Long-time pet parents and friends, Jennifer and Santos, often wondered where their dogs’ products were made and who made them. They wondered if they were mass produced and if the workers were making a living wage. These ponderings led them to open their enterprise, Gone to the Dogs, an online (and eventually storefront) business dedicated to thoughtfully-designed and ethically-sourced handcrafted pet products. The products (from leashes to toys) are sourced from recycled, reclaimed, or renewable materials. They collaborate with makers from low-income and immigrant communities in the New York City area, as well as marginalized communities in the Global South. Jennifer and Santos’ inspirational interview is a must-read for those who are interested in eventually opening a brick-and-mortar store to accompany their online business. Enjoy meeting Jennifer and Santos in our Wild Web Women interview!
What inspired you to launch a web-based business? We’ve always wanted to start our own business. With the inspiration of our dogs, we found an opportunity to create products in a way that is transparent, sustainable and better for our pups and earth. Like many start-ups, launching online was the quickest and most organic.
What do you love most about having your own business? The day-to-day autonomy and independence, as well as the ability to build something for ourselves. We want to make sure we’re building a business that we’re proud of, that our community is proud of, and everyone feels great about being part of. We spend a great deal of time with our community, whether it’s organizing free events and activities or giving back to local animal shelters and nonprofits. Being a part of an accepting, supportive community is one of the most satisfying pieces of our business journey. Also, we love being able to hang out with pups everyday!
What is the most challenging about running a business? As a start-up, there is such a long list of growing pains; from making sure we have strong cash flow to making sure we cover all our bases because we’re a two-person team. Basically, all the work we’re doing to become profitable, but most importantly making sure everything we do is done thoughtfully and sustainably.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments? Winning grants and mentorships and securing capital our first year really confirmed that our peers believed in our business. We landed our studio-storefront approximately a year after our e-commerce launch, which was another milestone for us. We were finally able to find a home for Gone to the Dogs, a place where we were able to create our products but also physically be amongst our customers and community. Finally, the few write-ups we’ve had contributed by NYPost, The Dogist, and CBS, etc. have been super exciting for us! We’re also super thankful and humbled by all the support.
What are some professional risks you’ve taken that led to positive outcomes? Quitting our jobs and investing solely in ourselves. It was a very scary step to take but was only for the best. We immediately saw the shift in our productivity solely based on our 100% commitment to the business.
Where’s your favorite place to get work done? Our studio-storefront is a great place to physically create products. Our customers can come in and see how we make some of the products which is great for them to experience. But also, we get to greet all the dogs that come in! Anything in front of the computer, we prefer to work from home. Hopefully one day we’ll have a place fully dedicated to the behind-the-scenes and Gone to the Dogs staff.
Name three web tools you can’t live without.
Do you have any professional role models? If so, who? All the older women in our families are entrepreneurs so it’s a long list. But to narrow it down: Linda Wong, Imeeh Magsanoc, Dianna Mullins, Jennifer Gootman.
Do you have favorite podcasts?
Are you part of any mastermind or networking groups? If so, which ones? Returned Peace Corp Volunteer Association, FIDM alum, SFSU alum, Brainstation.io alum, Cornell Women’s Entrepreneurship program alum.
What does your typical day look like? There is no typical day. We both toggle back and forth between production, taking care of our retail space or going out to one of our pop-up markets, and handling the back end of the business.
How do you unplug from work? We both have different ways of unplugging. One of the ways we both share in unplugging is through food. We both come from diverse backgrounds with a love of cooking, but most especially eating.
What tips for maintaining work/life balance would you give to other businesswomen? Work/life balance is a constant struggle for anyone and it’s a work in progress for us as well. Just know that it might take a while to find the balance.
What’s something you do every day to take care of yourself? Sleep and face masks. Jokes aside, being gentle with ourselves is a high self-care priority that we sometimes don’t think about. That and hugging a dog every day is great mental and physical self-care.
What is a quote you live by? Do good.
What investments have most helped your business grow? Financial investments aside, professional education has most definitely helped our business grow. Both of us have past college graduation, but we took time to educate ourselves through professional programs throughout our entrepreneurial journey.
Business-wise, where do you see yourself in 10 years? We hope to see Gone to the Dogs in every major city in the USA. We’re excited for the future and can’t wait to see our business and community grow.
What advice would you give your younger self? Imposter syndrome is real. Know you might not have all the answers right away, but you’ll get there. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. That’s an important lesson.
What is the number one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to run a web-based business? Just start. The start of a business can seem so monumental and intimidating. You’ve probably been thinking about it for years. But if you truly believe in your business, other people will too.