10 Entrepreneurs Who Used the Power of Pets to Make Millions

Lead Image

Image Source

They’re cute, cuddly and comforting, so it’s little surprise that Americans own nearly 78 million pet dogs and almost 86 million pet cats. Such mind-boggling numbers have, of course, given rise to a hugely lucrative pet industry; in 2015 alone, for example, over $60 billion is projected to be spent on the country’s furry friends. In short, it’s a market ripe for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make more than a buck or two – as the following ten businesspeople have done, in fact. Indeed, each of these company creators’ ideas – from devising innovative waste disposal methods to building luxury pet-only hotels – has made millions, just through tapping into the purchase power of a nation of animal lovers.

10. Roni and Ken Di Lullo – Doggles

86th IBCT Soldiers Visit Village

Image Source

The idea for Roni and Ken Di Lullo’s highly successful company was actually first sparked by the couple’s border collie Midknight in 1997. Upon seeing Midknight struggling to catch a Frisbee in a San Jose park, the Di Lullos realized that their pet’s eyesight was being hampered by bright daylight – a situation rectified by a pair of hastily-adapted tinted sports goggles. Thus the idea of “Doggles” was born – and as word of Midknight’s new eyewear spread, the couple were flooded with requests from fellow dog owners wanting pairs for their own pooches. The couple eventually instructed a Taiwanese firm to manufacture 30,000 dog-friendly goggles in 2002, and a deal with PetSmart to sell them followed soon afterward. Today, Doggles are sold at thousands of outlets, and the company has expanded its product line to include toys and other accessories. Come 2012, meanwhile, Doggles’ revenue totaled an impressive $3 million.

9. Jacob and Susan D’Aniello – DoodyCalls


Image Source

It may not be the most glamorous of enterprises, but pet waste removal has nevertheless proved big business since the turn of the millennium. One man to profit from the poop is Jacob D’Aniello, who co-founded DoodyCalls with wife Susan in suburban Washington DC in 2000. And a simple concept – namely, cleaning up after the nation’s four-legged friends at home or in public – and savvy franchise model has made DoodyCalls an undeniable success. Come 2006, in fact, the company had a presence in seven states across the U.S. and had already made its first $1 million in revenue, with this figure having grown to a remarkable $4.5 million in 2011. The Charlottesville, Virginia-based company now claims to handle in excess of ten million droppings every year and also offers cat owners a “Complete Kitty Litter Box Service.”

8. Chris and Natasha Ashton – Petplan

Chris and Natasha Ashton – Petplan

Image Source

When two States-dwelling Brits had something of a rude awakening, it proved the spur for a venture that went on to make millions. In 2001 Chris and Natasha Ashton were landed with an astonishing $5,000 vet bill for their cat Bodey – and this experience, together with the fact that only a tiny fraction of pet-owning Americans at the time had health insurance on their animal friends, led the couple to their lucrative business plan. That said, it was a long road to even get started, as the Ashtons had to learn the pet insurance trade from scratch. Even when the couple set up Petplan in 2003, it wasn’t until three years later – when the company had both an underwriter and U.S.-wide licenses – that they could begin selling insurance to American animal lovers. Petplan has been a roaring success ever since, though, with its revenue as revealed in 2015 to be an incredible $69 million.

7. Alissa and Allan Cruz – D Pet Hotels

Alissa and Allan Cruz – D Pet Hotels

Image Source

When realtors Alissa and Allan Cruz decided to open the first D Pet Hotel in 2008, luxury lodgings became no longer just the preserve of human beings. With the couple being regular travelers, the concept sprang from their own problems in finding suitable care for their dogs while they were away. And the resulting 14,000-square-foot dog hotel in Hollywood, California ought to suit even the most pampered pooch, containing as it does luxury suites, a fitness center and a high-end spa. A franchise model launched in 2012 has also, according to Alissa Cruz, helped D Pet Hotels become “a multi-million dollar business that offers exponential growth.” This growth includes expansion into New York City and Scottsdale, Arizona, and given that a night at one of the hotels can cost as much as $200, it’s perhaps little wonder that the business is doing so well.

6. Ivan Retzignac and Andrew Bucher – MedicAnimal

Ivan Retzignac and Andrew Bucher – MedicAnimal

Image Source

It’s the most heartbreaking thing a pet owner goes through: seeing their animal put down. Vets like Andrew Bucher find it difficult, too, especially as some deaths could have been prevented through better healthcare. When describing this very problem in 2007 to financier Ivan Retzignac – husband to his wife’s friend – the pair had something of a lightbulb moment. And come June of the following year, Bucher and Retzignac had launched their web-based pet products retailer, MedicAnimal, with an initial investment of around $1.5 million. In 2011 turnover had reached $24 million, and the following year saw MedicAnimal receive an outside investment of $15 million and its turnover boosted to the tune of an astonishing $70 million. These days, the U.K.-based company sells everything from wellness food for dogs to pigeon parasite protection.

5. Marie Moody – Stella & Chewy’s

Marie Moody – Stella & Chewy’s

Image Source

When Marie Moody’s vet recommended a strict diet of vegetables and uncooked meat for ailing rescue dog Chewy, Moody started looking into – and subsequently making – homemade pet food from her New York City home. Chewy soon perked up thanks to the food – and Moody’s other pooch Stella seemed to enjoy it as well, giving their owner a sterling business idea. In 2003 Moody founded Stella & Chewy’s to market her special dog chow and was soon making deals with Big Apple retailers. Four years later she relocated the company to Muskego, Wisconsin, where a large distribution contract was secured. Stella & Chewy’s brought in $5 million worth of sales in 2009; moreover, revenue is projected to increase to $50 million in 2015, and more than 3,000 outlets now sell Stella & Chewy’s products across the U.S.

4. Derek Sasaki and Traci Torres – MyPetChicken.com

Derek Sasaki and Traci Torres – MyPetChicken.com

Image Source

Married couple Derek Sasaki and Traci Torres decided to care for chickens in their back garden in 2004; unfortunately, it took a year of book research before they learned enough to do it properly. Still, rather than letting others go through the same long-winded process, the pair decided to put together a website in 2005 highlighting all the relevant information for no charge. The following year, MyPetChicken.com began selling chicken-related products and then, amazingly, actual chicks. Indeed, perhaps the Connecticut business’ unique selling point is that it allows its customers to buy as few as three hatchlings at a time. With the “chicken as pets” trend growing across America, MPC hit the $2 million sales mark in 2011, landing it a place on the following year’s Inc. 5000 list.

3. Heidi Ganahl – Camp Bow Wow

Heidi Ganahl – Camp Bow Wow

Image Source

When Heidi Ganahl was just 27, her husband was killed in an airplane accident. After a series of failed ventures using the resulting insurance money, Ganahl combined the remaining $83,000 with her love of pets to establish a doggy day – and night – care center in Denver, Colorado. That was back in 2000; since then, Camp Bow Wow has utilized a hugely successful franchise model, with more than 200 of its centers now to be found across North America. In 2009, moreover, Camp Bow Wow was named one of the 500 swiftest growing private firms in the U.S. by Inc. magazine; and by 2013 the company had expanded by a further 45 percent. That year, it was also revealed that Camp Bow Wow’s revenue totaled a more than healthy $6.2 million.

2. Kevin and Angie O’Brien – PetRelocation

Kevin and Angie O’Brien – PetRelocation

Image Source 1, Image Source 2

The launch of PetRelocation in 2004 proved more of a sidestep in the pet services industry than a total leap into the unknown for Kevin and Angie O’Brien. This was because the $97,000 that the husband and wife needed to establish PetRelocation was earned via their canine daycare and “pet taxi” business. To say things have gone well for the animal transfer firm since then would be an understatement: a move to shiny new offices in Austin, Texas came in 2012, while the company’s revenue the following year exceeded $7 million. The year 2013 also saw PetRelocation break into the top 40 of Fortune’s Inner City 100 list, perhaps owing in part to the company’s seemingly effortless ability to transport anything from Afghanistan-bound U.S. Army canines to a shipment of poisonous frogs coming in from Switzerland.

1. Rebecca Rescate – CitiKitty

Rebecca Rescate – CitiKitty

Image Source

It’s a problem experienced by cat-owning apartment dwellers everywhere: where to put the litter box. To save on space in her own too-small New York home, Rebecca Rescate devised what would become a highly profitable alternative to that more traditional tray: the CitiKitty. The product is stretched over a regular human toilet’s rim and filled with litter, so that cats are drawn to it and use it as if it were their litter box. The more the cat uses it, the smaller CitiKitty becomes, forcing cats to perch on the toilet seat until – finally – they are fully toilet trained. Rescate launched CitiKitty in 2005; a 2011 appearance on Shark Tank, meanwhile, saw the Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania-based business sell 1,900 units in just four hours. The CitiKitty went on to reach an impressive $5 million in sales by 2013.

Other recent stories

10 Office-Boosting Furniture Items Created with Recycled Plane Parts

Image Source From elegant airliners to military jets, airplanes are truly incredible examples of engineering ingenuity, and they’ve made journeys that were thought impossible only a hundred years ago into an everyday reality. Still, even… Read more

10 Most Creatively Themed Office Meeting Rooms

Image Source They’re often the places where ideas are born, big decisions are made and key deals are sealed, so why settle for white walls, one-size-fits-all furniture and a tired projector? The once humble meeting room should be a setting… Read more

10 Super-Inspiring Office Running Tracks

Image Source Business leaders take note: working out can relieve both short- and long-term stress. This is according to Harvard Medical School associate clinical professor of psychiatry Dr. John Ratey, who’s remarked that exercise is capable… Read more

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Business Opportunity

Image Source Many people remember making play telephones from two empty soup cans with a string connecting them during childhood. Perhaps it’s this kind of creativity with what was normally garbage served as a business inspiration for some of… Read more

The 10 Most Innovative Drone Applications Today

Image Source Little known fact: the US government started experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles (better known today as drones) back in 1917. Today they’re a multi-billion dollar industry, but they’ve yet to truly take off commercially in… Read more

10 Incredible Office Playgrounds

Image Source Innovative, youth-minded companies around the world are pushing the limits of conventional office design, with moves ranging from installing functional slides to incorporating an 11-foot dinosaur. The idea is to create fun workplaces… Read more

The Unlikely Businessman: 10 Reasons Dave Grohl Is A Complete Success

Image Source While it’s pretty obvious that Dave Grohl, founder and front man for the Foo Fighters, is a successful musician, when people think of successful businessmen it’s doubtful the image of Dave is the first to pop into their heads…. Read more

10 Awesome Office Graffiti Murals

It makes sense for innovative, youth-oriented brands to develop workplaces that reflect their values. After all, competition is fierce, and projecting a hip and cutting-edge image should only serve to attract and inspire similarly creative… Read more

10 Inspiring Vertical Gardens Growing in Offices

Image Source Forward-thinking companies like Google and Red Bull seem to do everything they can to break the mold and enhance the working environment for their many employees. Indeed, now offices can be fun, inspiring and, in the following cases,… Read more

10 Inspirational Treehouse Offices

Image Source Innovative office spaces seem to be becoming an increasingly popular way for companies to stimulate the creative juices of employees, as well as to establish more enjoyable – and playful – atmospheres in which to work. Moreover,… Read more

10 Most Successful Business-Savvy Graffiti Artists Ever

Image Source Forget Vincent Van Gogh and start thinking Damien Hirst; after all, not every artist dies without a penny to their name. The following graffiti artists, for example, have shrewdly capitalized on their street credibility, parlaying… Read more

15 Bizarre Commercial Buildings That Look Like Something Else

The idea of literalism in advertising grew in popularity in the early 20th century as company proprietors designed their buildings to resemble their products. This not only cut down on the need for signage advertising what was contained within,… Read more

15 Most Creative Food Packaging Designs

Packaging is a critical element in making your product pop off the shelf and into the shopping cart, and what better way to do that than through innovative design? We’ve all seen creative containers before, but these 15 products take… Read more

5 Ways to Get Noticed in Your Competitive Office Environment

Share   A lot of people work in an office where everyone is vying for that next rung on the corporate ladder, whether it be a creative or technical position. But with so much competition and possibly even some backstabbing, one has… Read more