TL: The Think Lafayette team loves Dog’N'Suds. So naturally, we wanted to talk to the man that makes it happen, Dustin Washington. He’s a true born-and-raised local who is now raising his own family here, with no plans on leaving.
Tell us everything you want to tell us about Dog’N’Suds and touch on your use of social media?
Dog n Suds is more a preservation of a tradition than an occupation…I think of myself more as a curator than a manager…I have managed the Dog n Suds in Lafayette for a little over 8 years, having held other positions for 14 years. Maintaining our high standards and consistent quality despite changing times and ethics has been a particular challenge. That lesson was felt hardest at the other location where the customer base as well as the management style was dictated by present standards and not history and traditions. These changes led to a need to manage both location in very different manners.
The business itself has been an absolute joy to be a part of, imagine working for an institution that has a 56 year history, the stories, the people and the food? The systems we have in place are time tested and fully vetted. However, the seasonal nature of the business provides me with the opportunity close and open a business on an annual basis, a fact that I hold partially responsible for my persistent desire to start new businesses.
Dog n Suds was an earlier adopter of Facebook as a customer relation/ tribe building platform, our page was started in early 2009. We were turned on to Facebook as a viable business tool by an advertising sales rep who had shared with us the successes another customer had with Facebook. It was, in the beginning, hip and cool and something that set us apart from other local businesses. Over time it became an invaluable customer relations system that allowed us to communicate with our customer base in ways never before possible. Product testing, customer feedback, reviews and complaints which once took incredible amounts of time could now be handled in a short exchange. There is a downside, unhappy customers can develop an almost cult following if not treated with respect and handled appropriately. Monitoring our social media outlets requires between 5-10 mins of every waking hour of every day…but it’s worth it! Our business has shown a steady increase in both brand awareness and revenues that can be directly linked to our strong social media presence.
My suggestions to other local businesses who wish to engage in participatory media is as follows: Commit the time, if you can’t commit the time, don’t do it…paying someone who doesn’t know your business to do it for you may be worse than not doing anything at all! Take the time to engage with your customers personally and build a tribe of loyal fans who are willing to help you to to build a bigger tribe!
You run AA Tokens and iDreamAgent, low tech vs. high tech, supply and demand vs. mobile app, two very different small business ventures, with varying levels of success, as of today. Can you tell me how they were similar and what you learned from some failures ?
I believe the best education one can receive comes in the form of real life experience. One also learns more from failures than successes. Basic business is as simple as fulfilling a need, with that said, both of my start-ups have filled needs. The Token Shop has been profitable from day one, is a lean start-up heavily dependent on word of mouth advertising from with-in a niche market and has been bootstrapped to it’s current level. It’s continued success has given me the courage and the money to pursue more risky ventures that have expanded both my professional networks and my knowledge base. The biggest lesson: at some point, every business comes down to sales, knowing your market is crucial!
You’ve lived in Lafayette your entire life and you’re now raising a family here. What does the area have to offer a young entrepreneurs like yourself?
Lafayette….ah Lafayette. Here is a community rich with dreamers and short on doers! We are positively primed for great things. Bolstering the support of the community leaders, breaking down the barriers which stand between theory and successful culmination is crucial. That is where the community knocking ends and the accolades begin! I think that Greater Lafayette is a community diverse in culture, opportunity and landscape. Domain knowledge is necessary for any business venture and with such a knowledge depth and width, we have a perfect place to support a start-up scene as well as a wonderful nest for tiny humans!