Paul Henry bought his brother’s pet accessories company, Chinchilla Comfort Coops, in 2017. It was losing $170,000 every month. But just three months later, it started making a profit. Chinchilla Comfort Coops make pet products for owners and vets.

Paul Henry entered a company with a whopping 9,000 pet products. Instead of being overwhelmed, he saw an opportunity in narrowing down the focus. He decided to cater to the exclusive needs of chinchillas. And guess what? It worked like magic, leading to a significant turnaround.

Paul and I chatted about his experiences in custom manufacturing and organic marketing.

Ali Raza: What’s your job?

Paul Henry: 

  1. Company Name: Chinchilla Comfort Coops
  2. Industry: Pet Chinchilla Supplies
  3. Product: Small animal cages and accessories
  4. Target Market: Pet chinchilla owners
  5. Inventory: 60 days’ worth of raw materials

The company is 20 years old. My mother used to own it. I bought it in September 2017. We make chipmunk cages, powder coats, do woodworking, welding, machining, produce car parts, pet products, and even make our own cardboard boxes when needed.

I didn’t know about chinchillas at first. I learned about different animal markets and noticed chinchillas stood out with no big competition. Existing companies had low-quality products just for profit. They weren’t solving chinchilla owners’ problems. So, after 16 months, we focused only on chinchilla products.

Before, I worked in a motorbike parts manufacturing company for three years. I made brakes, helmets, and body parts, and exported bike tires. Now, I’m starting my business.

I wanted investors to support my vegetable farm. One investor said they’d invest if I had six months of business management experience. So, I moved to California, USA, and took charge of my mother’s company. I had no experience managing staff or businesses. Suddenly, I was in charge of a company that had been around for 45 years.

The business was struggling. With 45 years of accumulated waste and disorganization, Chinchilla Comfort Coops was in bad shape. When I took over, it was losing $170,000 every month. But within just three months, I turned it around to break even.

Ali Raza: Did you make a profit or a loss from chinchillas?

Paul Henry: It took me some time to stumble upon chinchillas. I found them through the WordPress website.

However, I decided to switch to Shopify. I initially listed only 60 products, though we actually had 1,000. Realizing we couldn’t feasibly manage such a vast inventory, I knew we had to specialize. It’s just not practical to manufacture so many low-volume products. It would’ve been crazy! Plus, we would have to raise prices massively to handle that many SKUs. So, I narrowed our focus out of necessity.

Initially, I picked Degu and Viscacha for my company, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) slammed us online, leaving tons of negative Google reviews, all one star. I didn’t know what to do. Many comments came from people who hadn’t even tried our products. I thought about changing the company’s name.

When I reached out to the Degu and bird communities for support, they shrugged it off. But the chinchilla enthusiasts responded differently. There were over 30 forums and Facebook groups with 30,000 chinchilla lovers. Even though the chinchilla market wasn’t huge for us, ‌ they appreciated our chinchilla products, which were of good quality.

The chinchilla community appreciated our products and my efforts to engage with them. They shared in all their forums and Facebook groups, “Let’s report these untrue, negative reviews.” And guess what? They were all taken down. That’s when I realized, “We’re focusing solely on chinchillas from now on.” These folks are amazing and dedicated, and they deserve to be treated well.

Ali Raza: Making things seems difficult in the manufacturing industry.

Paul Henry thinks manufacturing is challenging but rewarding. He believes you need to be determined to succeed in this industry. With enough resources, you can hire the right people to help. Efficiency is crucial for staying competitive. However, there are many complexities to manage, such as employees and safety protocols, along with 10,00 processes involved in creating products.

Despite the difficulties, Paul Henry finds joy in manufacturing. He values the satisfaction of making products that bring happiness to people.

Creating each product involves numerous steps to ensure efficiency. Currently, we have around 200 products, with approximately 20 components in each. One of our best-selling items is the chinchilla exercise wheel, which undergoes various stages across departments, such as sheet metal, welding, fabrication, and woodworking. Afterward, it goes through a powder coating process before the final assembly. Our team completes this single product, which undergoes over 100 processes in approximately 30 minutes.

At first, there were lots of things that weren’t working well. So, I began taking them apart and fixing them up.

Ali Raza: Talk about your marketing.

Paul Henry: Most of our marketing happens naturally, without us paying for ads. Despite our growth, we still see about 60% of our customers coming back each week.

Recommendations from people have been our biggest asset. I engage in various online communities like forums and Facebook groups, and have conversations with people. If I notice someone mentioning they purchased a Chinchilla Comfort Coop, I check out what they bought and what they didn’t. Then, I surprise them with a gift. This strategy has worked really well over the years. Often, they’ll share about it multiple times, and each time, I send them another gift. These gifts are usually worth between $40 to $60. And let me tell you, it really spreads the word!

Ali Raza: How do you explore new products?

Paul Henry has a unique approach to designing cages for animals, like chinchillas. He dives deep into understanding their needs by researching what people have bought on platforms like Amazon or eBay, and even what they’ve discussed in online forums over the past decade. Using his empathy skills, he analyzes these insights to figure out what the animals require.

When designing cages, Paul considers the entire process of caring for an animal, from the initial curiosity sparked by a Google search about what a chinchilla is, to the average five-month journey it takes for someone to acquire one, and then the commitment of caring for it for the next decade. He wants to ensure that every step of this journey is accounted for in the design, with the ultimate goal of providing the best products for the animals’ well-being.

Chinchilla Cages Size

Cage SizeDimensions (in inches)Suitable for
Small24 x 18 x 241 chinchilla
Medium30 x 24 x 361-2 chinchillas
Large36 x 24 x 482-3 chinchillas
Extra Large48 x 36 x 603 or more chinchillas
Multi-LevelVariesMultiple chinchillas

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