Wendy Supino readily admits that as an entrepreneur, she’s been lucky. And that’s what concerned her. A commercial real estate broker, Wendy established edogz.com in 2000 as a side business to serve as an online “Yellow Pages” for businesses and consumers who shared her love of dogs. Always fascinated by the animal instinct for smell, she hit upon the idea for Stuff ‘n Sniff Companion Pals®, a toy that would double as a security blanket and training aid.
By incorporating a pocket for a sock or other item with the owner’s scent, the Stuff ‘n Sniff comforts the dog when the owner is away, and during a boarding or hospital stay. It also helps newly adopted dogs adjust to their new families and surroundings, and gives puppies a chewing alternative to shoes and furniture.
Wendy located an overseas manufacturer who crafted some sample Stuff ‘n Sniff toys based on digz, her edogz.com mascot. Virtually overnight, Wendy found herself in the manufacturing business when Stuff ‘n Sniff’s debut at the 2006 Global Pet Expo won 2nd place in the dog category. Other awards and a segment on Good Morning America helped heighten interest in the product. Wendy soon was scrambling to handle production, marketing and distribution issues, all while maintaining her real estate career.
“It’s amazing that I managed to do so much without a business plan,” Wendy says. “It was only my experience in other business areas that helped me slide through. There’s no way that I could have done it without any entrepreneurial experience.”
An opportunity to appear on MSNBC’s “Your Business” elevator pitch segment proved just how lucky Wendy was. One of the elevator “riders” who listened to Wendy’s presentation on Stuff ‘n Sniff was SCORE CEO Ken Yancey.
“I had never heard of SCORE, but it didn’t take long for me to realize they offered exactly what I needed—a mentor who could help me with all these challenges,” Wendy says.
Wendy is confident that Stuff ‘n Sniff is on the right track. She’s developing a multi-national dealer network to distribute digz and a new character, darbz, to pet stores, boarding facilities, and veterinarian clinics. She also has formed an alliance with Animal Planet to advertise Stuff ‘n Sniff on the network’s PetsIncredible DVD “Training Your Adopted Dog,” which will be distributed to 10,000 selected shelters and rescue groups across the country.
“I hope that SCORE will be a part of Stuff ‘n Sniff’s growth, and that in years to come, I can return the favor by being a SCORE mentor myself,” Wendy says. “As a small business start-up, there’s no better place to find great resources and people to talk to. You simply can’t beat SCORE.”
A follow-up call to Ken Yancey put Wendy in contact with Orlando SCORE mentors Bob Shephard and Dr. Jan Mangos. They helped her learn about business plans and SBA lending opportunities, the nuances of overseas manufacturing and export labeling, and the steps required to properly brand and safeguard her product logos and messages.
SCORE also connected Wendy with another small business that crafted her Stuff ‘n Sniff press kit. Dr. Jan also invited her to participate in an MBA class at Everest University, where students could provide more focused help on Stuff ‘n Sniff marketing issues.
“Bob and Dr. Jan are great mentors,” Wendy says. “If they don’t know something, they know somebody who does. And www.score.org is great too. There are so many templates, incredible tools, and articles written by experts who are willing to share their ideas and advice.”