Happy Friday readers! I hope your week was as productive as mine. Did you get a chance to read last week's column Should Your Dog Eat People Food? This week I got the opportunity to change gears and have a question and answer session with Manuel and Maria from LASSO. Their company creates unique and original, high-quality rope accessories for your pet.
As you can see from the photos, these aren't your average collars, leashes, or harnesses. These beautiful handcrafted canine accessories speak for themselves. They are unlike anything else on pet store shelves and I just had to know where the idea came from, how they started their company, and what it is like to own your own pet business.
Can you give us a little background on yourself and how you came up with the idea for LASSO?
We are Manuel and Maria, brother & sister from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Having grown up near the ocean, we have always loved everything related to it, and rope-works plays a big part in our lifestyle. Rope decorations, such as plant & fruit hangers, mobile sculptures and jewelry, have always been present in our home. Naturally, it was just a matter of time before we extended our love of this craft to our pets.
Maria: The first Lasso collar was made out of a spare piece of rope that I couldn’t use for regular decorations, as it was too short and thick. My sister had recently rescued her first dog, Gaia, at the beach a few months back, and I just thought that a rope collar would look beautiful on her. So I proceeded to cut an “O” ring from an old purse of mine and spliced the spare piece of rope to it. I whipped some knots at the ends and that was our first Lasso. I then made another one for my brother’s dog, Kyra. Not only did he love it, he managed to make improvements. When some of our friends started asking for collars for their own dogs, my brother and I immediately saw an opportunity. Alas, the idea of making a business out of it started to take form and through trial and error Lasso was born.
What drew you to the pet industry?
We entered the pet industry by accident really. We have always loved dogs and each of us have rescued one. Yet, we never thought of the pet industry as a professional opportunity until we started creating Lasso.
How did the business start, and how has it grown?
We started locally, with friends and family members being our first clients and product-testers. From there, we opened our first shop on Etsy at the end of 2013. Because we had very little competition at the time, we quickly began getting followers & admirers who turned into clients. Around that time we also began a social media account on Instagram and quickly got a following that also turned into clients and who have, to this day, been our most loyal customers. We created our own website in 2014 and the growth has continued to be amazing. It’s an experience from which we have learned a lot and from which we keep learning day by day.
LASSO manufacturers dog products. What important qualities do your products have that make them stand out from your competition?
Uniqueness. Apart from our regular style collars and leashes, all of our other models, such as the Cruiser, Galley or Skipper, are unique LASSO designs and creations. On top of that, they are all completely color customizable with over 1,500 possible color combinations. We don’t have products in stock as they are all handmade with great attention to detail and functionality in order to meet each of our customer’s demands. We use high quality soft cotton rope as well as high quality recycled rope for our products. Unlike traditional materials used for commercial dog accessories, our ropes have the benefit of being lightweight, flexible, and soft on the hands and coat, ultra-resistant, 100% ecological, biodegradable and recyclable. Not only this, but for the fittings we use solid brass, which has very resistant qualities and anti corrosive properties. This makes it ideal for our long-lasting products. Since every item is handmade, we pay close attention to details in order to make sure every step meets our quality standards.
What was the biggest challenge in starting your own business? What about the biggest reward?
Maria: For me, the biggest challenge was trying to balance what I had going on at the time in my life while trying to start a business on the side. I always dreamt of having something of my own. I guess it’s the entrepreneurial spirit that runs in the family, but never did I imagine how hard it could be at times. Being an employer is tough, but sacrifice doesn’t come without reward and Lasso has brought me to that place I always dreamt of being at.
Manuel: For me, the biggest challenge was finding the time a new business demands from you while maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. At the time when we started, I was about to have my firstborn with my beautiful girlfriend and also really important part of the Lasso team, Gabriela. I had a full time job as well, which meant me and Mari were scrambling for spare time to keep up with the growing demands from Lasso.
The biggest reward for me is the satisfaction of doing something I love everyday and being able to do so with my loved ones by my side. I have not missed a single minute of my son’s life; he has his own space in Lasso headquarters.
LASSO has a number of employees. What is the greatest challenge in being “the boss”?
The greatest challenge of being “the boss” would have to be keeping the motivation going with the team, getting them to want to show up and be part of the company while maintaining an enjoyable environment.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them? (either as an entrepreneur or as the LASSO company?)
I wouldn’t say we have had failures as Lasso because every situation we’ve been through as a company has led us to a better place. As entrepreneurs we have learned that there is no definite guide on how to build a business. The basics are there, but you have to challenge yourself by being creative and shaping them to apply to your own style and values.
We know business owners wear many hats. What does a typical day look like for you? What are some of the many jobs that you do and how do you balance everything?
Maria: If I were to have answered this question a year ago the answer would have been something like: wake up at 6 am and not stop till I went to sleep at 12 am cranky because that non-stop pace included the job that paid the bills plus Lasso in between. Now that the company is more established I have been able to quit my previous job and focus entirely on Lasso. We now have an office, which we call Lasso HQ, where we work everything. Having a common work space compared to working at our different apartments allows our efforts to flow smoother. Because we don’t believe in the work-till-you-break philosophy, we managed to organize our schedules so that we would have enough time for our personal hobbies and activities. These are gardening, surfing, freediving and taking occasional road trips around the island.
Manuel: At present a typical day for me would be:
Mateo (my toddler son) wakes me up between 5-6 am for his morning bottle. I take him to our room and leave him in bed with his mom. Then, depending on the weather and after a great effort not to go back to bed, I go for a run, swim or if there’s waves, a morning surf-session. Then comes the morning chaos – getting ready, breakfast, and finally out the door (Gabi, Mateo, Kyra and Me) to LASSO HQ.
There I answer emails, check the new orders, finish making orders, take product photos, edit photos, brainstorm new ideas… Make sure LASSO runs swiftly!
Then we all go back home early, sometimes even stopping at the beach for a while.
Do you have any plans to expand your product lines or your company in the near future?
Our plans for the future most definitely include expanding our product line and offering our customers new designs every now and then. We also hope to soon be able to tap into the digital market with some cool ideas for our customers as well.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own pet business?
Maria: My advice to them would be to always remember that not all pet-owners are alike, making it a tricky market to target. Keeping your company values in line with your own values will help you to get a better understanding of your customers’ needs and desires.
Manuel: My advice, as they say, is “walk the walk”. If you’re going to get into the pet business you better have a pet. We would have never started LASSO if we weren’t dog lovers/owners ourselves. We honestly started because of our pups and mostly everything we do is inspired by them.
Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know about you, your business, the pet industry, or dogs in general?
Our business is founded on family values and a lifestyle we’ve had since we were kids and would never change. You will find in our brand honesty, hard work and good will. We don’t just want to sell, we want to promote these values and a healthy lifestyle involving you and your furry friends.
LASSO manufactures original, unique, handcrafted and high quality rope accessories for pets. You can check out all the products that this brother and sister team offer on their website. If you're looking for a high quality accessory for your dog and you enjoy the unique look and styling of LASSO products, I would highly encourage you to check them out! Manuel and Maria sent me a leash/collar combo to try with my boxer Chloe and I love it! I'll be posting a review of the product in the coming days, so be sure to stay tuned to Top Dog Tips.