The powers of curiosity are truly incredible! Carolyn Chen, founder of dog care brand Dandylion has learned this throughout her life as a serial entrepreneur with years in the beauty industry and now pet care industry. As she follows her passions and curiosities, she finds that doors continue to open, much of which by the people she meets along the way and the communities she builds with likeminded individuals. We got the chance to speak with Carolyn about her experience founding Dandylion and tapped into her tricks and advice for new entrepreneurs looking to turn their everyday passions into full-time businesses.
Hi Carolyn, for those who aren’t familiar, can you tell us a little about yourself and Dandylion?
My name is Carolyn Chen and I am the founder of Dandylion which is a community powered dog grooming brand on a mission to clean up and add transparency to the dog grooming industry. Dandylion launched just over a year ago and was inspired by my life as a parent to a dog with itchy and easily irritated skin, finding that there weren't a lot of products out there that were effective and transparent (like the products in human skincare/grooming) in terms of the ingredients in the solution.
Where did the name come from?
I wanted a name that captured the essence of a childlike carefree-ness to the world. One day I was listing to that song "Dandelions" by Ruth B and loved how the word captured that feeling. I also liked the play on words with “dandy” and “lion. It also helped with trademarking which, from my time founding other brands, I know is very important when it comes to picking a name.
Speaking of other brands, we know you have some history founding beauty brands. How did that help inform the process for creating Dandylion?
Yes, so I've had 4 years as a DTC beauty brand founder. It all starts with understanding the problem you are trying to solve for. For Dandylion, I was trying to solve the itchy skin issue for my dog, but I wanted to validate the idea to see if other dog parents experienced the same pain point. I started with 100 interviews with dog parents and then once I dialled in on the problem, I brought in a vet dermatologist and human skincare chemists to help develop a solution for dogs. It was important to have experts to bring the latest thinking from human formulation and understand how to best formulate for dogs. For example, the PH level of dog skin is different than human skin, which is something we learned from our vet dermatologist.
Since its launch, Dandylion has seen hugely positive reception IRL and online. Can you speak to what you think was key to achieving this.
A few things for sure. Asides from the product needing to perform well, we try to come up with innovative solutions and formats and involve our community ever step of the way. The community that we have built has been so integral in helping Dandylion grow so quickly. From support on social to friends and family helping me pack and ship boxes, everyone has really come together to help which I am so thankful for.
Looking more at the product, from the packaging to the creative ads, everything seems very premium and almost high-end. Why was that important for you?
I'm glad you see that! It took me a very long time to develop and I learned Adobe Illustrator on my own to design this [laughs] so thanks for noticing!
My brand is really going to be for this next generation of dog parents so when I look at the brands they're consuming, I have to fit within that. I'm looking at brands like Glossier or Recess or Aesop which connect so well with millenials and Gen Z and that was how I drew inspiration for Dandylion.
Dandylion comes in at a price of $22 per bottle whereas most brands come in around $8-$10. Has there been any difficulty entering the market as a more premium product?
So far it's been well received but I think it all comes down to brand values which are:
High quality ingredients
Proven by experts and scientists
Eco-conscious formula and packaging
Better Value. Dandylion uses less product per application so you get more uses out of each bottle than the regular brands
That's great to know and we definitely understand this. With the brand growing so quickly, what are you thinking about most as you scale?
For us it's always about planning ahead and being prepared for things before we need them. So, thinking about things like supply and demand. If I have 10 orders per day now, what does it look like when I have 100 orders per day and what do the pieces around supply chain and operations look like then. the set up process to scale those operations so it's very important to look ahead.
Another big thing for me is optimizing cash flow. So, finding ways to hold onto money longer, whether that is finding ways to pay suppliers later or finding ways to get money from customers sooner. If you can optimize for cash flow and plan ahead, you'll be in a great spot to grow.
Those are 2 great pieces of advice! Before we let you go, what are some pieces of advice you'd give to any young entrepreneur that is looking to start their own business?
The biggest thing is to follow your curiosity and see where that leads you. Try as many things as possible, fail fast and learn from it. I think this will give you a lot of new perspective that you can incorporate into any project that you're working on. I also think goal setting is very important but keep those goals flexible. It's great to have something to work towards but you want to ensure that if something changes, you can account for that.
Lastly, surround yourself with people who uplift you and can make the process of starting something a lot more enjoyable!
Make sure to check out Dandylion on Instagram for news on new products and community events and keep it locked to Pier Five for more conversations with inspirational founders just like this!