This is Jason and Christina. The two newborn pups they’re holding are just a couple of over 300 shelter dogs they have helped in the past 6 months with their subscription box, Get Wagging. Get Wagging gives subscribers a new, seasonal dog collar every month with the option of returning a gently-used collar to be reused by a shelter dog.
How Would You Describe Your Box?
Get Wagging is a box that gives subscribers new seasonal collars and leashes every month. Each box comes with a prepaid envelope to send back an old collar to be donated to a dog in a shelter.
How did you come up with the idea?
Before they started their subscription box, the duo lived in Silicon Valley. Jason was a former tech executive and Christina, an AKC recognized dog trainer, previously ran her own dog service business called Walks and Wags which had amassed over 350 clients around the Bay Area.
Knowing they wanted to make an impact in the field of animal rescue, the couple started sniffing out their next dog-based venture– considering physical locations and stores but ultimately deciding against it due to the high startup costs. “I just woke up with the idea for a fun collar business one morning!” Christina said, “but after the initial excitement I needed to incorporate a way to give back and not just create more waste. That’s where the ‘recycling’ idea was born.”
How do you select your products?
Christina designs the collars and leashes herself. Each collar is made from high-quality material including the same that is used in parachute chords and survival gear. Get Wagging partners with a local Austin production studio, Gallery One Point Fashion, to make their collars.
How do you find your customers?
Get Wagging does a lot of local events. They try their best to participate in events that raise money for local shelters where they can also showcase their products. They also engage in social media marketing across Facebook and Instagram, search ads via Google Adwords, and email marketing blasts. One of the strategies that is successful for them is doing Instagram photo contests where users submit captions and photos to win a free box. Past winners have even put us in contact with the shelters where they rescued their very own dogs, so that they can start receiving our donated collars and leashes as well.
But beyond promotions, Jason and Christina try to make their products recognizable. “Our collars are fun and colorful. People see the product being worn on our dogs, or out in public, and we’ve been able to generate a considerable amount of sales that way” said Jason.
What is the most difficult part of running a subscription box business?
“I think until you actually physically jump into it there’s a lot of little details you overlook. You can tell yourself ‘okay we’re going to do this’ but it’s not always that simple” said Christina. One of the big things for Jason and Christina were boxes. “Boxes were a something we just overlooked. Where are you going to get them? Who’s going to put them together? How are you going to brand them? Plus, they’re a lot harder to put together than you expect. The box we use have these tiny creases that you have to get right or they won’t close. It’s a small thing, but no, not as simple as we thought.”
“Even for me with a business background starting a subscription box was difficult. Pricing was easy for me, but it isn’t for a lot of others. You have to be careful because the last thing you want to do is raise prices after you launch” said Jason.
While it was hard and took a substantial amount of effort to produce their own product, in the end it was worth it. “The benefit of manufacturing your own product is not having to worry about the risk of sourcing. You can control quantity and you know exactly who is making it and where it’s coming from. We went to several factories before settling with the one we’re with now because we wanted to manage the quality of our finished product. Our launch was pushed back about a month and a half because we weren’t happy with the initial quality. It’s hard to make your own product, but it gives you maximum control over product quality.”
What do you enjoy most about your box?
The two were quick to jump to their relationship with local shelters. “Some of the shelters we help really need it. Their volunteers scour local Goodwills looking for discarded collars and things that could serve as makeshift collars and leashes. We’ve seen some dogs wearing shoelaces. Knowing that we’re making an impact on those dogs is the most rewarding part of our business.”
What do customers love most about your box?
With just as much enthusiasm, Jason and Christina spoke about their customers. “They truly enjoy being part of the process. The act of physically removing the slightly-used collar off their dog, shipping it back to us, and replacing it with the new one makes them feel truly part of the process. They don’t have to take our word for it that we’re going to donate a certain amount of our profit. I really think that’s why about 85% of our subscribers choose to send us the previous collar.”
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in subscription commerce?
One of the biggest problems Jason and Christina encountered with Get Wagging was communicating how their giving platform worked. Because it was something so out of the ordinary, customers weren’t familiar with the model. “When we first started we used the word ‘recycled’ but when we did that customers literally thought we were grinding up old collars into mesh to make new ones. That’s when we started calling it “reused”. We also changed our slogan to say ‘The Collar With Two Lives’ and that got the message across. It really helps to use the right words so customers understand what you’re offering.”
Another piece of advice Jason and Christina had for new boxes was related to quality. “You have to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and ask yourself, ‘would I buy this?’. Your product has to be the same quality as something you would pull off a shelf at a retailer.”
Jason and Christina drove home the point of making sure you have the little things figured out before jumping into starting a business. “If you want your box to be fancy, that’s an extra cost” said Christina. “When we first made the decision to start Get Wagging we thought we could start shipping boxes in about a month. We did not start shipping boxes in a month. It was more like eight months from inception to the time the first box was actually shipped. It took time and planning to get all of the ducks in a row.”
What advice would you give to people that want to start giving back with their business?
When it came to giving back, something Jason and Christina do particularly well, they had some great advice. “First, you have to determine what you’re going to give back. Or what you CAN give back. Then you have to determine the value to the people that are going to receive it. Will what you’re giving them help them? Will it make an impact?”
While a social business is a truly admirable thing, it may not be for everyone. If what you can give doesn’t immediately help anyone it may save you a lot of effort to donate your profits instead.
“Running a social business is fundamentally the same as running any other business. You should figure out a way to give back efficiently.” Recycling has worked well for Get Wagging because it minimizes waste.” Jason and Christina found that their customers really love that the products are reused rather than thrown away.
All things considered
At the end of the day, Jason, Christina, and all of their subscribers ultimately want to do good. “Dogs don’t need a new collar every 30 days. Our subscribers know that. But they do it anyway because it’s fun, it’s seasonal, and they actually get to participate in giving” said Jason. “One of the best parts is opening up the return packages of the collars our subscribers send back and we can see how much fun the dog had and the great use they got out of it.” Not only that, but with each collar their subscribers recycle, they know a dog in need will get great use out of it too. A shelter will get great use out of it.
For so many us, dogs are such a meaningful part of our lives. But for Jason and Christina, they’ve made it their whole life. They’ve made sure that their products impact the local community. They’ve made sure their collar, as their slogan says, truly does have two lives. That’s why, this holiday season, we’re telling you about Get Wagging– a small business with a big impact.