It’s important that your business stands out in its market, and Timberdog’s done just that thanks to its unique product – the RuffRest, a multifunctional pet bed ideal for travel and adventure.
We spoke with Timberdog owner, Leena Chitnis, about starting a business from scratch, developing a new product, and why she’s looking to move website builders.
“Being an entrepreneur means strapping in for a marathon, not a sprint.”
“I started Timberdog in 2017 after adopting my rescue puppy, Kashi. She had terrible trauma, including separation anxiety, and I knew it would take a long time to train her. In the meantime, I wanted her close to me everywhere we went, and so I invented the multifunctional pet bed – RuffRest® – that could travel with us, whether we were camping, staying in a hotel, going to the office, road-tripping, or flying to a destination.
The best part of my day is when someone tells me that they love their RuffRest and can’t live without it, and don’t know what they did before it came into their lives! I feel the same way – I never leave home without it.”
A Green Commitment
“The environment is the most important thing to me in my business. What would be the use of an outdoor pet bed if we had no destinations to travel to or camp in, due to forest fires and polluted water and airways? My dog’s love of nature and wanting to be in it as much as possible drove me to craft the perfect outdoor adventure pet bed. I love nature too and need to be able to escape to it. So, preserving the great outdoors has been of the utmost importance to me.
That’s why Timberdog has partnered with One Tree Planted to plant two trees for every RuffRest sold. This will help us with our ambitious plan to be carbon negative by 2027.
It’s extremely pricey to be sustainable, but I didn’t want to be one of those companies who does it later on just for optics. Even though it hurts my bottom line, it was imperative for Timberdog to be a green company from its very inception. Brand and brand equity is everything to a company, and I want everyone to know that Timberdog doesn’t just do things to “look good”. We do things because we want to be good.”
The Daily Grind
“The average day has me going through emails for about 3-4 hours per day, and then working on organic SEO through things like internal linking, blogging, and guest blogging – as well as responding to journalist queries in order to get additional exposure. I also spend quite a bit of time connecting with influencers and signing them up to showcase RuffRest via their user-generated content.”
Building Connections & Influence
“I offer a direct line to me to anyone who seems like they need one – usually it’s folks who are hesitant to buy and tell me they need to be convinced, or people who wish I had a brick-and-mortar presence as they don’t trust buying things off the internet because they can’t touch or test them in person. I also look at every comment as an opportunity to engage in dialogue and demonstrate why RuffRest is, say, at its price point, or why it’s the best pet bed on the market.
After trying to contact Gear Junkie for two years, I finally got through and word of RuffRest has traveled all the way to the editor-in-chief, who will have one of his reviewers do a full spread on RuffRest in the next few months. Also, getting 22 influencers with a combined following of 6.2 million people to sign with Timberdog hasn’t been bad either!”
“Our pet bed is the first of its kind in the world. Usually travel items for dogs are either a thin roll-up mat, or travel bag, or a simple pet bed made from durable nylon, or simply a sleeping bag for dogs. But it’s never all four of those items in one. RuffRest accomplishes all of that plus 10 more features with its patent-pending design.
[When it comes to creating a new product]… Sketching things out helps me take the visual stuff in my brain and organize it on paper. Drawings are universal and don’t need much language to explain it – when working with prototypers overseas, sketches have proved invaluable. I also keep a master to-do list on Monday.com, keep a Google calendar for meetings, and a paper pad for daily items. It’s a lot, but it keeps me organized.
Amazingly, I went from a drawing on the back of a loan to a fully-fleshed, commercially viable product within 4 years. It took another year to perfect it, get it manufactured, and get it on the market. I’m working on building the brand and community in the meantime. It’s very exciting work.
I did most of it [the work] myself as I could not afford outside help. But I did have to invest in a few expensive things, such as the tech pack, and some help to customize the website theme I purchased. I also needed help shooting the videos and professional photos of the product. I cut costs by doing most of the setup work myself and just having the pros come in to do the last bits which I could not figure out.
I had to go through many tech packs, many manufacturers, many disbelievers, and thousands of other missteps before finally landing on a manufacturer who could bring my vision to life. But even here there were communication, tech, and knowledge barriers. It was a steep learning curve for the both of us since I knew nothing of textiles and manufacturing, and they were encountering a complex product like mine for the first time.”
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“[The pet industry] is a saturated, highly-competitive market. You better have something that stands out. And you must stick by it for several years before seeing success.
Be patient and keep grinding. There’s room in the market for everyone – don’t worry about copycats. If you stand by your product, your product is here to stay. There will always be copycats, but you’re the original, and if you’ve built your brand properly, the people will know that.”
“Kickstarter inspired me [to build a website]. I noticed that innovators on there had these endless, scroll-type landing pages which explained products exhaustively. This is critical when you’re new to a market with a product and early adopters need to read all about it. It has to be informative, anticipate all possible questions, and be visually stunning. The devil is in the details.
I chose Shopify because they were the most popular choice at the time, had incredible themes, and had real-time phone support. Now that they’ve nixed their phone support, I am considering other options.
Nothing really sets it apart from other major players, to be honest. Google Analytics 4 has been very helpful as a tool but you don’t need Shopify to get on it.
I’m on the hunt for a platform which won’t cut corners on their customers. Shopify has steadily been going down, in my opinion, for the past couple of years.”
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I am happiest when… my customers are happy.
To me, success looks like… my customers’ satisfaction.
If I could go back in time, I would advise myself to… relax and not worry so much.
Having a business website has… been hugely gratifying and helpful. People are impressed with the site, so I’m very proud of it.
Being an entrepreneur means… strapping in for a marathon, not a sprint.