Factory Floor: Canine Couture
FunDog Bandanas fashions custom bandanas for furry friends and worthy causes.
If necessity is the mother of invention, economic woes can become the father of entrepreneurship. At least, this was the case for the owners of FunDog Bandanas (PPAI 613422), an industry supplier that’s been producing custom pet bandanas since 2007. Amy and Tony Waara run the St. Louis Park, Minnesota, company with a team of seven two-legged staff—and a half dozen four-legged assistants.
“With the downturn in the economy in 2007, we found ourselves out of work and in need of income,” says co-founder Amy Waara. “We had both always been entrepreneurial in spirit, so we decided to start our own business.”
Through trial and error—and a lot of hard work, says Waara, they built the business slowly over time. “We bought basic equipment and started in the small spare bedroom in our home. The bandanas took off, and they were so much fun to do, we just kept at it and grew and grew.”
Waara says the FunDog team is made up of self-starters who acquired their knowledge on the job, and the owners encourage learning opportunities. “It is always fun to see how new employees will help us see the flaws in our process and assist in working out the kinks,” she says. As with many homegrown businesses, cash flow was “a huge speed bump for us,” she says. “We started with very few of our own dollars and grew the business organically, reinvesting any money we made back into the business.”
Distribution also was an initial challenge, but FunDog continued to grow over the years, building up a loyal customer base and welcoming new customers who discover them. “We also found that trade shows and professional organizations such as PPAI and others were an integral part of helping us build, grow and find new channels.”
Waara says bandanas aren’t the only item they produce, but they have always been popular and helped ensure the company’s success. “Customers typically order bandanas for walking events such as 5Ks, grand openings or unveilings, and other types of special events,” she says. “We fill an average of 200 orders per week, fluctuating by 100 orders depending on the time of year. Last year, we fulfilled over 11,000 orders.”
Read on to learn how FunDog Bandanas produces its custom bandanas for animal-loving customers.
1 Incoming fabric is ironed, cut and serged (simultaneously cut and bound together with an overlock stitch) to fit customer needs.
2 After a design is selected and fabric is pulled, a screen is burned for the design.
3 All designs are screen printed on the bottom corner of the bandana and passed through a dryer to allow the ink to dry completely.
4 An employee stacks the bandanas and checks quality to ensure the customer receives only flawless products.
About FunDog Bandanas
May 24, 2008
Amy and Tony Waara
• 1.3 million bandanas sold in nine years
• Helped thousands of animals find new homes with bandana designs that feature adoption-related sayings and are offered exclusively to animal rescue organizations
• FunDog Bandanas has grown from $48 in gross sales in its first year to $505,000 in 2016
Size of production facility
3,000 square feet
Number of employees
Seven humans, six canines
Types of equipment
A standard array of screen-printing equipment as well as a collection of serger machines that cut and stitch fabric