ZippyPaws Plays to Its Strengths
Jennifer Cao, vice president and co-founder of ZippyPaws, explains how the Chino, Calif.-based company is using its core expertise to expand into new product categories and why the manufacturer’s products can help pet retailers score big in the dog toy category.
Jennifer Cao, vice president and co-founder of ZippyPaws
Tell us about your product portfolio and latest products. What distinguishes these products from similar ones on the market?
Jennifer Cao: ZippyPaws’ mission is to create products for the modern dog and dog owner, which is why it is our priority to design toys that are trendy and have personality. With all of our products, we strive to create toys that would appeal to both the dog and the dog owner, hoping to encourage dog owners to spend more quality time interacting and bonding with their beloved pets. In addition, ZippyPaws designs and creates innovative squeakers. ZippyPaws currently has three unique squeakers: the Jiggler squeaker, the Crescent squeaker and the Cuddlerz squeaker. Each one makes noise differently, which creates more ways to play and enjoy.
As more and more dog owners see their dogs as part of the family, there is an increased demand for toys that foster emotional, social and cognitive growth. ZippyPaws offers toys that engage dogs differently. For example, ZippyPaws’ Jigglerz squeak when pressed or shaken from side to side. Dogs that love to shake their toys will love the noise! ZippyPaws also offers more durable products for pet parents who want toys that last longer, such as our Z-Stitch Grunterz, which feature mesh-lined fabric and strong, reinforced border webbing.
Plush toys fulfill dogs’ need to release energy and interact with their owners. With instincts passed down from their wild ancestors, dogs are natural hunters. Plush toys allow them to enjoy the excitement of the “chase” while giving a soft mouth-feel, which is different from the experience of playing with other toys such as rubber or latex. We also incorporate different squeakers and fabrics into plush toys, encouraging dogs to play in various ways: by squeaking, tugging, burrowing and shaking.
We’ve recently launched a line of interactive food burrows, which has been a huge hit with our customers. Playing off of the hugely popular and growing food market, we’ve designed our interactive hide-and-seek burrow toys to take a sweet and tasty twist! From brunch favorites like waffles and pancakes to the savory bucket of fried chicken, dogs will enjoy hours of fun trying to dig out the three delectable morsels from these burrows. With colorful options and a wide variety of eye-catching details, you can be sure that these will sell like, well, hotcakes!
We’re also excited to now offer a very new and different category of collars and leashes, our Legacy and Vivid designer leather collections. These high-quality collars and leashes are made with premium leather, rose-gold accents and chic ZippyPaws charms.
Another addition is our impossibly soft and very cuddly Cheeky Chumz. These four fun characters each contain squeakers that make their own unique animal sounds. We’re proud to be known as a company that continually produces new and unique toys and accessories.
ZippyPaws started out as a toy manufacturer but has now branched out. How have you applied the expertise the company built in the toy space to make quality products in other categories?
Cao: Our success in the plush toy category is largely due to our commitment to our core business. We do what we know best: designing fun, affordable toys that are made with high-quality materials. As we slowly branch out into other categories, we want to stay true to that and only release products that we know our customers will love. For example, when we launched our Legacy and Vivid leather collar and leash collections, we took the same approach as we do for our toys, which is creating products that are fun, colorful, trendy, practical and affordable.
Tell us about your design and manufacturing processes.
Cao: I approach new product designs in a variety of ways:
• Design an exclusive new squeaker, then create a toy around it;
• Find an awesome new fabric and find a creative way to use it on a new toy;
• Improve the functionality and/or design of existing products;
• And create trendy products that are great for photo props.
Throughout the design process, I always focus on the core essence of a toy—what purpose does it serve and why is it unique?
For example, I capitalized on the trend of gourmet doughnuts in the food scene with Donutz, a bestselling line of seven color toys. Doughnut-shaped plush and vinyl toys for dogs are a dime a dozen on the market, but I wanted ZippyPaws’ offering to look more realistic and be more durable. To achieve the aesthetic look, I used a layer of color felt and a wavy outer edge to mimic the irresistible glazes and embroidered multicolor “sprinkles” to give the toys more texture. For durability, I designed a mold for a crescent, or half moon, squeaker that, when doubled up, exactly fit the inside of a Donutz dog toy. This eliminated the need for stuffing. Even when one squeaker eventually wears out due to excessive love and play, there’s another one to extend the life of the toy.
As for the manufacturing process, we work with several factories in China that have more than 15 years’ experience in manufacturing pet products. I work closely with the lead seamstresses to make sure that my design drawings translate well into toys, keeping in mind toy affordability [and] ease of mass production, amongst other factors.
Tell us about some key people at your company who your pet specialty retail partners should know about.
Cao: Justin Miccuci joined ZippyPaws in 2013 as a sales representative. Since then, he has been promoted to director of operations in 2017 after proving his loyalty to the company, great business acumen and dedication to ZippyPaws’ growth. Currently, he oversees all company operations and maintains key accounts.
Mark Watkins joined ZippyPaws in early 2015 as a sales representative and has since taken over the sales department as sales manager. He is in charge of handling all customer accounts. Mark is an expert on building and maintaining good rapport with all of ZippyPaws’ customers. In addition to overseeing wholesale customers, regional reps and major distributors, Mark also travels internationally to work with ZippyPaws’ customers in the U.K., Canada and abroad.
Robert Gallegos joined ZippyPaws in early 2016 as warehouse manager, and he has revamped the warehouse storage and shipping processes to keep up with the immense growth ZippyPaws has seen in the last few years. Having a streamlined warehouse helps to lower overhead and storage costs, and allows us to quickly ship out products to our customers. In January 2018, Robert headed up ZippyPaws’ move to a new 50,000-plus-square-foot warehouse, where organization and efficiency will be key to our continued growth in the next few years.
What does the future hold for ZippyPaws?
Cao: ZippyPaws has seen immense year-over-year growth, and 2018 will be no exception. We really want to continue to build the ZippyPaws brand to reflect the modern
dog and dog owner. In 2017, we launched our Legacy and Vivid collections of leather collars and leashes. In 2018, we are launching new tough TPR toys along with new food-inspired Burrows. Our goal is to continue innovating in what we do best: squeaky plush toys, while expanding our product lines and bringing the ZippyPaws look into other categories.
Get a closer look at ZippyPaws and its products in our gallery below.