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Frustrated, she stuffed the thing in her basement until January 2012, when she read a New York Times article about how, despite the recession, the pet market had grown by 5 percent. She was newly invigorated. Around that time, at a car wash, she happened upon car mitts made with “this noodly, chenille material.” The fabric was soft, removed debris and clearly soaked up moisture. She began looking for a manufacturer. Eventually, she was informed that no such manufacturer exists in the United States. China had to be the place, which presented many problems: She’d never even been there. How would she get from A to B? That’s when the go-getter discovered Alibaba.com, a business-to-business manufacturing website. Most of the companies she talked to insisted that she order a minimum of 10,000 pieces to start — way too many for her small scale. But, finally, she found someone willing to work within her parameters.
Another local mother had previously worked in graphic design for Ralph Lauren, and together, the two women developed a logo and other branding elements, including the original beige and cranberry color scheme. Rein went back and forth with the manufacturer until they got the product right, but when it came time to actually commit and send money, she felt uneasy about dealing blindly with a company overseas. Luckily, a colleague of her husband’s agreed to go to China and check out the factory. “I needed to know it was aboveboard without children working or anything like that,” she explains.
The factory turned out to be fine, and she had 500 pieces of beige doormat produced. Later, when the shipping agent called the house, because Rein didn’t yet have an office, her kids were in the middle of a piano lesson, a play date and a meltdown. It was bedlam.
“Do you have a loading dock?” he asked. Far from it.
“Forty-two boxes arrived in November of 2012, and I put them all in the basement,"Rein says. And with the help of her college-age baby sitter, sheset up a website. “That was Soggy Doggy’s humble beginning.”
Rein visited nearby pet stores and shops while her youngest was at preschool. Luckily, the local merchants were supportive, and eventually she got the attention of a small, premium chain store, Pet Pantry Warehouse. The chain was proactive about selling the product and, luckily, it was a particularly snowy winter. Dogs all over were tracking ice and dirt inside! Rein sold out of her doormats before Christmas and couldn’t get more stock to sell until February 2011.
In August of that next year, she attended her first trade show, NY NOW. The response was great. She also created the Super Shammy, a new product for drying a dog’s body. “The beauty of starting small is that you can change and adapt and take consumer feedback,” she says. “People were saying, ‘I love the doormat, but my dog’s back and belly are still wet.’ We put in hand pockets because I knew part of the battle was catching the dog and getting him to let me rub him down.” Most important, the mat and sham worked, and customers appreciated that.
To Buddy’s chagrin (as he used to receive daily treats from the FedEx guy), Rein no longer does fulfillment out of her house. She trusts a family-owned company in New Jersey. She also has a small staff and two distributors.
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