I designed what we at Shaya call “Prototype Zero” over four years ago. My Persian mother had begged me to stop carrying ugly pet carriers around LA, but I couldn’t find a practical alternative in the market. So, I took a very expensive tote bag and spent over $400 working with a cobbler to retrofit the bag for my dog (aka our Chief Testing Officer, Baby G). After a few months the straps had to be replaced because the bag wasn’t built for carrying a dog, and then a year later the mesh was pretty much gone so I replaced that too. Still there wasn’t a fashionable dog carrier in the market that was made with function and fashion in mind. The low-cost ones are clearly dog bags, and the luxury carriers are impractical for everyday use.
Fast-forward to Summer 2018 I witnessed a dog attempt to jump out of its owner’s Longchamp purse while on the subway after struggling to find support in the bag. That’s when the idea for Shaya solidified. From there it took a lot of steps before the Shaya Carrier became ready to hit the market. Here are some of them.
Step 1: Convince family to support the business.
On November 1, 2019 I sat down with my Dad and pitched him the idea. He asked a million questions (and made me promise I’d make time for dating), gave hours of advice, and then told me to get each family member’s blessing before moving forward. Four additional pitches later (mom, older lawyer sister, and two younger investor brothers) I got the green light to start the family businesses.
Step 2: Learn how to make a pet carrier.
From day one we have approached every decision by considering two questions: 1) What is best for the pet? 2) What would make life easier on a human? Before even designing the bag we determined the requirements. It needed to:
- Hold the weight of a dog
- Be comfortable for long stays
- Be airline approved & TSA compliant
- Have a pocket for pet essentials
- Have a pocket for human necessities
- Be made of durable materials (both inside and outside)
I then took two classes on pet accessories at the Fashion Institute of Technology, spoke with over 70 people in the fashion and pet space, and sent out 360 emails before finding the right manufacturer.
Step 3: Find the right partner.
After testing the waters with 4 manufacturers in Italy, we found the perfect fit. Our manufacturing team spent countless hours making tweeks to the design of our carrier, suggesting different materials, and even dealing with logistics (they must like our bags in Italy customs because they try to keep them frequently). Different members of my family and I visited the factory 3 times before launch.
It was during our first visit that we found the perfect leather. It’s scratch and water-resistant - so you don’t have to be afraid of your dog actually touching it! Our manufacturer found the inner lining that is antibacterial - so even if your furry friend has an accident you don’t have to worry about smells or germs growing on the inside.
During this visit we also picked the colors for the carrier. I had already asked around 200 pet owners what colors they would want. Surprisingly, red came up a lot and it is now my favorite colored carrier!
Step 4: Testing out the bag.
Baby G, was gracious enough to be a guinea pig for the first round of testing for each of our 5 prototypes. For each prototype we made meaningful changes. In round 2, we changed the top mesh window to make sure it was both airline compliant and wasn’t so visible unless looking down into the bag. For Prototype 4, we completely changed the handles and moved the personal pocket to increase its holding capacity.
We also asked a few New York dog friends (and three cat friends) to check out the bag and give us feedback. Honestly, these were my favorite moments because I got to connect with other pet lovers over something that’s really important to us - our best furry friends!
Step 5: Test again and launch.
We made tweeks to our luxury pet carrier up until 5 weeks before launch. Our team in Italy, my parents, and friends just kept giving feedback and I never wanted to stop thinking about what we could do better. Finally, the week of September 2nd, we decided it was as perfect as it could get and it was ready for the world of pet lovers.
Step 6: We are just getting started.
We just launched and this is truly the beginning of our story as a brand and as a family business. I could write about so many other little moments from this crazy, exciting, and challenging time but then this blog would be way too long. For anyone who wants to talk about building a brand, finding a manufacturer, or starting a family business I am always happy to chat about my experience and about Shaya. Drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a dm (@davinafarahi). I’d love to hear from you!
XOXO (and dog kisses too),