Pet Age’s Nicole Gifford spoke with vice president and designer of ZippyPaws Jennifer Cao about the company’s creative vision, youthful product line, and mission to get pet owners bonding with their dogs through play.
Nicole Gifford: How and why did you start ZippyPaws?
Jennifer Cao: The idea for ZippyPaws was conceived in 2011 when I was graduating from the University of Southern California as a business student. I was constantly looking for plush toys for my golden retriever. However, I was disappointed in the selection, quality and high prices of dog toys on the market. I knew that, with my background in design and unique vision, I could create modern products that would resonate with younger pet parents.
Nicole: How does ZippyPaws go about creating and selecting designs for the brand’s unique toys?
Jennifer: My design process is simple: engage dogs to understand how they play and create products that satisfy their natural instincts to play. With all of my products, I strive to create toys that appeal to both the dog and the dog owner, hoping to encourage dog owners to spend more quality time interacting and bonding with their pets. For example, ZippyPaws Donutz appeal to dogs because of their loud squeakers. Humans love Donutz because they want their dogs to enjoy the same colorful, yummy treats that they love.
I encourage teamwork in helping the creative process. I think it strengthens our team and promotes free-flowing creativity. All ZippyPaws employees pitch in ideas.
Nicole: What’s so special about the squeakers in ZippyPaws toys?
Jennifer: Squeakers are a huge deal here at ZippyPaws. We know that squeakers are an integral part of a toy’s attractiveness to dogs, so ZippyPaws is the industry’s leading expert in squeakers in two ways. First, we are constantly working to improve the durability of our existing squeakers to make them squeak longer. Second, ZippyPaws tirelessly innovates new ways to squeak, creating multi-functional squeakers that engage dogs at play.
Since 2011, ZippyPaws has created two unique squeaker designs: the Crescent Squeaker and the Jiggler Squeaker. The Jiggler Squeaker, found in our best-selling Jigglerz toys, makes noise both when squeezed and shaken from side to side. I was inspired by dogs’ ancestral natural instincts to shake prey and created a squeaker that would mimic that behavior.
Nicole: How does ZippyPaws ensure the quality and durability of its toys?
Jennifer: At ZippyPaws, we take pride that quality is one of our highest priorities. ZippyPaws has rigorous quality assurance practices at our factories to ensure that each batch of toys meets our standards.
We set very high standards for our products’ raw materials, such as the fabric, thread, stuffing, squeakers, and labor. We know that no amount of gimmicky marketing can ultimately compare to quality products made from the best materials.
On the side of product development, ZippyPaws is constantly innovating new ways to make our toys more durable. For example, Jigglerz are lined with a second layer of tough fabric and cross-stitched to fuse it together with the outer layer of plush fabric to make the toy soft to the touch yet strong to withstand rough play.
Another innovation that was recently launched is the Z-Stitch Technology, a unique stitching technique that is stronger and more attractive. It’s been featured on our new lines of durable toys such as the Warriorz and the Z-Stitch Snakes.
Nicole: What are some of ZippyPaws’s most popular products? Why do you think those toys are successful?
Jennifer: ZippyPaws’s latest successful product line is the Emojiz, a series of seven plush toys inspired by the emoticons that we all use so much on our phones. The Emojiz exploded in success because they capitalized on the popularity of emojis with humans.
Another successful line is our Zippy Burrows, a collection of interactive hide-and-seek toys that challenge dogs. ZippyPaws currently has 20 Burrow designs, with another nine holiday designs. Three designs, including the Elephant Cave and Giraffe Lodge, are new for fall 2016. ZippyPaws continually updates the Burrows line to keep up-to-date with trends.
Nicole: Why should stores consider stocking your products?
Jennifer: Drawing from feedback from our customers, stores stocking ZippyPaws products see an uptick in sales in a generally stagnant toy category. We understand that for most stores, the toy section is a small sales generator. ZippyPaws wants to help revamp toy sections by providing products that catch the consumers’ eyes when they stop in to stock up on food and treats. We’re hoping that ZippyPaws’s colorful selection encourages consumers to spend more time in the toy section, boosting store sales overall. Some ZippyPaws products, such as the Emojiz, are great impulse buys. Customers have seen success by placing them by check-out lines.
Nicole: What’s next for ZippyPaws? Any new toys on the horizon?
Jennifer: Does ZippyPaws have new products in the near future? The answer is always yes! We will be launching an exciting toy featuring a new squeaker. The squeaker, perfected over two years of redesigns, is something the industry has never seen. We are excited to showcase it later in 2016. Aside from that, ZippyPaws is always working to expand its lines of plush toys, outdoor gear, and holiday offerings to keep things fresh for our customers!