When professional dog trainer Gila Kurtz wanted something to wear that was stylish and expressed her intense love of dogs, she couldn’t find anything that met both criteria. So she and her husband, Jon Kurtz, decided to start Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Dog is Good. According to her, “We had the idea in 2006 and decided to be the one’s to fill that void for appealing design and messaging.”
In a marketplace lacking sophisticate or appealing products for dog lovers, the impactful Dog is Good offerings were a quick success. The dog lifestyle company now delivers gifts, apparel and home décor products via wholesale and retail. It is also active in the licensing market.
Dog is Good products resonate with dog lovers and generally fall into two categories: either humorous sayings or poignant expressions. For example, their trademarked expression, “it’s all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone” is a top seller on everything from scrub tops to pillows. “That one really caught on fire,” co-owner Jon Kurtz says. “It has done very well in the veterinarian industry and among all dog lovers in general. It sells with pretty much anything we put it on, T-shirts, mugs, magnets and many of our licensee’s products. The greeting card version won a Louie Award, which is very prestigious in the greeting card industry.
An example of Dog is Good’s poignant messaging is a design that reads “Never Walk Alone.” It features a silhouette of a dog holding up a leash and reminds us, “It’s not where you walk, it’s who walks with you.” This sentiment also sells extremely well in many categories, the company says.
For Dog is Good, about 80 percent of business is wholesale and 20 percent retail. The company started in apparel with the intent to become a lifestyle brand. “Apparel was easy to test, produce, get direct to consumer and get feedback,” Gila Kurtz explains. “We have earned a solid reputation with our different styles and designs.”
Far from being only a T-shirt company, Dog is Good also produces hats, decorative magnets, greeting cards, car magnets and cell phone cases with many more products being manufactured and distributed by a dozen licensees. They see licensing as a logical extension to move further into home décor and other products that fit with a lifestyle brand. Dog is Good sells into over 1,000 retail stores and their licensees expand their reach into many more than that.
Their core demographic is women between the ages of 30 and 60, but the company serves all dog lovers. They are eyeing international opportunities, too. “The U.S. is not the only market with dog lovers,” Jon Kurtz says “There is a lot of opportunity for international distribution.”
Dog is Good benefits from its origin as a grassroots startup. “We didn’t start with a pile of cash or big investors,” says Kurtz, a retired U.S. Navy captain and a fitness enthusiast. “We did it ourselves and built a loyal following from the start. Now, we are entering into more complex arrangements and logistics with multi-unit stores and large retailers.”
Dog is Good attributes its success to discipline and planned growth. “We are not jumping at every opportunity,” he says. “We have well-thought-out goals in line with the economics of business development.”
The company is also adept at forming collaborative relationships within the pet industry. Recently it began working with Petplan, a major player in the pet insurance industry. Another such relationship involves the co-branded “Victoria Stilwell Collection by Dog is Good.” Stilwell, a dog trainer and star of Animal Planet’s It’s Me Or The Dog, adds celebrity cache to the brand. In addition, 15 percent of sales in that line are donated to the Victoria Stilwell Foundation which supports a number of animal welfare causes.
When it comes to licensing, Dog is Good is open to an array of diverse companies as potential partners. “A lot of different companies get it,” Jon Kurtz says. “There is a dog-lover market out there and they recognize that.”
There are, therefore, many more possible channels for Dog is Good than might meet the eye. Dog is Good has learned much from its licensing agent, Joel Barnett of Brentwood Licensing LLC, Kurtz says. “Joel has done a great job and has educated us about the myriad possibilities that can occur in licensing both in terms of product and distribution,” he notes.
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