Brooke Martin, founder of iCPooch is crazy cool.
When Brooke was 12, her Golden Retriever Kayla had major separation anxiety, and she wanted to make something to help her. She entered a Dragon’s Den style competition in Spokane, Washington where she pitched the idea for a product where you can virtually video chat with your dog and give it a cookie.
REALLY, WHO DOESN’T WANT A COOKIE Y’ALL?!
Brooke won and now her interactive dog product, iCPooch, is ready for purchase through a number of retailers on three continents.
I decided to talk to Brooke to find out why she is so awesome, how can I be more like her, and what she did to make such a fantastic product.
(Before reading the interview, take a little peak at iCPooch to see it in action. If you would like to send me one, I will not refuse the offer, however I may set it up a little differently so that my dog can call me and send me cookies at work.)
1. Brooke, a lot of people have ideas but don’t take action on their dreams. What gave you the courage to make your idea a reality?
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart! Whether it was running lemonade stands, selling Girl Scout cookies, or organizing fundraisers for my school, business has intrigued me since a very young age.
I also love learning and creating new things! So when I was 12 years old, I heard about an event called Startup Weekend, an entrepreneurial extravaganza where people pitch ideas for products or businesses and develop them over a 54-hour period, and I was very excited!
I enjoy video chatting with my friends and family, so I thought why not video chat with your dog? And why not give them a treat while you’re at it? The basis of iCPooch was born, and I pitched the idea at Startup Weekend. I received the most number of votes, so I was fortunate enough to work with a team of developers and designers to flush out the product concept over the weekend. After Startup Weekend my dad and I started working on prototypes in the garage and engaging in discussions with several of the business professionals that I had met at the event.
2. If you had any doubts at any point, or got stuck when you were trying to make your product, what did you do?
I’ve had so much amazing support from a variety of business professionals in my community that have always been there to help me along my entrepreneurial journey. Having such accomplished advisors on my team makes challenges so much easier to overcome.
3. Do you have any advice for dog lovers who want to make their own products?
If you have a great idea for a pet product, get feedback from others to see what they think. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be discouraged if the process seems too difficult. If launching an invention into the marketplace were easy, everyone would do it.
4. What do you hope to do once you graduate from school?
I plan to attend four years of university to get a degree in science/business and then pursue my MBA.
5. Do you have any plans for product expansions for iCPooch?
Looking forward with the technology that we’ve developed, our plan is to pursue opportunities with the home healthcare marketplace to introduce a device that will allow the delivery of pills along with the ease of having auto-answer video chat to provide face-to-face interaction with an aging parent or relative.
6. How were your experiences with Kickstarter? Was it fairly easy to raise the funds to make your product?
About a year into the creation of iCPooch, with many of my initial startup challenges behind me, I launched a Kickstarter campaign. In a matter of hours, the pledges were rapidly accumulating… and within days, iCPooch was being featured in the national press on amazing venues such as Geekwire, Yahoo, and the NBC Nightly News.
And just as it seemed there would be no stopping us, our Kickstarter campaign completely plateaued! By the end, we’d raised a respectable amount of funding, but only 30% of our target. And that’s where my real education began – where I was forced to dig in, refocus, and begin again. As I moved into refining the project, and as my determination grew, I learned the value of perseverance. Six months later with renewed focus and determination, I launched a new Kickstarter campaign reaching 150% of my project goal.
7. If you could go back and do anything differently, what would you change?
I really wouldn’t do anything differently. We’ve made so many changes along the way based on consumer feedback that iCPooch has continually evolved over the past 2-1/2 years to what it is today.
8. Your dog Kayla had a lot of separation anxiety before. How is she doing now?
Kayla is doing so much better now. She really loves it when I connect with her using iCPooch when I’m away from home. We also now have two more Golden Retrievers, Zoey and Noel. I know that in addition to getting a treat from iCPooch that they really enjoy each other’s company when we’re away.
9. What sort of feedback have you had with your product? Are you finding it is helping with separation anxiety?
iCPooch has really taken off in popularity. So many people have reached out to me to express their enthusiasm for iCPooch and share their stories about how it’s helping their dogs. Did you know that 18 million people sleep with their dogs in their bed every night in the United States? Our dogs are like members of our family and we miss them when we’re at work, school, or away on vacation. We have lots of ways to stay in touch with the other members of our family; like cell phones, texting, social media, and more. What about our furry friends? We need to stay connected with them just like any other family member.
10. Do you have any last comments about what you want people to know about your product?
I am so pleased with how far iCPooch has come. I’m excited for the future of iCPooch in the pet products market and look forward to helping it to reach its full potential. My journey as a young female entrepreneur has totally changed my life. The opportunities I have received as a result of taking that initial risk at Startup Weekend have provided me the ability to view the world around me from a totally new point of view. I have so much gratitude to those who have helped me along the way.