The award is given at the annual WIPIN conference to recognize extraordinary women in the pet industry. In addition to the PIWY award, awards are given out in five other categories: Solopreneur, Entrepreneur, Corporation, Advocate and Rising Star. Five finalists are named in each category. One overall Pet Industry Woman of the Year is chosen from these 25 finalists. A panel of independent judges makes the final decisions.
We spoke to Lorien Clemens about her life in the pet industry, her work at PetHub and the personal significance of WIPIN and the PIWY award.
Tom: How did you get started in the pet industry?
I never expected to get into the pet industry. My background is very varied. I have always had pets, though. I’ve always had a dog and usually a cat or two in my life, plus various frogs, fish, whatever.
I actually started off in theater as a professional actor and vocal coach. Then I did some directing and writing and some design and kind of worked in the theater professionally for about eight years. I moved from that into teaching.
Eventually, I started to step back and look at big picture problems that schools were having and solutions that were needed and really helping them put together things. I was also working in the classroom but it was exciting to develop entire new programs from scratch and helping them create this intense and immense documentation that they needed.
That’s where I was when Tom Arnold [CEO and founder of PetHub] found me. We were friends. Tom had left Microsoft about five years before because he decided he wanted to do something meaningful for pets. He told me about it before he even left Microsoft.
“I’m thinking about leaving Microsoft to start a company for pets. Is that crazy?” He said. I said, “No, that’s awesome. Do it. Save lives.”
I had always want to do design and artistic and creative stuff and so doing those things for Tom turned into a job. I didn’t realize that that would turn into almost a calling. To me it really is about saving animals’ lives. I find it drives me like nobody’s business, more so than any other thing I’ve done. When I get up every morning I’m excited to go to work.
Tom: Can you describe your role at Pet Hub?
I’m director of marketing. I do all the creative direction. For quite a while I was also director of sales and through begging and pleading I got another director of sales. I can sell anything but it’s not really what I want to do. We have a phenomenal director of sales now. She’s become my partner in crime in the sales department and she and I work very closely together on strategies of how we are going to get tags out here to protect pets.
I do all the creative campaigns for B2B and B2C. I talk directly to customers and get their feedback on things we could do better and we are actively trying to make our company responsive to customers and get things changed when clearly they need to be changed.
I also do a lot of the product development along with the sales team and a lot of the business development as far as building relationships with other companies. And that’s one of the most fun parts of my job—going out and meeting the incredible people in this industry and saying to them “How can we help each other?” There’s been some great moments of what we call “coopetition”. It been awesome because as we said earlier about saving pets’ lives and making pets’ lives better, that’s the heart of 99.9 percent of people in the pet industry. Most of us aren’t going to make the big bucks; if we wanted that we’d go back to Microsoft. It’s great to be around the spirit and energy of my colleagues in the industry. I just love it.
Tom: Can you explain to me in more detail what PetHub does?
In a nutshell, we help lost pets get home. On a broader basis, we are a digital technology company. We are continually innovating to bring digital tools to the lost pet prevention and lost pet recovery space to help lost pets get home fast.
We bring together a suite of tools into the PetHub system to help lost pets get home. And we are continually looking at that and adapting it and innovating and coming up with not only new hardware to help pets get home, like our new Bluetooth tags but also new features and software. So there some really exciting things that are coming down the pike, which unfortunately I can’t disclose.
For example, your pet might have a critical medical condition like epilepsy. And having a medical record attached to your pet’s profile is going to be crucial to helping your pet get through that crisis situation if you can’t get to them right away and they have to spend the night in a shelter. So, can you imagine having a tag where you can put all that in?
If you are relying on what we call the analog tags, you only have one or maybe two lines of information you can fit on that tag. Is that tag able to hold all your contact information? No, it’s not.
I went to Orlando last week. On PetHub, my boyfriend’s contact information went to the top of the list and my mom’s moved up. My name became the eighth one down because what am I going to do from Orlando if Penny goes missing? The people who are there with her, they are up at the top of the list. And they can change at any time with two clicks of the mouse.
Tom: What’s the future at PetHub? What’s coming next?
We’ve been doing an early adopter release of Signal, which is our Bluetooth tag that has a lot of different cool features. It has a range finder up to 150 feet for sure. It also has a crowdsourcing app. Not only does it have everything our regular ID tag has but also this Bluetooth inside it. Imagine that your pet is lost and you can share his or her profile with all your neighbors and your family and they can go comb the neighborhood. Now you are creating a net of all these cell phones that are going to ping whenever they get in range of the pet. And it sends you a notification of where that is within a 150 foot radius.
The release of this will be at the end of March. Retailers will see it at Global Pet Expo.
Tom: Does PetHub deal with other things besides dogs and cats? Do you do birds? I know loss of birds is a huge problem.
The only bird I know that is on the PetHub site is my own cockatiel, Spike. Anyone can certainly fill out an online profile. As part of our premium service there’s our community alert. We used to call it the shelter alert because we have over 13,000 rescues and shelters in North America as part of the database but we opened it up last year to anybody. Primarily veterinarians, pet sitters and pet stores are putting themselves up on the list. They are the ones that most likely see lost pets.
You can declare your pet missing on the site. As part of the premium, we send out, in a 30 mile radius, a virtual lost pet poster with all that information. You can imagine your bird that can’t wear a tag or a cat that loses his collar, the information can still go out to those places that are most likely to get him brought in as a found pet. That is something we do that’s really great.
Tom: What is the significance of you of winning WIPIN’s Woman of the Year Award?
It was completely unexpected. It was surreal, to be honest. When I was at the ceremony, there were 25 finalists and I’m listening the stories of these women—I’m thinking “Oh wow! She’s amazing!” When they called my name at the end, I was floored. But immediately it felt like a little Sally Field thing: “They like me! They really, really like me!”
The very next thing that came to my mind was that this is an awesome platform for me to help save pets’ lives. I truly looked at this as a way I can help get out education about lost pet prevention. Putting PetHub aside, just about the importance of identification and the external identification and keeping it current and the things that we as pet parents need to do to protect these creatures that are part of our families.
WIPIN is an incredibly powerful thing. The single best move I’ve made for my career has been joining WIPIN—because of the relationships I’ve made, the things I’ve learned from these women. It’s an incredible support system. It’s really been an awesome experience all around and I can’t speak highly enough of it.
Tom: What advice do you have for women just starting out in the pet industry?
Join WIPIN. The other thing I would say is cultivate your stalking skills. I say that in a non-creepy way. If there are people [I want to meet] in any industry—especially in the pet industry—I find out where they are and I go there and I introduce myself to them.
Part of that is that I never walk into any potential relationship only thinking about what I can get. I think about what can PetHub do or what can I do personally to help this company. I always go from what can I do for you, not what can you do for me. It comes back tenfold. When I’m out there trying to help people solve their problems, the help for me comes back tenfold every time.
Tom: It seems that what drives you is your desire to help pets.
It is. It’s making sure a pet got home. Making sure a family is reunited. And adding in any way I can to that.
To read the entire interview with Lorien, go to our Web Extra section on PetAge.com.