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His Line of Pet Products Is a Natural Success : Kyle Hansen's naturally based skin-care items for animals are catching on, thanks in part to his marketing skills.

September 13, 1993|HELAINE OLEN

HUNTINGTON BEACH — When Kyle Hansen left a position as a West Coast sales and marketing representative for Procter & Gamble in 1991, he thought that working for his brother's pet-supply wholesale warehouse might offer better opportunities.

As Hansen began to travel to pet stores hawking his brother's goods, he realized that the high-pressure marketing maven within him was alive and well.

"I noticed pet owners are really tired of chemicals and harsh pesticides, and I noticed everyone asking for more natural products," said the 27-year-old Hansen. "I didn't see a lot of things out there meeting the needs of the consumers and retailers."

Weary of being asked repeatedly about high-quality, natural products, Hansen decided to create a line of his own.

Two years later, 14 naturally based skin-care products for animals bearing the name of Hansen's Pet Systems are sold in more than 100 Southern California pet stores.

To start up, Hansen persuaded brother Kurt, owner of a pet-products wholesaling company in Anaheim, to be a partner. The two raised $20,000 for initial expenses, which included hiring a chemist to help design the products.

Hansen's Pet Systems' first line had eight products, including shampoos to help soothe animals' itchy skin and fight insects. By the end of last summer, 25 local pet stores were carrying the products.

"We went to our best customers and sold them the line," Kyle Hansen said. "Word of mouth got out, and people started asking for the brand."

He began giving store employees demonstrations of his products, as well as tips on how to sell them. The brothers also drew up sales and marketing plans, promoted the products at trade shows and talked them up with retailers and pet owners.

With the aid of a computer graphics program, they redesigned the products' simple black-and-white containers, adding color and making the labels more like those on bottles of higher-priced shampoos for people.

By the start of this year's flea season, the brothers had 14 products ready at prices ranging from $5 to $28 apiece. Included are flea shampoos and sprays, pet-food supplements and carpet powders.

With their products now in pet stores throughout the Southland, the Hansens are doing some cooperative advertising with retailers and have bought some air time on "The Pet Place," a Saturday morning radio show.

Recommendations from customers, though, are still a big marketing tool for the product line.

"It's good stuff, it really is," said Gary Hoeflich, owner of Pet Supply in Fountain Valley and one of Kyle Hansen's first customers. "A lot of products are alcohol- or pesticide-based, and I see so many problems with pets when they use products like that.

"The natural lines are really starting to grow strong in this industry," he said.

Kyle Hansen is not stopping with his early success. He has started going to pet-product conventions in other states to promote the line, and he has hired national sales representatives.

A marketing strategy for next summer's flea season is already in the works. The idea is to show consumers how to use several Hansen products as part of an integrated plan to get rid of fleas and other pet pests.

Anticipating expansion, Kyle Hansen is now looking for his own warehouse. Operating out of his brother's business in Anaheim helped save money, he said, but "we ran out of room real quick."

If your Orange County company has annual sales of less than $10 million, we would like to consider it for a future column. Call O.C. Enterprise at (714) 966-7871

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