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Living in the Right Niche

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With any new product, building brand awareness is key. But when your new product is something the world has never seen before, well, you need to do more than just make people aware, you have to educate them, too. As a DTC company, you might have a direct line to your consumers, but you still need to be able to show and teach them as much as possible, and then be there around the clock to answer their questions and hold their hand through the process. 

It sounds like a lot of work, but when the product is changing the game completely, you have to be ready to get your hands dirty. And that’s just what Matt Wall and I chat about today, who is the co-founder of Principle Faucets. Principle Faucets is a DTC brand that has created the first fully-integrated foot pedal system which not only saves water, but is more hygienic and improves faucet functionality. 

Matt dove into how he and his co-founders brought their foot-pedal faucet to the market, the amount of time it took to test and tweak to make it fit consumers needs, and then he goes into the process of what’s it’s been like to actually get it in front of people — a task made much harder when the pandemic caused them to shut down their mobile display unit. Here’s a sneak peak on what Wall had to say: it takes finding the right niche within the industry and then hyper-targeting your search and marketing terms toward that audience to be successful. Plus, Matt tells us how to market the environmental benefits of something like the Principle Faucet across all different geographies, who are experiencing various degrees of climate change. Enjoy this episode and use the code UPNEXT20 for 20% off on your order at Principle Faucets

Main Takeaways:

  • What’s Your Niche?: It’s easy to get lost in the deep sea of products that come up when they search a random keyword. You might see people finding your product or website, but the conversions won’t be what you want. By dialing in on keywords and long-tail search phrases, you can more easily target the people who are actually looking to buy your product and then get them to convert. 
  • Never Before Seen: When you think you have built a better mousetrap, you still need to do market research to see if consumers want what you have to offer. Bringing a brand new company into the world with a brand new product no one has ever seen before is a risk, and you have to do your research before you take the bet to go into a market with a product no one actually wants or needs.  
  • Ease Them In: If your product requires consumer education or a change in behavior, it’s wise to build in some tie back to what they are already familiar with. Asking a customer to do something completely new is scary, and will turn people off. It’s better to give them a way to do a gradual implementation into their daily lives.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“We want to do that roadshow, we want to be the traveling salesmen again, that connection to our customers. There’s no better person to be able to convey the importance, the value and the benefits of the product better than we can.”

“When we originally came up with the concept, we knocked around a lot of different ideas and we looked at big box stores, distribution and so forth, but it just never felt right to us. Again, it went back to we just didn’t want to be another faucet company. That wasn’t who we were. It wasn’t why we were doing what we’re doing. We really wanted to feel like we’re a company that really cares about what we’re doing. And the way that we felt that was best was to be the first thing people saw when they came to our website and who they talked to and who they dealt with and who was able to handle their customer service questions or warranty issues or product questions.”

“When people are searching for us, we don’t want them to search for ‘faucet’ and have our product come up every single time. We have really had to narrow in on our keywords and the short keywords and multi phrase keywords and long tail keywords to get people who really want to search for a foot pedal faucet, or are looking for water conservation foot pedal faucets, or those different iterations so that we are able to show up.”

“We focused a lot on the product itself to make a product that was worthy of what we were doing. Quality-wise, construction-wise, materials so that when somebody does get it home and they open it, it looks and feels like something different, something that’s a little special.”

“We’d done some water savings tests when we were initially going through some of the product developments. We did eight homes here in Central California, and some of the homes were multi-generational, they had grandchildren, parents, or grandparents, and some were single individuals. I mean the whole gamut of apartments, condos, houses, and we found that the water savings compared to an existing faucet was up to 44%. And when we dove into the data a little deeper, we found that the homes with the highest water savings were the ones that were the biggest water wasters prior. So it really helps the people that ended up using more water save the most, which is really a great sign for the impact that the product might have in the future as we get into more and more homes.”

“The droughts here in the West are horrible, some of the worst on record. And then you have severe storms and flooding on the other side of the U.S. So the way we’ve crafted and are working on that message to really join them together is that they’re both the products of the same thing. So the droughts here are the product of carbon emissions and global warming and climate change. That’s affecting the West in this way, on the East Coast where there’s too much water and too much rain, they’re all symptoms of the same thing. And for us saving water whether you have too much of it, or you have too little of it, it’s all benefiting and helping out the same problem. It’s cutting carbon emissions, it’s reducing amount of chemicals that go into the environment by reducing the amount pumped water that needs to be actually treated, transported to your faucet and then goes down your drain without even being used. And then the chemicals that need to be used to treat the water when it goes into the waste facilities. So it’s interesting when you think about the two polar opposites of it, but they’re all from the same problem. So that’s how we’ve had to craft it. We all need to do what we can do, every little bit counts.”

“We’re a brand that nobody’s ever heard of before and we’re selling a product that no one’s ever seen before. And we found out really in early development when we sat down and just pitched the idea to people, to see if there was going to be a market for this thing. And if somebody had done it beforehand, where did they fail? Where did they succeed? It was really interesting to see how people connected with concepts.”

“Another one of the reasons why we wanted to go direct to consumer was because of some of the limitations around actually explaining our product to customers in those environments. And in the big box stores, you’re just another box on a shelf… And even in retail showrooms… to show people and have them really understand the value of it. You got to use it, or you got to see somebody using it. And that was definitely one of the driving factors for us to want to just be like, we got to put videos everywhere of this thing. We got to build this traveling road show. We just got to show as many people as possible how it actually works, have them come and use it because that’s how you connect with it.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Matt Wall is the co-founder of  Principle Faucets, a DTC brand that has created the first fully-integrated foot pedal system which not only saves water, but is more hygienic and improves faucet functionality. Principle Faucets was founded by Matt, his wife Lauren Wall, and Matt’s childhood friend, John Porteous, three California natives who are deeply passionate about water and its conservation.

 In 2015, when California was experiencing a severe drought, Matt and Lauren were looking for ways to cut back on their water usage. They quickly realized flow restriction was all the plumbing industry offered to cut water usage at the tap. They hypothesized this concept actually had the potential to eliminate the water wasted when letting the tap continuously run between tasks like washing dishes. Through trial and error, the three created a system with a foot pedal that has allowed users to cut water usage by up to 44% — that’s about 185 glasses of water per day!

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

 

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hello, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles CEO at Mission.org. Stay on the show. We have Matthew Wall, who currently serves as a co-founder at Principle Faucets. Matt, welcome.

Matt:

Thank you. My pleasure to be here.

Stephanie:

I’m excited. So for anyone who is not going to see video of this, Matt is sitting on top of a mountain at Lake Tahoe and it was teasing us with the view so we can all be very jealous and just let that sink in for a second. That’s a first on this interview by the way.

Stephanie:

So before we dive into Principle Faucets and what it is, I want to hear a bit about your backstory and what even led you to where you are today.

Matt:

Sure, absolutely. So water conservation was always a big thing for me growing up something that my parents instilled in us myself and my sister living in California, dealing with droughts. And that was a very common thread with both my wife and my co-founder John Porteous. And we just wanted to do something that had impact and was meaningful. And in about 2015, we decided to really change gears and do something different with our lives for a few different reasons. And we bounced around a few different ideas and what stuck was finding a way to use water better in the home. It was something that we were familiar with at that point. My wife Lauren is an avid cook. Again, the water conservation stuff on our side, we just really wanted to do something that was meaningful with our lives.

Matt:

And we kicked around some ideas and came up with trying to add a foot pedal to a faucet. And at that point the idea just took off and we deviced prototypes and testing them a little bit, our homes and one thing led to another, we got a good response from some of the people that we shared it with. And gosh, we’re now 2021 and we just launched the business in October of last year. So it’s been a whirlwind, but we’ve really enjoyed it.

Stephanie:

Wow. So tell me a bit about, I’m just imagining you and your wife and your other co-founder all brainstorming. What were you guys doing before you even had this idea? Where were you working at?

Matt:

Sure. I worked for a small startup in the Watsonville area of California. And it’s not your typical tech startup, but it was a small company that was started up. I was the first employee outside of the CEO and owner. So that experience in itself was really cool to see a business start and grow from basically zero revenue to there were about 20, $30 million by the time I left. So the exposure to that business was, I’ve carried a lot of my learnings there through to this business itself. And my wife Lauren actually was diagnosed with colon cancer about the time that we started talking about doing stuff different. So that was a very interesting awakening and really just lit a fire under us. And the fact that the reality of how short life is and all that stuff.

Matt:

So for her, she really wanted to kickstart her life and do something that’s a bit more meaningful at the time. She was a stay at home mom and taking care of our lovely children. And my co-founder John, he has a law background. He was working at the DA’s office. And I think in Modesto, California, but none of us were really just loving what we were doing. And we all just wanted to do something that we could just wake up and smile about in the morning and know that what we were doing, had a meaningful impact on the stuff that we really cared about most in life.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. That’s such a good mix of people with different backgrounds and having urgency around it. And anytime, oftentimes you hear it, like the big ideas there are you’re right there. There’s always something that’s there to stop you. I don’t know if you’ve heard that when talking to other entrepreneurs, but there always comes something where it’s like, are you willing to go pass this? Are you going to let this set you back? So I love that.

Matt:

Absolutely.

Stephanie:

So tell me a bit more about Principal Faucets. So I know it’s a foot pedal. Are you constantly peddling? What does it look like as a user?

Matt:

Sure. The concept that we designed is an integrated system for a kitchen faucet. We have two product families and the integrated full kitchen faucet system is a standalone system. And it comes with our signature kitchen faucet, a little control box, and then our foot pedal that goes in the [Tokic] area of the cabinet. And we also have a adapter system that you can combine with an existing faucet that you already have in your home, in the kitchen or bathroom. So if you’re not doing a remodel or needing to replace a faucet, this isn’t a great option for you. Excuse me, to get all the benefits of a foot pedal. And the way it works is it can start and stop the flow of water. And it can also regulate the flow of water, like a gas pedal. So when you’re working at the sink and you just need a little bit of water, you have all of that flexibility to get full stream and little stream and everywhere in between.

Matt:

And we really designed these systems to not necessarily replace the existing traditional hand operated way of operating a faucet. We just wanted to give you another option to accomplish those tasks. And I’m sure we’ll get into it, but through a lot of the testing we’ve done and the water savings trials, it’s really been interesting to see how people gravitate to using the foot pedal like 60 to 80% of the time, because it just makes a lot of sense. It really frees you up to do all the things you do at the sink a little bit quicker and faster. And then with the foot pedal shutting off the water automatically, as soon as you take your foot off of it, it captures all of those little bits of wasted water in between the stuff you do at the sink. So it’s a really interesting win-win interaction with people who use the water and just interact at the sink. So those two products are where we focused right now, and we have plans to expand and move into some different stuff in the future, but that’s still to come.

Stephanie:

I’m just imagining that all my sinks, everything having that, because I mean, like, have you ever measured the amount of germs on a handle? That’s the first thing that comes to my mind of like, why are we touching these things in the bathroom? And there was a great skit when COVID first started around hand washing and this guy goes to the bathroom sink, washes it, and then looks around and realizes he touched the faucet afterwards, starts watching it again. Then he realized he touched the soap handles. Then washes his hands again. It’s like everywhere and touching things. I’m like, why didn’t we do this before? It was just always touching things, of course we’re not clean.

Matt:

Yeah. It’s been a really interesting and unfortunately with everything that’s unfolded around the pandemic and over the last year. And so the hygiene aspects of our system have been front and center for us in our marketing, as well as just in the overall importance of having something like that in your house, it really does, and is a great solution for exactly that problem. Having to touch the faucet. You can walk right into your house, step on the pedal, wash your hands. You never have to touch anything. And it’s great for adults and kids. And it’s been good.

Stephanie:

[inaudible] not holding. I always take my twins. They’re 16 months. I’m trying to hold them into the sink to wash them off while messing with the handle. And I’m like, there has to be a better way, there is. That’s awesome.

Matt:

There is, yeah.

Stephanie:

Tell me about the early days of starting out. I mean, you just launched last year. What has that looked like?

Matt:

Oh, it’s been a lot of work. For us at this point, it’s all about driving brand awareness and getting our message out and getting in front of as many customers as possible. So we’ve been putting almost all of our efforts into just finding very crafty and unique ways with the pandemic to get out and show people the product one of the last January. So January of 2020, just right before everything hit. John and I, we built these beautiful mobile display units. So it has our two products on it, beautiful cabinets, it’s modular, so you can wheel it in and out of places. And we had this grand idea, this traveling road show that we wanted to do, we rode down farmer’s markets and go to offices and take it to everywhere, any place we could stick this thing and just show it to people, get them to come up and test it.

Matt:

It’s fully functional. So it has a pump inside, self-sustaining electricity, all that kind of stuff. So you could really come up and use it, see it firsthand. And we were so stumped and then everything came crashing down. So…

Stephanie:

Man, that’s a bummer, but it’s ready for you now. The market is ready now.

Matt:

It is, it’s beautiful. Yeah. So we really, we love the idea in our kind of direct to consumer model. We want to do that roadshow, we want to be the traveling salesmen again, that connection to our customers. There’s no better person to be able to convey the importance, the value and the benefits of the product better than we can. So it’s been really cool. We’ve, had a couple shows this year now where we’ve been able to take it out and actually gets up and it’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun. People get such a kick out of the whole concept of being it’s a little show. I mean, you do the whole dog and pony thing. So it’s been really cool. We’re looking forward to doing a lot more of that.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. So what are your, how many units are you selling today? Was there an inflection point where you changed something in your marketing or you did something a bit different when all of a sudden it’s like, boom, now we got to catch up?

Matt:

Yeah. We were pretty lucky that we pulled in a pretty good amount of product before the pandemic hit. So we’ve been pretty good on our inventory, but we’ve seen some pretty steady sales increase throughout the last year with the booms in remodeling and construction. So that’s been a really great sustainer for us. I mean our product on our next round of production, we’re going to be expanding into two other faucet lines. So we’re really excited about that. And that’s actually going to be, we should be placing those orders in just a few weeks, which should be here for the basically fall and winter time of this year.

Matt:

Iteration and changing of the products themselves. We have some stuff that will be changed in this next round, but we’ve been really happy with the way that product has performed at this point. We have had just great reactions for people who have purchased the product and installed it. And yeah, we’re really happy with it at this point.

Stephanie:

Okay, cool. So when it comes to the product iterations, are you hearing feedback from the customers around different things that they need or was it more internally driven?

Matt:

No, it’s been both. We try and keep in pretty close contact with our customers. We do follow up calls so often as long as they’re receptive to them. Using the system, it takes a little bit of kind of, there’s like a bit of a breaking in period. So it takes about a week to get used to it, using the pedal. And then once you do that some of the feedback we hear from our customers about it, they hate going to other people’s houses because they walk up to the sink in the foot pedal, and they’re just trying to tap on the ground to try and get the water to start. But product itself, some of the changes and iterations we want to make are about how the foot pedal itself installs or the toe kick. That was one of the sensitive areas for us in designing the product.

Matt:

There could be a lot of variation in cabinetry. There’s no standard toe kick size. And you look at a modern kitchen versus a traditional kitchen and the cabinetry all different. So we built in an adjustable system so that you can get the foot pedal to the right height and position it optimally for comfort and use. But there’s still some work to be done there. I think in getting that more universal for all applications in the cabinets and so forth. The outside of that, we really haven’t run into a whole lot of requests for additional features or actual iterations on that the physical product itself, we have had asks for other finishes and designs and that kind of stuff. And it’s really painful at this point because there’s so much that we want to do with different designs. And I mean, sky’s the limit with decorative plumbing stuff. But we got to start somewhere and grow the business and get there.

Stephanie:

So why did you guys choose to stay strictly D to C or now you starting to think about exploring retail or other spots to sell as well?

Matt:

When we originally came up with the concept, we knocked around a lot of different ideas and we looked at big box stores, distribution and so forth, but it just never felt right to us. Again, it went back to like, we just didn’t want to be another faucet company that wasn’t who we were. It, wasn’t why we were doing what we’re doing. We really wanted to feel like we’re a company that really cares about what we’re doing. And the way that we felt that was best was to be the first thing people saw when they came to our website and who they talk to and who they dealt with and who was able to handle their customer service questions or warranty issues or product questions. One of the things that’s been really fun working with customers, we offer basically free live video demonstration, so you can schedule it to us and we’ll set up a camera and use that mobile display unit that we have and walk through.

Matt:

And it’s just so great to see, and the magic between having an intimate conversation with somebody who is interested in and really gets the concept and the importance of it. It’s just been very rewarding and fulfilling for all of us. But I think as a business, long-term it’s really hard to say. We would like to stay direct to consumer for as long as we can. It just makes sense for us right now. It’s and yeah, it’s been great.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So if you’re going to stay in that area, I’m thinking like SEO has to be huge, even trying to get up to compete with people like best faucets. If someone sees a foot pedal, maybe they’re like, “Ah, that’s the wrong thing.” So how do you go about reaching new customers and educating them quickly of like, “You could do this instead.” It seems like a lot of things you have to think about, and it’s not just competing with a traditional faucet. It’s like, you have to do both things at once.

Matt:

Yeah. It’s been tough. The faucet industry itself is very consolidated and there’s a lot of Moen and Delta, Kohler. They control about 70% of the all sales within the decorative plumbing industry and they pour tons and tons of money into their ad placements and keyword placements and so forth. So we’ve been doing a lot of work in just trying to optimize our products in that area. So when people are searching for us, we don’t want them to search for faucet and have our product come up every single time, we’ve have really had to narrow in, on our keywords and the short keywords and multi phrase keywords and long tail keywords to get people really want to search for a foot pedal faucet, or are looking for water conservation foot pedal faucets, or those different iterations so that we are able to show up.

Matt:

We end up spending a lot of money when we first started doing some online marketing, and ad placement stuff where we would get just tons and tons of clicks, but no conversions because they just, people would type in foot pedal and faucet or they’d type in foot pedal control. And things for pianos would come up or pumps for yeah. All kinds of stuff. And so we ended up… That was one of the first areas where we figured we had to dial in and really focus in on that. But outside of that, we’re trying to get as much content out there as possible to not only on our website, but just with others. So on social media, Facebook and so forth just to help build some of that the organic growth for us, which has been good, but it’s a tough game. There’s a lot to do.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, you’re innovating in a new market and trying to prove and show people why they need something. We’ve had a lot of brands on who have the same struggle around like having to educate a consumer. I mean, we had bidet company on here and they talked about most Americans don’t think that’s even something they would ever need. What channels or pieces of content are you finding are performing best they’re going to help with that.

Matt:

Yeah, a lot of it’s just around comparing water usage, which was one of the easiest ways for us to show the savings for the product. It’s just showing somebody using a traditional faucet and somebody using our faucet system and the visuals of seeing how much, just no data, no nothing, it’s so night and day between the two different systems and just the ease of flow of use. So that’s actually been really effective for us. And just capturing and showing what the true nature and difference of that system is versus a traditional faucet. So that’s been very impactful. And then in addition to that, delicately using hygiene as some of the ways of showing additional value of what you can bring to the home.

Stephanie:

Because I was thinking I would lean so hard into the hygiene piece because I had this one image in my head of, it was a piece of bread and it was a teacher who did this at school and they put their hand on it unwashed. And then the other one was maybe wiped down with water. The other one may be used, I don’t know, what is it called? The one without water, Purex or whatever. And if there was hand washing with soap and she put them in a bag and left him for seven days, and then it was just the picture showing the seven pieces of bread and what the hand print looked like, very disturbing, maybe realize how gross my hands were, if they’re unwashed and even how most ways don’t even work that well. And it’s interesting to see how just one piece of content was literally ingrained in my brain. And it’s been like seven months. You can’t get it out.

Matt:

Yeah. It’s on the hygiene side of what we’ve been doing. It’s been, kind of a balancing act because we don’t want to scare people into thinking like you have to have our faucet. That’s not why we’re doing what we’re doing, but it is an absolute benefit of having the system in the home. The one really weird twist to this all is when you’re marketing things that claim to be hygienic or improve hygiene or kill germs, there’s a lot of regulation and requirements. You can be considered a pesticide product. And when we first started marketing our product, there were some issues where we came across where we weren’t allowed to show the product online in certain areas because we were being flagged as a pesticide products and it blew our minds that a faucet system would even be considered as a pesticide product, but in the verbiage and the way that we were talking about germs and helping to not spread germs in the home, washing your hands before, so that’s been an interesting road to navigate.

Matt:

We’ve really kind of had to just do some very kind of common sense type of marketing with the hygiene stuff. You come home, you don’t have to touch your faucet. It helps reduce the spread of germs in your home because it’s pretty self-explanatory when you really boil it down.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Oh, interesting. I never even knew that was a thing that you can get around. Yeah. Promoting hygiene. Okay. Have you all explored Amazon or have you not really even thought about that yet?

Matt:

We have, we’re actually selling on Amazon now. And it’s been pretty good. It’s been an interesting set up process. From the merchant standpoint, Amazon’s designed for multiple people to sell off single product pages as a conglomeration of a bunch of people selling the same products so that you get the best price, but we’re the only one out there selling our product on Amazon. So we had to go through and do a lot more of the setup process and go through. And the whole pesticide thing that I mentioned was actually as part of what Amazon had us do and go through and acquire. So that took a lot of thinking and figuring out as to why that was happening. But yeah, we got it. Amazon’s a great tool for small companies. We plan to stick around there as long as it works for us. And sky’s the limit, it’s just a matter again, of paying for contents and getting your product placed out in the right spot.

Stephanie:

Yeah. It seems like there could be so many moments you could create for your customers too, after they buy, just like things like a little card maybe that has a note on the sink, that’s like, look down your pedals below for your water, for any of their guests or something. How have you guys thought about shaping the experience, the unboxing experience and then creating joy even afterwards.

Matt:

Yeah. We focused a lot on the product itself to make a product that was worthy of what we were doing. Quality-wise, construction-wise, materials so that when somebody does get it home and they open it, it looks and feels like something different, something that’s a little special. So if we have done some investment in that, the packaging and unveiling of the stuff, we have some really nice dark foam and some nice packaging on the boxes and stuff, which has been a really cool thing to see and fun thing to develop. Long-term, we have tried to build in some features actually to the faucet system itself that allows either new users or existing users to use both the inside of the hand operated valves on the faucet or the foot pedal.

Matt:

We designed the system. So you never really have to choose one or the other for the Principle Faucets system, the kitchen faucet, the faucet has all of the existing capabilities of the hand operate valve, that’s all there, doesn’t change. There’s nothing you have to do to switch back and forth between the foot pedal and the hand operated valve. So if somebody comes over your house who is not familiar with it, they can walk right up to it, use a hand operated valve, do everything they’re used to doing. And if they want to explore a little bit, they can go down and start to use the foot pedal too. One of the features we built into the pedal well to help with the user experience was this, we call it our tapta flow feature, and essentially you just tap the pedal quickly and it’ll actually allow the faucet to run continuously without having to keep your foot pedal on it.

Matt:

So if you’re filling a pot of water, you want to feel the same to do dishes. You have that ability. So you’re not tied to the sink. If you want to use the foot pedal on that way. With our adapter system, that can be connected to any existing faucet in the kitchen or bathroom. We also built in a feature for that system that allows you to default back to the existing hand operated valves indefinitely, if you choose to, and it’s basically, you just tap it twice. And that way, if you have people coming over, using the bathroom or in the kitchen, and you don’t want to deal with it you just tap it twice. And all of the function goes back to the faucet as well. So we really tried to bridge that gap so that, new users and existing users don’t have any issues with trying to do what they need to do.

Stephanie:

I could see eventually customers being like, “I don’t even want the hand operated piece. Everyone needs to use it this way and just take that off.”

Matt:

I mean, it’s been fascinating to see how people gravitate to use the foot pedal. I mean, it’s blown our wildest dreams. And the beauty of that is that you get all of the water savings by using the pedal. We’d done some water savings tests when we were initially going through some of the product developments. We did eight homes here in Central California, and some of the homes were multi-generational, they had grandchildren, parents, or grandparents, and some were single individuals. I mean the whole gamut apartments, condos, houses, and we found that the water savings compared to an existing faucet was up to 44%. And when we dove into the data a little deeper, we found that the homes with the highest water savings were the ones that with the biggest water wasters prior. So it really helps the people that ended up using more water save the most which is really a great sign for the impact that the product might have in the future as we get into more and more homes.

Stephanie:

Yep. Oh, that’s really cool. Do you ever have issues with the messaging for consumers outside of California? Because I’m thinking when I’m from Maryland, we really didn’t think about water conservation. We didn’t have droughts. And I remember moving to California in the Bay Area. I was like, whoa, this is a thing we actually might not have water, what? I mean, I heard about people in Mill Valley area saving their shower water, and doing other things with it. And I was like, this is a new thing for me. So how do you guys go about crafting the message so it connects with people all throughout the U.S.?

Matt:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, the droughts here in the West are horrible, some of the worst on record. And then you have severe storms and flooding on the other side of the U.S. So the way we’ve crafted and are working on that message to really join them together is that they’re both the products of the same thing. So the droughts here are the product of carbon emissions and global warming and climate change. That’s affecting the West in this way, on the East Coast where there’s too much water and too much rains, it’s all the product are the same, they’re all symptoms of the same thing. And for us saving water whether you have too much of it, or you have too little of it, it’s all benefiting and helping out the same problem.

Matt:

It’s cutting carbon emissions, it’s reducing amount of chemicals that go into the environment by reducing the amount pumped water that needs to be actually treated, transported to your faucet and then goes down your drain without even being used. And then the chemicals that need to be used to treat the water when it goes into the waste facilities. So it’s interesting when you think about the two polar opposites of it, but they’re all from the same problem. So that’s how we’ve had to craft it. We all need to do what we can do, every little bit counts. And if you can save water at your faucet, it’s only gonna help the problem.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s such a good explanation. And one that I’ve never even really thought about, okay, what happens when the water goes down the faucet and all the things that go into it to make it come back again. And yeah, that’s a really good way to message it.

Matt:

Yeah. There’s a lot that that goes into treating water, a lot of chemicals and stuff. So, using every bit in a way that counts really helps cut down on all that stuff.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Very cool. Were there any big bets that you’ve made over the past year that you weren’t really sure if they were going to pay off other than the mobile unit that you guys are wheeling around because that one paid off now, but anything else that comes to mind?

Matt:

So big bets that we’ve placed around the business. Being a smaller business as we started and grown, capital’s king and trying to figure out how we want to best use some of that money towards marketing and where we wanted to put it into either PR or working with influencers and doing paid content type of stuff. Putting the, I mean, every dollar that we’ve put into those areas has paid off massively and we didn’t go in blindly. We took our time and really tried to find people that got the product and were in similar head space around conservation, water savings, cooking because those are the people who really get it and find the most value in it. So when we’ve been able to reach out to those people and have them share that message with their base of followers that has actually putting them out of money that we put into that area, it was a good bet. And I’m glad that we did it.

Stephanie:

Yeah. It sounds like a lot of the themes around your business have been around niching down, niche down with the right people over PR and content is down on the keywords and really getting down to the perfect audience and consumer who’s ready to hear that message and ready to buy before going big to everyone.

Matt:

Yeah. We’re a brand that nobody’s ever heard of before and we’re selling a product that no one’s ever seen before. And we found out really in early development when we sat down and just pitched the idea to people, to see if there was going to be a market for this thing. And if somebody had done it beforehand, where did they fail? Where did they succeed? It was really interesting to see how people connected with concepts. And we talk to professional chefs who do a lot of cooking in the home, and they’re like, “I’ve been waiting for this thing forever. How come nobody’s done this?” And we talked to people who are doctors and dentists and like, “Oh yeah, I have those at the shop, we use those all the time.” Of course, that makes sense to have that home. It just hygiene and efficiency.

Matt:

And we talked to mothers with kids, fathers with kids, and it all came down to the fact that they would just be like, “Well, why has nobody done this before?” It just makes a lot of sense. And that really helped instill in us the fact that there could be a need for this out in the market. And we ended up going to some trade shows early on just to snoop around because we had getting no experience in the industry at all. We knew nobody, no manufacturers. And again, just pitched the concept to a bunch of the people were there. We were super scared somebody was going to steal the idea out from under us. So we were very coy about it, which is probably silly. But it was interesting to get their feedback and hear what some of the biggest manufacturers in the industry said about it.

Matt:

And we approached them and early on say, “Hey, we have this concept, is there anything, do you guys want to partner with us or is there any interest in looking at this, we’d love to come talk to you about it.” And it’s funny. They just never got back to us. Never wanted to hear about it, but-

Stephanie:

They will. Now.

Matt:

Yeah, they will now, but even the retail showroom, we stopped in and talked to a bunch of people all over California just about how they show products and discuss it with their customers in the stores. And another one of the reasons why we wanted to go direct to consumer was because of some of the limitations around actually explaining our product to customers in those environments. And in the big box stores, you’re just another box on a shelf.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I was imagining [inaudible] Home Depot, just like a little foot pedal being next to all these faucets and being like, I think this is another mile.

Matt:

Yeah. And even in retail showrooms… to show people and have them really understand the value of it. You got to use it, or you got to see somebody using it. And that was definitely one of the driving factors for us to want to just be like, we got to put videos everywhere of this thing. We got to build this traveling road show. We just got to show as many people as possible how it actually works, have them come and use it because that’s how you connect with it.

Stephanie:

Yeah, how long was that time period of researching the market and asking questions and having people look at it?

Matt:

It was a long time. We started first developing this product in 2015 and it was just tinkering around in the garage. I’ve always loved goofing around and stuff and tinkering and whatnot. So we just decided to do it ourselves. And we build a proof of concept in the garage. Brought it into our kitchen, hooked it up, look terrible, total Frankenstein, hoses and stuff going all over the place. But it probably had about 60% of the functionality that we have in our product now. So it was a pretty good gauge on using it and understanding it. And at that point, that was basically the limitations of our capabilities. So we hired some engineers, excuse me, we hired some engineers to help us of take it to the next step, develop a true prototype that worked like, functioned like what we wanted to come to market with.

Matt:

And those were the prototypes that we use for the water savings trial here in California. So we had several of those made up. That was probably about a year long process at least. And once we had those prototypes built and got all this feedback from people using them in homes all over, we took a pause at that point. We could have gone and just try to find somebody to manufacture it really fast, but we didn’t have the confidence we really thought we needed in order to go forward. So we ended up going to a trade show ourselves and exhibiting with these prototypes. And we built a display unit very similar to the one that we have that we’re using for the road show. And we doctored up the display unit with some other prototype boxes and stuff.

Matt:

So it really looked nice and clean, like a finished product, but it was all frankensteined in the back and using our prototypes. And we basically told people that we were ready to manufacture and gave somewhat of a misleading understanding of where we were in the whole process. But we wanted to see what industry folks, people who were in showrooms in the Home Depos and big box stores of the world, they all came by and they took a look at it. And the response again was just so far above and beyond what we expected that people were like, “Can we get on a waiting list? Where do we sign up? When are these gonna be developed? Can we place an order now?” I mean-

Stephanie:

Wow.

Matt:

… we were so unready for all of that, but it was great. And it really gave us the resolve we needed to go forward and find someplace to manufacture this and get it to market. So at that point, after that showing to the industry, we found some folks that well kind of to back up a little bit, we wanted to originally manufacture the product in the U.S. and unfortunately, we talked to large manufacturers here in the U.S., we talked to some OEM manufacturers here in the U.S., and they were either so busy or they just didn’t want to deal with a new person or a company that was going to have small volumes to start off. It’s a new product, we never developed anything like that before. So we ended up meeting some people at the trade show who put us in contact with some people in China. And we went over there and met with a bunch of different factories and found some just amazing folks to help us manufacture it over there.

Matt:

And that whole process was a whole story in itself because both faucet manufacturers over there, they’re great at building faucets. I mean, there’s good and bad factories all over the world. Thankfully we found one that was just a great, great group of people and really focused on quality materials. They were great at faucets, but didn’t have a lot of experience in electronics and our systems, kind of a little bit of both. So we had to go in and to go find another manufacturer for just electronic components. But of course the manufacturer is doing electronic components, doesn’t want to do any water testing because that’s not what they do.

Matt:

The faucet manufacturer doesn’t want to do electronics assembly. It’s not what they do. So we had to put together this group of not only components, but manufacturers over there, get them to work together which wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, but it’s been a learning process for sure, because the assembly process for electronic components assembly, the little control box that we have, it needs to be tested for watertight, seals and function, but we had to come up with a way to do that with air testing at the electronics facility, and then come up with a way for our faucet manufacturer to then combine to a final testing of the product to make sure everything worked still watertight and all that, but do it in a way that the water wouldn’t interfere with some of the electronic components.

Matt:

So we ended up doing some iterations kind of, as we were manufacturing with electronic components in particular dialing in adding some actual hardware to the control box itself to allow the manufacturers to speed up the process, make it more reliable. And it was great. I mean, the factories, they have everything you could possibly need to help prototype and do stuff, add components, test components. So it was really cool to see, and we really enjoyed a lot and still do it working with those folks.

Stephanie:

That’s great. I mean, I love that story because so many people right now hear of these DTC companies, just rocket chips, just easy. It looks easy from the outside. And I like actually hearing a real life story of like, “Nope, took a few years, took a lot of testing, had a little hesitancy,” and yeah, I mean, that highlights what building a company actually looks like most of the time.

Matt:

Yeah. It’s the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the scariest thing I’ve ever done hands down.

Stephanie:

I feel that, I feel that. Outside of porter bodies, how they have those little pump sinks, did you ever get one of those and be like, “How do you work?” To figure out maybe like how they function and then have any good takeaways from that one?

Matt:

Absolutely. We bought and test tested all kinds of stuff. We, I mean, you name it valves, Mike Raj was just an absolute disaster. We had pumps like that physically applying pressure to the pump to get the water to flow. There was pneumatic valve that we were testing, hydraulic valves that we were testing. And it was really interesting. They all pointed us to one direction and we ended up going with an electronic system instead of something that was more mechanical. The issue that we found out with doing something more mechanical, like those pump valves or other industrial metal valves that you can buy for kitchens and so forth. They’re very simple themselves they don’t require any electricity, but the issue we found with those is if you’re going to make a product that is going to be successful in a residential setting for people in homes who have expensive cabinetry, expensive flooring, those other methods were very invasive and destructive to the cabinetry themselves.

Matt:

If you tried to install them even in new construction, but specifically in existing cabinetry, you had to cut holes, you had to plumb water lines underneath the cabinets where these could happen. You’d never see them until it was a disaster. So we wanted to keep all of that water connections and areas that could leak. We kept them up out from underneath the cabinet, inside the cabinet, where you can see everything, you can know where everything’s connected. And we just run a very simple communication line down to the foot pedal itself. So not only do you not have to cut holes in your cabinets, but the foot pedal itself just installs with a couple of screws, you retain all of the existing cabinet space that you have, because Lord knows, we put a ton of stuff under our kitchen cabinets, whether we choose it all or not, is still there.

Stephanie:

Only one that look under there right now, it’s been there for a long time. It’s not coming out.

Matt:

Yeah. In that whole process of really coming up with the way in which we wanted to use what technology you wanted to use, to make it all function correct. We wanted to go something electronic for those specific reasons. It just allows you to install the whole system in a much easier way as well. And we set out initially to design the product so that it a DIY enthusiast, your average we can wire could go and install it in their home. They’re capable of into going to Home Depot or Lowe’s or something like that to buy a faucet, install it. This is going to be absolutely no brainer for them. But of course not everybody is going to do that. I know plenty of people who just don’t wanna install faucet. So we also-

Stephanie:

[inaudible].

Matt:

Sure. I mean, it’s just the reality of it all and it’s all of the connections and fittings that we use to connect to your existing water lines and faucets and so forth and house they’re all standardized. So it’s all very easy for a plumber to come in and hook it up and know what to do.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s the route I would choose unless there was a very easy YouTube video. Maybe I would attempt it. I don’t know.

Matt:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Depends how I’m feeling that day.

Matt:

Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie:

Where do you all want to be in the next year? What are you most excited about?

Matt:

Oh man. I’m actually most excited about getting some of our new designs in production. We’ve had a lot of requests for additional finishes and additional designs and even expanding some of our additional hardware that comes with the faucet systems themselves because people have been asking for it and it’s been frustrating for us because we’re like, “We know, we know we wanted to,” but as you grow a business, you got to kind of do it incrementally make sure you’re at the right point and then pull the trigger on it. So I’m very excited to see this next wave of products come to the market and then see how they do, it’s going to be great.

Stephanie:

That’s great. All right. Well, let’s move over to the lightning round when you’re on, is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready?

Matt:

I’m ready.

Stephanie:

All right. What one thing do you think will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Matt:

I think the biggest thing that’ll have an impact on ecommerce in the next year is going to be finding ways in which we can reduce shipping costs. That’s been a big barrier for us. It’s expensive for everybody. So I’m looking forward to innovations that will be coming to lowering and speeding up product delivery.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s great. I’ve heard that a lot throughout all the interviews, so you’re all thinking on-

Matt:

Somebody is going to… Who’s working on that.

Stephanie:

I know. Come on, come on the show, tell us about it. What is the best advice you’ve gotten since starting this business?

Matt:

Wow. It’s to go with your gut. Collectively between Lauren, myself and John, we’ve hired a few consultants here and there to help us, and they’ve been very good at helping guide us in certain areas where we’re just deficient in that training or information. But it’s really interesting when you look at it and you’re like, yeah, that’s what we wanted to do the first place. But it, yeah, that’s…

Stephanie:

That’s a good one. Even if it takes a few consultants to tell you and you’re like, “Oh, okay, I’m just going to go.”

Matt:

You just got to go, you go with your gut.

Stephanie:

Yeah, what’s up next on your reading list or podcast?

Matt:

Ooh. Up next on my reading list is a book called Conscious Medicine and it’s about microdosing different types of psilocybin and a few other things to, how to incorporate that in and use it. I’ve experimented that stuff over the last year actually, and had some great experiences.

Stephanie:

Cool. I’ll have to check that one out. Sounds good. All right. And then the last one, what’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for you in your whole life?

Matt:

Ooh, man. Probably marry me. I would have to thank my wife for that one. That is by far and away the nice thing. Yeah. I owe a lot to her. She’s the woman behind the man for sure. Where I’m off and they are, we work really well together and I’m blessed to have her as a partner in business and in life. So I got a lots of thanks for her.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s amazing. All right, Matt. Well, this has been such an amazing interview. Thank you for joining on the top of a mountain. It’s been fun just watching what’s behind you. Where can people find out more about you and Principal Faucets.

Matt:

Yeah. You can check us out at principlefaucets.com, got a bunch of good information there. You can explore around and as well as on Instagram just @principlefaucets.

Stephanie:

Amazing. Thanks so much.

Matt:

Thank you. Really enjoyed it.

Episode 131