EDITOR’S NOTE: SEVERAL YEARS AFTER PUBLISHING THIS ARTICLE, IT APPEARS SHURE PETS HAS BECOME ANOTHER SMALL BUSINESS FAILURE STATISTIC, AND CLOSED DOWN.
This week’s company profile is Shure Pets. Shure Pets combines home parties with pet products. If you’ve ever been to a Tupperware party (men, don’t laugh — some of the top Tupperware sales professionals are men), then you know the business model.
Shure Pets has a line of almost 300 pet products that are sold through direct sales consultants. These direct sales consultants arrange in-home parties with friends, relatives, neighbors and others they know. Often the pets are invited too.
There the sellers can show pet lovers a wide variety of products to lavish on their pets — everything from vanilla dog shampoo to cat vitamins. The company even offers pet-themed items for pet owners such as coffee mugs and garden stones. The sales consultant earns a base commission of 25%. And the friend or neighbor hosting the party earns credits toward free products.
Recently I had a chance to chat by phone with Andrew Shure, the founder and CEO of Shure Pets. He said that when he started the business, “No one was doing pet parties — it was a unique concept.”
He leveraged two trends: the phenomenal growth in the pet industry and also the growth in the direct selling model. As we pointed out here before at Small Business Trends, the pet industry amounts to $38 billion annually. And according to the Direct Selling Association website, direct selling (such as through home parties) is a $30 billion industry annually. About 14 million people earn some part of their living as direct salespeople.
I asked Andrew why he chose the home party model for selling his company’s products. According to Andrew, from the buyer’s perspective, it is “like having a personalized shopper working for you.” With most retail environments being self-serve today, it’s hard to get anyone to tell you in detail about a product or even answer a question. “A direct salesperson, in the relaxed setting of a home party, will tell you about the products, show you how to use them, and explain the benefits.”
And so what attracts the sales consultants to this business, I wondered? Andrew notes that most of his company’s sales consultants do the work part-time or as a side business. “Shure Pets attracts passionate pet lovers looking for supplemental income. You can set your own hours. The average party sales are $400, so at 25% commission that would mean about $100 earned for the average-sized party. That translates into $25 to $33 an hour (including preparation time) in the example given.”
He also notes that most of his company’s sales consultants are already employed in a pet-related field, perhaps as a dog walker or veterinarian tech or pet groomer. “There are a lot of entrepreneurial businesses that feed on the pet industry. Being a Shure Pets sales consultant fits nicely with people who are already involved in the pet industry.”
Andrew felt that the dynamics of the pet industry set it apart from other industries and made it ideal for the direct selling/ home party model. “People have emotional connections with their pets. And home party sales are a high-touch, relationship business.”