BodyMint Goes To The Dogs
Wednesday - July 26, 2006
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Smell Goodies Team (from left): Claire Higashi (with Teddy),
Paula Chong, Almira Tumaneng, Ryan Kaminaka, Joyce Kan,
Crozier the dog, Rona Yim and Eddie Onouye
Appropriately enough, the story of BodyMint-USA has been about the sweet smell of success. A lot has happened since 1997, when co-founders and ex-lawyers, Claire Higashi and Rona Yim, began searching for the solution to the nearly universal problem of human body odor. As the story goes, Claire and Rona convinced Honolulu real estate developer Eddie Onouye to join them in developing a product that would greatly reduce breath, underarm and foot odors in a completely natural way. Three years, nine formulations and countless experiments in specialized processing later, the partners came up with BodyMint, which they market as the little green pill that acts as an internal, all-natural, all-body freshener.
With a lot of hard work and no small amount of good luck, the partners have enjoyed tremendous success, beginning with the early appearance of BodyMint in trendy boutiques, a national feature on CNN, regular appearances in celebrity goodie bags for the Oscars, Grammys and Emmys, and growing national and international distribution. By the end of 2006, BodyMint will be in over 7,000 retail outlets, including Longs Drugs and Wal-Mart in Hawaii, where it is one of their top sellers.
Even as the partners were enjoying up to 40 percent growth in BodyMint sales every year, they knew in the back of their minds that there was a similar need for a product to help control pet odors in the home. Coincidentally, Rona was giving a talk about business ownership to a group of grade-schoolers one day (you can never start them too young) when a little girl told her, “You should make a body mint for dogs.” It was a “slap your forehead” moment for Yim, who knew the partners had put off their pet project too long when the need for this new product was even apparent to a child.
As a basic business proposition, a product to reduce dog odors made sense. According to the 2005-2006 pet owner survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 39 percent of all households (48 million homes) have at least one dog. Thirty-nine percent of these households own two or more dogs.
Avid pet parents themselves, the partners began a two-year quest to develop a product that would address the olfactory challenge of dogs, who, unlike their human counterparts, don’t bathe every day. The product had to be strong enough to address the “doggie smell,” but safe and natural. They wanted their product to be unique because, although it’s a more than $35 billion a year industry, the competition in pet products can be a real, ahem, dog fight.
Although they hit upon the ideal formulation for dogs, the partners were still deeply involved in growing the distribution of BodyMint. In response, they asked me to join them in March 2006 to focus on Smell Goodies. For me, another ex-lawyer, it presented an exciting learning opportunity - a new way of attacking problems that were familiar (business agreements) and not so familiar (retail merchandising).
We believe Smell Goodies will be much bigger than BodyMint because, hey, people don’t mind talking about their dogs’ odors and dog owners are everywhere. There is a great feeling of satisfaction of bringing Smell Goodies to the market because, as pet people (I’m a dog aunty), our overwhelming desire is to enhance the relationship of the dog and dog owner.
Smell Goodies is produced in two sizes, for “large” and “small” dogs. Since March, we’ve been on a fast track to launch Smell Goodies, which can be found in most pet stores on Oahu and Maui and in your neighborhood drug store. We will begin distribution of Smell Goodies on the West Coast and online starting in August. As we start the Smell Goodies chapter in the story of this local company, we’re feeling optimistic. Launching Smell Goodies in the Year of the Dog seems like a very good omen.
Next Week: Annie and Alice Yeung, Owners/Managing Directors of PANYA
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