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They say the best ideas are borne out of necessity, and the worldwide popularity of DOOG – the premiere lifestyle brand for active dog owners – is living proof.
When Co-founder, Jessica Knight, found herself struggling to hold her phone and sunglasses while out walking her dog, the idea for their first product – the Walkie Belt – was born.
Later, when her dog was injured by a stick playing fetch, Jessica knew there had to be a better option and created a global dog toy sensation.
We caught up with the amazing beachside brand and went behind the scenes to discover all things DOOG.
Welcome to a world of sun, surf, creativity and walkies!
Who: Jessica Knight
Title & Company: Co/founder and Director – DOOG (Dog Owners Outdoor Gear)
Location: Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia
DOOG is one of the world’s leading brands for outdoor and active gear for dog owners. How did you get started?
Firstly – that is a really nice thing to say – so thankyou. It all started from very humble beginnings with an idea on a dog walk. My husband and business partner Jamie was struggling to pick up after our dog while pushing our baby in a pram and trying to keep hold of his phone and sunglasses.
While struggling with this issue, Jamie came up with a solution, an idea for a dog walking belt to hold all your dog walking essentials around your waist keeping your hands free to exercise and walk with your dog and manage prams etc. Later that evening, he did some rough sketches on a piece of paper of how he imagined it would look and we sent them to a friend who was a pattern maker and she sampled up the first Walkie Belt for testing.
We wore the sample around, tested it out and one day I popped into a pet shop in Balmain to ask the owner if she would be interested in selling them and we got our first sale straight away! From there, we made a small quantity to take to the REED Gift Fair to sell and within a matter of months we had about 20 stores around Australia stocking them.
Did you have any background in design? How did you transfer the skills you already had to a dog-focused business?
Before we started DOOG, I worked in television production and Jamie was in advertising. We had no prior experience in business or product design but we were always brainstorming business ideas together and we both loved dogs.
Our creative experience in our prior careers has made it easier for us to come up with innovative and unique products in the range. We like to inject a bit of creative flare into every new product we design from the packaging to the functionality.
We are also lucky enough to have a lot of artistic friends we can call upon to help us brainstorm new ideas and come up with marketing campaigns and packaging ideas.
As far as the business side of things, we gathered as much advice as we could from fellow business owners. We also read a lot of business blogs and books and the rest we just taught ourselves along the way.
DOOG is all about an active, fun lifestyle with your dog. How does your day-to-day lifestyle reflect this?
We are lucky enough to live by the beach in Sydney and we are always out running, swimming and walking with Wilbur. He is our chief product tester and the inspiration behind everything we do. Jamie runs 5ks with Wilbur on most mornings and he walks the kids to school and back most days. I also take him for at least 2 big swims with his stick toy at the dog beach every week.
What tips would you give dog owners who want to get active with their dogs, but are just starting out?
One of the best things about owning a dog is that they encourage and inspire us to get out and get active. Some dogs need more exercise than others but the average small to medium dog should be getting a 30 minute to 45 minute walk every day.
Some breeds such as cattle dogs and hunting dogs need more exercise than your average small to medium breed so if you like running and enjoy going a bit further on your daily walk then perhaps choose a more active dog breed such as an Aussie Shepherd.
The most important thing you can do before getting a dog is to make sure you do your research on the best breed for your family based on how much time you are able to exercise them every day.
What’s your favourite outdoors activity to do with your dog?
We love to run with Wilbur, he helped me train for a half marathon and is great company on a run or a long walk. Exercising with Wilbur also helped me get back into shape after the birth of my 3rd child.
What’s DOOG’s all time best selling product? Why do you think it’s so popular?
For a long time people associated our brand with the Walkie Belt so I would say that has been our best selling product in Australia to date. More recently our new Walkie Bags (dog walking bags) have been a hit and our neoprene collar and lead range are selling really well. The functionality of the neoprene with the fun and bright coloured patterns have proved to be really appealing to dog owners and we are now seeing them on dogs everywhere which is always really exciting. In the USA there is no doubt that The Sticks have been our number 1 best selling product.
Your fun FETCH stick dog toys are insanely popular. How did you come up with the idea for them?
The idea for The Sticks came about when our poor little dog Wilbur (a pug x) got a stick lodged in his jaw at the dog park. Our vet told us that Wilbur should stop fetching sticks as they caused serious mouth injuries including deep cuts, gum splinters and chipped teeth.
Tennis balls didn’t seem to evoke the same excitement as sticks for Wilbur so we decided to design a range of fetch toys for him that felt and looked like a real stick, floated in water but were softer and safer for him to play. ‘The Stick Family’ idea was born.
You recently did a big order for US superstore WalMart which surely was a high point for the company. What have been your highlights in running DOOG to date?
I just love seeing our products on people and their pets on the street; it is a highlight for me every time I see a person in a Walkie Belt or a dog in a collar or using one of our foldable bowls at the park. Other highlights include winning the award for the most innovative gift at the REED Gift Fair for the Walkie Belt and being approached by The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan to do a licensing deal back in 2010.
Do you have a pet friendly workplace? Tell us about it.
Wilbur comes to the office with us often but has had a bad habit of barking at the couriers.
Name three items you can’t live without at work…
My pantone swatch book, Spotify Premium and my DOOG water bottle.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice when starting out what would you say?
Don’t rush products to the market, test and test again until they are perfect.
If DOOG could choose anyone to be the celebrity face of their brand, who would you choose?
Barack Obama –A truly amazing and inspirational human being who is just so effortlessly cool and his dog Bo is adorable and very photogenic.
If you could have lunch with three people who inspire you creatively and professionally, who would you invite?
1. Leonnie Hoskins – Global deputy of range and Design for Ikea. You can learn a lot from designers in other markets who also need to consider function and practicality and how people use items in day to day life.
2. Sir Jonathon Paul Ive – Apple’s head of Design – talking to someone who has revolutionised design across the world would be mind blowing!
3. Our graphic designer and amazing creative Paul who turns every great idea into a brilliant one.
What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you have a business or product idea, follow it up and make it happen. Don’t let negative feedback discourage you, and never give up. If you are genuinely excited and passionate about your idea then other people will be too.
What is next for the DOOG brand? Where do you see yourself and the brand in 5 years time?
We are really focusing on building international awareness of the brand over the next few years. We are also expanding our toy range and have some fun new toys launching in the coming months that we are really excited about.
What three items do you think every stylish pet owner should have?
* Good quality trainers/sneakers are the best investment
* A DOOG belt or bag to take on your walk
* A comfortable collar, lead or harness for your dog to exercise in
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