After one too many times standing in the pouring rain holding one end of a leash while his dog lifted his leg at the other end, Tobi Skovron thought to himself, “there has to be a better way.”
There is, and Skovron invented it.
That soggy day became the inspiration for the Australian native’s Pet Loo— what he refers to as a “backyard in a box,” that is especially handy for pet owners who live in apartments, condos and other grass-free properties.
It looks like a patch of grass in a box; the lawn-like substance contains the pet waste, which drains into a detachable tray.
The product was launched in 2006 on the Australian hit TV show “The Inventors,” when Skovron was just 23. It slowly caught on, and over the past year, Skovron says, sales revenues have increased 53 percent worldwide.
Skovron talks about how Pet Loo got its start, why it has thrived, and where he plans on taking his company, Pup-Pee Solutions, from here.
Where did the idea come from?
Pure need. I was walking our little puppy at an inconvenient time, and my wife, Simone, and I figured there needed to be a better way. Simone said, “Tobi, all we need is a patch of backyard on our balcony." That was my eureka moment. I just went about creating the Pet Loo from there.
Where did the funding first come from?
I borrowed $20,000 from my family to get some patents registered and some prototypes done. I was working out of my apartment answering email, taking orders and running the business on my own. I worked two [other] jobs and took no salary from the company for two years. I just plowed as much as I could back in until [I had earned enough] to go out and hire the right people to help me grow the company.
I’m strong in sales, but accounting is not what I am great in doing. I know my strengths. My knowledge was raw and I needed to bring in people who have done it before.
Who was your first customer?
A bunch of local retailers in Australia. [After] we gained exposure on “The Inventors,” we were in 12 countries within the first year of business.
Realizing the U.S. market has 170 million cats and dogs, I lugged my first Pet Loo prototype around the streets of New York City back in 2008 because I knew we needed to make our product the leader in the U.S. market. I was this Australian kid with big eyes and a dream and nothing was going to get in my way.
When did you know the company would be a success?
We won Australian Pet Product of the year, and started to get thousands of orders from then on.
I'm positioning my brand and company to be one of the most innovative and trusted brands in the pet industry. I have relationships with all the key distributors and retailers in my sector and a lot of intellectual property to protect my ideas. Today we sell 84 countries and have several thousand retailers selling our products. We're hoping to have the Pet Loo in 150 countries by the end of 2012.
Follow Jessica Naziri on Twitter @ jessicanaziri