This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Sharon Vinderine. Sharon is the founder and CEO of PTPA Media - Parent Tested, Parent Approved. She created the company to help consumers make the best purchasing decisions for their families and it has become the leading global recognition agency for family focused products and services. The Parent Tested, Parent Approved Seal of Approval program helps brands worldwide stand out from their competition and provides instant trust and credibility to consumers. As a result, PTPA is one of the most sought after awards in North America.
In fact, Sharon and PTPA have received numerous awards including the prestigious RBC Women Entrepreneur Award. So, how did Sharon take a simple idea and simple seal of approval and create a massive brand and worldwide standard in just a few years? That's just one of the topics we discuss in today’s episode.
Sharon actually has a tech background and had owned a tech business. When she became a mom, she decided to invest a baby product. She was trying to market the heck out of it, going from store to store to get it on shelves, and was not having any luck. Then, she found an “awards” program that promised if she worked with them, they would help her get her product into stores, get media attention, etc.
She submitted her product to win the award. And she won it. But, the feedback she got was terrible. She got the seal for the award, but found out if she wanted any marketing or publicity, it was thousands of dollars more.
So, Sharon unleashed her inner misfit entrepreneur and decided to compete and do it bigger, better, and build something that would truly help people.
Talk to us about the business…How does it work?
- It is a seal of approval that is marketed and has be shown around the world to signal great products for families and parents.
- Sharon has been on over 200 tv shows and outlets sharing what PTPA does.
- PTPA has a database over of 150,000 moms and parents that give an extremely thorough test of each product and provide a very detailed survey and evaluation of their experience.
- Everything is based on the feedback.
- If a product meets the standards required, they get a license to the PTPA seal of approval, marketing to PTPA’s entire consumer database, facebook campaigns with over a million impressions, and so on.
- It allows companies to put their money where their mouth in an economical way and get it tested and receive detailed feedback on their product.
What are the thresholds you use to decide if a product gets the seal of approval?
- Qualitative and quantitative data is used.
- Subjective feedback is taken out.
- Quality Does the product live up to what the company says it will do.
- Does it give great value for its price.
What should a company that is looking to use a seal or award to recognize their product or service look for in award service and what’s the value of that to them?
- The recognition of the program itself amongst their target audience is important.
- They need to have good recognition in the target audience and your target audience.
- You must make sure they have the target audience that you are looking for – not just a big audience.
- You also need to make sure that they have an audience that they can promote you to.
- Ask lot of questions of how they will market you because an award without any marketing assistance is just a sticker on a package.
- It comes down to making sure the award is well recognized in the target audience you are focused on and ensuring they will partner and really market you if you are chosen for it.
What type of marketing should be provided from an award service?
- Their sole goal should be to bring awareness to your brand – otherwise, they are just a “pay for play”.
- You want a company that you can see online the results they get, the campaigns they do, the points of reference of how they support winning products.
- They must have track record of results they’ve gotten for other brands.
- It must have value to you. It is also a two-way street – you must be ready to use the award and market it in conjunction with the award service for best results.
Talk to us about your marketing. How did you get Mr. Wonderful to endorse PTPA?
- Paid endorsements never hurt!
- Mr. Wonderful went above and beyond and really took the time to understand what PTPA does as his endorsement was much more than expected.
- TV is still a very good avenue for brand awareness.
- Social media
Tell us more about how you leverage TV…
- Sharon spent over 6 months coming up with different pitches for TV producers.
- Every single day, she would professionally harass producers until they gave her a chance. She was relentless.
- Persistence absolutely pays off
- You can to be creative in how get attention.
- Going against the norm or smashing stereotypes is a great way to get attention.
- Sharon also invested heavily in building her parent community so she had an army behind her that backed her up and gave social proof to what she was doing.
How did you start building your parents’ community?
- Offered free product to friends and people she knew.
- She then asked them to tell 10 of their friends, etc. I
- t grew very slow for the first few years.
- TV was always being relentless.
At the 21:40 mark, Sharon tells the story of how the Rachel Ray reached out and she thought it was a joke.
- It ended up being real and after her segment, she got over 10,000 sign ups for the community.
- She got a similar bump from being on Steve Harvey.
- It was 4 years into the business before PTPA was on Rachel Ray, etc.
- It never comes easy.
What have you found that makes the best pitches to TV?
- “Ditch this, get that” is a good one. Where you get rid of one product and replace it with another.
- A little bit of negative and controversy while also showing a positive or better way is good.
- Current research that is unique and not in the mainstream yet is good.
You have a lot of data – are there any trends you see happening right now or that we can expect?
- The impact of trust is the biggest thing they have seen at PTPA.
- Consumers aren’t sure who to trust anymore, which means it is very important for businesses to focus on.
- First – does your business stand for something? If not, it should and you need to let everyone know about it.
- Price is next. You have to be as cost-effective as possible. People are by nature conservative with their dollars and will be even more during 2020 and the pandemic.
What are some of the best lessons you’ve in your time in business that have made a real difference for you?
- Hiring a good team and surrounding yourself with people that can add a lot of value.
- When you bring someone into your world, they need to have strong passion that you can see and feel.
- You cannot take everything so personally, either.
- For example, if an employee leaves – you cannot take it personally. It’s what they feel is best for them and their family.
What has been most surprising to you on your entrepreneur journey?
- It goes back to losing great people.
- At the 5 year mark, Sharon lost one of her best salespeople, who went to one of her clients.
- Sharon was devastated and thought it was over as this person was driving all the sales at that time.
- Her husband reminded her that she started the business, that she has made all the sales, and that ultimately, she is what makes the business go.
- It made her stop and take the time to realize what she had actually accomplished.
- You need to stop and celebrate your accomplishments and give yourself a pat on the back. It is ok to be proud of what you’ve done and realize it from time to time.
How are you adapting to the global shutdown we are in now?
- It has not been easy.
- She’s had to do some layoffs
- The uncertainty makes things harder, but sales can be made.
- Everyone has the exact same issues that most businesses are dealing with.
- She is discounting services to give people willing to work with them better rates.
- She is taking to reboot and reorganize to be prepared for when things pick back up.
- Connecting with the community is very important and there are happy moments to focus on.
You started with $5000, an idea, and made it happen. We have people listening right now that are just like you. What is your best advice for those that are in the same position you were?
Look at your idea and present it to a group of people that isn’t family. Use friends or LinkedIn.
Determine if there is a market opportunity.
Your passion must be big enough for the idea to ride the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship.
Best Quote: “You need to stop and celebrate your accomplishments and give yourself a pat on the back. It is ok to be proud of what you’ve done and realize it from time to time. Entrepreneurs have a hard time doing that.”
Sharon's Misfit 3:
- We must always challenge ourselves to be better than we were yesterday.
- Love what you do so much that you are willing to go through what it takes to succeed in it. Have a PURPOSE!
- Don’t rely on the word “luck.” Luck is the result of your hard work and innovation.
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