Since the summer of 2013, Vancouver-based design company Puj has occupied downtown’s Wolf building on 11th Street. The company, founded in 2009, has had extraordinary and nearly instant success with its baby- and family-oriented products designed by husband-and-wife team Katie and Ben Richardson.
Beginning with the Puj tub, the couple has designed products to “simplify parenthood,” said Ben Richardson, “so you can spend more time with your little ‘puj.’” “Puj,” pronounced “pudge,” refers to a pudgy little infant. The Richardsons chose the phonetic spelling, he said, both to have a unique company name, and because they liked the design aesthetic and “short, graphic nature of the three-letter name.”
Building on its success with the tub, the company has grown quickly. They have added new products and sell others that they call “Puj Approved.”
To start 2015, Puj launched a Kickstarter campaign to introduce and pre-sell a new product, the PhillUp Cup, a kid-sized cup that comes with a hook for the fridge so the cup can hang at kid height. At less than two days into the campaign, the project fully met its funding goal, and has been continuing to get support through the entire one-month funding period. At press time, the campaign had raised nearly $50,000 – well above the stated goal of $30,000.
The company decided to use Kickstarter, Richardson said, “Because the world has changed and we want to be a part of it. We wanted to try it out and see how it goes.” Using Kickstarter, he said, meant that “customers could participate in the new product process and influence the outcome in many ways.
“If you have an idea, you can try it and know almost immediately if people will respond to it,” he added. “This is the future of getting ideas off the ground.”
By engaging in the Kickstarter campaign, customers are able to give feedback on colors and design in a way that the company can instantly use. Additionally, it builds and strengthens the customer/company relationship. Using Kickstarter, Richardson said, “Customers can get the product before anyone else, and usually at a price that will be lower than retail prices.”
Although the campaign did broaden Puj’s audience and reach, Richardson said that the real key to its success was having a strong marketing plan behind it.
“You need to bring your own traffic [to a Kickstarter campaign],” he said. Many people start a campaign “and wait for people to come to them. But that doesn’t work. You need a strong plan in place to draw people to you.”
Beyond the PhillUp Cup Kickstarter campaign, Puj is growing quickly and launching new products and partnerships later this year. Hiring has expanded, and, according to Richardson, the company is working on “getting the right people in place so we are ready for it (growth).”
And as for the still empty showroom in the old Wolf building? Richardson said the company does plan to fill the showroom and also use the space as a community area, with classes and community events.
“We should be opening it in 60 to 90 days,” he said, adding that Puj looks forward to becoming even further integrated into downtown Vancouver.