What’s the story behind Pupups (pronounced Pup-Ups) anyway?
In a world where I could be anything, I chose to be a dog person. I’ll be super honest here, I think dog people are the best sort of people. Being that ‘dog-crazy person’ it was only kismet that I started a dog gear company, right? How else would I literally surround myself with dogs 24/7? I figured if I was going to have co-workers, they should have four paws and big flip-floppy ears.
Living in the Pacific Northwest means muddy paws, and salty toes 11.5 months of the year. It also meant that every time I took Lu (my wild, yellow mixed rescue dog) to the ocean to swim, her nylon collar would get gnarlier and gnarlier. Gross. You truly haven’t lived until you’ve had a dog with a love for seeking out geoducks. Fun fact Geoducks spit at you on the beach, and are really well…just google them, you won’t be disappointed. Ha! —Really just click the link, then come back. I will wait….
I’ve always been an artist, in fact some of my earliest memories are sitting with my crayons drawing dogs. I’ve also been an entrepreneur most of my adult life (I’m a commercial fashion photog by day) I figured “hey, maybe I should combine these two things, draw up some designs and find a way to make waterproof dog gear!”
…So I did.
I saved up a ton of money to give Pupups its first bit of capitol (starting up a small biz is another blog all of its own) and got my first four designs printed and turned into waterproof collar samples. It took me over a year to get Pupups’ design juuuust right. When you are a super small potatoes company, getting big steel companies to take you seriously is a wild mountain to tackle. Sourcing the world for components became my evening hobby and I made friends all over the world in the process. What I wanted was marine grade stainless steel, beautifully fun prints, and strong (I mean bulldog strong) webbing.
I got all my friends to test the samples. I’m talking ‘climb a mountain with your dog, trudge through the muddy creek, and binge all 8 seasons of Dexter while eating oreos hardcore testing.’ Serious business calls for serious testing.
What we created was awesome. My friends could take their dog on a half marathon (one of those crazy ones with the mud and the obstacles) and at the end all they had to do to clean their pups collar was rinse it clean. Friends who surf with their dogs were loving the stainless steel. Friends with farm dogs were thoroughly enjoying not smelling their dog from a mile away.
…So I went to production.
AWESOME! I got my first shipment of 3000 collars, and dang, they were made with the wrong rivets. A huge blow to a teeny tiny company. I decided I would donate these (they were still good collars, just not meant for salt water splish-splashing .) and keep on going. I worked extra hard to save enough money to get the collars redone (thousands and thousands annnnd thousands of dollars.). But! I did it…went to production again annnnnd Covid hit.
Backed by the best friends and family in the world, Pupups was ready to re-launch, and what a wild ride it’s been! Little did I know that the entire world changed since I launched my commercial studio 12 years ago, back then you didn’t need SEO, thousands of dollars a month for marketing, or to please any algorithm Gods. It was simple. In fact, it was so simple that all these years later, I still don’t do any marketing or even have a website for my commercial photography studio. Wild!
What I’ve learned about small business ownership in 2021-
-I’ve always known this, but Community over Competition is where you will find your like-minded besties that will always lift you up.
-Attention to the smallest details brings customers back. I coded a little button into my checkout that asks people what their dog’s breed is…this was purely so I could draw a photo of their dog on their thank you card 😉
-Humor with your vendors goes a lonnnnng way. My stainless steel rep always says she loves opening my emails because she knows there will be 1. A dog meme 2. A photo of my smiling dogs and 3. An email not written by a robot.
Jump ahead to June 2021, supply chain disruptions like crazy! I had to make the choice between closing Pupups, or starting the sourcing all over again. I’m pretty stubborn, so I decided the world still REALLY needed waterproof dog collars, and so here I am sourcing all the best materials again. I’m drawing new designs everyday, planning, attempting SEO (ahhhhhck!) and doing everything I can to get Pupups on people’s radar. The slogan for Pupups is “Onward and Upward,” something my Gramma said constantly, and I think it is the best mantra for a small business in these wild times. So, cheers to us all, and Onward and Upward, my friends!
(Ps. This is my first blog written about me, small biz, and all that…if you want to hear more, leave a comment, and I’ll write more!)