For the past year and a half, Matt Meeker has been pounding the pavement at BarkBox, a monthly food and treat delivery service for pets. It seemed like the latest X-in-a-box gimmick, a startup trend made popular by monthly makeup shipper Birchbox and accessory company, Shoedazzle.
But the company is still growing and it retains 90-95% of its subscribers month over month. Last week, BarkBox surpassed 50,000 paying customers and at $19 per box, the company is generating $1 million per month. Its goal is to hit 100,000 subscribers, or a $25 million annual run rate, by year-end.
Meeker, who co-founded Meetup and ran Dogpatch Labs NY believes he's only beginning to...paw...the surface.
BarkBox has grown by experimenting with multiple marketing campaigns. It maximizes the most effective channels and gets rid of ones that are unsustainable. BarkBox has tried Groupon, LivingSocial, radio spots, direct mail and email, TV segments, search, Facebook ads and more. Meeker's team found that if it actively managed Groupon leads, it could convert those users into loyal BarkBox customers paying full-price. Facebook is the most efficient channel.
In addition to its box subscription service, Meeker's 24-person team has launched a content site, BarkPost, which is similar to BuzzFeed's Cute section. In just a few months, Post has scaled to nearly 400,000 monthly visitors and Meeker's team is already selling ads against it. Then there's BarkCare, a product the company has rolled out to a few hundred beta testers. BarkCare will cost $199 per year and it's a 24/7 hotline for dog questions and emergencies. If you're wondering which pet insurance to get, for example, BarkCare can help you. Or if your pet is throwing up in the middle of the night, you can get assistance.
Over the next five years, Meeker wants to create at least 17 more Bark brands and become the new-age Petsmart or Petco. He's aware of the Pets.com debacle but thinks he can create a brand that lasts.
"The aspiration is to build a $5 billion company in the next five years," Meekers says. He notes that the US alone spends $55 billion on pets. "We're the new generation pet brand. We're more digital. Our generation treats our dogs differently. The big pet companies don't connect to us at all, and they're not innovative." To take on the major pet retailers, Meeker knows he has to move quickly, hence the lofty goal.
Sometimes, investors ask Meeker what his crazy idea is for BarkBox. Surprisingly, his answer isn't to create a $5 billion brand. He doesn't think that's far-fetched.
Instead, Meeker replies, "an airline for pets and their owners."
"We think of BarkBox very much like Virgin," says Meeker. "We want to do everything for dog lovers we can do."
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