Have you ever had an idea for a really great product that you just knew you could make millions selling? You probably have, but chances are a quick internet search showed you that the product you thought you invented had actually already been created by someone else. The key to being successful with a product is creating something that no one even realizes that they need yet – like sunglasses for their dog.
Just like us, dogs need protective eyewear, and Roni Di Lullo realized that nearly 20 years ago. The entrepreneur used to work as a software programmer for PC giant Hewlett-Packard. She would get home after work and take her border collie, Midknight, to the local park for a round of his favorite game – Frisbee.
Di Lullo always her sunglasses, as the sun was starting to set by that time and would often shine right in her eyes. One day, when Midknight missed a Frisbee catch she realized that her dog may need protection from the sun’s strong rays too. She spent the next few months trying to adapt traditional sunglasses, swim goggles and even ski dogs to fit her dog.
The fit was never just right. She realized that if she wanted Midknight to have his own pair of shades, she was going to have to create them herself. She created her original design for Doggles in a CAD program, invested $25,000 into the startup and began manufacturing and selling the sunglasses for dogs. The project originally started out as more of a hobby than a business venture.
Di Lullo had just become a new mother and was in the midst of a leave of absence from work. It seemed like the perfect time to launch her new idea. She enjoyed designing the product and selling them to dog parents, but she quickly figured out that there really was a large market for Doggles. It wasn’t really until 2002 that the company took off.
That’s when CNN did a story on the doggy sunglasses. After that, Di Lullo decided that she was going to cold call the toll-free number for PetSmart. What’s the worst that could happen?
She inquired about submitting a product and was given an address. She mailed the company a pair of Doggles and received a written response a few weeks later. She was shocked at what she read – PetSmart wanted to take the product into all of their stores.
She had been putting the finished sunglasses together herself by hand, but now the hunt was on for a manufacturer, and Di Lullo needed to find on FAST! She started calling around and found a manufacturer in Taiwan who could produce Doggles for her, and the rest is history. Di Lullo made $100,000 selling her product in the first year, and last year the company raked in over $3 million.
Doggles are a combination of goggles and sunglasses that are specifically made to fit a dog’s unique face. They provide UV protection for your pet’s eyes. The doggy sunglasses are shatterproof and flexible, so your dog cannot easily break them. They have holes in the sides to keep the lenses from fogging up.
Di Lullo says that Doggles are very popular with police K-9s and military dogs. Many dog owners purchase them for pets that enjoy sticking their head out the car window, and they are also popular with motorcyclists who bring their dog along with them in a sidecar. Who knew there was such a huge market for canine sunglasses?