Natalie Youn is the founder of Bark Potty, and a leading entrepreneur in the pet industry.
After getting her MBA, Natalie Youn embarked on her journey toward entrepreneurship with DoggieLawn and Greenwell Pet, and then Bark Potty.
With her ventures, Natalie Youn channels “her commitment to pets and sustainability” to grow and expand her companies.
This commitment also helps Natalie Youn separate Bark Potty from the competition. The company offers an “evolution of the traditional dog-potty solutions that ticks all the boxes in a novel and earth-friendly way.”
Natalie Youn and Bark Potty have come up with a new dog-potty solution that is easy to use, sustainable, and affordable. It’s also “good for your nose” and “good for your back.”
Through her products, Natalie Youn wants to “make our customers’ lives easier.” At the same time, she also knows that she has to “find ways to continue doing that for as long as possible.”
To this end, Natalie Youn asserts her commitment to “sustainability,” by providing products that “rely on sustainably sourced materials.”
This commitment also gives her companies purpose. Natalie Youn knows that succeeding in business “means so much more to both owners and customers when you know that part of the work you do is paying it forward.”
It’s all about the product! Natalie Youn, Bark Potty
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Natalie Youn: It’s all about the product!
As I mentioned before, Bark Potty is an evolution of the traditional dog-potty solutions that ticks all the boxes in a novel and earth-friendly way.
It’s easy to train because it smells like a dog park in a box.
It’s good for the planet because it’s made of entirely recyclable or compostable material.
It’s good for your pocketbook because it costs no more than an equal amount of potty pads.
It’s good for your nose because the natural oils in the bark break down odors.
It’s good for your back because it’s multi use, you only have to put it down and pick it up once a month.
It’s patent pending, too!
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Natalie Youn: I cannot stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with people that are talented.
I didn’t focus on staffing early enough and it stunted growth because of a lack of manpower.
Relatedly, I would suggest screening heavily for the right personality and to minimize having toxic people on your team.
They end up diverting your focus to managing personalities and conflicts rather than focusing on growth; toxic behaviour tends to be contagious as well and can quickly stunt growth.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with people that are talented.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Natalie Youn: It might surprise my husband to hear me say that I’m grateful for his help.
He’s also a serial entrepreneur and is quite brilliant, so it’s good to get his take on things.
Early on, we disagreed countless times about product strategy, but his input was always valuable regardless of the outcome.
At this point, I know when I want his opinion on something and when I don’t.
We’ve had heated discussions because we often approach things differently, but having a different experienced perspective is so important.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”.
Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Natalie Youn: A company can be “good” for a variety of reasons, but I believe a good company in my industry is one that is cognizant of the customers’ needs and delivers a product that meets those needs in a way that enhances their lives.
A great company goes above and beyond in this regard.
For me, I’ve tried to accomplish this by ensuring we have outstanding customer service and practicing corporate responsibility.
Our products are meant to make our customers’ lives easier, but this means we need to find ways to continue doing that for as long as possible.
One way to ensure this is to commit to sustainability and create and sell products that rely on sustainably sourced materials.
It’s important to recognize the toll our industry takes on the environment if we want to continue the work we do.
This brings me to my last point, which is that a company goes from good to great by having purpose.
Growing a successful company is an exciting achievement, but it means so much more to both owners and customers when you know that part of the work you do is paying it forward.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill.
From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Natalie Youn: Every product has a life cycle. Even the best selling products will reach a standstill.
Many companies are astutely aware of this and proactively work with this in mind — think cell phone manufacturers and the fashion industry, where there is always something new in the works.
If you sense a lull is coming (or even when it’s not), continue putting products into the sales funnel.
Continue innovating because all products/companies will inevitably have its ups and downs.
If an entirely new brand is unfeasible, consider creating an extension of your product or developing additional items under the same brand.
Every product has a life cycle. Even the best selling products will reach a standstill.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times.
Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Natalie Youn: Even though COVID has meant a lot of growth for us, our profits are down because the growth happened at such a rapid pace.
I strongly recommend having a thorough understanding of financials and knowing how much runway you have so that should any urgent situations pop up, it doesn’t automatically mean the end of your company.
The pandemic has really driven this point home.
We saw so many businesses close just weeks into the shutdowns and it’s tragic to see all your hard work go down the drain.
Having a keen awareness of the financials means that if a risk doesn’t pan out, you won’t be paying the price by having to forfeit your business.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Natalie Youn: Managing employees, hands down.
HR takes up a substantial amount of resources, and a good chunk of my time is spent dealing with some HR-related issue.
Spending time to find the right people to join your team minimizes this, but conflicts will inevitably occur.
It’s unlikely, but even if there are absolutely no interpersonal issues with the staff, things like medical insurance, training, scheduling and PTO, etc., will need to be tended to regularly.
And of course, if your company does well, this will continue to be a growing component of your day to day business.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general.
In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Natalie Youn: This is true for any industry, but especially the pet industry: customers want to know you care as much about their pets’ experience as theirs.
People consider pets as members of the family, so it’s important that you can communicate empathy to any issues that come up.
For us, we offer complimentary training not just to make sure our customers are able to successfully utilize our products, but because we believe that building those relationships are what take customer service beyond just another voice on the phone.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media?
For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media.
Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Natalie Youn: Yes, there are concerns with social media as there is with anything that affects your company’s reputation.
However, coming from a marketing background, I see even negative responses as an opportunity to rethink your product and the brand and how they might be improved.
Social media can be tricky, but it’s a great way to get a pulse on your product.
You want to be mindful of what feedback you take to heart, but there’s a lot to learn if you do take your customers seriously.
If you have a purpose driven business, social media has further benefits.
Use the platform to make an impact. Appeal to Gen Z consumers and take advantage of their ability to utilize social platforms to effect change and spread your message.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Natalie Youn: People in high places are quick to think that they know better.
I’ve seen others stifle ideas that employees come up with, which can be demoralizing for the team.
It discourages employees from being involved and that can cause them to become less committed over time.
When people bring up suggestions, listen. They can offer different avenues for solving a problem that you didn’t see.
They are in their various roles for a reason. Whenever we get stuck on a decision, I always tell my team, “Take it to the people.”
The operations manager might see something that your marketing team doesn’t.
And the customer service team will lend insight about consumer experience that operations might not be aware of, and so on.
Always ask others to test your ideas. After all, you won’t be the only one consuming your product.
When people bring up suggestions, listen. Natalie Youn
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Natalie Youn: This is already underway and the tides seem to gradually turning, but more could be done in regards to sustainability in the pet industry.
It’s a bit surprising that it’s not an inherent part of the pet industry — you’d think animal lovers would naturally be inclined to practice corporate environmental responsibility.
While there are, of course, numerous eco-conscious organizations, they focus on awareness and aren’t the ones producing consumable goods that have incredible consequences for our planet.
The pet industry can have a significant impact because we manufacture goods that heavily utilize and shape resource consumption.
If we aren’t the ones to push for increased sustainability in the lives we share daily with our beloved pets, who will?
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Natalie Youn: We can be found at barkpotty.com as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
Natalie Youn: You’re very welcome!