Pet Age recently spoke to James Gick, founder of Pet Qwerks, to learn more about his company and the direction that it is heading.
Q What made the Babble Ball that you created in 2003 so special that it launched Pet Qwerks?
A I was 56 years old in 2003. I’d sold my previous business and already retired. I made the Babble Ball for my boxer just because I had too much time on my hands. He loved playing with it and after a year I contacted some existing pet toy companies to see if they’d like to buy the idea. I didn’t find any takers so I decided to do it myself.
Q What are the benefits of running a small, independent, employee-owned business?
A A small business challenges you to wear a lot of different hats. You still get your hands dirty and usually you’re the last one to go home. The benefits are greater dedication from the team who, in turn, are rewarded with a piece of the pie. That’s the idea. You don’t usually get to experience the same comradery and appreciation with a big company.
Q Why is “Made in the USA” so important to you?
A We started our business with Made in China products exclusively. It’s the only way we could have produced the Babble Balls. Several years ago, an anti-China movement had begun after a handful of Chinese manufacturers used toxic ingredients in their products to improve profits and the entire country suffered a black eye. Understandably, consumers were avoiding Chinese products like the plague. We didn’t know if it was going to be isolated to the food and treat category or if it would include toys.
About the same time I remember standing in an aisle at a pet store. I was facing a full eight feet of nylon dog chews. There were different sizes but they all looked pretty much the same. That expanse of nylon suddenly looked like an opportunity and since then, our hearts and souls have been focused on making amazing chews. It hasn’t been easy or cheap. We’ve pushed the technical limits of injection molding, plastics engineering, flavorings and lately, the infusion of natural components. We’ve accomplished a lot of things that have never been done before with plastics.
We’ve achieved a level of artistry in making nylon dog chews and we’re being rewarded with thriving sales. The ultimate challenge of creating our chews was to be able to brand them with the Made in USA logo and that makes us proud. Our reception in the marketplace proves that Made in USA adds value not only domestically, but doors have been opened to us internationally as well.
Q What product line is the biggest seller for Pet Qwerks and why is it so popular?
A That depends on how you count. We’ve sold more Babble Balls and Tire Balls than anything because we’ve been selling them for 16 years. However, our chew line is now the leader of the pack.
Q How has the Flipstick been received since it was launched earlier this year?
A The Flipstick [was] released at Global. We think it will do well and be a fun addition to our toy line with virtually no competition. At $20, it’s the first affordable flirt pole that’s made for dogs.
Q What do you consider the biggest change in the pet industry since you started Pet Qwerks?
A The industry has grown in all aspects. I think there are more opportunities for everyone!