There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Jennifer Brown, the founder and CEO of 3 Busy Dogs and creator of Bowser Beer, a non-alcoholic beer for dogs. Before starting her company, Brown developed software—but she always had a passion for dogs. With what some have called a crazy idea, she created a niche market for dog beverages and grew it from local pet stores to national and international sales in pet stores, beer stores, hotels, restaurants, breweries and even a national zoo.
In addition to offering a healthy but fun treat, Jenny offers humorous advice on the dangers of giving dogs alcohol, especially hops, as the craft-brewing world explodes. She just introduced her newest flavor, “Porky Pug Porter” to join “Beefy Brown Ale” and “Cock-a-Doodle Brew” so that dogs can drink responsibly with their owners.
You can reach Jenny on Twitter @bowserbeer.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Jennifer Brown: I wanted to be a nurse like my grandmother but found that I wanted to use more of my science background so I got a master’s in biomedical engineering and discovered a love for coding. I had always had a creative side so when the opportunity came up, I decided to channel it into my passion for dogs and have a little fun with it.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Brown: I was between jobs in 2008 and did it as a fun little experiment for a festival. After selling out [of product] and listening to feedback, I knew there was an opportunity there. I had held a steady job while raising children as a single parent and now I had an opportunity to take some risk and become an entrepreneur. You never really know what you are getting into when creating a first business but I was willing to work hard and grow it. I wasn’t sure if this idea would “stick” with consumers. I saw many dog products come and go but a beer for dogs seemed to resonate with people. It opened up a whole new set of doors for me and I’ve loved every milestone.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Brown: After the economic crash devastated a lot of my business with stores closing and banks not lending, I focused on growing my business in markets other than pet stores—I looked to where people went with their dogs. It took a few years for the beer industry to figure out that having a beer for their growing canine clientele created loyalty among their customers.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Brown: Know your numbers. When you wear many hats and are struggling to build a business it’s easy to have the numbers in front of you but not really understand them.
Also, I adopted Guy Kawasaki’s mantra of “Get it out there and fix it.” Don’t wait until everything is absolutely perfect because things change and you have to course correct as you reach each level of business.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Brown: Build your business on relationships. When the rubber hits the road, a good relationship with your customers and vendors will help you achieve success and weather adversities.
Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?
Brown: More businesses will become aware of how much pets influence our buying decisions, creating more sales opportunities for dog-related products.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Brown: The Wizard of Oz series—a lesson in achieving nearly impossible goals with humor and determination, building relationships with fantastical, interesting characters, and of course there’s always Toto.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Brown: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.