Whether they are Canes, Seminoles or Gators, college sports fans know how to show their school spirit. And one South Florida company is betting that they will want to deck out their dogs in team colors, too.
Dog-E-Glow makes and sells dog collars and leashes that light up with LED technology. The pet-products company recently unleashed the newest additions to its rapidly growing college line, which sports the colors and logos of about 50 universities. Company executives Brandon Bal and Greg Brauser signed an exclusive agreement with The Collegiate Licensing Company in late 2011, and most recently have added the University of Michigan, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Georgia to the line.
Bal, who co-founded the Fort Lauderdale company with Brauser in late 2010, said a licensing strategy had been a goal for Dog-E-Glow from the start.
“It was always an idea in the back of our minds,” he said. “It was something we wanted to do, but we wanted to improve the product a little bit first with the generic designs before pursuing college licensing.”
The company’s collars and leashes also come in about a dozen other stylish designs — from hearts and peace signs to plaid and skulls. The addition of the collegiate line to Dog-E-Glow’s original LED styles has attracted thousands of new customers — especially fans of the University of Florida, University of Michigan and University of Texas, which are the company’s top-selling sets. Collars and leashes typically cost $25.99 and $29.99, respectively, and are sold on dogeglow.com as well as in more than 400 stores nationwide, including All Canes in Coral Gables, Moon Doggies in Oakland Park and Crazy Harry’s in Coral Springs.
“I think this was such a great idea,” said Nicole Helsper, who has been a Dog-E-Glow customer for almost a year. “There are so many people who go crazy for the colleges. They are fans like my husband, and along with people wearing jerseys of colleges, you can also get your dog in the spirit of tailgating with all their college designs.”
The company’s revenue has rocketed since sales started in the spring of 2011. Dog-E-Glow’s anticipated 2012 revenue is $2 million, up from $500,000 in 2011, the company said. It is going after a small niche in a giant market: Pet industry expenditures nationwide reached nearly $51 billion last year, according to the American Pet Products Association. There are more than 78 million pet dogs in the U.S. alone, according to the APPA’s most recent survey.
In developing the products, Bal and Brauser focused on style, functionality and durability. Although the collars and leashes aren’t waterproof, they are weather-resistant and don’t pose a safety hazard if chewed on, the company said. The lights in the collars and leashes can be set to a steady glow or flash mode, and are visible up to 1,000 feet away in the dark. The products also feature a 100,000-hour LED life as well as 150-hour replaceable battery life.
“I like Dog-E-Glow, not only because it’s aesthetically pleasing, but it’s also a product that is safe for my dog,” said Andrea Simon, who bought several products from Dog-E-Glow for her toy poodle. “Being a driver, it’s hard to see people walking their dogs at night and these collars are a good solution.”
Bal and Brauser first thought of starting Dog-E-Glow after founding Direct Source China – a company headquartered in Shanghai, China, which aims to be a trusted manufacturing source for U.S. businesses – in 2008.
“After about two years of working with many U.S. companies who have their own products, Brandon and I decided we wanted to bring a product that was innovative to market ourselves,” Brauser said. “We were doing it for so many people that we were intrigued. We knew how to manufacture and do all the hard work in China, but we wanted to do it for our own product, where you would control the full production and then distribution.”
The next step was finding a product. The idea for the collars and leashes came to the duo during a factory visit in southern China in 2010. Bal and Brauser — who own a Husky named Topanga and a white German shepherd named Samson, respectively — noticed a big, bulky LED collar on the wall of one of the factories and were told that although it was created four years earlier, it was never profitable.
“So that night, we thought to ourselves, ‘Why didn’t this sell?’ ” Brauser said. “We quickly realized, it didn’t sell because it wasn’t cool. It wasn’t fashionable and it was just big and bulky.”
They spent the next six months developing a new design with their Chinese sourcing team, changing the structure of the collar. Once a simple, generic design was ready, they set up Dog-E-Glow in the United States.
Bal and Brauser sent samples to 400 stores across the country, including pet shops, college campus stores and the Burlington Coat Factory. Just one month later, 80 percent of the stores placed orders, Brauser said.
“Right then, we knew we were on to something,” Brauser said. “We decided to pursue licensing next. We were a new company and we wanted to grow. We know how much people love their schools and their teams, so we immediately went after the CLC licensing.”
In addition to its agreement with the CLC, the company has also acquired licensing agreements with Disney, Live Nation and Marvel. Bal and Brauser plan on releasing those logo designs next year. They will also add up to 50 more logo designs in the collegiate line for other top NCAA Division I universities and 10 additional design sets in the fashion line next year. Moreover, Bal and Brauser are working on agreements with professional sports leagues as well as a harness line for smaller dogs.
“I have never seen another collar and leash set like Dog-E-Glow’s that has the really nice LED design and the college logos like the one for FSU,” Helsper said.
“There are others with college logos on them or others with lights, but none that combine them both and are as nice as Dog-E-Glow’s.”