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A Wetsuit For Your Dog, Advice For Your Life

Homer the dog
Homer the dog

Friday I got to dress up my basset hound, Homer, in a new, as-yet-to-be-released, beach knapsack made especially for dogs by Body Glove.

The company, unveiled on CNBC (in my backyard) its planned line of pet products for spring of 2010: pet beach T-shirts, life preservers, aqua booties, water toys, and pup tents (literally).

Pet products and services are a $40 billion business in the U.S. which may be recession-proof, so everybody would like to dive in.

Body Glove licensee CWIC developed the "Protect the Pet" line for $150,000, and it hopes revenues in the first year will top $1 million. CWIC's Adam Ertel says if they can get the line in Costco , revenues might be closer to $4 million. Ertel has a long background in pet retail and general marketing (he once worked for The Sharper Image and has a great story to tell about the surprising success of one particular "personal massager").

But beyond the pet line, the best part of the story was meeting Bob Meistrell, the 80-year-old surfer, diver, and entrepreneur who started Body Glove with his brother Bill in 1953 (Bill died in 2006.)

Meistrell is full of stories and advice, and he has the energy of a much younger man.

Want to know how to succeed? Listen to Meistrell's story. "My father was murdered when we were kids," he mentions matter-of-factly. Their mother kept the family afloat by working her derriere off, promising the boys that if they could save a certain amount of money in the summer, she'd match it. Meistrell says he had a couple dozen jobs before the age of 16, jobs he created. "One day, I saw this old guy trying to stack firewood," he told me. He went up to the man and offered to do the job for him. "'How much do you wanna get paid?'" Meistrell says the man asked him. "I told him, 'I'll be happy with whatever you give me.'"

After he stacked all the wood, Meistrell went to collect his pay. The old man asked him again, "How much do I owe you?" "Whatever you think is right." The man gave Meistrell a nickel. "That was enough to buy a big hamburger back then, but it wasn't enough for carrying all that wood," he tells me. Still, Meistrell said, "Thank you", and headed down the porch stairs.

"Hold on," the man called out, and Meistrell turned around. "How do you feel about what I paid you?" he asked the young boy, who replied, "Well, I'll never work for you again." At that point, Meistrell says the old man handed him a $5 bill, and thus began a long and profitable relationship, as Meistrell performed a variety of jobs for the man and his wife. "They were the richest people in town," Meistrell says, "but you'd never know it." His point-which he repeated to my daughter when she wandered in-is that people can create their own jobs. Find a need and fill it, and be willing to work hard.

He also told my daughter to do whatever her parents ask her to do, and there's no point in delaying. "You'll get rewards, compliments, and praise."

I could've kissed him.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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