Recently, our founder Kathleen Reed, had the opportunity to be interviewed by an old friend and colleague, Suzanne Bowen, a fixture in the VoIP community, for the AstraQom podcast. AstraQom Corporation is a fast growing Canadian communications solutions provider offering affordable telephony related solutions using cutting-edge technology backed by extraordinary customer service.
Occupational Health and Safety is important in a lot of industries, but this podcast specifically reached out to those in the VoIP telecom world as Kathleen Reed, Bottomline Safety founder has spent some time working directly in and for that industry.
Listen to the podcast now or read the transcription below.
Suanne Bowen: Welcome to the AstraQom sponsored podcast! Today is March 28, 2012. We have with us Kathleen Reed. She’s the founder and president of Bottomline Safety Inc. I met her at a VON conference. I did find her on the Internet just recently and I’m lucky enough to have her with us. Wanted to welcome you, Kathleen, hello!
Kathleen Reed: Hi, Suzanne! Thank you for having me!
Suzanne Bowen: I’m excited about recording a conversation with you, so that other people can listen and maybe learn a little bit. I’m kind of surprised about what you’re doing now at the Bottomline Safety Inc. but it sounds cool. It sounds interesting. Would you tell us how you got involved in it?
Kathleen Reed: Sure! Well, Bottomline Safety, Inc. is actually a division of Big Vox Marketing and it’s sort of a pet project internally and I’ll explain that in a bit.
The goal of Bottomline Safety is to make cost effective safety solutions available to a wider audience through non-traditional channels. For example, the newly CSA certified Wilkuro brand steel-toe shoe covers. Prior to Bottomline Safety going live as an online store, it was almost exclusively sold through old-school distribution. It was complete with high margins and not a lot of accessibly to the end customer, except through shoe mobile type services. And that’s something very common in the safety footwear industry, shoe mobiles.
Now, it’s kind of strange when I ended up in Occupational Health and Safety after coming out of the VoIP world. But it’s a division, as I’ve mentioned, of Big Vox Marketing. Big Vox Marketing is a marketing company that has been around in different incarnation since early 1990’s. And originally, before even entering the VoIP world, I had worked for Wilkuro Safety Toes. This company actually the invented steel toe rubber overshoe in 1985 and we had worked on their brand development. We’ve worked with them, on and off, since our beginning and we’ve thought it best recently if we’d just simply develop a reseller type relationship and Bottomline Safety was born.
So as a division of Big Vox, it’s also a pet project. It is, by all aspects, the leading edge of our marketing experiments. We test new forms of marketing; whether new the world or simply new to us, we get it right on ourselves before we offer it as a service to our marketing customers, who are by many extent usually in the VoIP industry, but we also have mining customers and customers in financial services and small businesses such as chiropractic clinics and trainers.
Suzanne Bowen: Many of the people that I know in the industry, all they think about is voice over IP to lessen the…. And actually, that is the power behind a lot of things. And another power behind a lot of things is marketing. Today, when your market could be the world, instead of just your neighborhood or your backyard, you need to quite often get help from experts to get the word out about what you do online, especially now. I mean, in the beginning, it was just websites and forums. Now, you’ve got all the social media potential; blogs, press releases, social networks, kind of fit together. What are the advantages that Bottomline Safety Inc. offers, compared to other companies and how it is compared to other ways of buying the product?
Kathleen Reed: Well, the advantages are numerous. Overhead is lower, so we can offer very competitive pricing. And if our prices aren’t, will beat our competitors’ written quotes. We don’t make our end customers go through fancy purchasing programs like a lot of our competitors do wait for shoe mobiles or even try to get to a retail store.
Who will know if they’ll be closed when they get off the late shift? Our US based call center is available to customers 24/7 and that’s partly through the magic of VoIP. I personally man the phone queue and I’m almost always available — with all the Find Me and Follow Me type of services and those kind of things. Then, in the event a decision needs to be made on the fly, we can meet customers or unusual request. And if not, we can usually get back to folks within minutes if not hours.
Bottomline Safety is still small enough to be flexible yet large enough to handle even the biggest orders. We ship same day, in many cases, and we have warehouse partners in the US and Canada. Our US warehouse, which is based in the Buffalo, New York area, ships worldwide.
Suzanne Bowen: Who would be your particular market? Because I was just kind of thinking like the girl I used to know who worked at the paper mill and then she went to work for a company called Southern Erector and then they had Southern Thermal Systems and Southern Environmental Thermal Systems, I believe. They ordered a ton of safety work shoes. Would that be an example of a potential customer?
Kathleen Reed: Well, for sure; any industry in which toe protection is required. We don’t necessarily work in, obviously, in the construction industry because in that instance, we would need the steel toe and a steel plate at the bottom of the shoe for puncture protection. But in any warehouse or any kind of manufacturing type facility, we have customers who are in oil fields, we have customers who are working in high-tech telecom type things, people in clean rooms — we actually did carry a product which is kind of an ‘end of line’ right now — that was our white steel toe overshoe for clean rooms. And we were the only distributor of Wilkuro carrying that product or really promoting that product at that point. So yeah, any kind of manufacturing type environment, anywhere where toe protection is required.
Suzanne Bowen: Now, I get it. So I’m thinking of another company right here in Pensacola called Hitachi Cable Electric. They have branches all over the world. It’s actually a Japanese company and they put break parts together and those pieces are heavy. I could see if they were dropped, they would need a protective shoe on, right?
Kathleen Reed: Exactly. The shoe cover goes over the regular footwear, so you’re not wearing it (directly on your foot). Visitors coming into a plant are not required to have unhygienic, dirty, other people’s safety shoes that they have to put on. It’s just to protect people coming in and out; office workers or that type of thing or maybe even temps or people who have diabetes or other health conditions that can’t wear heavy safety shoes that are constraining. So it goes over the regular footwear, in order to protect the toe. It also offers slip resistance too. It has met all of the required standards. This product is OSHA accepted and CSA certified. It’s the only product on the market of its type that is currently CSA Grade 1 certified.
Suzanne Bowen: Bottomline Safety Inc. is 100% woman-owned. Jaymie Scotto and Associates, everybody in her company is practically is female, same with IPsmarx. Ilissa Miller just started her own PR organization, all woman-owned. ——————————- It could be a funny one or maybe about a client’s success.
Kathleen Reed: Oh, yes. As you’ve mentioned, it is 100% woman-owned. As for our customers success stories, I’m just going to share one that made me absolutely cringe.
One of the biggest problems in this industry is the lack of regulation of the steel-toe or safety toe cover that goes over the shoe. And up until recently, CSA did not have a way to standardize it. Now, back in July of last year, they’ve standardized it. Wilkuro became the first to go through that standardization process and to pass. Now, this story made me cringe because one of my customers came to me after buying a competing product from another manufacturer and I’m not going to mention any names.
But she had taken this product in to show her board to say, “Hey, what do you think about these for our visitors, for the plant people coming through?” and she dropped the product on the floor. And the floor was hard — as most floors are —and the toe popped right out. And, oh my goodness, this was not good for a safety product at all, because obviously it’s for safety. If it happened on your toes, it has to be an integral part of the toe. So she quickly returned the other product and gave us a call.
She bought the CSA certified Wilkuros. Obviously, when you drop off a CSA certified Wilkuro, the toe does not come out. It’s an integral part of the shoe and she’s now become a loyal customer. There’s a lot of stuff out there and you’ve just got to be really careful what you’re buying with this kind of stuff because it is protecting the feet of your workers, right? Maybe you think, “Oh, it’s just your foot.” But you what, what can you do without the foot?
Suzanne Bowen: Absolutely.
Kathleen Reed: You’d rather keep your feet.
Suzanne Bowen: Yeah. Oh, I hope she tweeted that.
Kathleen Reed: I sure hope so too
Suzanne Bowen: Would you tell us, Kathleen, about your professional experience? The changes that you’ve made, the risks that you’ve taken to get where you are today? I mean, I could share up some crazy stories. You know, people always love to hear about this kind of thing because they’re trying to figure out how to do better on their life; how to make a change, how to do something that they’ve always wanted to do?
Kathleen Reed: Yes, I’ve definitely gone through a number of changes in my life. You know, I came from a Visual Marketing background. I’ve got a degree in Graphic Design, of all things. I’ve had a great education. I tend to ignore it mostly. I’ve got an MBA in Marketing, but we don’t tend to talk about that. I tend to be – I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. I’ve worked at large companies such as Choice Hotels International and the large marketing agencies in St. Joseph. I’ve held contracts with a number of entrepreneurial companies and I headed up in getting marketing departments, including a couple in tech and financial services and most recently, as you know, Sangoma, before leaving and focusing on building Big Vox and Bottomline Safety full-time.
Timing wasn’t great actually, I gave notice at Sangoma, right before the economic downturn. But you know what? I still went ahead with it and pushed on to do my own thing and we’ve survived so far. And as a company, we’re just looking forward to continued growth and we’re focusing on doing the next big thing, always.
Suzanne Bowen: How you integrate use of social media, social bookmarking, and social networks to build relationships, to develop business? It’s a new way to marketing sale and some people feel scared of it.
Kathleen Reed: Social media marketing has always been a large part of our marketing business, especially from the early days. When we started out a few years ago; it was so new, the business is especially in B2B tech market. I’d personally been an earlier downturn, so I had been very confident of using appropriate means to get the word out about of my clients’ business and especially about Bottom Line Safety, little internal Big Vox marketing project carried. After all, when you’re starting out, you need a marketing budget. But when times are lean and you can use our media, social or otherwise to generate interest in search engines, why not? And that’s something that I have been saying since the early days. It’s also important to understand how the brand interacts with customers at all touch points. Social media is very important, especially for listening. Ultimately, in B2B marketing where I do a lot of work, the business is run by a person and that person needs to be related to you, on an emotional level – as well as a professional one to encourage action and engage with the product or brand, as far as Big Vox and Bottom Line. And we just need to take our own advice, when it comes to social media marketing so we can do things out as we do.
Suzanne Bowen: Oh, absolutely. I’ll never forget at a conference I attended a social network for business session all they did was talk to us. You know, like lecture. And I know that inside of every head – and we were only like, maybe, 14 people in the audience, we were close up front, right? – and I know each one of us had thoughts through out the whole lecture, thinking, “Hey, let’s interact about this!” Right? I decided it was ironic that they were giving a session on social networking for business and yet they were not networking with us at all.
Kathleen Reed: Yeah, that’s something that’s so fun. I know I gave a talk back in Las Vegas one of those conferences on brand development and there was a room full of engineers, trying to build their personal brand and it was just hilarious because I kept asking them questions.
Suzanne Bowen: It’s more than just shoving a commercial in someone’s face, over and over, all day long on the Internet. We’ve all got used to ignoring it. We ignore advertisements, we ignore commercials, we don’t see the Facebook ads, we don’t see the Gmail blurbs that are trying to get you to click, so it’s got to be something that really reaches out to us that gets our attention that makes us want to act. So you’ve hit it, right on the nose.
What are the ways of doing business, of working with Big Vox marketing or Bottom Safety Inc.? What are the websites and how can they get in touch with you – the people who are listening?
Kathleen Reed: Well, Big Vox Marketing is the parent of Bottomline Safety, obviously, and Big Vox Marketing can be found at BigVoxMarketing.com. We basically work on retainer and we set a limited number of projects and we try to make the marketing affordable for people.
Now, in terms of Bottomline Safety, if you’re interested in safety shoe covers or anything of the like, we also carry protective eyewear from Gateway Safety and a number of other personal protective equipment type items. You can find that at BottomlineSafety.com, just like it sounds. That and Bottomline Safety is an ecommerce type store; you can order online or you can obviously call our contact center and we’re more than willing to help anybody that would need the product in the timely manner.
Suzanne Bowen: So Kathleen, thank you so much for accepting my invitation to talk and record it for others to listen to and learn from and, perhaps, do some business in the future. We hope that you’ll join AstraQom at the AstraQom Dinner Meetup, like I’ve said, at the end of May.
Kathleen Reed: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This has been very interesting. I’m glad to get the word out, of course.
Suzanne Bowen: Thank you!
You can see the article on Astraqom’s podcast page here: http://podcast.astraqom.com/?p=episode&name=2012-04-17_bottomlinesafety_bigvoxmarketing_reedpodcast_astraqom.mp3
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