We’re 4 years into our poop stool journey this month, and we wanted to reflect on the ride so far. It’s just the two of us still – Jacqueline & Zhenya – so there’s sure been a lot to learn and navigate! Here’s a little of our story.
An Australian poop stool is born – circa 2015
Firstly, we can’t take the credit for creating the PROPPR.
This modern, sleek designed poop stool was an Australian business idea, hitting the market via a crowd-funding campaign back in 2015. Zhenya, a colonic hydrotherapist and gut health nutritionist, was introduced to the PROPPR by a colleague, and soon became a stockist in her southern Sydney based clinic and wellness spa.
Putting the PROPPR to the test with up to 10 sets of feet resting on the in-house clinic stool (not to mention the cleaning in between), the PROPPR was gaining a firm following and standing the test of time. So when Zhenya heard this Aussie made toilet foot stool business was up for sale, she was hoping someone would buy it and ensure that this particular poop stool didn’t disappear from the world.
Which led to…
A conversation about pretty poop stools!
Our PROPPR story started with a random conversation in February 2018 about the beautiful toilet foot stool that was a fixture in Zhenya’s clinic.
We both loved the product, not only due to its function, but also its beautiful sleek design. We also strongly believed there was a place in the market for the PROPPR; a piece of bathroom furniture that not only ‘did the job’ but was stylish and modern.
While our relationship was one of therapist and client, we’d chatted over many years about small business, previous corporate careers, and, of course, good gut health. We came to realise that we had complementary skills and passions, and felt we had nothing to lose in exploring the opportunity.
Getting in touch with the original owner, who was pursuing an alternative health and wellness career, we found out the business was in fact near to closing, having had the ‘for sale’ sign up for a few months. So, after undertaking due diligence and starting negotiations, we decided to embark on the journey together and became the co-owners of the PROPPR in May 2018.
A massive learning curve
Following our purchase of the business, we spent the first six months getting stock back into production, taking time in particular to review and reinvent our flagship moulded timber stool to ensure it was sturdy, sustainable and stylish. Working with our Queensland based manufacturer we decided to only use Australian timbers and specified that they must be FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified. And that’s when we refreshed our natural finish timber in Tasmanian Oak – it’s the model that proudly won an Australian Good Design Award the following year in 2019!
We also work with another Australian manufacturer, located in Sydney, for our Acrylic model called the Acer (which comes from the Latin term for acrylic), and have enjoyed working with them to make a range of improvements to the finished product.
By December 2018 we were once again stocked with PROPPRs and relaunched our website and online store just in time for Christmas.
Breaking into the US market
Our entry in to the US market began with Goop. We believed the PROPPR had great alignment to the health and wellness aspects of the Goop brand, and saw an opportunity for their online store with no other similar products being listed. But how would we get their attention? It started with Zhenya’s trip back to the US in mid-2019 to celebrate her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, just as our Good Design Award was being announced. While Zhenya had lived in Australia for over 15 years, she originally hails from New Jersey in the US. [And, as outlined in a previous article, she’s making her way back there soon.]
So, as Zhenya headed back to Australia via LA in July 2019, she dropped off our Tasmanian Oak PROPPR with a personal note, highlighting our recent award. It was a nervous wait for a couple of weeks before we received an email inviting us to be a part of the 2019 Holiday Gift Giving Guide. You can imagine the happy dance that came after that – except that we had to remain tight-lipped until the gift guide went live in November 2019.
The Goop Holiday Gift Guide is highly anticipated each year for its many unique (and sometimes weird and wonderful) inclusions, so we were thrilled to be a part of it. We quickly went back into production mode to meet the order and to get it to their US warehouse in time.
Encouraged by the response from Goop customers, we further leapt into the US market in February 2020 by opening up a listing on Amazon US. With the help of an Australian-based consultant we’ve been navigating the world of Amazon and have enjoyed a healthy flow of sales since.
Reflections from four years
We realise now we were perhaps a little green when we first stepped into this business adventure, mainly because we were both new to manufacturing given our respective backgrounds in service-based businesses. With that came the need to learn all about shipping and storage, and especially a product that ships with a lot of ‘air’ due to its design.
And of course we had to ride the waves of change with a global pandemic, and the flow-on impacts on materials and shipping (both costs and timing). We’ve had to learn about exporting as we’ve taken the PROPPR to international markets, and particularly as we now get set for further expansion into the US market with Zhenya’s return to where she grew up.
It’s been quite the ride but we wouldn’t change it (well… maybe we could have done with a few less challenges) but it’s all been an opportunity to learn and grow. Each step of our business journey has provided learning and growth; lessons which we hope will set us up to be a force in the global poop stool market. So watch this space…