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Meet Shelley Whitehouse of The Smart Chicken Coop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelley Whitehouse.

Shelley, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The Smart Chicken Coop has been several years in the making. It began when we tore up some back lawn to make room for raised vegetable gardens and fruit trees. When these projects proved fruitful, we removed more lawn and expanded our garden.

One December, we inherited three chickens from our daughter; thus, my Christmas present that year was a chicken coop. Much to my surprise, I loved the hens: their sounds, their antics, their soft feathers, and the joy of raising them… which, of course, led to my wanting more chickens. So I needed another coop!

Since my husband is a mechanical engineer and my uncle is a woodworker guy, we put our heads together to design a coop that is super easy to clean and looks great in our yard. Continued improvements have become The Smart Chicken Coop — smart because the design cuts down on the chores AND because we’ve integrated smart options, such as an auto door opener/closer and great accessories.

My evolution has been a bit more indirect: college (age 18-22) –> research analyst–> grad school (age 27-29) –> concert flutist –> more grad school (age 42-43) –> management consultant –> given chickens as a gift –>The Smart Chicken Coop!

We hand-build the coops in our wood shop at our Southern California backyard farmette. This is perfect for us, because we can bounce between the garden, the chickens, building and the computer. This work setup– and a short afternoon nap– make for a great lifestyle!!!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There have been two noteworthy challenging periods during this business venture. There is a government-sponsored mentoring program for small businesses, called SCORE. Invariably, the mentors were retired men whose vision of a successful business venture did NOT include products for “god-awful, smelly chickens.” They couldn’t make a distinction between the burgeoning backyard pet chicken movement and their grama’s filthy chicken coops. Thankfully, I stuck to my idea and built The Smart Chicken Coop into a nationwide e-commerce business.

The other struggle is current. When I began selling coops 4 years ago, there were less than 10 backyard coops on the market. Now, the market is flooded with inexpensive (and very cheap) coops built in China. We are addressing this challenge by developing “starter” coops with a lower price point, yet easily convertible to a sturdy chicken coop should the customer decide to stick with keeping chickens.

Please tell us about The Smart Chicken Coop.
Our uniquely designed coops accomplish three main goals:

1. Comfort and safety for the hens,
2. Minimal effort to keep clean, and
3. Low impact and appealing look for your yard.

The most important aspect of our chicken coops is captured in the tagline, “Hens without Hassle.” Traditionally, chicken coops are eyesores that are very difficult to keep clean. Their primary purpose is to keep poultry protected so order to have eggs. In contrast, the current chicken movement is city-based and more about busy families having pets (with egg laying benefits) in their small backyard.

Our proprietary chicken coop design addresses this changing market dramatically cuts down on the cleaning and maintenance chores associated with keeping chickens. This is key for busy people, of course. In addition, we rethought the chicken coop “look” and designed it to look actually enhance a backyard, not detract from it.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I was remiss (and continue to be so) about building an online presence, as well as credibility early on. Instead, I spent money on AdWords and other online marketing, which didn’t do anything to help with organic search/page 1 search results.

I also took more time than necessary to ramp up my business because I wanted to be certain that my chicken coops were safe and effective. After all, if a coop fails, then customers lose their pets!

Pricing:

  • Fully Painted Smart Chicken Coop $600
  • Unpainted Smart Chicken Coop $450
  • Smart Chicken Coop Kit $300

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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