618
9 min 51 sec

The Rise and Fall of BirdSupplies.com

Before the boom of online shopping, this bird lover struggled to find quality products for her feathery friends. She decides to take flight herself, earning up to $250,000/year reselling supplies. Squawk!
Animals High Profit Manufacturing Product

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What It's About

Squawk! A longstanding parrot hustle takes flight.

Business Model
Manufacturing
Skills Required
Design & Research
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
High

Words of Wisdom

Once again, here's a two-fold reminder:

Be careful about building your business on one source of income or referrals. But also know that it's okay to treat your side hustle as “bonus money” that might go away at any time.

Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective and goals.

Fun Fact

Diane was partly inspired to start her own business when she became a stay-at-home mom. She adopted two children from Russia and realized that it would be very important for her to be around as they were adjusting, but she quickly got bored. That’s when she decided to act on her idea for BirdSupplies.com.

Notes from Chris

Episode 618
Diane Burroughs has had an affinity for birds since childhood. Her family raised chickens as she was growing up. Later, as an adult with two children of her own, she found herself rehabilitating injured birds that she found in her neighborhood.

After one successful rescue, Diane and her young children realized how much they missed the bird’s company. It didn’t take much convincing on the kid’s part to get a feathery friend of their own. They set out to find the perfect type of parrot for the family, and Diane soon adopted Peanut, a cockatiel. Once they felt like they could confidently take care of Peanut, Diane adopted a larger and more challenging bird: a Moluccan Cockatoo named Peachy.

Diane was passionate about making sure her birds were properly enriched. Through her extensive research, she knew that the parrot’s exoticism meant that they needed specialized care. Without it, the birds were likely to experience significant stress. Yet, Diane couldn’t find any quality products in her hometown.

I know what you’re thinking… why didn’t Diane just order the products on Amazon? Duh. In literally two days it could be there with prime.

Well, back in 1998, (penicillin was not yet invented, the Model-T automobile was still on the highway, and we were all using dial-up internet) the word Amazon mostly just meant a river in South America. There weren’t a ton of online shopping opportunities back then anyway, especially in a niche market like bird care.

Diane was a stay at home mom at the time and had always dreamed of owning her own business. She knew that parrots were a popular pet—the 3rd most popular in the United States, in fact. Diane also knew that parrots had always been expensive, high maintenance pets.

Although it was risky, Diane had a hunch that the same upper-income people that were attracted to parrots would also be attracted to new technology like e-commerce. She decided to invest $12,000 in her online store, BirdSupplies.com. $9,000 went into web development and infrastructure, and the last $3,000 into inventory.

Diane’s hunch ended up proving right. In the first year, she made $12,000 worth of sales from selling 350 products. There were few competitors, and Diane chose to sell high-end products, resulting in a greater profit. For the next twelve years, Diane’s business grew and grew. She was selling all kinds of items—from bird toys to cages to vitamins—she had it all.

She had a good six months with this. Her SEO was fantastic—whenever people searched for bird supplies of all kinds, she was at the top. Then, in 2011, disaster hit. Diane was relying entirely on Google search results for her sales leads. Well, Google introduced a new algorithm to penalize sites that were using that particular SEO method. This penalty essentially clipped the wings of BirdSupplies.com. It went from being the number one keyword result to number 165.

Diane had gone from making $250K a year to just $50K. It was devastating. She cried fowl, but Google didn’t listen. Also, fowl doesn’t even relate to parrots—another problem. She had to go back to working full-time, and it took her a grueling 18 months to get the penalty removed.

Diane learned the hard way to not put all of her parrot eggs in one basket. She doesn’t put the blame on the Google penalty itself, but on her only using Google for marketing. If she had diversified her advertising, the Google penalty wouldn’t have been as huge of a hit.

Now Diane works on having BirdSupplies.com rank highly wherever she can, not just Google. Not only that, but the 18 months of slow business gave Diane the opportunity to reevaluate her business.

Within the last few years, Diane has narrowed her focus from all things birds to almost exclusively selling feather plucking products. Parrots have a tendency to pull out their feathers. This can be caused by a number of reasons, from boredom to anxiety. Birds live very stressful lives, you know. They have to ask for crackers. They have to repeat things you say. That’s about it… but still, it’s hard.

Now her business is much more manageable. With her specialization, Diane has now written a series of eBooks all about feather plucking. The new business is making $100,000/year. ($100,000/year in feather plucking prevention! And they said it couldn’t be done.)

Although the Google penalty seemed like it was the universe flipping the bird at her business, Diane grew and ultimately became stronger through her struggle. Like a parrot phoenix rising through the ashes, overcoming its desire to pluck her own feathers, she is now stretching her wings, flush with birdseed and PayPal deposits.


MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • BirdSupplies.com: Join the flock—learn more about Diane's side hustle over on her website!
SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"Whereas progress is slow with students in my day job, I can see data weekly and monthly regarding how my side hustle is paying off."
—Diane Burroughs #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau