A year ago, the pet industry was not one the Allen family planned to get into. But in the last year they’ve developed a product, won a pitch competition, put their idea into production, created two separate lines for pets, have an online store, have planned a retail store and have been all across the country promoting Poochie Bowl. The uniquely designed water and food bowl is even produced right here in Lansing.
Even though the idea was slightly accidental, this momentum can be attributed to not only a great product, but great marketing and product development.
Though they never meant to end up there, the pet industry is definitely the right place to be. According to Allen, even through the recession the pet industry continued to grow. “Pets are a part of your family. Most people treat them like their children.” No matter what the economy does, people will continue to buy things for their furry friends.
A family owned company, the Poochie Bowl was inspired by the Allen family’s own furry, floppy eared family member. The bowl was designed to save the ears of their Basset Hound by preventing them from falling into his water bowl. Allen says that most people don’t realize what an issue wet ears can become. “They can get sore and infected.” So, by keeping them out of the water, “It really does reduce vet bills.”
But, not all dogs have long ears and Poochie Bowl wanted a borader market appeal, so they extended their marketing efforts to include the traveling pooch. They’ve recently added an air tight lid that allows you to transport food and water wherever your dog may need it. It’s no-tip shape also makes it perfect for motorhomes and boats. It’s durable design makes it safe to take everywhere and when at home the lid is perfect for storing extra food.
Poochie Bowl is also excited to reach out to an even larger group with their new “Neeman Barkus” line. “We are definitely focused on promoting Poochie Bowl but in our industry special or unique items are really popular,” says Allen, “We call it pivoting.” They hope when people come to their tables or website looking at these unique items they will notice the bowl and realize it’s perfect for them and their pup.
The Neeman Barkus line includes specialty, independently made items such as bow ties, leashes, treats and collar accessories. The line is a great revenue stream and they sell the items online, at festivals and trade shows, and soon at a location in the Meridian Mall. The store will open for the holiday season and, according to Allen, will be a test to see if they’d like to open a permanent location.
Poochie Bowl stands out in the startup world when it comes to their marketing and promotion. “We didn’t dive into a full-blown marketing campaign.” They rely on word of mouth, personal contact with retailers and social media. Between Facebook and Instagram they have 5,000 followers and have come to realize the very visual component of the product. “People really have to see the product to understand it,” says Allen, “But once they get it, they share it all over the place.”
While the momentum of the last year has created it’s own set of challenges (funding, time restraints, marketing) Allen and the rest of the family has overcome them largely due, says Allen, because they just kept moving forward. He says, “Don’t hesitate. If you think you have a good idea, go with it.”
Melissa Allen, President Chris Allen, Vice-President Joe Rabideau, Inventor