Focused on Solutions
Blake Anderson, founder/managing director of Pet Parents, explains how the company’s unique brand of innovation is helping to minimize the messes that come with pet ownership.
Tell us about Pet Parents. When/how was the company created? What types of products does it offer?
We started on this journey in Fall 2015. When I told my longtime girlfriend — now fiancée — that I (a recent college graduate) had decided to start a pet product company selling dog diapers, you can imagine her initial reaction. Explaining that to her family was met with a drawn out, “Oh, cool.” They were skeptical. I have had successful (acquired) and failed startups in the past, especially in ecommerce. But, unlike with other ventures, the reason behind starting Pet Parents was very personal.
My first true love had short, blonde hair, long ears and wet kisses. At about eight years old, I mistakenly thought Blondie was a beagle when we adopted her as a puppy at a shelter. I was so very wrong. That “beagle” actually grew up to be a 70-plus lb. Labrador. But even though she didn't fit my obsession with beagles at the time, she melted my heart.
I had a very rough childhood, and Blondie was my rock. When times were bad, she comforted me and licked my tears away.
When I left California and went off to college in Iowa on a football scholarship, I unfortunately couldn’t take Blondie with me. She was getting older; her movements slowed, her steps were tiring, her bladder weakened. She would often wake up in a pool of urine. She knew it was “wrong,” but she couldn’t control it. My dad took her to the vet, who gave an ultimatum, endure this process or help her to doggie heaven. Without many options, and facing a quality of life issue, Blondie joined the other doggie angels.
Years after Blondie’s passing, I stumbled across dog diapers. Not knowing anything about them but curious, I dug in. When I learned that one of the many uses is for controlling incontinence, I was infuriated. Why? Because, in my heart, I felt quality dog diapers could have likely improved Blondie’s quality of life and she would have been with us longer.
After this discovery, I researched why I didn't know of these products sooner. What were the existing options on the market, and what was wrong with them? Clearly, if they truly solved these problems for pet parents, they would be well-known solutions. I was right.
The issue is multifaceted. Part of the blame must go to lack of education among pet parents, veterinarians and the overall pet industry, but subpar product offerings were the main problem. So, I made it my personal mission to solve this problem by redesigning the dog diaper from the ground up, specifically focused on solving all the faults that can be found in the existing industry-leading products, educating pet parents and the overall industry, and helping pet parents spend even a bit more time with their beloved fur babies, like I wish I could have with Blondie.
What are pet owners looking for in incontinence/house training products? What should retailers look for when building an effective selection in this product category?
First of all, they are looking for products that work. Although that seems intuitive, you’d be surprised how many products miss the mark. If the urine, feces or blood isn’t contained, it doesn't work. So, effective products are the first step.
Next is education. Some pet owners are unaware that these products even exist, so they hodge-podge things together in an effort to solve their problems. If more pet owners simply knew of these products, they, their pets and their homes would be better off.
Third, especially depending on the use case, pet parents are looking for economical options. For some, especially the owners of aging pets, these products are a daily or even hourly necessity. If the diapers they are using are disposable, the cost can be overwhelming. On the other hand, durable, washable options make it more economical for pet owners to reuse these products over the long term.
For retailers, something to look for is a full collection of products. They should also look for effectiveness and think deeper about the details/differences of the different competing products; they may seem similar on the surface, but if you dig down you’ll realize the differences are huge. Lastly, look for brands that support your store, especially when it comes to education. At the end of the day, you are likely in this business because you love pets, and a brand that pushes education not only helps turn unaware pet owners into customers for these products, it also helps more pets.
What are some of Pet Parents’ most popular incontinence/house training products? What are the key features of these products?
I appreciate the question, but it needs to be reframed a bit. We don’t sell incontinence products, but incontinence is one of the many uses of our products. Our products are great for incontinence, house training, females in heat, males marking, gastrointestinal upset, UTI issues, post- surgery cover up, as a safety precaution when traveling—the list goes on and on.
With getting that out of the way, our most popular products are our washable dog diapers and washable belly bands. The list of key features is long, so I’ll focus on a few and anyone interested on the full list of features can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the key features include our multi-layered sewn in pad, our waterproof exterior shell, being sold in packs of three, our numerous color options and unbeatable price point.
How can retailers be successful in selling incontinence products like those sold by Pet Parents? Are there any common mistakes or misconceptions you’ve noticed among retailers?
The primary misconception is that our products are primarily for incontinence. This isn’t true. The problems our products solve are numerous. There are many use cases. So, the first suggestion for retailers is to stop thinking of these types of products as primarily incontinence products. When you focus on only incontinence, you’re doing your customers and your business a disservice, as these products can solve so many more problems for your customers, and when you’re solving a wider range of problems for more customers, you’ll have more customers for these product types.
Does Pet Parents offer any other types of products? If so, what sets these products apart in their respective categories?
We also sell a pain-free pet repeller blanket that helps keep cats and dogs off of couches, beds, tables, cars, etc., as well as our Gnawtlers line of deer, split elk and whole elk antlers for dogs.
Why antlers? We focus on products that help pet parents raise a fur-baby while keeping a clean home. Our Gnawtlers are all natural, naturally shed, don’t have dyes and don’t leave residue, like other chew options. They are a clean treat that won’t leave a mess after your fur baby does some gnawing.
Aside from offering a variety of high-quality products, how does Pet Parents help retailers drive sales? What types of sales and marketing support does the company provide? A big focus of ours is pet owner education. One of our early hires actually was a full-time writer. Why? Pet owners with problems look for answers/solutions, educated pet owners become customers. We create a ton of content focused on the problems our products solve. We also just recently hired someone whose sole responsibility is to provide resources to help retailers drive more sales in their stores, whether that is with our local digitized marketing efforts, our dog mannequin program, our in-store displays or one of the other several programs we have to help retailers drive sales.
What does the future hold for Pet Parents? Do you have any new products or product categories in development?
We have a handful of new products recently launched or in the process of launching, including our premium washable pee pads and their full range of intelligently crafted purpose-driven size options. We have a full product pipeline of unique proprietary products we’re working on.
I’m biased, of course, but the future is bright… very bright. We’ve at least doubled our sales every year since our inception. I believe sales are the best way to measure the impact you’re making; we’re helping a lot of people and their fur babies, and it shows. This is great, of course, but with fast growth comes a handful of varying growing pains. So, my focus is on ironing out those wrinkles to ensure we can continue to set records and help more and more fellow pet parents and their very own Blondies. PB