The pet products market is only set to grow in the ensuing years. Today we hear from Will Chen, Founder and Owner of P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle And You. This innovative company has proven their approach to designing special things for your pet can take you, your pet and our planet very seriously.
Read on to learn how this premium and lifestyle bedding for pets company came into fruition, how they are giving back to the community, as well as some advice Will has for those interested in entering the pet products market. Enjoy!
What is your background? How did you start P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle And You?
I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering from University of Michigan and prior to starting my own company, I worked as a consultant for A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm headquartered in Chicago, IL.
I started P.L.A.Y. when my significant other, Deb, and I wanted to find the perfect pet bed for our little pug Momo. We wanted a bed that was not only comfortable for Momo, but also stylish for our home and sustainably made (all within a reasonable price point). We were disappointed by what we found in the market so we decided to make our own and that was how P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle And You was born. P.L.A.Y.’s logo was also inspired by Momo’s playful nature, as evident in her frequent “play bow” position.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s hard to describe a typical day for someone working in a startup, as you have to wear multiple hats and take on whatever tasks are in front of you. If I have to describe an “ideal” typical day, I would start with taking an hour to read up on latest industry publications and consumer pet specialty magazines, then spending the next 2-3 hours clearing emails regarding orders and customer questions. There will be another hour or so of meeting/conference calling with my team members for status updates, etc. Also, we attend multiple shows (both Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer) shows around the country so on most days there will be some work on preparation in every aspect (signup, logistics, PR, etc.). Normally I also need to spend some time of my day working on creative – be it product design and development, photoshoot, press release discussion or magazine ads; there is always a mountain of activities going on as we are focused on building a design and lifestyle oriented brand.
What is your favorite part about working in pet products?
My favorite parts are being able to bring Momo with us to work every day, and also the opportunities to work with animals and contribute to shelters across the country through our donations and more recently, our Warm Bellies initiative (http://www.petplay.com/warm-bellies)
What are some of the memorable moments of your job?
There are quite a few. One is that Momo has received more Xmas and Valentine’s Day cards than Deb and I combined. lol.
Putting together successful trade shows always give me a great sense of satisfaction as well. Since we started this company, I have developed a strong sense of appreciation for brands that put a lot of effort into all the details and I am learning every day how to make P.L.A.Y. a better brand and how we can make the P.L.A.Y. experience the most unforgettable and holistic for our fans and customers.
Also, occasionally I will receive an email like the one below from our customers. Such messages truly make my day:
“I am BEYOND impressed with how much you give back to people and pets in need. I will be purchasing my dog beds from you, as well as beds to give as gifts, for years to come. Your website is fantastic, your story is inspiring, and I am thrilled to be a new lifelong customer.
Never stop doing good things. It’s how we change the world.”
What challenges do you face on your job?
As a young entrepreneur, finding the right talent for the right jobs is often one of the most difficult organizational challenges. Also, being a small company we have a small budget so it is a constant challenge for us to allocate our limited budget and figure out what the best sales and marketing channels are.
How do you see the pet industry evolving in the future?
The pet industry will continue to grow and mature. We believe the trend that has taken place the past 5-10 years, namely that pet owners see their pets as family members and the “premiumization” of certain pet products, is here to stay. Discerning pet lovers will become more educated and demand products that are safe, sophisticated and for products like beds, bowls, collars and leashes, catered to their lifestyle as much as to their pets.
What does the future of P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle And You look like?
We will continue to innovate and strive to be the leader in the premium and lifestyle bedding category. We are actively looking at market segments that we can expand into as well but we want to make sure we can deliver outstanding and unique products in whatever areas we do.
In terms of market presence, we will continue to focus on serving boutiques and independent stores/small chains. After seeing a good number of inquiries, we have begun to expand outside of the United States and are already selling in Canada, UK, Germany, and hopefully many more markets in Europe and Asia Pacific.
What advice would you give to those interested in getting into the pet products market?
Well, first of all, I think you should be a pet lover – it helps when you have true passion for the product and end users that you are serving. Also, make sure your product/service ideas have a sustainable, competitive edge in the market because competition in the pet industry will only get more intense over time, as large companies are vying for a piece of the pie and there will always be many other startups. Lastly, listen to people around you but if you have a vision, stick to it. You will hear a lot of noises and see many distracting signals but it’s important for a company to maintain direction and focus.
Favorite motivational/inspirational quote?
“I can accept failure. But I won’t accept not trying” by Michael Jordan. I love basketball and grew up idolizing MJ.
View the full range of luxury pet beds on their website.
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