Yuki Kinoshita and Noah Silverman were classmates at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics when they discovered in freshman year that they shared a passion for both entrepreneurship and… napping.
“Noah and I are big nappers,” says Kinoshita. “In college, we each found 25 minutes a day to take a nap somewhere.”
But there was one problem. Cozy places to sleep were hard to find. Dormitory mattresses are notoriously uncomfortable.
They coveted the dog bed they saw a large dog curled up in at a local coffee shop and decided there was no point reinventing the wheel. They set to work creating a human-sized prototype of The Pluf— which they call “the world’s first human dog bed” — with the help of a local seamstress — who used pillow stuffing from Ikea and foam from a local foam store — and a product designer who had worked for a cat bed company. By working with professionals, they were able to ensure that the product would be comfortable for customers of all sizes.
They completed their prototype in September 2021. Pre-order launch campaign on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter in April 2022, they raised $290,657 from 799 backers, more than 10x their goal of $25,000. “Everyone told us they wanted the product,” says Kinoshita.
To find a manufacturer, they researched weighted blanket manufacturers in North America and sifted down the list to the factory that could produce the best quality products. The two founders, currently operating out of the basement of Silverman’s family home in Seattle, planned to fly to Kentucky to get a batch of Plufls from their warehouse and personally deliver orders to early supporters as far north as Canada, when Kinoshita spoke to me several times. weeks back.
Thanks to a series of viral TikTok videos they introduced (here’s one sample), $20,000 – $30,000 in paid Facebook and Google Search ads, and an appearance on Shark cage in October 2022 things moved quickly. According to Kinoshita, business owners exceeded $1 million in revenue around Black Friday.
Pricing a product that is new to the market, such as a human-sized dog bed, is more of an art than a science. The co-founders used the prices for large beanbags and dog beds as a guide and settled on $499. “We saw that the large dog bed could cost $200 to $300; large bags cost $500 to $1,000,” says Kinoshita.
The beds are 68 inches long and 38 inches wide, but made of orthopedic foam, weigh less than 20 pounds. Despite their relatively light weight, shipping has been a significant expense in today’s business environment.
“We made a mistake on our first crowdfunding run,” says Kinoshita. “We chose boxes that were a few inches too big and were hit with an extra $10 per box in additional shipping costs. We subsidized that cost. Lesson learned.”
So far, many of The Plufl’s customers have been millennials and pet owners, says Kinoshita. Some are parents looking for an original gift for their children. But a new audience is emerging, including people with sensory issues who love the soft fur.
Some are pet owners. When Kinoshita and I spoke, he was staying at a hotel in Beverly Hills where he was in town delivering the dog beds to social media influencers in the “dog influencer” community, who are also interested in the beds. “People in the canine influencer community are very passionate about their pets,” he says.
But it is still too early to say who the most important customers will be. “We are selling at a rapid pace now,” says Kinoshita. “A lot of people haven’t tried the product yet.”