Bryan Reisberg founded his dog backpack company, Little Chonk, after his beloved Corgi, Maxine, had amassed a huge following on Instagram and TikTok, from being shown getting carried around in modified backpacks all over the New York City subway. Jason talks with him about the dog backpack community and what it’s like to go into business after you are already an influencer.
In this week’s episode of Ecommerce Building Blocks, Jason Wong talks with Bryan Reisberg about his journey from proud dog owner to successful pet backpack entrepreneur. Using only unpaid social media, Bryan successfully sold out of his prototype in 4 minutes and has continued to perfect his design and to expand his inventory (and Maxine’s following) over the 10 months since his company launched. Bryan’s marketing stack demonstrates that having an enthusiastic following and an engaged community always wins over ad-spend.
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Little Chonk’s TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@heylittlechonk
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Bryan is a NYC based influencer who founded Little Chonk dog backpack company in 2021. He launched the brand with an already huge following (3.5 million tiktok followers and 900,000 instagram followers) solidifying the trend of creators developing their own products instead of getting hired to promote already existing brands.
[00:00:00] Bryan Reisberg: On the whole, I think there is such a white space in the pet industry for a brand to come in a brand that can foster community and a brand that can build thoughtfully designed product. I think the goal should be to build a really good product and to make something that people want, which is a very simple yet oddly difficult goal to achieve, to truly make something that people want.
[00:00:31] Jason Wong: Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the building blocks podcast show. Today, I am joined by Brian Reisbeg, who is the founder of Little Chonk. Um, probably proud dog dad to Maxine. Is that right?
[00:00:45] Bryan Reisberg: Yeah.
[00:00:46] Jason Wong: Um, welcome to the show, Bryan.
[00:00:48] Bryan Reisberg: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:50] Jason Wong: I've been following your journey on your TikTok.
[00:00:52] How long have you started this TikTok account?
[00:00:55] Bryan Reisberg: Um, oh, the TikTok account. I think I'm not a hundred percent sure. I think we started [00:01:00] it. Maybe might have been 2019. I remember being in. I was in Italy with my wife at the time we were on vacation and I had gotten on and I'd gotten Maxine on and off TikTok, like five times, cuz it was like, it was a very new experience. Um, this was like, I don't know, 2019, so probably a few years.
[00:01:20] Jason Wong: And how long have you had Maxine for?
[00:01:22] Bryan Reisberg: Um, had Maxine since she was a puppy. She was born in 2015. Um, so about seven years.
[00:01:31] Jason Wong: And 2019, it's around like when talk really started picking up traction. As a social platform, curious to hear, like what, what made you pick TikTok over another platform?
[00:01:41] Bryan Reisberg: Um, well, we started on Instagram. We've been on Instagram since Maxine was a puppy. Um, it was just like a fun thing to do. Um, I, uh, I graduated from film school at NYU. I was working in advertising. I was working on, uh, a second feature film. So you. Social media. This was, it was like [00:02:00] probably a year or two years before influencers got really big in 2017.
[00:02:04] I knew they were around before then, but I think it really started to grow in 2017. Um, and we did that for a while. So we've been growing with Instagram and then when TikTok came out, um, it was just something new and it was, there was a lot of growth on it and it was interesting. Um, and we got on it because it, it was just another outlet to make stuff.
[00:02:25] Um, and we got on it pretty early and, um, we saw some pretty massive growth, I think starting in 2020, um, like just before the pandemic hit. I remember we had a video that has like 50 million views and it was like every video we posted for, like, it must have been a month like hit. I would, I would say to my wife, I'd post a video and I'd say, watch this.
[00:02:49] And I'd just hit submit. And it would just, it would just, it would just go nuts. Um, it, it felt like a gold rush at the start of the pandemic with TikTok.
[00:02:58] Jason Wong: Oh yeah. I mean, everyone's [00:03:00] home, everyone's consuming more content.
[00:03:02] Bryan Reisberg: Yeah. And I remember I was working at an advertising agency and it was Charli D'Amelio kept getting, you know, on, it was all over the For You page.
[00:03:10] And I remember she was under a million. She was at like 200,000 and I kept going back. And I kept seeing how, and I said, and I said to another creator, I said like, this is crazy, this like this young girl, uh, like the growth on this platform. I've never seen anything like this. She would go up like, it would, it was exponential.
[00:03:27] It went from like 10,000 a day to 20 and it just would go up, up, up, up, up. Um, and so something was going on. And nobody really got a handle on, on what it was. So at the very least it was interesting. And at the very most, it was a tectonic shift in social media. And obviously we know now is a tectonic shift.
[00:03:44] Um, right. So, you know, it, it's really difficult to, to be an early adopter on platforms like that because, um, it, it takes an investment. It takes a lot of time. Um, and you. If you're creating stuff and you're going across [00:04:00] platforms and you get the hang of one and all of a sudden another one pops up. Um, I, I find it difficult to compartmentalize the way you create to adhere to how other platforms or how other people are engaging.
[00:04:12] So that's why I said before we got on and off, like five times, because when you go to Instagram, which is pretty linear. Yeah. At the time it was pretty neatly organized when you go to TikTok the UI just at first glance, drastically different. And so to get a handle of that, it was quite difficult. It started to make sense to me, to the point where I was like, okay, I'm gonna take a little leap and I'm just gonna start making shit and posting it.
[00:04:33] And it was like, really like the videos weren't that great. Uh, but you know, test and learn.
[00:04:41] Jason Wong: Yeah, absolutely. Well, the crazy part about TikTok and something that you realized early on is the return on your energy investment comes a lot faster and at a much higher velocity than what you see on Instagram, because once you hit that particular bucket of people, it's, it's skyrockets.
[00:04:58] You just have to hit that little [00:05:00] mark. And, and
[00:05:00] I think for you...
[00:05:01] Bryan Reisberg: Well....I would say, I would say that's both true and not true in, in, in the sense that. There is a, I say like TikTok kind of feels like Jeffrey dollars and Jeffrey dollars. Um, you know, if, if, if you've never been to toys, R us Jeffrey dollars were like their currency.
[00:05:19] Uh, so it's like fake money. Right. Um, and it, it really all depends what you want to get out of it because short term gains are, I mean, you get those in spades on TikTok. Right. Um, and it's very rewarding. It's like, they're like dopamine hits. Right. But they feel very, um, It, it, there is an element that feels like smoke and mirror is if you're trying to build a community and stability and sustain a sustainable platform.
[00:05:45] Um, and I think, I think people are still trying to figure out how to create long term stability and growth on a platform like TikTok. Um, and, and probably the clearest [00:06:00] example of that I have is so Maxine gets recognized in quite a lot. These. We'll go out in public and right. People come up to us and they say, one of two things they say either, is that Maxine?
[00:06:12] Or is that the dog from TikTok? . And that to me feels like a pretty tight synthesis of, um, community, right? In terms of, uh, like how people see us or maybe how we've been engaging with the community. Now I've talked to other creators where it's like their community is still on a different platform, whether it's, um, YouTube.
[00:06:34] Facebook or Instagram and TikTok. There's something about it that doesn't quite feel, uh, communal. And you know, when you get these large audiences, when you start to post something different, like I've seen people have a niche on TikTok and they're posting those videos, but when they veer off of that a little bit, it doesn't perform.
[00:06:57] So you have this massive audience. And [00:07:00] it feels like it's just a number on your profile where there's no real application or indication of how well any future content is going to perform and how do you foster that community? So that's why I say like, you know, to your earlier point, why I feel like that's both true and just not true.
[00:07:16] I think it just depends on how you view success on each platform.
[00:07:22] Jason Wong: That
[00:07:22] makes sense. And when did you start the dog backpack company?
[00:07:26] Bryan Reisberg: So we've been working on, uh, that for a few years, but we officially launched in December of 2021. So about seven months now we've been in business.
[00:07:36] Jason Wong: What was the
[00:07:36] biggest inspiration behind starting that?
[00:07:39] Bryan Reisberg: So I've been carrying Maxine in a backpack since she was a puppy. Um, and you know, there's other dogs who ride in backpacks, but I can say confidently, nobody's carried their dog in a backpack more than me. Right.
[00:07:55] Jason Wong: She, she just loves the backpack?
[00:07:56] Bryan Reisberg: So from,
[00:07:56] from 2016, from 2016 to [00:08:00] probably like 20 18, 20 19, I would bring Maxine with me everywhere, including my day job.
[00:08:06] So I'm riding the train two times a day. So she's in the backpack at least two times a day, every day. Right. And we did it so much that a lot of people associated that product with us. It, it created viral content. And so that helped grow a platform, but it got to the point where I, you know, a lot of people kept asking us about the product, uh, not only the backpack, but they wanted this kind of relationship that I had, you know, they saw my dog in the bag.
[00:08:33] And, um, I, I, I had so many problems with it from, from the point of view of a pet parent who like, you know, for example, if, if Maxine like coughs the wrong way, I'm at the vet, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, I am, I would die for this dog. Right. And so. We got so big that I was sick of making content for another product, because I just assume, I don't know, but I was probably doing a lot of business for this company.
[00:08:59] Right. [00:09:00] Um, and I think we are probably one of the reasons that helped them grow their business. And there was really no mutual relationship between us. Right. So it got to the point where I, I said to myself and I said to, um, our manager at the time, I said, I know for a fact that we can build something that's so much better than what currently exists on the whole.
[00:09:23] I think there is such a, a white space in the pet industry for a brand to come in a brand that can foster community and a brand that can build thoughtfully designed products, because I still have not seen a brand in the pet industry that I would have that relationship with. You know, people have products, but very rarely do they know the brand, uh, very rarely are they loyal to that brand.
[00:09:45] And. You never know where, where these products are coming from or how they're being made or why they're being made. Right. So I knew exactly what the product needed. So we found, um, we found somebody in the [00:10:00] states who could help basically, uh, link us up with a fantastic designer and a really, really great supply chain.
[00:10:07] Um, we built an advisory board. We did a friends and family round of investment. Um, and we spent a long time trying to basically build a product. That I could hang my hat on that. If, if everything went belly up tomorrow, would I live and die by this product? So there were a list of features and I wanted to make sure that one, the bag was, uh, of remarkable quality.
[00:10:30] So we really didn't cut any corners when we were prototyping it out and designing it. And we were really, really, particular with these details. Like we delayed production by six weeks for certain buckles because they were just a little bit stronger than stock buckles. Right. Um, you know, we added auto lock zippers.
[00:10:47] We added handles, we added neck support because over the years of wearing the backpack, I knew it was missing. I've also been talking to like over the past few years, thousands of people who said that they hated what they were using. It wasn't supportive, their dog [00:11:00] moves like this. You know the tail, you know, there's no, there's no place for a tail.
[00:11:04] There's just so many issues. So it was an incredible amount of thought to get to a prototype. Then once we got there, we did safety testing with, uh, different bodies. And we also did testing. We did like a whole meet and greet in at like, uh, like a bar in Brooklyn. And we had all these people come by, people who have used backpacks, people who haven't used backpacks.
[00:11:23] Um, and they came and tested the product and we talked to them and we said, what do you like, what don't you like? I mean, I still ask people today.'. Because, because we've gotten such incredible feedback. I was like, I want to know what you don't like, what's not working for you. Right. How can we improve this product?
[00:11:37] Um, because I think we're, we're at a stage right now that we've done a pretty remarkable amount of business in a really short period of time. And so we're entering this hyper growth mode where everything that we make is gonna go back into development. Right. So figuring out how we can make better products, better dog bags, how we can appeal to more breeds of dogs, bigger dogs, smaller dogs, you know, we made some tweaks and then we [00:12:00] said, okay, I, I think we're ready.
[00:12:01] So, uh, you know, doing everything in the background to, to launch it on her birthday, which was December 15th, after working in advertising, I've had an incredible insight into the agency side, but also the brand side of things. What, what brands are doing things correct? What do I feel like they're doing incorrectly and how can a brand become a real player in the current economy, which is, you know, a lot of it is, is so heavy on, on content, um, and community and fan engagement.
[00:12:31] Um, so we had this product and I knew we were in a really good position and we were in a better position than most other brands. Cause we had this, we knew that product market fit existed. I had spoken to so many people. Um, and so on December 15th, I didn't really know what was gonna happen, you know, like, because I've seen the stories of, of these influencers who launch a product or, you know, merch, which this is not merch, but, you know, I've seen it tank.
[00:12:57] It all really depends on. You, [00:13:00] how you engage with your community and, and how loyal your community is. That's that's where like the rubber meets the road. It, because I've seen other influencers that have millions of followers, way more than, than us try and launch a product. And it just does not work for whatever reason.
[00:13:16] And we had a two month buildup to December 15th, announcing the product, showing people, features, all this other stuff. We opened the doors and we sold out in four minutes.
[00:13:26] Jason Wong: Oh my God.
[00:13:28] Bryan Reisberg: It was, it was the craziest fucking day of my life. I mean, other than the day I got married that day, that day was pretty well too.
[00:13:35] But we were sitting in this, in this room and we watched on Shopify, we hit, we hit open and we watched the number just drop so fast. Um, and we saw, we saw people posting stories about how they were waiting up in the middle of the night, around the world for this product. You know, the lesson learned, we opened it up to the world from the start.
[00:13:57] I didn't really know anything about supply [00:14:00] chain, shipping infrastructure, all that stuff. Like I thought like, oh, why wouldn't you just launch a product to everybody? Right. What's obviously there's a million problems with doing that. And we've since learned those lessons, but, um, it was a wild day and it, it was just, it, it's not that we had proven out what we wanted to prove, but it was a really good start.
[00:14:17] And since we launched, it's been hard to keep our product in. And to kind of finish off this long rant. The, the most surprising thing was every day, I spend so much time in the DMS on, on Maxine's account, but also on the little chunk account, because there's so many people who are writing these really personal messages to us.
[00:14:38] Personal messages about how grateful they are and how thankful they are, that they have a product that, um, is supportive, is safe. That feels good. And that helps them bring their dog to places that they otherwise could not bring their dog. That that's been the most unexpected part of, of all of this is, is the emotional connection that, that people can have with a product or the company or with the people behind a company.
[00:14:58] And they call me by my name on the [00:15:00] little chunk instant they's like, Hey Brian, I just, and that's, I mean, that's that, that's, that's what it's for. It's. You know, I, I would never be. So goal is to say the goal is to change other people's lives. You know, like that's, that's crazy. I think the goal should be to build a really good product and to make something that people want, which is a very simple yet oddly difficult goal to achieve, to truly make something that people want.
[00:15:24] Jason Wong: And I do wanna ask you, uh, last question about the launch strategy, like launching and selling out in four minutes. It's incredible. Walk me through, what are the steps that it took to sell out in four minutes or is there like a week long teaser campaign? Did you build an audience list? I'm very curious about, like, what was the method to even sell out in four minutes?
[00:15:45] Bryan Reisberg: There wasn't really ever a point that we sat down and outlined it. I had a feeling of, you know, we had a feeling of what we needed to do to drum up excitement. And a lot of it was a, was a matter of just kind of taking it day by day, because in order to even actually show the [00:16:00] product you want to sell, um, there's so much that has to go on behind the scenes to get to that point from a legal perspective.
[00:16:07] From a safety perspective. When, when do you give people certain information? How far, how much can you bread crumb people without them getting pissed off? Like that was a thought that we had, um, like how long are we gonna be talking about this thing in a, in a way that will keep people's attention without them getting bored or irritated by it?
[00:16:24] Because I'm also cognizant of the fact that, you know, not everybody follows Maxine because they need a backpack or have a dog, or want to carry their dog in a backpack. Um, So you just have to have your finger on the pulse of your audience. And that for us, wasn't really that difficult because we talked to them a lot.
[00:16:44] Um, and we kind, you know, I'm, I'm like hyper aware of everything that we do and how it comes off to people, because it's all I think about because I'm like a neurotic Jew, you know what I mean? Like I just think about it every day. How is this gonna look? How is this piece of content gonna look to [00:17:00] people?
[00:17:00] In on all over the world, no matter what their situation, um, no matter where they come from, uh, how, you know, you pressure test everything. So we just kind of slowly rolled out the thoughts of like, Hey, I think we're gonna do this. Hey, we're starting to do this. And then you get some reactions and you start to seed it out and you start to slowly build up excitement in the community.
[00:17:22] And then as you get closer, maybe you show off a little bit of the backpack. You tease a few things here and there, right? And then you say, this is it, we're doing it. Here's the reminder. Um, and you just keep talking to people and you know, if people, if I got one message of somebody who's like, all right, buddy enough, You know, I, I probably like pull back a little bit, but thankfully we didn't.
[00:17:41] Jason Wong: Um, and you just launch on TikTok, you didn't do like an email list, a SMS list, just purely
[00:17:46] Bryan Reisberg: Didn't even didn't even launch on TikTok. I used pretty much none of our audience on TikTok, which is our largest audience. Uh, so this was all, this is all Instagram. Wow. And the reason that is, is because again, I [00:18:00] feel like that app is so much more built. I, I think TikTok is getting there, but that app is so much more built for fostering community, right through the various channels, whether it's stories, reminders, uh, stuff like that. I, I also think at the time when we were launching, I, I think our audience was just so much younger on TikTok.
[00:18:18] Maybe not as much purchasing power. Um, so I really knew that there was a lot of feedback on Instagram. So we pretty much only launched on Instagram to, to get this. And that's kind of where it was, where it was done.
[00:18:29] Jason Wong: That's crazy. And congratulations. I, I think the cool thing about your product and how it ties to your account is, uh, it's such a natural integration.
[00:18:37] It, it doesn't feel like you're doing something extra sell to these people. You've been using this backpack. You live it. You're the main user who cares this backpack twice a day on a subway around the city. So it's, it's natural pivot as a creator to create this brand. And that's why it's so, it's so engaging.
[00:18:55] It's so natural to your brand. People want to buy it because they see you use [00:19:00] it. And if they see the founder of a product using it every single day, They trust it a lot more than just another celebrity launching a beauty line or another athlete launching a shoe line. Right. It, it's not that authentic compared to your account.
[00:19:13] That's the impressive part
[00:19:14] about it.
[00:19:15] Bryan Reisberg: Oh, thanks. Yeah. Uh, you know, to some extent it, it feels like cheating , uh, because it is, it, it it's so natural, you know, like I posted, we posted a video last week, um, on, on Maxine's account. And in five days, it has over a million likes.
[00:19:30] Jason Wong: Geez.
[00:19:30] Bryan Reisberg: That's you know, if you kind of translate that into a paid marketing strategy, the amount of money that you would need to pay to get that kind of, to get that kind of reach is insane.
[00:19:41] And also we just started paid marketing. So pretty much all of our sales up until this point have been on a $0 media spend. Wow. Um, which has been truly the, I think the craziest part of this all is. Um, it, it, we sold a lot of [00:20:00] bags and our CAC is zero.
[00:20:02] Jason Wong: Wow.
[00:20:03] That that's cause honestly the most impressive part
[00:20:06] about this entire thing. Um,
[00:20:09] Bryan Reisberg: yeah. Sorry, sorry. I, sorry to drop that one at the end, but yeah, that's, that's something we're really proud of.
[00:20:14] Jason Wong: Well, Bryan thank you so much for sharing your journey. Um, love seeing your videos pop up on my For You page here and there and you know, truly man, we we're just so impressed with like the business that you've built.
[00:20:26] We actually had another guest come on, Emily, two weeks ago, She built a cat backpack following the same, same ideas. Like she was using it so much for her own pet that she was like, there's nothing else for her. So she made her own. So listening to stories from you. Oh wow. That's stories from Emily. Uh, she's also in New York, so, um, maybe we'll all get together sometimes, but you know, Just appreciate you coming onto your show, telling me the story and you know, good luck with the rest of the business and hopefully get to meet Maxine down the line in
[00:21:00] Bryan Reisberg: Absolutely. You got it.
[00:21:02] Jason Wong: You just heard an episode of the building blocks podcast. If you like what you heard subscribe below to keep hearing conversations that I have with brilliant marketers, founders and innovators on how they built their best ideas. Now, if you wanna learn how you can turn your best ideas and build something massive out of it, visit my websitebbclass.co or follow my Twitter at @eggroli
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