Streetwear Culture Goes to the Dogs
When the founder of Fresh Pawz couldn't find clothes and gear he actually wanted to buy for his dog, a company was born.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Christopher Cargnoni and I’m the founder of Fresh Pawz, a pet brand dedicated to the streetwear culture.
What inspired you to create this product?
In 2017 I noticed younger and younger people walking around with dogs of their own. While I wasn’t yet ready to take on the responsibility of having my own dog back then, the family dogs I grew up with were a big part of my life. Being in the retail world my entire life, I’m super passionate about brand building and creating products that people can connect to, so I started to research the pet market.
Everywhere I searched there were articles about “Millennials are redefining the pet industry!” or “Millennials are now the largest buyer of pets!”. Yet, when I searched for brands and products that would connect to the millennial generation, my own generation, I couldn’t find anything! Out of all the products available, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase even one. I realized there was a major gap to fill in the pet industry.
What has been the biggest lesson you've learned in producing and marketing your company?
My biggest lesson here is to stay true to your business’s DNA. We could easily slide over and create different types of products for the masses, but then my brand would become generic and its authenticity would fade. That’s not what I envisioned or why I started this brand. I was confident that big retailers would need a unique brand like us, we just needed to stay the course and create something good enough that they would be foolish to not bring our products in. Fast-forward to today, just three years later, and Fresh Pawz products are sold by nearly every major retailer.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
That’s a great question! Funny thing is, I’ve had the word “entrepreneur” as my job title on Facebook since I was 18 years old- before I even knew what the word meant! The spirit of entrepreneurship has always been alive and well within me, I just didn’t know the true nature of it. To me, the word “entrepreneur” means choosing to create your own destiny. If you’re an entrepreneur, you literally can't breathe at the thought of having someone tell you what to do. The thought of how much an hour of your time is worth at a typical 9-5 job is painful! I believe we’re living in the most blessed time in history for entrepreneurs. There really is an unlimited opportunity for those who have the skill and desire to achieve it.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I launched Fresh Pawz in January of 2018, with plans to fund it through my job. Unfortunately, due to a conflict of interest, I was fired from my job just a month later. It was at that moment that I knew I never wanted to spend my time or give my talents to help build someone else's future and net worth instead of my own.
After only a month in business, I could have shut down the brand without a problem. I could have tried to find another day job. That would have been the easy choice, but it wasn’t the choice that would take me where I wanted to go. Looking back, being fired from my job was the best thing to ever happen to me. It finally pushed me to make a decision. I told myself, “I’m going to put all my chips in. I’m going to bet on myself and have faith that I can do what I’ve always believed I can. Fear holds you back if you let it. So don’t!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs about fundraising?
Investors want to see that you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your business. They want to see that you’ve grown it all you can on your own, and then they might consider helping you grow to the next level. You need to be authentic. Don’t try to fit into a mold to get money from a certain person.
I don’t meet people just because they have money. I meet people who I’d genuinely like to collaborate with. Everyone I have potential partnerships with comes from my own circle, and it happened organically. After seeing all the hard work I’ve invested in my business, they were interested in investing too.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“Beat The Odds, Do Numbers, Remain Humble.” This is a Drake lyric, but it represents everything I'm about. We all need the will to go against the odds in life. I pride myself on being mentally strong enough to jump the hurdles. I’m a sales guy, so doing numbers has always been a way of life for me. It’s what excites me, what gets me up in the morning. Remaining humble is also a critical part of my identity. I have a strong belief that no matter how much success I obtain in life, I’m always just my mother’s baby boy. As I say, Angiolina’s Baby Boy. When you fall, arrogance keeps you down. Humble yourself, get back up, and keep trying to beat the odds.