite DUDE moment of 2017?
Brian Seeing the Walmart test perform well and seeing good data was probably the biggest win.
Business Lesson 8: Even when you’re the DUDEs, you might occasionally need help from a DUDETTE!
ORBA: What’s up next for the DUDEs?
Brian: Well, we’re continuing to do product R&D into new hygiene solutions. We’ve launched DUDE Powder – Menthol Chill to the market, which has been received very well- 2 other scents coming in the next month. We are close to finalizing product testing on a suite of new products — DUDE Deodorant, DUDE Deodorant Body Spray and DUDE Body Wash, to name a few.
So, to recap: Own your brand, outsource your accounting to help you grow and learn from your customers, but don’t be afraid to explore new markets.