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Stash and dash. Store and snore.

Creating the Woogie Whomper

I’ll say that the creation of the Woogie Whomper was more of an evolution than one of those “ah-ha, this is THE thing that will change the world” kind of moments.

Since 1997 we’ve been running our graphic design and marketing business — The Business Lab. Designing and creating cool things for supercool people is pretty much what we do all the time.

We don’t have children of our own so our pets have been a huge focus for us. We’ve always wanted to do something in the pet area. Something that would complement our skill set and passion. We started dabbling in this area in about 2005. Karl did have one of those “Ah-ha, this is THE thing that will change the world” kind of moments when he came up with The Pottery Dog House.

pottery dog house

We wanted this doghouse to be made out of concrete. We wanted it big and heavy and amazing. But, what we couldnn’t exactly resolve was the cost to produce this terribly creative and challenging dog house. Sadly, this is not the kind of product that investors line up to help with and even though we had very generous financial support from family and we invested, let’s just say... a decent chunk of time and money... this “ah-ha” moment wasn’t to be. I think we finally decided to let this one go (for now) in 2008. Today, I have the most expensive and most beautiful dog house prototype on our deck and each year, during the Trebuchet & Vector’s Small Dogs Party, the top serves as an excellent place to put the beer on ice.

I won’t bore you with the details of any other new business ideas we played around with from 2008 until today but I will say, they all helped shape who we are and have all been extremely beneficial.

Fast forward to 2013 when something sparked us in the Woogie Whomper direction. Maybe it was my living room where it only ever looked like this:

living room

Our precious little Dax and Trebuchet were our inspiration. Especially Dax because he loved, loved, loved, loved, loved his woogies and loved playing woogie-war with daddy.

We started with these initial concepts as a way of storing the dog’s toys in their bed.

concepts

In 2015 we found a group out of Portland (Cera and Mike of Devisepdx.com) to help us with the prototype. They were extremely helpful and very creative and things really started taking off. They helped us refine the Woogie Whomper and make it producible, and from there, we just needed to find a way to have some made. We figured the best thing to do was to have a small sampling of them sewn up so we could go through the process of getting the materials, creating the pattern, etc.

We put an ad on Craig’s List and we found a gentlemen in El Paso to create 10 of them for us. We also found some discontinued upholstery fabric and the foam in El Paso so we were on our way. Well, until we had to figure out what snaps and zippers to use. You have no idea how many snaps and zippers are out there. Mind boggling really.

A wonderful entrepreneur named Kathleen Fasanella at Fashion-Incubator also responded to the Craig’s List ad and basically told me I didn’t know all I should. Of course she was right, so I called her. She was very generous with her time and expertise and introduced us to Fernando Franco who helped us create the paper pattern, the final, final prototype, and then was instrumental in helping us get our first set ready to sell.

We were still way over our heads in the zipper, snap and upholstery fabric arena. Then we found Tanya at the Carolina Textile District. She was amazing and found sources for us for each of these things. She also tried to find us a US based manufacturer but we were not quite a perfect match for anyone.

The fabric samples began to come in. Oh my... my... my. This makes drooling over cool paper samples and fun printed invitations look like choosing corn at the grocery store. Where does it all come from? How is it all made? Why is all so fabulous? How on earth are we supposed to choose? Literally, we got the warehouse early just to store all the samples.

How to decide? We decided to go fast. Go with our initial impressions and choose very, very quickly. We figured it was the only way we’d ever decide. Oh, and we also used price as our initial filter. Geez, some of this fabric is crazy, crazy expensive — awesome, but expensive. Some day I’m sure, but not starting out. We’ll save those for custom projects. If you want a custom Woogie Whomper come on over, we’ll share some wine in the warehouse.

So... the fabrics you see on the site are those we have initially chosen. One thing we have learned is that this sort of fabric doesn’t stay around long. In that sense, it’s very much like cool paper samples. Here today, maybe (probably) not tomorrow. That’s why we urge you to get what you see if you love it because it may not be around very long. Actually, we kind of hope it isn’t for many reasons, but mostly because we can replace it with more cool fabric. I know it will be easy to find the one you truly love. Even after all those choices that I do love, one is indeed my favorite.

Our goal is to sell these more custom, high-end, fashion fabric (and yes, more expensive), Woogie and Kitty Whompers on the site. These are all individually made right here in America. We also source all the materials here.

We also want to have a good selection and supply for boutique pet stores. For that, we knew we needed to concentrate on a more general, more affordable price point. But we also had to be sure the quality was there and that the fashion fabric was still awesome.

This led us to making some very excellent connections overseas (China and Hong Kong). We were quite fortunate to find two experts and two companies helping us find the perfect ... everything ... for our retail Whompers. And this process has been, well, a process too. But, we are getting very close to having a wonderful solution.

This is somewhat of a conflict for us. Because when I go to a pet store and buy treats, the first and only thing I ever look for is that USA flag. We will not buy food products that are not made in America. So we genuinely wanted to have all our products made in America. And who knows, maybe one day they all will be as we grow bigger and more knowledgeable and have more buying power.

I also know that I buy many products that are made in China. Every pet bed I ever bought was most likely made in China. Most every woogie toy I buy is made in China. Heck, probably most of my clothes and shoes are made there too. And, the workmanship and quality we’re seeing with our overseas Woogie Whompers is really first class. We can see no difference in the quality of sewing or the base fabrics. They certainly don’t have the amazing selection of fashion fabrics but the ones we are selecting are going to make people very, very happy.

Here is a slide show showing some of the back and forth in the development — again, we say thank you to so so so so many kind, generous, talented, smart people.

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After several ideas didn’t make the cut, we sent a loose idea in sketches like these to Cera and Mike at DevisePDX.
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The DevisePDX team showed us our idea in real life, no luxury fabric or foam in the top piece for these pics. We liked the size, the foam donut was a good thing (but it needed to be thicker), and the toy storage would work, and the toy finding game was going to be fun!
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A good critique of the idea spurred a lot of changes including eliminating the bottom cover layer. It was pretty humble at this stage.
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We began trying out lots of upholstery fabrics, foam densities and thicknesses, zippers, strap materials, and construction techniques.
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Luxury fabric, stiffer foam and thicker straps gave us hope.
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Strap ideas went back and forth as we played with our first prototypes with the dogs, to make it easier to train dogs to play between the layers, help prevent scratches, and make the straps less likely to get chewed on. Here, we still had the top strap attached to the top surface.
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The strap anchor moved inside the seam between the top’s layers, protecting it and simplifying the look. I’s all coming together...
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Some of our volunteer testers. Woogies!
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Dax looking for his favorites. He and Trebuchet, and later Vector, really gave the prototypes a workout, along with several friends’ dogs big and small.
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Thank you to many friends who tried it out and gave us feedback.
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That’s Reggie, star of our first video.
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When we started to get pics of our friend’s cats taking over, just like our Pasquel did, the Kitty Whomper was born.

Whew... What a journey and what fun. I can’t tell how how much we’ve learned and how appreciative we are of everyone one who has helped us along the way... Mike, Cera, Lori, Beaver, Eric, Kathleen, Fernando, Floyd, Tanya and The Carolina Textile District. And all our friends who’ve been testing our Whompers — David & Karen, Kim, Alex & Garrett, Shanna, Phyllis, Kristin & Jack and our own angels: Dax, Trebuchet & Vector... and Pasquale (the cat).

In September of 2015 we had to say goodbye to Dax. He had been very sick and he needed to go and feel better. Saddest day of our life. Here are a few pics of Dax with his prototype Woogie Whomper and just him in general — I still like to look at pictures of Dax.

dax

In April of 2016 we decided it was time that Trebuchet had a brother and we found Vector. Born February 2016 in El Paso, Texas. We jumped in the car and brought him home. Life has not been the same since.

vector

I know that the Woogie Whomper will continue to evolve and we’ll find new material, new ideas, new ways to make it. And we know we’ll be creating the Kitty Whomper next and have several ideas in development for woogies and toys and more things that help bring your pet closer to you. More ways to let your pet know you love them.

In the meantime, thank you for hanging out with us. Thank you especially if you shared Woogie Whopper with your friends or family and of course, if you bought one for your family. We so appreciate you and your support.  

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