Don't laugh at Doggles: Fashion sunglasses for dogs are a $3 million a year business
They say no industry is truly recession-proof, but the latest numbers from the American Pet Products Association say something else: A whopping $45.5 billion was spent on pets in 2009, up--yes, up--5.4 percent from the year before.
About $3 million of that went to Doggles, an endlessly inventive California pet supplies business, mostly famous for some rather chic canine eyewear. In 1996, founder Veronica DiLullo cobbled together the first pair of Doggles for Midknight, her border collie-Lab mix who was so sensitive to light he had a hard time catching Frisbees at the park. She posted online a photo and the rest, as they say, is history. "People started to contact me to make pairs for their dogs for all sorts of reasons," she says, "and that's when I realized there was a glaring need for a product like this."
DiLullo teamed up with a veterinary ophthalmologist to design the frames, straps and shatterproof and anti-fog lenses, and opened for business. Now Doggles come in three main styles--mesh, protective and fashion--all selling for less than $20 each. And the Diamond Springs company has branched out into other unconventional pet products, including hats, flotation jackets and backpacks. DiLullo designs all of it instead of relying on what manufacturers have available. "It's all about watching animals play and figuring out what they need," she says. Her latest creations, Pentapulls, are dolls with stretchy limbs that won't tear off.
Like other brilliant companies, Doggles was ahead of the curve. "We endured a lot of odd looks when we started out," DiLullo says, "and it was a few years before people would walk by and recognize us as something more than a crazy idea." It has certainly paid off, though, with sales at the five-human outfit expected to hit $3 million this year. --J.W.
9 More to Watch:
A Dog's Life This maker of natural hand-baked treats recently expanded to include people products: wine with customizable labels featuring your pet.
Camp Bow Wow The fast-growing pet-service franchise has more than 200 locations in North America, offering doggy day camp and full-service in-home pet care.
My Memory Catcher Sign up for several sessions with a "pet historian," who will write down all those entertaining pet stories and return them in a spiral-bound journal.
nootie Luxe pet shampoos inspired by luxe hair-care products, with scents that include Warm Vanilla Cookie and Japanese Cherry Blossom.
Pawsible Marketing Founder and principal Leslie May specializes in helping small- to medium-sized pet businesses get established and grow.
Pet Acoustics A $249.95 sound system designed to eliminate pet-unfriendly frequencies for dogs, cats and horses--so they won't be agitated when you start blasting T-Pain's latest.
PetAirapy Using UVC light and filters, these air purifiers and surface disinfectants get rid of pets' allergies--and probably human ones, too.
Pussy and Pooch Pop into the upscale Los Angeles or Long Beach, Calif., boutiques for the "Pawbar" experience, where dogs belly up for simmered stews and "dog beer."
Scutte Modern Vintage Stylish pet apparel and accessories such as collars with neckties and Snoopy graphic tees. Yes, for your dog.