When did you start your business and what were you doing
(careerwise) at the time?
I came up with the idea for KitchenKuffs®, and formed Kuffco, LLC, in 2008. At the time I was, and still am, the owner (with my husband Frank) of a small advertising agency. I had left corporate America in 1995 as a Vice President of Marketing. I’ve long had an entrepreneurial spirit and never quite fit the corporate mold. Additionally, in 2006 I earned my certification as a professional dog trainer. Dog training, a lifetime passion was my original post-agency retirement plan.
What led you to create your product?
As a result of the dog training, I wear a lot of sweatshirts (dogs’ nails and teeth don’t get caught as easily in sweatshirts as they do in sweaters). I also spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen, preparing meals and cleaning up after. I’d forever be pushing my long sleeves up while cooking or washing something in the sink. My sleeves would always fall back down my arms and I’d end up with wet sleeves. Yuck! I hate that. So, I decided to do something about it.
When did you know that you could really make a go of
I spent a few weeks working on prototypes for myself. I’m not a seamstress, so that in itself was a stretch. Once I was pleased with my samples I started giving KitchenKuffs to family and close friends, to get their reactions and feedback. I also met with a patent attorney. By the summer of 2008 the dream was really taking shape.
How did you turn your idea into a business plan?
My work with the patent attorney provided an excellent structure of “things to do” to maximize my investment. Additionally, having launched new products in my former business career I had a good idea of how to develop a business plan. However, having no previous experience in retail, procurement, or manufacturing presented me with numerous opportunities for continued growth.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and
what did you use it for?
My initial cost, to develop the prototypes, was negligible. However, the costs for forming the LLC, filing the provisional and full patents, as well as registering KitchenKuffs as a trademark, were significant. All these steps were important to me because I felt that protecting my investment for the long run was a prudent decision. The entire enterprise, to date, has been self-funded, drawing from savings and continually re-investing in the business. I am pursuing licensing opportunities to facilitate a significant expansion of the business.
What was the biggest challenge?
Finding time to dedicate to this initiative has been a challenge since I still work full-time. Prioritizing the steps that need to be taken to keep the business viable, while juggling other work and personal time. Additionally, finances play a significant role in how quickly, and fully, I can move forward with ideas and plans.
Did your friends and family support your
Absolutely. My husband has been stellar, providing moral support, graphic design and photography help, as well as a willingness to share the financial investment. The rest of my family has been there every step of the way, as have so many of my friends. They have all provided constructive suggestions for the product as well as frequent ideas for marketing and publicity.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed
in your face, when people didn’t get it or said “no”?
I remain confident because — KitchenKuffs really work. I know it from my own experience, and with the growing number of satisfied customers, I see that they work for others as well. As a result, I believe the tipping point for KitchenKuffs is just on the horizon.
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
My first inventory was ordered 6-months after I came up with the idea and sales were made for the 2008 holiday season. I have placed multiple orders since that time, introducing new patterns and styles.
How long did it take for your business to become
Due to the various legal filings, our initial costs were pretty significant, so we are still working toward profitability. However, now that those costs are largely behind us profitability is attainable.
What’s the hardest part of what you do?
Procurement, I am trying to continue to have the product made here in the USA. However, it is a challenge to achieve price points that mainstream American catalogers and retailers are willing to pay.
What's the most fun part of what you do?
Reading what my satisfied customers have to say about their KitchenKuffs! I LOVE that.
Do you have employees?
No. Frank, my husband, is a willing partner.
How have you been using social media to grow your
KitchenKuffs has a presence on both facebook & twitter. What I find is that when I have the time to be engaged, it returns the favor. So my advice to anyone looking to use it successfully is to be committed to your presence, be genuine, and have something to offer your followers, be it products, advice or entertainment. More engagement is on my list of to dos!
How has your involvement with Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into
Doers helped you and your business?
Being a member of the DID community has been beneficial in many ways. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many wonderful, bright, and motivated women, even if having met most of them just virtually. They provide a helpful support group when you are looking for ideas, needing votes for an online competition, or just need that boost that friends can give if you’ve had a down day. I have especially enjoyed learning more about the ventures others are involved with. As an example, I followed sister Terry Grahl and her Enchanted Makeovers journey in 2010. I was moved by her efforts and the impact she was making for others. As a result, last December I decided to donate a percentage of KitchenKuffs’ sales to Enchanted Makeovers. It seemed to bring the whole DID experience full circle.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What’s so inspiring
I have many role models, but they are not necessarily entrepreneurs. Largely, they are women who have believed enough in themselves to make things happen, for themselves and/or others. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, someone I admire: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” My grandmother, an especially strong woman, was a wonderful role model. There have been many others who have played important roles in guiding my ambition, belief and success. Martha Stewart is among them; to me she represents the best example of Brand marketing that I have ever witnessed. She is phenomenal and that is why I joined her community.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your
business successful? How do you continue to grow and
Working in corporate America for over 20 years provided me with many of the tools needed to start my businesses. In addition, I attend seminars, webinars, workshops and I network in an attempt to keep up with the fast pace of business, commerce, and change.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever
Try, as hard as you can, to do your very best every day.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
I would have come up with KitchenKuffs at least 2 years earlier, before the downturn in the economy. The economy is starting to rebound, but the past few years have been particularly challenging for start-ups.
What is your favorite product that you offer?
Regular KitchenKuffs — they’re cute and they work.
What is your best selling item?
Chic Cheetah or Delicious Peach patterns
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven’t become
Ask yourself these questions; Do you really believe in your product/service? If so, is your product/service different and/or better than others that are out there? If so, do you have the where-with-all to stick with it if it takes years to break through? If you can honestly answer, “yes” to these questions I think you are on the right road!
Keep Up with Barbra Doran & Kitchen Kuffs