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Dogs require ample time for fun, just like us Earthlings. All they ask for is love and the occasional belly rub. If you think about it for a second, that’s not a lot to ask. It’s acknowledged that dogs are the most loyal creatures on earth. Once a dog is in your life, it’s in your life forever. Kinfolk writer Elise Yetton said it best, “The bond between dog and human brings value and meaning to our lives in an unexplainable, innate way.”
Just like us folks, Michelle Moy and Billy Shih, the founders of Up Dog Toys, have a profound love for these lifelong companions. The couple, currently living in Seattle, are working on their brand new Kickstarter campaign called The Odin (or as I’d liked to call it, ‘the Sudoku for dogs’). Named after their Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the 3D puzzle dog toy also works as a home décor that looks good from every angle (Take that, modern art!).
Dogs don’t care how their toys look, they just want to play. So why not make a beautiful dog toy, something that complements your home? — The Odin
And complements our home, it does. More people are embracing minimalism and it looks like the creators are, too. Its sleek, attentive and modern design will not make The Odin stick out like a sore thumb. It looks great on the cabinet, beside the stack of magazines on the coffee table and even on the bathroom counter top. Thanks to its geometric shape, the dog puzzle toy will not bounce or roll around more than it’s necessary.
The Goldilocks’ flattering remark: The Odin is just right. It’s tough enough to not be wolfed down for big dogs and it’s light enough for small dogs to play with. Maintaining the puzzle toy is trouble-free as it’s dishwasher safe, non-toxic and phthalate free.
The flaps and different-sized holes take The Odin to the next level. There are four holes to allow dog treats of various sizes to fall out. While the smaller treats come out without any difficulty, the larger treats make it harder. These treats can be easily placed inside the flaps without tumbling out. The flaps also work for another purpose: they allow dogs to lick the treats instead of rolling the toy to get treats out.
Developing The Odin was not all plain-sailing. Both Michelle and Billy had to go through several stumbling blocks before getting to where they are now. Here’s what I’ve learnt from this interview: always listen to your heart, not your mind. Find out what they were faced with in this exclusive Q&A session!
Michelle, I read that you quit your job as a Nurse Practitioner. That must have taken a lot of guts, so kudos to you for following your passion! Could you share what was that like?
It did take a lot of guts! Before I quit my job I was very unsure if it was the right decision. It was super scary because quitting my job meant giving up stability and security. Not to mention the many years of hard work I put into my education. I was also sad about missing some of the things about being a Nurse Practitioner like patient relationships and other aspects of healthcare.
Honestly, I was also terrified of the unknown of starting my own business and not knowing if it would be successful or not. It was a huge risk I was taking. It definitely took me awhile to gather the courage to quit.
However, since quitting my job, I’ve never been happier. I still work long days and probably more hours than I used to as a Nurse Practitioner, but now I get to work alongside with my dog, Odin, and follow my passion for dogs. Although I do miss many aspects of being a Nurse Practitioner, I can say that as more and more time goes by, I know I made the right choice in pursuing my dreams. It is by far one of the most rewarding experiences of my life that I will never regret.
Billy, besides working on Up Dog Toys, you’re also an app developer. I took a quick peek at Corgi Fetch on iTunes, and I’m thrilled that we have an app specially dedicated to corgis! I mean, come on, we’re all big fans of them, especially Queen Elizabeth II. Do you have any future plans for the app?
I don’t have any near term plans, but when I get some free time after this Kickstarter, I want to add more Corgi features that are related to the new iOS: like a corgi of the day in the Today view, a corgi keyboard and more! What good is new technology if it doesn’t allow us to experience our love for dogs in new ways?
The Odin is named after your Pembroke Welsh Corgi. The art of naming a dog is pretty tricky. How did you guys settle on that name?
The story is a little silly. We couldn’t pick out a name, so we decided to use trusty Google to search for a name list. We went through hundreds of names and stumbled upon Odin, said it out loud about 15-20 times and loved it. We thought it was a cute name for a little boy corgi and had a good strong sound to it. It ended up being perfect for him because he grew up being a giant-sized corgi with a huge personality in a stumpy body.
You guys spent months creating The Odin! Could you share the the challenges you faced with our readers?
There were a lot of ups and downs through the process. Neither of us had any product design experience, so it was difficult navigating our way through the steps of making a successful business and making the toy design. Some of the biggest challenges we faced were:
One, finding the right people to work with – an industrial designer to draw CADs (Computer-aided designs) for us, a graphic designer to do our branding and logo, and a manufacturer who we could trust, could produce what we needed and had good communication skills This was a lot harder than we thought! We also learned how important it is to choose wisely. People who have the same work ethic as you, vision and style is paramount to your success.
Two, figuring out the toy design – we went through four iterations of the toy until we found one that we were 100-percent happy with. This was a very long and tedious process, but was absolutely necessary to create a great design. We also prototyped using 3D printing, which is costly, so this ended up eating a lot of our budget. Luckily we made a financial plan early on and were prepared for the cost of 3D printing, which definitely minimized stress about finances.
Three, working together as a couple. This was our first time professionally working together, so as you can imagine, there was a lot of butting heads and arguing about how to go about things. We also found it difficult to separate our business and romantic relationship since overtime, everything just kind of fused together. We eventually started learning each others’ working style and started scheduling a date night once a week where we are not allowed to work or talk about business.
Now we are working together better than ever! I think the most important learning lesson for us is to remember that we are working for the same team and that both of us only want Up Dog Toys to be successful, so it doesn’t make sense for us to get mad at one another; it just isn’t constructive.
Last but not the least, how would you describe The Odin in a sentence?
The Odin is a modern modular puzzle dog toy made to engage and stimulate your dog without compromising on good design, functionality and aesthetics.
I used to have this neighbour who looked as if he never left his apartment. His reclusive behavior resembled a hermit. I always try to understand people instead of judging them, but this is an entirely different case. The thing is, he’s a dog owner. He led a torpid lifestyle that does not sit well with active dogs. I spotted his young pup a couple times when the neighbour opened his main door and it looked as it had aged considerably. Its coat has drastically changed; its peanut butter brown fur was long gone.
It’s not enough feeding them. There are nasty repercussions when dogs do not get enough playtime. Fortunately, this is where The Odin comes in. It gives dogs the physical and mental stimulation they need. It complements well with busy dog owners with too much on their plate. Of course, I’m not saying everybody should completely ignore their dogs. A dog’s well-being should not be ignored. Our furry friends still need sunlight, attention and love; but at least The Odin is able to supplement those needs.
The Odin is retailing at a pocket-friendly price: USD$25 buys you $50 worth of goods, which is good value for money. Jump over to Kickstarter to secure yourself this distinctive puzzle toy for your four-legged friend and it’ll shower affection upon you.