Waggin’ Trails Offers Pet Owners a Better On-the-Go Experience with Pets
Business: Waggin’ Trails, LLC
Waggin’ Trails, LLC is a small, woman-owned pet product business based in North Canton, Ohio. The WoofPack dog walking accessory bag is the product brand of Waggin’ Trails, LLC. The business outsources its manufacturing of the WoofPack to a USA-based company outside of Chicago.
The founder of Waggin’ Trails, LLC is Lisa Bast who started the business based on the concept of offering active dog owners a more enjoyable on-the-go experience with their pets. As a first-time dog owner, Bast didn’t understand the necessity of bringing along poop bags when walking her Goldendoodle, Micah. One day, while walking Micah in the neighborhood, he squatted on a neighbor’s lawn and pooped. Bast had no bags with which to pick up the doggy waste, so she walked Micah home, got in her car, and drove back to the neighbor’s house with a poop bag. She drove back home with the stinky bag on the floor of the backseat. From then on, she stuffed plastic bags into her pockets when walking or hiking with Micah.
On another occasion, during an outing, Bast felt a bit dizzy. She realized she didn’t have her cell phone with her to call for help should the need arise. She vowed never to be without the cell phone and on subsequent walks, stuffed the cell phone in her one pocket (with the plastic bags in the other pocket). That routine seemed to work – for a while. But getting ready to go on a walk one morning, rushing around looking for plastic bags, her cell phone, Kleenex (during allergy and cold weather seasons), with Micah nipping at her heels she wondered if there was a better way to be prepared for walks.
Then one day, while on a morning walk, feeling the sun on her face and enjoying the outing with Micah, she almost tripped onto the pavement. Bast realized she was carrying a stinky bag of doggy poo in one hand and the dog’s leash in another and had no way to brace the fall with both hands occupied.
An idea formed in Bast’ mind. What if she could invent a product that was a carryall. It had to be lightweight, durable, and water-resistant, yet attractive. It needed to be unisex in design and color. She wanted a product that didn’t just carry doggy waste but had separate pockets for essentials to eliminate the need to carry those items into overstuffed pockets where they would be easier to access. Bast was all about efficiency and convenience.
But Bast realized she didn’t have a design background. So, she went to department stores and purchased several bags of designs she liked. Now, she needed someone to make a prototype. She had a contact in Amish country, an Amish woman, Ruth, who manufactured boat coverings and window shades. The woman stocked the water-resistant, durable material in an array of colors that was needed for the bag. Ruth agreed to make some prototypes.
After six prototypes with a variety of designs, Bast finally settled on the current design of the WoofPack. The design had a large middle compartment for where the bagged dog waste would be stored and three separate side pockets to carry essentials without being cumbersome. Now, it was time to try out the final prototype design. It was a hot, summer day when Bast tried out the final prototype design. Upon returning home after walking Micah, she removed the bagged waste from the prototype and was met with a strong odor emanating from the middle compartment. While the separate pockets worked well for carrying her essentials like keys, cell phone, treats, waste bags, Bast knew she needed to address the issue of the smelly middle compartment. After consulting her business advisor, Bast decided to look for a type of material that would tamper the odor, so it wasn’t so pungent when the bagged waste was removed from the compartment – especially on hot days.
After extensive online research, Bast discovered a medical grade antimicrobial material that was thin enough to work as a lining for the middle compartment yet was relatively cost-effective. This type of material was typically used for hospital gurneys and beds to inhibit odor causing bacteria. Several US companies distributed the material, she found, and Bast called them to get samples and pricing. Ruth, the Amish woman who had made the prototypes ordered a bolt of the antimicrobial fabric to incorporate into the middle compartment as a lining. Once completed, Bast again tested the bag. She noticed when removing the bagged waste upon returning home after a walk with Micah, that the smell wasn’t as pungent, and any residual odor quickly dissipated. While the antimicrobial lining wasn’t going to remove the odor 100%, it sure made a noticeable difference than the bag without the antimicrobial lining.
Bast felt she had found a solution to stinky problem of odor in the middle compartment. She decided to manufacture the WoofPack with three color combinations: black/camo, red/tan and green/tan. She unveiled the WoofPack at a local dog event hosted by Pawsitive Ohio. As she traveled to various dog events, she found the WoofPack was very well received, and dog owners asked for additional colors to chose from. So, she decided to incorporate black/tan and navy/tan color combinations for additional selection. She also made a limited edition of black/pink camo.
In December 2020, Bast decided to have a limited number of embroidered flaps made to gauge how well they’d sell. She had eight “DOG MOM” designs made, and they quickly sold out. Bast since has created several more designs – all of which have done well. While she still offers the plain Packs, the embroidered flaps have steadily risen in popularity.
What makes the WoofPack unique among other similar products, is that it is a versatile carryall that’s perfect for walks, hikes, trips to the vet’s office, doggy park – and summer fur-tastic festivals and paw-some parades. The WoofPack is durable, yet lightweight and convenient to carryall. Other products serve primarily as treat bags or solely carry the bagged waste and do not feature the unique antimicrobial lining. Yet other products are just clips with attach to the bag but dog owners till must loop the end around their wrists, requiring them to still carry the bag.
To-date, the WoofPack has been featured in publications such as Chicago Sun-Times, Canton Repository, Akron Beacon Journal, Modern Dog, Fido, Dogster, ClevelandDog and recently AKC Family Dog. Feedback about the WoofPack has been largely positive. The WoofPack is perfect for not only dog lovers on-the-go, but also for professional dog walkers, pet trainers and volunteers who regularly walk shelter dogs.
Dog owners everywhere love WoofPack for its versatility, efficiency, and value as evidenced by the reviews on our site.
The challenges the business is facing
Currently, the challenges Waggin’ Trails/WoofPack is facing is twofold: optimizing SEO to funnel the right target market to the website and to get the product into pet stores across the country.
Bast is working with an SEO professional from the Cleveland SCORE program to gauge ways to better optimize SEO on a shoestring budget to get more website visitors and convert them to buyers. This can be challenging because most dog owners don’t know what to search for – the WoofPack is a unique product and many dog owners don’t know what they need until they see it. Once they realize they no longer must carry stinky bags of doggy waste or stuff items into their pockets, they quickly realize the value of the WoofPack. But it’s reaching people online through target ads and messaging that can be challenging to small businesses, especially when the marketing budget is tight.
Equally important, is to reach the target market through retail stores where dog owners shop for their pets. Bast tried to feature the WoofPack at a local retail store that stocked items from Ohio-based business on a consignment basis. WoofPack sold well during the holiday season, but sales dropped off afterward. Bast quickly realized the WoofPack was better suited to be placed into pet stores and dog boutiques where customers were shopping for items for their pets.
The challenge is reaching owners of pet boutiques and getting them to see the value in featuring the WoofPack. Additionally, with larger retail chain outlets, it’s challenging to get to the buyers. Covid impacted buying across the country as many pet retailers stopped purchasing new items. It has taken some time for buying to ramp up again. Bast monitors new retail chains and has been focusing on trying to reach the buyers to get WoofPack considered as a new product. Often, the key to getting the “big break” is finding the right person who will lobby for your product because they believe strongly in its value.
The opportunities the business is facing
Pet owners love their pets and are willing to spend money on them. At least 40% of American homes have a dog. Many pet owners are active with their pets to get exercise and bond with their furry friends. And most pet owners dislike carrying stinky bags of doggy waste when on walks or hikes. WoofPack offers a more enjoyable on-the-go experience with its convenience and efficiency. Many pet owners tell me the “load up” the Pack with essentials, hang it by the door, slip in their cell phone and out they go. The WoofPack saves time in running around – like I used to do – trying to find bags, treats, my keys, etc. when preparing to go on a walk with Micah.
Additionally, the WoofPack is perfect accessory for professional pet sitters and dog walkers offering roomy pockets for the many items essentials for caring for clients’ pets.
The WoofPack is an attractive, easy-to-carry, versatile bag that is perfect for all doggy adventures.
I think there’s much opportunity to get the WoofPack into small upscale dog boutiques and larger retail chains. It is a unique, practical, and attractive item that provides value for dog owners everywhere.
Advice to others about business
Starting a business involves tenacity, perseverance, and determination – but mostly belief in your product or service and the willingness to do whatever it takes. A little faith is important, too. There’s plenty of highs and lows and an entrepreneur must have the fortitude to go through the valleys with confidence that setbacks are temporary.
Success comes from much preparation. Write a comprehensive business plan and update it as your business evolves. Get a good business advisor. SCORE offers volunteer business advisors without cost. Network with other business owners in your industry and establish a support group of people who are supportive and can provide constructive feedback. Do competitive research. Consistently garner feedback from your customers to determine how you an improve your product or service and provide a better experience. Read books on business practices and entrepreneurship. You’ll have to wear many hats so identify your weakness and get support in those areas. Take advantage of free, online classes in sales, marketing, and SEO.