Cold feet kick off new product
An urge to be warm – even cozy – is the driving force behind Auntie A, a Reno manufacturing company that targets a marketing niche defined by the desire to be comfortable, indoors and out.
The company made a tidy business out of its Bed & Body warmer – little flannel bags in fabrics ranging from sleepy half-moons to wild color pastiches filled with a variety of grains and aromas designed to be heated up in a microwave.
The warm baggie wraps around a cold limb, neck or arm, or serves as a bed warmer.
It’s a cozy thing that wards off a chill, according to Auntie A owner Beth Honebein.
She and Peter Honebein began marketing the warmer about 11 holiday seasons ago, says Beth Honebein.
Since then, they’ve added another comfy product, a foot roller/body massage bag.
The warmer and the massage bag add up to an impressively short product line, says Beth Honebein, but Auntie A has been selling about 7,000 units per year.Not bad for a business run out of a 1,400-square-foot garage.
And now, the Boot Dragon steps into the mix.
It’s sole purpose is to warm up a cold boot.
Manufactured in a similar process to the warmer baggies, the boot warmer is an idea born to answer Beth Honebein’s cold feet on a winter ski chairlift.
“I don’t like to be cold,” says Honebein.
She’s betting that other outdoor enthusiasts feel the same way.
The Boot Dragon — an oblong sack of microwavable grains – fits snugly into a ski boot.
The user microwaves it up before heading to the slopes, leaves it in the boot during the trip, ready for a warm beginning to a day in the snow.
So far, the product has been popular amongst friends and family, says Beth Honebein.
But how it’s going to be greeted in the greater marketplace is still an unknown.
Because the idea occurred to her late in the season,Holbein missed this year’s spring sales into the winter 2004-2005 market.And what do you do when you have a great new winter product but you’ve missed the winter sales conventions? Holbein is piloting the boot warmer regionally, beginning in Tahoe’s six Dave’s Skis & Boards shops.
She’s wholesaling it to boutiques selling her other products.
Then she’ll be taking the Boot Dragon to the November University of Nevada, Reno Ski Swap.
She’ll be gauging interest, listening to product suggestions, watching to determine who comprises her market segment.
And she’s on the waiting list for the industry’s huge January show in Las Vegas.
“I’m looking for the niche amongst skiers,” says Honebein, but meanwhile, she’s finding some unexpected broadening of that niche.
“There’s a guy in Alaska,” she say,”who owns a shop that carries Auntie A products.He wants the Boot Dragon to warm up his cowboy boots in the winter.”
“The thing that I like most about entrepreneurship is I can work toward something that I’m passionate about and be at the forefront of the change that I want to see happen,” said Priyanka Senthil, a senior at Davidson Academy in Reno and co-founder of startup company AUesome.