Is your pet having a bad hair day? Well, Sharon Doherty, president of Vellus Products Inc., can help. Her small Columbus, Ohio–based company makes a line of pet grooming products, including customized shampoos, conditioners, brushing sprays, satin cream, and detanglers.
According to Doherty, shampoos for people don’t work well on pets because animal skin is more sensitive than human skin and is more easily irritated. Most available pet shampoos, though sensitive to the skin, tend to leave hair unmanageable and without the glamour needed for the show dog or pampered pet. Dr. David Tanner, Doherty’s nephew, used his expertise as a chemist in the personal care industry to develop the salon-type formulas that Doherty thought would be good for animal hair and skin. This family-operated company also involves Doherty’s husband, Robert, and daughter, Teryl Hotz.
Sharon Doherty, President of Vellus Products, Inc.
Vellus Products’ first export sale occurred in 1993, when a Taiwanese businessperson, after trying the Vellus line, bought $25,000 worth of the company’s products to sell in Taiwan through dog shows. The word was out. “I started receiving calls from people around the world who would hear of our products at dog shows and ask organizers how they could get in touch with me to buy our products,” Doherty recalls. “But I needed a way to find market research and learn more about ways of doing business in these countries.”
Doherty soon tapped the services of the U.S. Commercial Service in Columbus. “As business has grown, I have gone from ordering country profiles to requesting customized export and financing strategies tailored to maximize export potential,” Doherty says.
The Commercial Service relied on its worldwide network and partners like the Small Business Administration and the state of Ohio to provide customized market research and information on financing and other programs for Vellus. Today, Vellus sells to more than 28 countries. “I credit the Commercial Service for helping me expand my exports, as it would have been much more difficult to do this on my own,” Doherty says.
Doherty learned several lessons from her exporting experience, as complied here by Doug Barry, editor of A Basic Guide to Exporting from which this case study is taken.
This success story is also featured in our publication A Basic Guide to Exporting: The Official Government Resource for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses. To purchase this book, please visit the U.S. Government Bookstore.
The U. S. Commercial Service is a U. S. Department of Commerce agency that helps small-and medium-sized U. S. businesses sell their products and services globally. With its network of offices across the United States and in more than 80 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. For more information, visit www.Export.gov.