A year ago, I wrote about an ingenious product created by a grandmother who'd just lost her job. Zatswho is a set of colorful plastic flash cards. Slip in photographs of family members and it becomes an invaluable tool for long-distance grandparents (and other family and friends) to stay in the mind of their far-flung grandbaby.
Last week, Trish Cooper sent me a set to use with my new grandson, Zeke, and it prompted me to get back in touch with her to see how her business was growing.
"Your business evolves away from what you think it will be," Cooper says. "I had expected to be farther along in sales right now, but I'm realizing it just takes more time. I consider it all part of my business learning curve."
Getting Your Product on TV
The toughest challenge for Cooper is marketing Zatswho. People who see the flash cards love them, but Zatswho is tough to describe quickly, in a single phrase. In the past year, Cooper has repositioned her product and is in the process of redoing the packaging and relaunching it. "I used to hit the toy fairs. Now I'm realizing that I need to be in gift stores. So now I'm going to educational fairs," she says.
Cooper is building awareness for Zatswho, which has won a number of awards, by doing as many media appearances as she can. She's now a regular guest on Total Education Network Radio, on a local show that's just been picked up for syndication. "My focus is to participate in articles and land on daytime programs that moms and grandmoms enjoy," Cooper says. "Even if they're obscure, I always do them. It gives me exposure and experience. I'm getting media training on the job."
Accordingly, she trolls sites like Reporter and Help A Reporter Out, answering media queries. Recently, she landed a very big fish, when she answered a query titled, "Are you an empty nester? Is it time to reclaim space?" Cooper wrote about her son's room. He's been out of the house for years and is having his first child, but his room is a shrine, exactly the same as when he graduated high school.
"I sent in a response and my phone rang minutes later," Cooper says. The show was The Revolution, on ABC. A team came out to Cooper's home for two days, and then host Ty Pennington knocked on her door to reveal the redo. The show airs today (March 9).
Zatswho won't be featured on The Revolution, but doing the show is still a tremendous marketing success. "When I sat down with the producer on the first day, I said 'I know you're not here for my business, but I'd like to ask you some questions about how I can land on a daytime show where I can expose my business.' Instead of trying to be coy, I laid it out," Cooper says. It worked. The producer shot footage of Cooper demonstrating Zatswho and gave her tips for pitching other shows. The next day, he urged Pennington to take a look at the product Cooper created. She gave gift sets to cameramen whose wives are expecting.
"Maybe nothing will come of this long-term, but it feels huge," Cooper says. She's proud of creating this marketing opportunity.
Her big dream is to have Zatswho sold in Hallmark stores. It doesn't seem impossible. "We're riding a trend," Cooper says. "There's a huge disconnect with kids because there's so much technology. People want to get back to basics. Less screen time. Fewer bells and whistles. Kids need to explore their own imagination." That's where Zatswho comes in.