During Covid lockdown, several people picked up hobbies like baking bread or learning TikTok dances. Roee Dunkelman of Cockuterie Boards spent hours in his parents’ basement designing a two-foot-long charcuterie board in the shape of a penis.
Before stepping into Whole Foods one day in November 2020, Roee knew he wanted to create a startup. His day job at ClearCo put him in direct contact with ecommerce founders who inspired him to think about starting a business of his own. All he needed was a viable product or service to market.
He discovered that product at the end of an aisle in Whole Foods, where several charcuterie boards hung. As Roee looked at those boards, he thought, “These would be so much funnier if they were in the shape of a penis.”
Roee turned that passing thought into Cockuterie Boards. The ecommerce business has sold more than 1,000 boards in under a year, and Roee promises more growth in year two.
“I’m still very much trying to find my road, but I think I’m onto something,” Roee says. “I’ve moved a thousand units organically, so if I refine my process and bolster a true go-to-market strategy, I think I could triple the business in the next year alone.”
So, how did Chief Cock Officer Roee Dunkelman turn a novelty charcuterie board into a six-figure business? Read on to hear how Roee connected to ecommerce founders, grew into a social media sensation, and plans to expand Cockuterie Boards into a B2B enterprise.
Learning Startup Strategies From Fellow Founders
While studying at Western University in London, Ontario, in 2017, Roee Dunkelman received an unexpected LinkedIn message from a coordinator for The Great Canadian Sales Competition (GCSC). The coordinator noticed Roee’s sales experience on his resumé and recommended he participate in the competition.
Roee likes to say yes to new opportunities, so he agreed. Fast forward a few months, and he placed in the top five out of more than 4,000 student contestants.
From 2017 to 2020, Roee learned how to pitch sponsors’ products and services to potential buyers at each competition. He gained exposure to major Canadian tech companies, representing Shopify at one point as well as ClearCo (formerly ClearBanc). Not to mention the sales internships he earned with Indeed and other companies.
But the most valuable lesson Roee took away from his experience was how to build long-lasting relationships with customers.
“The product certainly has to be great, but people want to feel taken care of,” Roee says. “They want to feel that a company is acting on their behalf, that whoever their point of contact is, is someone they can sincerely trust. When I was working in sales, I prioritized articulating that to all my clients.”
Roee built on those people skills when he started working for ClearCo in August 2020. Graduating during the pandemic initially hurt his chances for a post-grad job, especially as he pursed a copywriting gig at an in-person ad agency. But after representing ClearCo at GCSC, Roee knew enough to land a junior account executive position with them that summer.
At ClearCo, Roee spent most of his time speaking directly with ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) startup founders. He learned exclusive tips and trade secrets from these founders about how to start a business. And as time passed, the more he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship himself.
“All day I’m on the phone with these founders. And I just felt like it was something I could do,” Roee says. “Just hearing how they go about certain things and how they got their start. I was like, ‘I could probably do this.’”
Roee just needed the perfect product or service to pitch. He found it that November day in Whole Foods, but now Roee faced another issue: How was he going to make a profit on risqué charcuterie boards?
A Lucky Break Led to Social Media Fame
When he cooked up Cockuterie Boards, Roee considered social media his best distribution channel. TikTok’s popularity had peaked as people scrolled through their phones during Covid lockdowns. Given the trends for cheeky, provocative content he’d already seen on the app, Roee knew he could make penis-shaped charcuterie boards a huge hit if he promoted them just right.
“It was a lucky break of working at ClearCo, Covid, and TikTok being all the rage,” Roee says. “Thinking, ‘Okay, I have a product that is kind of funny, offbeat, and could totally pop off with TikTok.”
For the next several months, Roee dedicated his non-working hours to developing his product, using pots and pans to measure proportions while perfecting the overall board design. He reached out to manufacturers about getting 50 boards made. Seventy-five of them turned him down, not taking his idea seriously.
A local manufacturer eventually took Roee’s plans and turned them into an actual, physical prototype. They even provided a digital file that Roee could send to other potential suppliers. As soon as he found a Kingston, Ontario, manufacturer willing to make 50 boards, Roee started focusing on marketing and promotion.
The 24-year-old decided to lean into the humor of the brand. Instead of shying away from the provocative content, Roee centered his business around it.
“I found a brand doing what I’m doing when I researched the market. But they’re just not leaning into it at all,” Roee said. “When I saw what they were doing, I thought, ‘They’re not even taking advantage of all of the lines and the puns and all that stuff.’ So I think it all came down to, ‘I really think I can do this better than almost anyone else. So let’s just see if that’s true.’”
Roee also teamed up with the non-profit organization Testicular Cancer Canada to raise awareness, donating a portion of Cockuterie’s proceeds to the cause. The organization was on-board with Roee’s plan and encouraged him to use their logo and name in his marketing.
In the week before Cockuterie Boards’ September 2021 launch, Roee’s decision to center his marketing around risqué content paid off. One of his first TikToks earned almost 254,000 views and 22,000 likes. Over the next few weeks, thousands of users continued to share his videos. And those first 50 boards sold out by the end of the month.
From there, Roee doubled his production to 100 boards per month and then 200. By December, he’d hit five figures in his monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and two of his TikToks earned more than four million views. He decided to pursue Cockuterie Boards as his full-time position right before the New Year.
Roee already juggled all the responsibilities of running the startup. He stocked, engraved, packaged, and delivered the orders to a shipping partner. He researched social media trends, planned his content, filmed, edited, and posted it. He engaged with his nearly 40,000 TikTok followers and crafted handwritten notes for each buyer. And until he switched manufacturers, Roee sanded and oiled his first 700 boards by hand before shipping them out.
Now, he could really dedicate his time to growing his business and exploring how he could influence a niche market of buyers.
Feeding the Social Media Beast Only Helps You Grow So Much
Roee nailed down his target audience from the start. He knew he wanted to market Cockuterie Boards to bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthday parties, and other off-the-wall events. During this first year, he primarily used TikTok to reach those audiences.
“To this day, content is the number one thing that’s keeping me going. It’s my number one priority for the business and the brand,” Roee says. “It’s what I think is my biggest skill set, in terms of creating and ideating on content for the brand.”
For a lot of his content, Roee hops on current trends and incorporates his Cockuterie Boards into them. As audio tracks rise in popularity, he uses them in his videos, increasing his chance of appearing in users’ feeds. The founder also posts behind-the-scenes videos of his process, taking user requests in the comments to show him packing up their orders.
But he gains more exposure by collaborating with popular celebrities and influencers. Big names like Pitbull, celebrity chef Matty Matheson, and The Real Housewives of Miami star Marysol Patton all own a personalized Cockuterie Board.
Earlier this year, Roee also sent a board to an influencer specializing in making charcuterie content. The video gained almost 25 million hits and more than three and a half million likes. Roee says his sales that month alone nearly matched what the business had earned in its whole lifetime.
“It’s the beast that I need to continue to feed.”
To keep that momentum going, though, requires constant attention to who and what is trending. “It’s the beast that I need to continue to feed,” Roee says of his TikTok content.
It doesn’t help that he can’t use paid ads to get the word out about Cockuterie Boards. Facebook and other platforms have banned his ad attempts due to the nature of his product. But Roee knows that it’s time to start thinking about exploring growth channels beyond social media.
“I’m making a more concentrated effort to bolster as much of the B2B side as possible,” Roee says. “Of these thousand boards I’ve sold, the vast majority is just D2C off my website. So if I can establish some retailers that are interested in selling the boards and grow the brand that way, I think that would be a huge step for the business.”
Turning a Niche D2C Business Into a B2B Vendor
In the past year, Roee has started selling his Cockuterie Boards at two brick-and-mortar stores in Colorado. One of the stores has already run out of its initial stock and has reordered, giving Roee hope that other specialty stores will want to sell his product too. Especially when he premieres new lines like a Charbooberie Board, which he hopes to align with the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.
Roee also plans on teaming up with bachelor and bachelorette planning companies. The BACH, an all-in-one planning app with hundreds of thousands of users, has been on Roee’s radar for a while. But the application process to be a vendor is long and competitive. Luckily, he’s got the “Everything To Do With Sex” event booked in Toronto in October where he can set up a vendor booth to sell some boards. That’s what Roee did this summer when he attended the Toronto Pride Festival as well.
Although he’s catering to a niche market, Roee knows that specialized events like these present a great opportunity to find potential buyers.
“As niche as this is, just because it’s incredibly specific, doesn’t mean it’s limiting,” Roee says. “There’s certainly a cap but it wouldn’t discourage me from pursuing it. You still have avenues to explore. There are so many partnerships that I could align myself with.”
Roee hopes to build those partnerships sooner rather than later. While D2C transactions will remain an important part of his business, the founder also wants to move into B2B territory so he can solidify and increase his revenue.
“This year has just been like get a sale, fulfill, get a sale, fulfill. And that’s been very random,” Roee says. “Some days are hot, some days are not. Some months are slow and some are fast. And I think getting some systems and processes in place so there’s more of a foundation for growth ahead is important. Rather than just praying that a TikTok goes viral.”
While social media has been Roee’s strongest weapon in the past, relying on it won’t guarantee his company’s future. Building relationships with his customers and possible business partners can provide growth opportunities, though. Especially if those partners see the potential in Roee’s cock-y brand.
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