Lane Nemeth is one of the most successful woman entrepreneurs today. She founded Discovery Toys in 1978, a direct sales business of educational and fun toys for children, growing it to more than $100 million in sales. Now, she heads Petlane http://www.petlanehome.com, another direct sales business, this time focusing on the pet industry.
Starting Discovery Toys
Working as a daycare director, Nemeth was managing several daycare centers, including the purchasing of quality educational toys in bulk. She wanted to purchase some of the educational toys used in the daycare for her own daughter but found out that those toys were not available retail as well as for individual purchase.
Realizing the value of educational toys and how they can help children like her daughter, Nemeth decided to start her own business selling educational toys. She started Discovery Toys by borrowing $5,000 from her grandmother and operated the business out of her garage.
Her original plan for the business was to run an advertisement in the newspaper and people can come to her house to hear her explain the benefits of educational toys and purchase from her. Her Dad nixed her idea, thinking it terrible to be sitting and waiting for people to come to her house. Her husband suggested that she try doing it like Tupperware.
She followed the advice of her husband. She gathered a group of friends and explained to them why educational toys are important. That started her on the road to direct selling. From those humble beginnings, Discovery Toys soon grew into a $100 million company. The company was then creating their own line of educational toys with more than 40,000 sales representatives direct-selling them.
Discovery Toys was bought by Avon in 1997. She remained involved with the business, running the U.S. operations. When the chairman of Avon who bought her company left, the new Chairman decided to sell Discovery Toys. That ended Nemeth’s involvement with the company she built.
Petlane: Direct Selling in the Pet Industry
In 2004, Nemeth came out of retirement and decided to put the same business model of direct selling to the pet business. She started Petlane, which focuses on enhancing the lives of the pets and the people they love.
The business idea came about when her then 28-year old daughter came home from college with an adorable 4-pound puppy. She decided to buy the dog some toys, and came home thinking of what was wrong with the whole pet product industry:
“What I found is that the pet industry is sad … it’s junky, there’s no one tell me where to go or what to buy. I got on the Internet and started doing some research. I started to think about toys for dogs and cats and how they need stimulation, just like children do. One night I woke up at two in the morning and said to my husband … “I know what I’m going to do!”
She went on to do for pets what she did for kids with her first business. She talked to her manufacturing contacts overseas if it was possible for them to create toys for pets, and they were all enthusiastic with the idea.
Today, Petlane offers everything from squeeze toys to dental care to cleaning products for pets. Her new company sells for various pets such as dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, and rabbits with emphasis on natural ingredients. Using the multi level marketing model, Petlane now generates more than $1 million in revenues with more than 2,000 home-based sales agents.
Her advice to those who want to be in the home party based business:
“If you’re interested in starting a home-party based business, choose one that sells products that fit your passion. The second thing to look at is how long the company has been in business. There’s risk both ways. If you choose an established company, the market opportunity might be saturated. If you choose a startup, you get in on the ground floor, but the company could go out of business.