As the 12th/Pike dog bar doesn’t exist yet, the entrepreneurial ideas behind Capitol Hill resident Michelle Moy’s start-up Up Dog Toys sprung, instead, from a talk with the Broadway Farmers Market mushroom salesman.
In the last few weeks, the 28-year-old Moy began the first steps on her entrepreneurial dog walk by launching a Kickstarter campaign to formally begin the company and bring her uniquely designed toys to dog lovers everywhere. The first brainchild of the operation is The Odin, a 3-D printed puzzle toy that is meant to be both modular and stylish.
The toy, named after Moy’s Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a sleek, geometrically planed ball that allows all different sizes of treats to fit inside, necessitating the dog plays with it before the treat comes loose for the hungry pooch. Moy said she loved puzzle toys like this for Odin, who can be a bit rambunctious at times. She said it kept him busy and rewarded him for his work.
The toy also connects with others like it and Moy hopes to expand Up Dog Toys’ selection.
“We wanted something that was going to be versatile,” she said. “We wanted something that changed with the dogs needs as they grow — something that basically hits the human’s needs and the dog’s needs.”
Moy is looking to raise $25,000 from the campaign. If the campaign succeeds, $9,000 will go towards tooling costs, $10,000 to manufacturing and the other $6,000 covers packing supplies, storage and shipping the toy.
While it didn’t have much to do with dogs, Moys said a conversation with the owner of the mushroom stand at the Broadway Farmers Market in 2012, was integral to her decision to start a company. Moy can’t remember his name, but she does remember listening intently as he discussed his passion for his work and the joy he finds each day in it.
“He exuded ‘I love what I do and I’m going to tell you about it,’” Moy said. “I realized that I want to be like him. I walked away a totally different person.”
Moy says the Odin project was also inspired by difficulties she and her boyfriend, Up Dog Toys co-founder and technical advisor Billy Shih, found with buying a toy that had everything they wanted for the friendly Corgi. Whether it was brittle plastic or poor design, Moy believed she could offer something better for her dog and others who experienced the same difficulties.
“I don’t remember when it happened, exactly,” she said. “I just remember thinking, ‘Man, it would be great to make a dog toy for Odin.’”
Moy finished grad school at Seattle University, and then began a job as a nurse practitioner. Though she spent three years in different parts of the medical field, the work did not exactly fulfill her.
“I liked what I did,” Moy said. “I just felt like I was kind of wasting my time not waking up loving what I’m doing.”
After the farmers market conversation, she began to piece together what she wanted to accomplish and a plan to put that plan into action. She quit her job earlier this year and says she has worked to see Up Dog Toys off to a successful beginning.
Building the prototype and launching the Kickstarter campaign has come about as a local process. Odin regularly plays on the lawn at Seattle University and at various nearby dog parks. It helps Moy spread the word and have conversations with other dog owners about what they would want in a toy.
Should the Kickstarter succeed, Moy said she’s ready to help Up Dog Toys continue to grow.
“The vision that I have, the next step, would be to make different sized toys and creating more toys that latch on,” Moy said about the future of Up Dog Toys. “Whether it has a squeaker in it, a for way latch or a different size, I definitely want to add different shapes.”
Moy said the name Up Dog Toys comes from a yoga pose, which she began practicing in her previous profession.
“As a nurse practitioner, I was super stressed all the time and after I started doing yoga regularly, it helped me understand myself better,” she said. “I like using the name up dog because it has the word dog in it, but it’s also a foundational pose.”
She recognizes the current campaign is also the foundation for Up Dog Toys, and she says she’s ready to build upon it.