Creativity is a key component to such pet categories as pet fashion and cat caves. Pet Age recently spoke with Alonzo Guess, co-founder of Walking Palm, to learn more about the brand’s hand-made products and their unique designs.
How would you describe Walking Palm’s relationship with the Nepalese artisans who create your products?
We started Walking Palm because of the wonderful relationships we have with our friends in Kathmandu, Nepal, which spawned nearly 20 years ago when co-founder David Riggs traveled there during our backpacking trip in southeast. Asia. After working in the corporate world for several years and becoming disenchanted, we started our business in 2011, employing just one Nepalese friend. Since then, we have steadily grown to a group of about 100 Nepalese craftspeople who are paid 200 percent of the average wage for Nepal. This is something we are very proud of, as the business we have consistently grown has created good jobs for many families and improved the lives and educations of hundreds of wonderful Nepalese people we refer to as our “extended family.”
What has the response been to the cat caves that Walking Palm launched in 2012?
The Cat Cave is the first product that Walking Palm produced, using 100 percent hand-felted New Zealand sheep’s wool, which is commonly used in Nepalese crafts and clothing. Because of wool’s natural properties, it is far superior to synthetic materials and cats are instantly drawn to the subtle scent of the wool and its soft feel. Cats always like enclosed spaces, so the round cave shape is enticing. We make the cat caves in a wide assortment of colors — from neutrals and earth-tones to vibrant patterns like rainbows — offering our human customers something to compliment every home’s décor. We frequently receive our customers’ reviews and photos showing their cats hiding, sleeping and playing in our caves. The response has been nothing less than incredible, and we are constantly hiring additional craftspeople to help us keep up with the growing demand for these beautiful and functional products.
What inspired you to create the Walking Palm Pet Sling Carrier?
Having experienced the success of our felted wool cat caves, we realized the need for a great product for the many dog owners out there. After looking into it further, we realized there are many small dogs that are either old, injured, recovering from surgery or suffering from anxiety. We developed our pet sling as a one-size-fits-most solution that allows a person to comfortably carry their small dog or cat close to them during trips to the vet, grocery store, on walks or on hikes. Each sling is hand-woven from naturally dyed organic cotton, and they are available in a wide assortment of vibrant patterns. In developing the slings, we took advantage of the beautiful patterns of hand-woven cotton fabrics used in traditional Nepalese clothing and dresses and repurposed the fabric by sewing each piece to create a comfortable pouch that holds the pet. The slings are machine washable and can be worn on the right or left side of the person’s body. Originally developed as a carrier for a dog, we’ve been very pleased to see lots of cat owners purchasing our slings. Our retail partners tell us they love that the slings are very compact and do not take up much shelf space in the stores, and their vibrant colors draw lots of in-store interest.
What’s the next product that Walking Palm will be unveiling?
As we continue to develop an engaged customer base, we always ask for ideas of what product they would like to see us make. Because of customer requests, we have recently developed a line of dog ponchos that are made with the same beautiful fabrics that are used in our slings, so they make a great matching addition to the pet’s wardrobe. The ponchos, which are available in a few sizes to fit most dogs, look great while being comfortable, and are easy to put on and take off because of the Velcro closures. In addition to the ponchos, we make over-the-collar bandanas that are woven from the same fabrics used to make our slings. As a small and growing brand, we consistently encourage our customers to provide feedback on new products or improvements to existing products we make. We do not make anything in China, and we do not suffer from any of the common supply chain shortages we are all hearing so much about lately. This provides us with the ability to quickly develop new products and ship orders immediately.