Pet Business: How did Soggy Doggy get started? What gave you the idea for the Soggy Doggy doormat?
Joanna Rein: I started all of this about four or five years ago with an idea. I am, first and foremost, a mother. I have four young kids, and at the time, I had a rescue puppy. Every time I turned around, one of the kids was letting the dog in from the wet yard and right onto our hardwood floors. I would end up chasing the dog around the house with a towel, trying to wipe his paws off.
All winter, I would try to explain to the kids that they had to bring the dog in over the doormat and towel that I had put down by the door, but nothing ever worked. The following summer, I was sitting at a swim meet and I watched a kid get out of the pool and dry his whole body with a little piece of diver’s chamois that was probably 10 inches by 10 inches. I thought, “Now why isn’t there something like that for dog paws?”
So, I went off to the various pet stores in my area, and I couldn’t find anything that even resembled what I was looking for—they didn’t have doormats for dogs at all. Then I went to a hardware store, thinking I would get some type of commercial-grade product, but they were all rough and the dog didn’t like it.
Finally, I set out to make my own. It took a long time, and the part that took the longest was finding the right materials for the mat. I made the very first prototype out of a ShamWow. I took it to a local tailor and had him tuft it, because I knew it had to be shaggy to cover the dog’s paws as he walked over it. I put some foam under it, and a no-slip back, and I brought it home and I put it down by the door. The dog took one look at it and jumped right over it; he wouldn’t go near it because it was orange—I didn’t know that dogs don’t like orange. I ended up throwing it in the basement and giving up.
Fast-forward to January 2009. It was the heart of the recession, and I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how, despite the recession, the pet market continued to grow. People were still spending money on their pets. That inspired me to bring out the prototype and commit to finding a super-absorbent material in a better texture and better look. I did end up finding the material I was looking for and I found a manufacturer that was willing to start small, and I got started with just one SKU—a beige doormat with a red bone.
I started off by selling them out of my car. I would drive as far as I could to various pet stores, hardware stores, home goods and gift stores. I sold my first 500 pieces in four weeks.
PB: How has your company evolved since you set out on with that first batch of 500 doormats?
Rein: Now I have bookkeepers to keep track of everything, and a big warehouse in New Jersey. We sell through a couple of distributors, we sell to catalogs, and we sell online through our own website. However, our business is primarily independent pet boutiques—that’s our bread and butter.
Our product line has grown from that single doormat SKU to a total of 12 SKUs, including doormats in two different sizes and four different colors, the Soggy Doggy Super Shammy, and the Soggy Doggy Slop Mat, which is a placemat for sloppy dogs. The growth of the line was completely inspired by feedback from our customers. Once we went to market with our doormats, we got a lot of emails from dog owners who said they needed something to dry their dogs off with all over or something to put under their pets food and water bowls.
PB: What does the future hold for Soggy Doggy?
Rein: We’re dedicated to finding innovative, high-quality and fun wet-dog solutions. But we are always listening to our customers. One of the things that sets us apart from some of the bigger companies out there is that we answer every email and phone call within 24 hours—and we listen.