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Because Running a Business Is 'Ruff': 5 Lessons From Entrepreneurs in the Pet Industry

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Make no bones about it, the main attraction at the Westminster Dog Show are the show pups. But the vendor booths were also hopping at the Piers 92/94 in New York City.


Vendors ranged from trinkets to veterinary services and everything in between. We spoke with a few merchants to get a few of their insights on running a business.

1. Work with the right people.  

Image credit: Voyce

Whether they are your vendors or employees, the entire team has to understand the mission, says Emily Hartman, director of product development at Voyce, maker of wearable dog bands that can track a dog’s heart rate and more. Your team has to be a part of the overall goal.

2. Know when to let go.

It’s hard not to get attached to a business, idea or product, but Eileen Cuneo, owner of The Life of Ryley, says “don’t hold on too long.” The ecommerce site now offers more wholesale products for than her own harnesses, stationery and collars. While she makes less money from wholesale, the quantities required to produce her original pieces was too risky. In the event the product didn’t work out, she would be stuck with unsellable inventory.

3. Pack your patience cap.

Image credit: Life of Ryley booth / image by Wendy Frink

When you’re selling things like rain slickers for dogs, there are bound to be sizing issues. Cuneo has a liberal return policy in order to accommodate sizing discrepancies, and to keep the customer happy.

4. Reinvent yourself.

Entrepreneurship isn’t just for the youngins’. After a long career in broadcasting, Marg Shadid sought a better quality of life. So, with her daughter on design, they created the 4-in-1 dog walking utility jacket. With such features as removable sleeves, retractable key chain, and bag dispenser, the jacket was a hit with the dog show crowd. Let’s Go Design offers no wholesale and her workload is virtually non-existent from April through September. “Who wants to buy a jacket in the summer?” Shadid says.

5. Do it for the dogs (or follow a dream).

Artist and flight attendant Sabrina Avila opened her Etsy shop, Sabyloo, because she loves dogs and loves being around dog people. Her flexible schedule allows her to design and assemble her creations by hand. She also runs a novelty sock company, Soxeteer, with her husband.

Related: For a Productive Workplace Let Your Office Go to the Dogs

Wendy Frink

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Wendy Frink is the social media editor for