Our client, entrepreneur and inventor Terri Swiatek, is an animal lover who decided that her rescue dog Teeko deserved a better breed of toy to play with. Luckily, Terri had the drive, the resources, and the entrepreneurial spirit to make Teeko’s dream a reality. Terri has developed “tugrrr”, a type of dog toy that allows owners to attach and remove a variety of interchangeable parts to a handle, creating multiple dog toys within one product. We spoke to Terri about how she came to develop her product and business model, and what advice she has for other entrepreneurs.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you came up with your product.
This past year I’ve been exploring different types of businesses I could pursue. I wanted to start something for myself and my family and teach my son about running a business. I tried a couple different things but was really inspired by my rescue dog Teeko to develop a new type of dog tug toy. Teeko is very active and needs a lot of exercise, he also loves playing tug of war but the products on the market are not comfortable for owners to use, don’t typically hold up long, or lose his interest after a while. So, I decided I was going to make something better.
I tested tons of materials and techniques, watched hours of instructional YouTube videos, and drew and developed many prototypes I’d laugh at now. I created, tested, failed, and tried something new many times before getting to the current product state. It will no doubt evolve more as I grow.
What is your product? What impact do you hope to make with your product?
My product the tugrrr is a dog tug toy handle that has a clip at one end that allows you to attach and remove a variety of interchangeable tug toy ends on the handle. So many dogs in America do not get the exercise they need for various reasons and can become overweight or develop anxiety. About 50% of American dogs are overweight according to Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., and The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). The tugrrr allows owners to keep their dogs happy and active inside or outside.
What 3 pieces of advice would you offer to other inventors developing products or who maybe have a great product idea, but haven’t yet pursued it?
- Don’t wait, regret is the worst. Don’t be afraid to fail more than once. My husband used to talk about creating an automatic flip up toilet seat for years that the user would not have to touch at all. That it would be the best thing ever because, well, who wants to touch a germy toilet seat, right? When I started this process, I looked it up online, and lo and behold someone already had a patent on that very thing like 8 years ago. If he’d pursued it 10 years ago we’d probably have made mint.
- Also, try to validate your idea as soon as possible. Put it up online and throw some ads at it and see if someone will buy it. If people look at it or even buy it, sweet! Go figure out how to make that thing ASAP!
- Finally, go out and meet people in real life and have them demo or try your idea even if it’s not finished quite yet. This helped me decide if I had something I should really invest serious time and money in.
And finally, if you could start the process over, what would you do differently?
If I could start the process over, I would have tried to develop the product faster and tried to connect to someone in the pet retail industry sooner. When you are starting out, you have a ton of unknowns. If you can find someone in the industry as a mentor it can help. I would have learned more about the legal and financial regulations of running a business sooner.
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice and is meant to be for educational or entertainment purposes only. The article and its contents may not be used without permission. For legal advice and questions, please contact registered Patent Attorney Vincent LoTempio.