Megan O'Brien didn't know Prudence was pregnant when they first met. The svelte terrier mix, weighing in at just five pounds, didn't show any signs of impending motherhood the day that O'Brien picked her up from a kill shelter just hours before she was ...
Megan O'Brien started her career as a successful beauty blogger. Rescuing a terrier mix named Prudence helped her found a company she actually loved.Megan O'Brien
Megan O'Brien didn't know Prudence was pregnant when they first met. The svelte terrier mix, weighing in at just five pounds, didn't show any signs of impending motherhood the day that O'Brien picked her up from a kill shelter just hours before she was scheduled to be put to sleep in 2010.
O'Brien, then working as a beauty blogger, brought the dog back to her West Hollywood home where she was already fostering three other dogs. Walking this quartet of canines proved challenging; O’Brien regularly tripped over leashes and fumbled for poop bags and treats.
That was challenging for sure. But then Prudence had a surprise.
"She was a little tired and listless so I took her to the vet and he told me she was about to have puppies any day," O'Brien remembers.
Prudence was a tiny thing. How many puppies could there be inside that furry belly?
Five actually. And four of them survived. Suddenly O'Brien found herself the owner of eight dogs with no backyard. They all had to be walked and walked often and O'Brien found herself fumbling for more stuff than she could carry. She felt like there had to be a better way.
"Mom's have diaper bags. I'm never going to have children. My dogs are my children. But no one was making me a good looking contraption to carry all my dog things in," O'Brien said.
It took seven years of experimentation and research. Eventually O'Brien connected with San Francisco-based investor Gary Shemano. He agreed to hear her pitch, examined her sketches for a product, and was sold. He soon became an equity partner.
“I invested in O'Brien's vision for two reasons,” he said. “One is because of my love of dogs - they have saved my life emotionally. And secondly, because Megan represents everything that an investor could want in a partner - unbridled enthusiasm and an absolute commitment to the business.”
In 2017, she officially invented the Dogipack. It's a little bit like a fanny pack, but a good looking one, for dog things. It has pockets for keys, credit cards, a collapsible water bowl, and a slender roll of poop bags. Leashes can be attached to little rings along the belt for hands-free walking.
“The leash was invented 800 years ago,” said O’Brien, who gave up her beauty blog to concentrate exclusively on Dogipack two years ago. “Why haven't there been better innovations in dog walking?"
Her initial run of 1,000 pieces sold within several weeks at the original retail price of $70. Boosted by the enthusiasm for the offering and using cash flow from her first production run, O'Brien placed a larger order, allowing her to bring her retail price down to $39.99. Since the product’s launch, she has introduced new colors (camouflage is a favorite) and has even managed to catch the eye of one of New York’s prestige retailers with a version encrusted with tiny crystals, which O’Brien applied by hand in her living room. She will even embroider your pooch’s name on the belt.
"When I read about President George HW Bush and his service dog Sully, I embroidered one for him. I even had '41' stitched on the side. The president wrote me back a letter that he loved his dogipack." O'Brien said, tearing up as she showed me the letter from Bush and a picture of the Sully Dogipack.
Dogipack has already been shipped to several shelters and dog rescues around the country. One of O'Brien's goals is to make it easier for all dogs, even dogs without a forever home, to be walked.
O'Brien was recently in Boston for the marathon. A group of wounded warrior veterans were staying at her hotel.
"There were so many in wheelchairs with dogs. I had a suitcase full of dogipacks in my hotel room. I gave the veterans all dogipacks to use with their service dogs. I can't tell you how emotional it was, they were so grateful that I had created this product and said it was going to make their everyday life so much easier."
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