Close Bunk Used Business Planning Services for Successful Product Launch

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Originally published in the January 20 edition of The Ranger brought to you by the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation.

Close Bunk, a Tower-based Made in America business launched its patent-pending product to the open market in Fall 2021. Owner and product developer Patti Stoddard utilized the Northland Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to help fill technical gaps in the process of introducing her Doggy Bunk Bed product online and in retail stores. SBDC assisted Patti with financial perspectives, marketing, and selecting an online shipping system.

“When I began developing my business and product, a friend recommended I contact Vicki Hagberg of Northland SBDC to help me with financial perspectives and determine if it was profitable. Vicki ran the numbers with me and agreed it was a successful business model,” said Patti. “She also introduced me to SBDC associates Molly Solberg who helped me with marketing and Don Bremer who helped me select a shipping service to deliver the bunk beds to customers. There was no charge for any of their services. For an entrepreneur in the start-up phase, free services like that are invaluable.”

Hagberg is an SBDC regional consultant and provides technical support to local businesses (existing and startups) such as business plan development, feasibility and financial analysis, market research, advertising and sales, loan packaging, strategic planning, accounting systems, and e-commerce. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation provided a Development Partnership grant to Northland Foundation to support SBDC representatives located in northeastern Minnesota.

The Doggy Bunk Bed arose out of Stoddard’s desire three years ago to invent something that improved sleeping arrangements with her dogs in her bed and enable her and her husband to get a better night’s sleep. After several prototypes, the final product is an elevated bunk bed that attaches to the end of the owner’s bed and allows space for the owner’s full leg extension. The bunk is capable of holding very large dogs and is sturdy with dogs jumping on and off of it.

“We have two English springer spaniels and love and enjoy them. Our dogs are part of the family and always have been,” said Patti. “However, they hog the bed and give off an abundance of heat at the expense of our sleep quality. Our dogs, Chase and Ruby, took to the Doggy Bunk Bed right away and sleep through the night in it. My husband and I, and all of our customers, now sleep through the night, too.”

The Made In America bed frames are manufactured in Minnesota by Ritz Machine in Cambridge and Carsten’s Fiberglass in Melrose. The Doggy Bunk Bed comes in two sizes, holds up to 190 pounds and is adjustable for bed height and width. The mattresses and mattress covers are made in a variety of colors and prints by four local seamstresses: Laurie Gunderson of Cherry Stitches, Shirley Burritt of Mountain Iron, and Connie Mannes of Sewing by Connie and Dana Theisen, both of Hibbing.

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Close Bunk offers free delivery and optional setup for customers across the Iron Range, Duluth, and the Twin Cities. Couples and singles are buying them for their homes and cabins, and some customers are buying them for their service dogs. The Doggy Bunk Bed may be ordered online at https://doggybunkbed.com, bought at Pet Stuff in Minnetonka, and is on display at the Rupp Furniture Showroom in Chisholm.

Stoddard is pleased with the success of the product launch and has new items in development including matching bedspreads for owners, Senior Bunk for older dogs that can’t jump up on the bed, and Kitty Bunk for cats. “If a customer assembles the Doggy Bunk Bed, uses it according to directions and doesn’t get a better night’s sleep or doesn’t enjoy their bed space more, we will come and get it and give them a refund,” said Patti.

Patti was raised in Tower-Soudan, and Pete was raised in Minnetonka. They both graduated from Tower-Soudan High School and then resided in Hibbing for 27 years before returning to Tower. Patti was a music teacher in Hibbing Public School District. She is now a real estate agent in addition to her new business enterprise. Peter was an instructor at Hibbing Community College, owned an appliance repair company, and now operates the family business with Patti and their daughter Rachel.

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Learn more about Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation’s Development Partnership grant.

Stoddard won the RINK Pitch Competition, created by Itasca Economic Development Corporation’s Launch MN group, Innovate 218. The RINK was held last month in Duluth and is a catalyst connecting start-up funders, innovators, and entrepreneurs to help bring business ideas from concept into reality. Five regional entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of judges for an opportunity to win $5,000 to assist with bringing their product or service to market.

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