Thank u, next
What We're Reading: November 2019
If Thanksgiving’s any indicator, this whole “gratitude” thing might be one big grift. So this month, we set out to find readings that remind us of the gift that thankfulness can actually be.
Dog beds for human homes
An instant wishlist item for the design-conscious pet owner.
Sooner rather than later, dog owners find themselves struggling with a mountain of squeaky chewing toys, and a not-so-elegant bed that gets shoved into a closet whenever guests visit.
Not the most appealing situation for the design-conscious pet owner.
Gabriela Baiter, the foster owner of a 15 year old, peppered black lab named Gable (short for Clark Gable), was looking for something that matched her contemporary approach to interior design, but felt defeated with what she found in traditional pet stores. "I wanted to find a way to make my apartment my own, and finding a bed for my dog that looked great was part of it," she tells Supermaker. Inspired herself by the Los Angeles boho vibe, and a graduate of Brown University, it occurred to Gabriela that there had to be a more stylish path for pet owners out there. Was no one catering to the design-conscious? Would she really have to settle for a bland, grey dog bed with cheap insides?
Maybe it was her creative soul, but something told her to do something about it. Armed with an old dog bed, a piece of fashionable cloth, and the ultimate tutorial, Gabriela chose to upholster Gable's bed to complement her apartment with a striking, high-contrast pattern. Immediately, her visitors began to notice—to Gabriela's surprise, the project was an instant hit. Certainly owing a debt to sunny, breezy LA vibes, and to her own meticulous approach to home decor, Baiter had chanced upon a ripe, relatively unattended niche in the pet product industry.
And so, from a humble 500 square foot bungalow in Santa Monica, Laylo Pets was born—purveyors of gorgeous, orthopedic dog beds in covetable collections.
Like many DIY products turned side hustle, Gabriela first took her product to Etsy. Offering made-to-order dog beds, the positive customer response was immediate. "The first 8 months or so it was all based on made-to-order designs that came through my Etsy store," said Baiter, elaborating that Etsy was not only their launch platform, but also their focus group, their industry analysis tool, and a tool for understanding their target market.
Having established a firm baseline for the business, Gabriela quickly set to work turning that Etsy store into a full-blown direct to consumer business. On May 7, Laylo launched Boho, Laylo's first capsule collection—for dogs. Boasting limited designs inspired by dogs and their owners, and a lifestyle branding approach nodding towards sophisticated but approachable interior design, Boho is the company's biggest bet yet.
But perhaps the most appealing feature of all Laylo beds is the ability to swap its cover. All three cover designs from the Boho collection are less than half the price of the mattress, and allow for the opportunity to spice up that dog bed every so often. Other features include a washable cover that makes laundry day a breeze, a handle for portability, and most importantly, a dig-proof fabric that hides dog hair, and is, thank goodness, accident-proof.
While the product attributes and attention to functional detail is core to Baiter's product development process, Laylo's marketing is largely focused on demonstrating its fashionability, highlighting the product as another piece of furniture that will add to your decor. Just as you might search for the perfect accent chair, Laylo positions its products as worthy of wishlists and a compliment to any living space. After all, pets are part of your family and your life, so their beds shouldn't be hidden in the closet. If, like Gabriela, your home is a 500 square foot bungalow, you might not even have the luxury of hiding your dog's bed.
Interestingly enough, Gabriela says the process of going from idea to final product is similar to what you might expect from a fashion brand. First comes the design. This is when everything that lives and breathes in the cultural hub that is LA converges. All the travel experiences, the countless textiles seen, the many design books on the shelf—everything comes together until the pattern is distinctly Laylo. Then, Baiter explores various options for theming, the color story, and all that is needed to ensure the collection stays cohesive.
Next come the prototypes. Before any bed is launched, Laylo makes at least twenty prototypes to make sure the fabric weave moves and looks as expected after taking wear. Unlike traditional pet beds, Laylo's beds are made out of durable, knitted material inspired by design trends from around the world and assembled by hand.
Once the prototype is approved, Gabriela's favorite phase begins—the brand marketing. At this point, it's all about building a marvelous customer experience, even if that journey largely happens online. From partnerships with like-minded influencers like Tamara Honey and Kristin Dion, to incorporating the brand's colors, to a distinct voice on social media that expresses the brand's identity, Baiter understands that every interaction is part of the customer journey, and worth keen attention.
But, don't believe that Gabriela hasn't faced any setbacks. Like many entrepreneurs, she has frequently found herself figuring out how to maneuver through the learning journey of starting a business. For Gabriela, her learning journey ventured in dangerous territory when it came to inventory planning. "At one point, I was grabbing the cloth from my apartment, literally dragging it down the street to my local seamstress and asking her to replicate the sold-out dog bed on my Etsy store," remembers Gabriela.
One thing that's difficult to anticipate, especially as a small business, is the response you'll get from your target audience. With her first collection, she never expected the reaction she received at launch. "We were running out of inventory so quickly, it was hard to keep up. It was a good problem to have, and eventually, we will be able to prepare for that, which is what we're learning today," explains Gabriela.
Obviously, this is a fantastic problem to have. As Laylo continues to grow, the ability to take on challenges of greater scale will be vital to ensure the success of the company, which is focused on developing strong brand experience and expanding upon their customer community, foreseeing their needs and exceeding expectations with their products.
"The pet industry hasn't evolved for the design-conscious consumer. With every quarterly collection release, we want our community to be inspired to change up the look of their space without breaking the bank," says Gabriela.