With the holidays fast approaching, there are probably a number of things you’re dreading as you begin preparations for them. Jane Casey and Charlene Yeager, co-founders of Fancy Panz, believe they’ve found a solution to one of them in a common household annoyance.
The Birth of Fancy Panz: Solving a Household Annoyance
Although neither Casey nor Yeager was looking to invent a new product, it was an idea that suddenly sprung up from a common problem that had no clear-cut solution. As Jane explained, “I had the unsightly foil pans in my pantry. They’re hideous, but they’re convenient. That was really the dilemma: how do I dress up the foil pans?”
“I had the unsightly foil pans in my pantry. They’re hideous, but they’re convenient. That was really the dilemma: how do I dress up the foil pans?”
Because foil pans are so unattractive, people often opt not to use them and then encounter problems with preparing dishes for special occasions:
- Foil pans are often too difficult to travel with because they’re too flimsy on their own.
- Then again, nicer-looking ceramic containers require more cleanup and, consequently, more time spent away from friends and family.
- There’s also what Casey refers to as the “donation” (or is it “theft”?) of nice serving ware when you have no choice but to leave it behind because you have no alternative container (like a foil pan) to leave it in!
Casey discovered that there was no perfect Goldilocks solution available and so she decided to create her own. She called her sister Charlene and that’s when they got started.
Of course, as we all know, entrepreneurship is never easy--even if this isn’t your first new business venture (as was the case for these sisters). However, as Yeager said, “Everything is a learning experience for us.”
“Everything is a learning experience for us.”
What You Can Take Away from These Learning Experiences
As you can imagine, there was a lot to talk about with these pioneering sisters and business partners. They had a brilliant idea and both were new to the world of product development and fulfillment. If you want to hear more about Casey’ and Yeager’s adventures in entrepreneurship and lessons learned, listen to the podcast:
Here is a recap of some of the most interesting lessons they learned along the way:
The very first mold built came out of China. Although everyone had said it was cheaper to do things there, they do regret not fully investigating whether that truly was the case. “Don’t just go on what you’ve heard. Make the phone calls. People are willing to help.”
“Don’t just go on what you’ve heard. Make the phone calls. People are willing to help.”
With little control over what was happening so far away and with a product that was relatively easy to construct, they later discovered that it was cheaper to handle manufacturing stateside.
While you might think that co-founding a business with your sister (or any relative for that matter) is a bad idea, Casey and Yeager haven’t experienced problems. “We are probably the exception to the rule.”
“We are probably the exception to the rule.”
And what do they attribute to this frictionless business partnership? Well, they assessed each other’s strengths and trusted the other to handle those parts of the business. That’s why Jane manages most of the sales and speaking engagements whereas Charlene is more about tackling the behind-the-scenes operations.
The key here though really is trust. It doesn’t matter if your partner is your sister, your friend, or a total stranger. So long as you have trust that they’ll do the task given to them, do it to the best of their ability, and with the business’s best interests in mind, you should find the same level of success as these women have.
Now, this is an interesting one. Although Fancy Panz does have an online presence with a website, Twitter, and Facebook page, marketing--at least in the traditional sense--has not really been part of their business strategy up until now.
Part of this is because they’re currently in the process of ramping up their inventory (which has already sold out). When you’re handling most aspects of your business, that’s to be expected.
However, there’s another reason for this and it’s a pretty unique one: they haven’t needed to go beyond word-of-mouth. They currently use sales reps located around the country to pitch their product to boutiques, big-box retailers, and so on. They also have over 2,000 brand “evangelists” who signed up for their emails over the last year or so, who are more than happy to spread the word to people they know. “There isn’t anything like our product.”
“There isn’t anything like our product.”
And that’s really the key. Since this isn’t something people might think to search for online and yet it’s a very common problem, they’ve been the most successful in attracting new business by putting their products front-and-center on retail shelves where it’s bound to attract attention.