The PROPPR, our little Australian poop stool business, is owned by the two of us; Zhenya and Jacqueline. We bought the business back in mid-2018, as we loved the product so much and believed the marketplace needed a beautifully designed and quality made piece of purpose-driven furniture.
We’re now over three years in and continue to learn lessons along the way, as we slowly but surely build our presence in the market and take steps toward bigger production runs and steps to move beyond Australia. As the PROPPR is intended to be a one-off purchase we need to keep growing and expanding our customer base.
Starting in the USA
Over the last 18 months in particular we’ve been excited and sometimes (OK, maybe more than sometimes) frustrated by our foray into exporting, starting with the US market. Our flagship Tasmanian Oak timber PROPPR has been stocked by Goop in the US since being featured in their 2019 Holiday Gift Guide and then a few short months later, in February 2020, we started selling our poop stools on Amazon US.
It’s been a huge learning curve and there’s been a few bumps along the way – including a global pandemic – which brought with it new challenges such as production delays due to material shortages (think acrylic used for sneeze guards and timber in the construction industry), price increases due to increased demand, along with the above mentioned supply shortages. And that’s not to mention shipping delays and price increases due to port and shipping line issues (the word chaos might be better used here?).
Navigating the high seas, poop stool reviews and more surprises
When we first started selling on Amazon we were shipping from here in Australia but with the impacts of Covid-19 on air freight, and increasing delays to our customers, we needed to again take some bold, big steps to better manage expectations. So we established a relationship with an LA based warehouse, who now assist with order fulfilment for our Amazon customers and other US based sales.
Earlier this year, we were caught unawares by a ‘poop stool’ review in the New York Times Wirecutter supplement, which saw us unexpectedly sell out of stock on Amazon from our LA warehouse. This saw us scrambling for more production of PROPPRs and an attempt to get stock onto the high seas from Sydney to LA pronto – hmmm, remember the above mentioned chaos in global sea freight?! It took almost triple the usual sailing time, not to mention increased shipping fees that have come over the past 12 months.
Fun. And. Games.
But we did, and continue to do our best, to roll with it. Everyone is in the same boat right (ha, pun not quite intended)!?
More recently, Goop featured us in a gut health promotion and we not only saw a spike in sales of our Tasmanian Oak PROPPR, but we also sold out a number of our models on Amazon; again! It’s a great problem to have though right? And is further encouragement to us that there’s demand for a high quality, beautiful looking bathroom poop stool that will serve its users well for years.
Taking the next steps in production
Despite the challenges, we’re so grateful for these opportunities and also for the bigger opportunities that we believe are out there for the PROPPR.
In the interests of helping get stock into the US market quickly, and to avoid the need for sea freight for all of our toilet stools, we’ve more recently been on the hunt for US based manufacturers. With the assistance of business development consultants here and in the US, we’ve found a new manufacturer for our Acers in Pennsylvania. Our first production run has just been completed and is on its way to our LA warehouse. Exciting times.
We will still of course continue to manufacture product here in Australia for our Australian and Asia-Pacific customers, but with the Acer being so popular in the US market, having a locally made product will help us better serve north America with a more timely and consistently priced product.
Making a PROPPR move
Which leads us to our next major export announcement! Our co-owner and gut health guru, Zhenya, is also heading stateside!
Exciting. Scary. Crazy. Busy.
As many may know, Zhenya originally hails from New Jersey, and while she has trotted the globe over the past 20 years, it’s now time to return (at least for a while) and be near her family. With the opportunity for her and her Aussie husband Shaun to relocate with his company from Sydney to the US, they’ve decided to make the move! They should be on their way, with their dog Dixie in tow, in the coming few months.
This is both sad and exciting news for us. It’s still just the two of us navigating our way in the early days of this business, and combined with the ongoing uncertainty of international travel, we may not see each other for a while! But bring on the PROPPR opportunities…