Episode 145 – Ann Greenberg

Ann Greenberg

Ann Greenberg

Ann Greenberg is the Founder/President of A Pet with Paws®. More than ever before, pet consumers are choosing higher quality products that not only benefit their pet’s health and life but are environmentally safe and sustainable. A Pet with Paws® offers innovative, chic, eco-friendly and airline approved pet carriers & accessories made of fabric produced from recycled plastic bottles! They are all about sustainability, style, safety, and well-being for pet owners and their pets.

A Pet with Paws® is committed to taking an eco-conscious stance. They believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to contribute towards protecting and respecting the environment. They pay it forward by partnering with Trees for the Future, and for every bag, carrier, or accessory that is purchased from them, a tree is planted in various countries around the world! All of their products, whether it’s their flagship pet carrier, training bag, backpack, poop bag pouch or wristlet, merge chic-contemporary and functional design with thoughtful, eco-friendly and cruelty-free materials; filling the void of sophisticated and stylish pet products that are also safe and comfortable for the pet. Plus, the added bonus of being vegan contributes to preserving the environment and gives pet owners the opportunity to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.


Website: http://apetwithpaws.com/pages/about-us

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apetwithpaws“Welcome to the Animal Professionals podcasts, where our goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free platform designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only place that automates local rides and transports. Now, on with our show!

Hey, Ann thanks for coming on the program. Well, thank you, Chris, for inviting me. Yeah, I’m really excited to have you and to learn about what you’ve built. So why don’t you tell us? I mean, you’ve got a really fascinating background. It has been interesting because I was originally in the fashion business, for 20 plus years and I started out designing clothing. Okay. And then that segwayed into private label cosmetic bags and gift with purchase items, but focusing on organic and natural skincare companies. Interesting. I sometimes tend to be ahead of the time, and that’s what happened with the cosmetic company because that’s actually how I discovered the fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. What year was this? It was, actually, I was just trying to think about that. I think it was like maybe 2010 or 2000. Yeah, it was early. I was very early. I was early, but I mean, that’s when I discovered the fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. And I manufacturer in China. So I went to the fabric company and I watched them. When they melt down the plastic bottles and they process it, it ends up to be a puff, like a cotton puff. And then they put it, needle by needle, on the bed of needles, and then that’s extruded into the fiber, applied into yarn and woven into fabric. Whoa. That fabric is then sent to the factories so that it can be printed or died or, you know, made into the different products. But that is how I went there. And actually, they also made a suede material that looked and felt like real suede. But it wasn’t. It was made from recycled polyester from plastic bottles. Fascinates me. Yeah. So they melted down like you said, and it turns into a puff, and then they’re taking these threads and then they turn it back into fabric if you can call it that. Yeah, yes, but it is fabric. I mean, it’s really polyester fabric, but it’s recycled. I mean, because even plastic bottles, they’re made from the materials of polyester. So it’s all, you know, just recycling all of that. That to me, that’s what I find really fascinating. Yeah, the fact that then, as you said, you can actually print on it. You can do different things with it, too, because it’s not leather. No.

 So then, from that, I went into handbags and I printed an image that looked like a leather handbag. And so I was manufacturing handbags, and I made a vegan leather handbag and a tote bag that eventually became one of my pet carriers. Interesting. So why did you go down the pet carrier route when you already had the handbags? Okay, so I was making the handbags and my stepdaughter, Karen, has a beautiful cat named Madison. Karen was carrying Madison in a very unattractive pet carrier, just a very generic looking pet carrier. And Madison is beautiful. And I was thinking I wanted to expand my business and, you know, go into other areas. And I thought, Well, maybe I can modify the handbag and make it into a pet carrier, and it will still look like a handbag. So that’s how I started.

 And it was interesting because, you know, I really had never made pet products before. So I had to look at other features of some of the other carriers out there and see how I could modify it or improve it so that it would work. And so Madison, you know, was my, in a way fit model, right? Because to make sure that the bottom was strong enough to support the weight and that the sides wouldn’t cave in, you know, when she was in it, it had to be able to stand up. And so I learned a lot in doing that just so that I could continue to improve it, so it would work and be functional, yet beautiful and sustainable. Yeah, that’s really cool, because, I mean, you started out. I think we were talking before we started recording that this was intentional, right? This wasn’t like you went to the factory and said, Hey, let’s make a leather bag. You went to the factory and said, No, I want, you know, as you said, vegan leather that’s ECO friendly. That’s actually making a positive impact on the world. Well, right, because I figured if I was going to go into the pet industry, I looked to see what was really out there. And at the time, there was a void in the market for what I considered. Now, remember, I come from the fashion industry, right? So what I considered stylish items, in the pet industry, that are also ECO friendly and sustainable. Interesting. And so you found your niche, right? Exactly. Exactly. Very cool.

 Now, one of the things I noticed from your product line. I mean, you’ve expanded the product line, tell us more, particularly fascinated by the poop bags, right? This is a real problem that you need to solve for people. I mean, I look at the pet industry from a different perspective, right? I’m looking at it from a fashion plus function perspective. So the only thing I saw out there with those round plastic bag dispensers. So at the time, I had a cosmetic bag, from my handbag line. So I realized I could shorten the cosmetic bag, put an islet in the back, and it became a poop bag pouch. So you’re just walking around. It looks like a small purse or something like that, right? And you’ve got the poop bags on the inside. Right. I mean, that’s, also I have, it’s called the Bentley Training bag. So I had on my handbag line a crossbody, small handbag and again the same thing. I looked at the training bags that were out there, and they’re all basically the same sort of round thing, with a place for the treats. So I took my crossbody bag and I, instead of having just one zipper on top, I made the ones that were on top, relined it with a washable material, like a ripstop material, for the treats. I put a zipper in the front where you could fit your phone or your credit card, keys. The two side gussets, I added mesh and made a holder for a ball. And on the other side, there’s a zipper with a place for the poop bags and you know, a way of pulling them out, pulling out of the plastic hole. You can wear it multiple ways, so there’s a clip on the back if you wanna wear it on your waistband, and then you can also wear it as a crossbody bag or as a fanny pack. Wow. So you truly did approach this from a fashion and function standpoint, right? I mean, it was like, Yeah, you can take your dog to the dog park. You might as well look good doing it. That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what I did.

 Now tell me, one of the things I noticed is that for every bag or carrier that’s purchased you’re planting a tree. So tell me a little bit more about that. So it’s called Trees for the Future. And it’s a very interesting organization because they help plant trees in certain underdeveloped nations. But they are also training them to learn how to grow the trees. Nice. So it’s a dual function, that we’re growing more trees, and we’re teaching people how to become entrepreneurs, in a way and raise trees and take care of them and have a sense of pride. I really love that you are approaching this as trying to solve a problem. You want something that looks good. You want something that’s functional. You want something that works for the pet and something that’s friendly to the earth and the animals. So I think that all of those things are really cool that you have put into this product line. I like to think there’s always a solution to some problem. And so that’s how I approach it. I mean, I just don’t want to design a pet carrier or whatever, you know, a product. I want it to make a certain kind of contribution and solve some sort of problem.

 I look at it from the perspective, how can I improve it or make a contribution? So it gets very heavy, like when you carry a pet in a carrier, on your shoulder. So even like a 7lb dog, it could become heavy if you’re, you know, walking. So I love four spinner wheeled luggage. So I had looked around and I saw that there were carriers you know, with two wheels attached, but then you’re pulling as opposed to pushing. And so I developed this four spinner wheel, folding trolley. It’s called the Pet Trek, and it takes the weight off of the pet owner’s shoulder and back. And it’s very comfortable and safe for the cat or dog because also they’re riding in a horizontal position as opposed to leaning backward, with two wheels because that’s very anxiety-provoking for them. Yeah, I can imagine your whole world is at a 45-degree angle. Right and I learned when I first came out with Petrics, Dr. Marty Becker, who’s a well known veterinarian. He was the one that actually pointed that out to me.

 So what was the biggest challenge that you faced as you were developing this? What was the biggest problem you ran into? Remember, I’m manufacturing this in China and especially with the Pet Trek, because in my mind I had the vision of how it should look and how it should work, and I had to communicate that in a way, that the manufacturer would understand what I was trying to achieve. So the Pet Trek is made in a luggage factory. So I was able to explain to them like, it’s just like the suitcase with four spinner wheels on the bottom. Only you’re eliminating the suitcase, right. You’re left with the folding handle, the handle that deploys or retracts. But then I wanted it to come further down and fold over onto the Pet Trek. Yeah, and make it easier for you to carry right? And then also, if you’re traveling, like especially if you’re traveling on a plane or a train, you can just wheel your pet, in the carrier on the Petric, down the aisle, get to your seat, remove it, lifted off the Pet Trek, put the carrier under the seat in front of you, fold up the Pet Trek and put it in the overhead compartment. Nice. Yeah, Very functional.

 So now what does an average week look like for you? You’ve got the company up and running. You’ve got this product line, you have lots of stuff going on. What does your average week look like? Basically I have freelancers, but I first of all, obviously I’m very, very hands-on, in my products. So, I mean, I’m communicating with China. I’m trying to generate sales and work with the people that are helping me do that. I’m shipping orders and talking to people that are helping me with social media. It sounds like you’ve got a really busy business going on right now. Right. I love it. I mean, otherwise, I couldn’t be doing it. 

So what does the future look like? What’s your goal? Where do you want to take this? I wanted to grow, and I want the products to, I guess being as many consumers as possible because I want them to see and understand the benefits of it and the features because they do make your life as a pet owner a lot easier for you. Just even running errands if you want to take your pet with you this way, it’s very easy. With what’s going on now with the crisis, my back is not so great. And so I had to go grocery shopping. So I took an empty carrier on my Pet Trek, to the grocery store, filled it up with groceries, and wheeled it home. Wow, that’s really cool that you can do that. So where can people find these? I know they can buy them online, certainly at your website apetwithpaws.com. But anywhere else I mean, are there retailers and that are picking these up? Yeah. I mean, I’m selling a few with game bakeries and then a lot of just independent pet retailers.

 That’s really cool. And this has only been for a couple of years now. You’ve been 6-7 years in business, maybe? Not even that. And also, it took a while for me to really perfect everything. Perfect the quality. I learned how the bags needed to be packed for shipment from China so that when they’re stacked one on top of the other, the impression from the one above or below wouldn’t be on the other one. So that in itself was also a learning experience. Did you find that the material was more impressionable than, say,  Yes, because of the mental, there’s metal hardware that’s on the bags, and that’s what was causing the impression. Plus the way the bag is constructed, the lining that’s in there, part of it is like a foam lining, and that was what was causing the impression from the one above or below. I had to learn how to pack it better by inserting pieces of foam and double bagging it. So it’s been, you know, the learning process. Plus, there was no way I could ship a product that wasn’t right, and so I would have to open every bag and check it to make sure there weren’t any dents or anything. And so I go over there for the inspection. I go when they’re having the inspection, and I have 100% inspection. When they’re inspecting it and if there was a problem, we fix it and then we move on. And so that now I’m confident, you know, in the products that I have, to ship them out.

 So what have you learned about yourself throughout this process? Have you been building your business? Actually, it’s what I’ve learned about myself in terms of having a much greater appreciation for pets and how they can enhance people’s lives. That’s one of the main things that I’ve derived from doing this. I mean, especially now, and for people living alone that have pets, companionship, you know, they don’t feel as isolated, right? I have a friend who’s living in Florida and she’s sheltering in. But she says the highlight of her day is walking her dog. Yeah, that human-animal bond is something that’s really important. Absolutely. And also how you know, pets have a tremendous sense of smell and how, with people who have, say, diabetes or some sort of illness or ailment, that they’re able to notice when maybe they forgot to take their medicine. I mean, that is incredible. Some really cool stuff. 

So as you look back on this, Ann, is this how you thought things would turn out? No, I mean in my life, looking back, did I ever think I was gonna end up in the pet industry? No. But am I happy? Yes. I mean, I come out of the apparel industry. The people are very different in the apparel industry. In the pet industry, everybody is willing to help one another. That, to me, is coming out of a garment center, where people are not so willing to help one another. This is a tremendous bonus, and I mean cause I like to help. So for me, then everything becomes a win-win for everybody. Yeah, well, I think it’s really cool. And definitely people need to check out apetwithpaws.com to check out your products because I think not only are they beautiful and functional. And like I said, I gravitate towards the ECO friendliness and the cruelty-free materials and really just the care and the thought about the things that go into this and the fact that you’re hoping to plant trees and you’re paying it forward. 

So I have nothing but great things to say. So is there anything else, Ann, that you want to mention before we wrap things up? No, I’ve just enjoyed speaking with you. Well, thank you. And I appreciate it. It was great to talk to you. And thanks for coming on the program. Well, thank you very much for having me. 

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