Q When and how did you get into the pet industry?
A Friends of mine started an event called Super Pet Expo in March 2000. There were 30 to 40 vendors selling pet products, several rescues and shelters, and a solid audience of passionate pet owners. I went to the show with my beloved Chandler, an 80-pound Weimaraner, and we had a blast. Later that year my friends said they were thinking of going in another direction and, knowing that the pet industry was burgeoning, I bought the name Super Pet Expo on a lark. After two years of producing really fun pet events with lots of vendors and pet entertainment, I knew I was onto something.
Prior to producing Super Pet Expo, I spent nine years as a sales executive with Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
Q How do you see event marketing being important to the pet industry?
A Events have the power to create a lasting impression with pet owners. After all, you are connecting face-to-face with qualified buyers, most of which are willing to do anything and everything for their four-legged friends.
Events are a powerful addition to a pet retailer or manufacturer’s marketing arsenal. Pet shows offer something for everyone. You get a panoramic view of the market in products and services, seminars and education and entertainment for the whole family—all for the price of a movie ticket. Ultimately, it is a pet lover’s dream day.
At the end of our 2001 show in Chantilly, Virginia, I spoke with a high-end pet food company representative who was packing up their booth. The sales executive asked me what I fed my pet and I begrudgingly mentioned the name of a local super market brand. When he asked why, I said it was the cheapest on the shelf. He asked me a series of questions, including “Does your pet shed a lot?” and “Does your pet frequently have loose stools?” and I answered yes to both. He gave me several samples of pet food and said I would notice an immediate difference probably within 5 to 7 days. Sure enough, he was right. Well, I went from spending $14 per bag for pet food to paying $46 a bag for pet food. It was a no-brainer of a decision and I am sure I was one of many people who made the switch after speaking with this pet food expert. My Chandler ate that pet food for the next 14 years. This begs the question, how many other pet owners have had solid discussions at events that have resulted in long-term loyalty to a pet food brand?
Q What are some of the most unique pet products that you have seen over the past two decades?
A Numerous products have caught my attention over the 19 years I have spent in the pet industry. In 2007 and 2008, we had an eccentric inventor display a product called Poop Freeze at our shows. They had a great tagline: “Just Frost and Toss.” A few years later, the same company launched a companion product to Poop Freeze called Dog Fart Terminator, which helped get rid of those nasty pet odors. It worked!
Back in 2009, a Japanese toy company participated in our show and they sold a product called Bowlingual—a dog bark translator collar. This unique gadget translated a dog’s barks and woofs into words.
Just recently I stumbled upon a super cool containment collar for dogs called the SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence. It’s a collar, an app, and super portable. Imagine a collar that relies on global navigation satellite systems and cellular networks rather than a stationary hardware-based system. Pets and technology excite me!
Q What is your advice for a startup company entering the pet industry?
A Startup companies in the pet industry often participate in consumer pet shows in an effort to “test the market” for pet owner feedback. This immediate feedback can often confirm you have a great idea or an idea that might need some improvement. Over the years, we have had numerous companies start at our shows and then take the leap to the big industry trade shows, Super Zoo and Global Pet Expo.
Q What is it like being a person with cat allergies running a consumer pet expo?
A Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. And I am one of those people who happen to be very allergic to cat dander. My asthma kicks in very quickly when I am at our shows unless I take Benadryl prior to the show opening. I wish things were different since I love cats!