opinion

Getting My Product on the Shelves

Anne Winter
Getting a product from idea, through design, to patent and to market is a daunting task, especially for a first-timer, and it took me six years to do it,” said Dawn Tulman, president of discreet storage developer ToiBocks.

Tulman fashioned a jewelry box with a hidden compartment in the bottom that conceals any number of items, and was developed initially to hide her sex toys from her younger kids. Though it’s a mainstream product, Tulman decided to take her prototype to several adult businesses to see if they saw the same potential that she and her business partner did.

First she brought the ToiBocks to several inhome toy parties and did some focus group testing, and learned that one of the main reasons women hesitated to own a toy was for fear of their children discovering it. Tulman and her partner, Trish, knew right then their brand’s slogan would be, “The Ultimate in Discreet Storage.”

Next, Tulman did some research to determine which retail stores around the country had customer demographics that fit the ToiBocks’.

“It’s critical to find out what kind of stores they are,” Tulman said. “I typically call and ask what the average price points of their products are. If it’s a $20 to $40 store, there’s no way they’ll stock the ToiBocks.”

After speaking to a rep at national retail chain The Pleasure Chest, she brought her prototype to the Los Angeles location and, after checking it out, the manager at the time ordered a dozen, despite knowing that they wouldn’t be ready for shipping for another seven months.

“For him, it was nice to get a unique product,” Tulman said. “A lot of the stuff on the market is merely a variation of what’s already out there.” Next, Tulman hit Good Vibrations, Stockroom.com and Hustler Hollywood — whose retail order is the largest she’s filled so far — and now is testing in the Mercer Street location of Babeland in New York City.

“To us, it was important that we hit the best stores first, at least to let them know who we were and what we were doing,” Tulman said. “Everything I’ve done has been on the phone, via email or by sending samples. We charge for samples; we can’t afford to send them out for free. We send them with an invoice and return label, so they can return it if they don’t want to take it.”

Tulman also touted the importance of social networking and trade press buzz, and that without the slew of reviews, write-ups and blog posts discussing her flagship product, she wouldn’t have gotten the responses and attention she did.

“The acclaim is critical,” Tulman said. “You have to have people saying they like the product, like on blogs and in magazines. We were in High Times in February — the more people you have saying, ‘Yes, it’s worth it,’ the more inclined a store is to stock it.”

Tulman includes excerpts from trade and mainstream write-ups at the end of her email signature when sending sales correspondence for an added “punch,” and also uploads each one to her mainstream website for both consumers and buyers to find when doing product research.

ToiBocks brand products — the company now has several storage options in its lineup — is now in more than 50 stores spanning 19 states.

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