New Rock Climbing Dog Toy Advice! - College student in need of some advice


Original Post
Greg Stinson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 20

Hi all,

My name is Greg Stinson. I am a University of Maryland, College Park entrepreneur that loves climbing and playing with my dog Nibblet! Being in college I found that it is very difficult to get out and climb during my school breaks as well as during the winter months. I tried hang boards and small woodies to curb my appetite to climb but found them to be more bothersome than fun. One day I was playing tug of war with my dog and the idea came to me. Why not combine climbing while playing with my best buddy? That's when I set to work on the Puppy Pull, the first interactive rock climbing dog toy..

To better explain the image: The blue part is a climbing hold made out of a strong plastic, this will be replaced with a strong dog safe rubber in the final form. The hold consists of two different sized crimps, a large pinch, and a pocket in the center! The hold is attached to a rope in order to play tug of war with your pup.

After making a few different designs and putting a couple of prototypes out with some climbing friends I found that it was actually a really fun toy! I am now in the process of trying to make this toy a reality for others. I have lined up a manufacturer for the toy and have made a facebook page with some videos and pictures for marketing, But this is were I need some advice!

1. I feel like this toy is innovative enough that I could get some climbing media coverage or climbing magazine coverage. I have looked through a couple of magazines but am struggling to find the best way to submit a pitch/ what the best magazines might be to apply to.

2. I have brought my toy to the local indoor climbing gym , Earth Treks, for a demo day for much success. I have been trying to find like climbing supply conventions to enter into but have struggled to find those that aren't like 1000$ to enter. Any ideas?

3. I wanted to reach out to some climbing gear manufactures to see if they would want to out source my design, or sell my toy through them. However I am not sure of the best way to go about doing that. Any ideas?

Thank you for your help!

Greg Stinson

Facebook Link: facebook.com/Puppypull/

Dog Toy Prototype

Earth Treks

Dog toy 3

dog toy 4

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053

Interesting idea, pet stuff is big biz, so is climbing stuff.

Your FB page will suffice as your "poor man's copyright" or "proof of concept" assuming there isn't something out there that pre-dates it. Print pages in case FB crashes or gets seized by the government or the like so you have hard copies. Same with MP

I would urge you to copyright and or design patent ASAP now that you've exposed your idea to the entire planet. This will cost money too.

Let me go "shark tank" for a second; Do you have product ready to sell? (NO) Are you currently selling this (NO) and what are your sales so far? (NONE)What does it sell for and what does it cost to make? (IDK) So what you have is an idea, not a business.

It's super (double) niche oriented and easy to copy/jimmy-rig but at the right price point people will buy it rather than make one.

Your biggest issue (IMO) is you've done your "roll-out" before having product ready.

I would say take down the FB page and delete this post until you find a manufacturer but the genie is out of the bottle.

On the plus side if someone steals it you wait for it to go viral then sue their brains out and get rich without having had to do anything but think it up.

Good luck, I hope to be able to say I knew that guy when...........JB

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Honest feedback: You can probably sell a shitload of these because people love gimmicky things and ways to bridge between two different things they love (climbing and their dogs) but it seems like a crappy training tool as a climber. Hangboard training is usually pretty static. You want to weight your fingers in a particular grip and then HANG. My 75 labrador playing tug-of-war is anything but static. I've got really strong climbing hands but she's going to just rip a toy out of my hand if I'm in a crimp or a real climbing pinch. I can also imagine there's some injury potential to getting into such a hand position and having a dog yank on it. Maybe if I had a wiener dog or a jack russell it'd be different, but I'm just not seeing it.

Greg Stinson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 20

Hi John,

Thank you for the advice! I have a design patent pending on the toy, so I am not to worried about someone stealing it. Main reason for not already producing it my self and trying to get the final product out there, is because I am a poor college student that can't afford the 5-10K mold haha. I have an external manufacturer lined up but assumed it would probably be easier/cheaper for everyone if it went through an already known climbing product manufacture. I was looking to sell it around 20$ with manufacturing costs being about a quarter of that.

Thanks,

Greg Stinson

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053
AndrewArroz wrote:Honest feedback: You can probably sell a shitload of these because people love gimmicky things and ways to bridge between two different things they love (climbing and their dogs) but it seems like a crappy training tool as a climber. Hangboard training is usually pretty static. You want to weight your fingers in a particular grip and then HANG. My 75 labrador playing tug-of-war is anything but static. I've got really strong climbing hands but she's going to just rip a toy out of my hand if I'm in a crimp or a real climbing pinch. I can also imagine there's some injury potential to getting into such a hand position and having a dog yank on it. Maybe if I had a wiener dog or a jack russell it'd be different, but I'm just not seeing it.
He's not selling actual training OR playing with the dog.....He's selling the Idea of playing with the dog somehow making you a better climber......Or training for climbing being fun.......It's like selling air........Genius, it doesn't matter if it works, what matters is people go "this is cool" and by one.

Maybe if you saw Ondra hanging one-handed from an overhang dangling a pit-bull from one of these you'd understand.

Or at least want to buy one........JB
Nick Andrasik · · Broomfield, CO · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0
AndrewArroz wrote:Honest feedback: You can probably sell a shitload of these because people love gimmicky things and ways to bridge between two different things they love (climbing and their dogs) but it seems like a crappy training tool as a climber. Hangboard training is usually pretty static. You want to weight your fingers in a particular grip and then HANG. My 75 labrador playing tug-of-war is anything but static. I've got really strong climbing hands but she's going to just rip a toy out of my hand if I'm in a crimp or a real climbing pinch. I can also imagine there's some injury potential to getting into such a hand position and having a dog yank on it. Maybe if I had a wiener dog or a jack russell it'd be different, but I'm just not seeing it.
Good points, but his market seems to be further downmarket from the climbing area. You may not buy it if you're focused on efficient training, but your mom knows you have a dog and knows you like climbing, and there you have the recipe for a great gift. That opens up a market to someone who may not reside in either segments (pet owner or climber) but could push them towards a purchase.

More market research would never be a bad idea, though.
AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

That's why I said he'd probably sell a shitload. I'm not saying it's a bad business idea. Just that it's not a great climbing training aid.

Also, given that the OP is young and apparently in college, I want to add how much I admire your drive and initiative for even trying to launch a new product. Great work.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

Three suggestions:
1 have something like a chew toy on the other end for the dog to hold on to, otherwise the rope will get shredded in no time.

2 As far as climbing manufacturers go, I would go to metolius. In my experience, they have been extremely useful in helping to point people in the right direction for this kind of stuff.

3 For the magazines, my first choice would be Rock & Ice. I would guess that Climbing has a wider audience than R&I but their content tends to be much lower quality than R&I so it may be less meaningful.

Also, this is the kind of thing that would sell like hotcakes on kickstarter so that's an option for funding. I'd buy it in a heartbeat. And I would second the above recommendation about having bigger/more incut holds for people with larger, stronger dogs.

Greg Stinson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 20
AndrewArroz wrote:That's why I said he'd probably sell a shitload. I'm not saying it's a bad business idea. Just that it's not a great climbing training aid. Also, given that the OP is young and apparently in college, I want to add how much I admire your drive and initiative for even trying to launch a new product. Great work.
Andrew, thanks for the compliment! As to the comment about it not being a good climbing tool, you are right that it entirely depends on the dog and the climber. That was the whole reasoning about the different grips. The initial feedback I got from most people was that it was difficult to hold onto. That's why I am adding a huge jug on the back of the hold for people with larger dogs that might struggle with the pinch.
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95
Greg Stinson wrote: As to the comment about it not being a good climbing tool, you are right that it entirely depends on the dog and the climber. That was the whole reasoning about the different grips. The initial feedback I got from most people was that it was difficult to hold onto. That's why I am adding a huge jug on the back of the hold for people with larger dogs that might struggle with the pinch.
Following up on Andrew's comment:
Regardless of how you design the hold, this device will never be useful or valid for proper training. An essential element in any sort of training is carefully controlled progressive loading. A dog tugging erratically on the other end of a rope is the exact opposite of carefully controlled loading. No one will be using this as a training tool to replace the hangboard, etc.

But this is OK. Your idea is awesome anyway. Even if it isn't a "training" tool, it is a great climbing-themed fun/novelty/gift item. Somewhat similar to the climbing hold mug (where the mug handle is replaced by a plastic climbing hold). No one is actually building climbing strength with such an item, but people love them anyway. It brings a reminder of climbing into everyday life, and makes for a good gift item.

The important thing is to understand what your target demographic will be, and adjust your design and marketing as such. I repeat: the core "training" crowd will not be interested in this product (except as a fun novelty). The general gym and recreational climbing crowd will be. As such, if you want the product to be as successful as possible, make sure to optimize the design to work for the "novelty" purpose. This will mean leaning toward a larger and more positive hold that your average novice climber can hold on to. There really isn't a need to have tiny "training" crimps, since, again, this isn't going to be a useful device for training.

In general, it is probably best to keep the design compact and simple. No need to have an entire hangboard's worth of holds for "training" selection. Just keep it simple with one or two holds. This will make it less complicated and it will fit more easily in a bag.

Same deal with marketing. Don't get caught up in describing the "training" uses. Make it simple and fun. Advertise in Climbing magazine, since they are more targeted toward the broader/casual climbing crowd. Lastly, there is the price-point. People will pay $60 for a proper training tool, but they won't for a silly novelty gift. Your product is the latter, so try to keep it under $30.

The good news is that the market for casual/recreational gym climbers is much bigger than the market for legitimate training tools. I bet you'll sell a ton of these.
AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

All this from JCM is great advice. Spot on. Don't spend a bunch of money on molds, manufacturing and R&D making it "right" as a hangboard replacement. It'll never be that. Instead, make it a great dog-owner toy that also happens to remind the owner of a gym climbing hold and, thus, make them happy.

In this way, frankly, it's just like how my Ruffwear leash made from a piece of climbing rope and with a locking carabiner rather than a snap clip makes me happy. It's not really a practical difference, just symbolism.

If you haven't looked at them already check out the Ruffwear Knot-a-leash and Knot-a-collar.

JCM wrote: Following up on Andrew's comment: Regardless of how you design the hold, this device will never be useful or valid for proper training. An essential element in any sort of training is carefully controlled progressive loading. A dog tugging erratically on the other end of a rope is the exact opposite of carefully controlled loading. No one will be using this as a training tool to replace the hangboard, etc. But this is OK. Your idea is awesome anyway. Even if it isn't a "training" tool, it is a great climbing-themed fun/novelty/gift item. Somewhat similar to the climbing hold mug (where the mug handle is replaced by a plastic climbing hold). No one is actually building climbing strength with such an item, but people love them anyway. It brings a reminder of climbing into everyday life, and makes for a good gift item. The important thing is to understand what your target demographic will be, and adjust your design and marketing as such. I repeat: the core "training" crowd will not be interested in this product (except as a fun novelty). The general gym and recreational climbing crowd will be. As such, if you want the product to be as successful as possible, make sure to optimize the design to work for the "novelty" purpose. This will mean leaning toward a larger and more positive hold that your average novice climber can hold on to. There really isn't a need to have tiny "training" crimps, since, again, this isn't going to be a useful device for training. In general, it is probably best to keep the design compact and simple. No need to have an entire hangboard's worth of holds for "training" selection. Just keep it simple with one or two holds. This will make it less complicated and it will fit more easily in a bag. Same deal with marketing. Don't get caught up in describing the "training" uses. Make it simple and fun. Advertise in Climbing magazine, since they are more targeted toward the broader/casual climbing crowd. Lastly, there is the price-point. People will pay $60 for a proper training tool, but they won't for a silly novelty gift. Your product is the latter, so try to keep it under $30. The good news is that the market for casual/recreational gym climbers is much bigger than the market for legitimate training tools. I bet you'll sell a ton of these.
t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60

Is there going to be a version for dry tooling?

This is essentially a metolius rock ring with a hole drilled in it and ropes threaded through, right? I feel like it'd be much easier to go buy a used hold at my gym for $3 and thread it with some accessory cord.

Advice:

1. Have a finished product before you seek media. Mail them samples. If you don't have sales/aren't viewed as viral, you'll (likely) need to offer whatever media outlet some sort of incentive. If it's going to be as big as you think, then maybe the product alone (especially exclusivity) would be enough to incentivize a magazine to pick it up, but I would expect to pay if I were you.

2. I do not have experience here. No comment.

3. Pick up the phone/email them. Even if you're just reaching customer service, if you come off as serious (and persistent), you'll eventually end up speaking to someone who can assist. Say you have a new climbing product/dog toy and are interested in licensing it to them. Ask if they have a corporate contact that you can speak to.

Also you're probably better off pursuing dog toy/dog outdoor product manufacturers.

Jason Kim · · Encinitas, CA · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 270

Cool idea Greg, hope you do well with this!

I have experience bringing a product to market. Same as you, I was a poor college student, thought of a novel idea within my hobby (not climbing), patented it, began manufacturing it out of my garage, and now it's almost 20 years later and it's my livelihood/career. So, here are some tips based on what I've gone through.

I see puppypull.com is already taken (I assume by you). Puppypulltoy.com is available, and so is puppypull.net. I would buy up a few more domain names like those. If I was a jerk, I would buy them myself right now, and then hit you up in a few years, to see if I can sell them back to you (or to your competitors). I landed a great domain name, but forgot to buy the .net version. Sorta wish I could go back in time and spend the $10 or whatever it was at the time. You don't have to host all the sites, just lock up the domains.

The kickstarter idea is a good one. You're lucky that you're starting this biz during a time when there are so many innovative, low-risk options to find seed money and support. I wouldn't worry too much about advertising just yet. If you have a good product, the advertising won't be as important as you think - the product will sell itself. I know ad/marketing people will probably disagree with me on that, but it's been my experience. Take advantage of social media, youtube, things like that (which are all free). You can generate a lot of buzz without spending a dime, and then you can allocate money to print or digital media when you actually have sales to help cover the costs. Once you have a finished, polished product, the questions about how and where to market it will become clearer. Depending on who you are selling to, they may do some or most of the marketing for you, in fact.

How you end up selling your product is HUGELY important and something you should think about now. Do you envision this becoming a product that is carried at hundreds of climbing gyms, at retail giants like REI and Amazon and Backcountry? Or do you see yourself running a website that does direct sales, or just through local climbing shops? Distribution is what kills a lot of manufacturer/inventors, I think, because if you aren't strategic about it, the pie gets carved up into so many tiny pieces that you will be left with almost nothing for yourself. I know it's early and it's probably overwhelming to think about, but picture yourself and this potential business in 5 or 10 years - what do you envision, ideally?

Do the manufacturing yourself, or at least as much of it as you reasonably can, even if that means spending time learning new skills and buying tooling, etc. The more you can do yourself, and this applies to ALL aspects of the business process, the less money you will spend paying others (and you will gain a ton of good experience, which will be useful later in life, if this fizzles out). When you start a business with a good idea, people will come out of the woodwork and will try to convince you that you NEED their help/services to succeed. Hogwash. If you're smart and you work hard, you can do almost everything yourself. Be wary of your own ego, because these people know how to feed it, but they aren't necessarily doing you any favors.

It's easy to compile a list of all the climbing gyms in the country. Do that, and talk to them on the phone. Send them samples, get the word out.

If I were you, I wouldn't bother contacting climbing gear manufacturers. Even if you find a company that is interested, which seems unlikely, this is a product that falls outside of their range of expertise and you don't need a highly qualified gear manufacturer to build dog toys. That's going to be expensive. Honestly, the product looks like the perfect kind of toy/gear that you should be able to build yourself. If you license your idea out to someone, you're selling yourself short, and you're not going to become a millionaire on such a niche product like this. If you contract the manufacturing out to an existing company, you are going to make peanuts on whatever you end up selling them for. Do it yourself.

If you keep control of the manufacturing, which seems totally feasible, you are putting yourself in a position to reap the most reward, if and when the product takes off. And if climbers don't go nuts for it, but you end up selling enough of them to turn it into a legit business, you could be profitable enough that it will be worth the effort as a side venture to pad your income, while you keep a regular job.

Message me if you have any more specific questions or want to chat more, and good luck.

Greg Stinson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 20
JCM wrote: Following up on Andrew's comment: Regardless of how you design the hold, this device will never be useful or valid for proper training. An essential element in any sort of training is carefully controlled progressive loading. A dog tugging erratically on the other end of a rope is the exact opposite of carefully controlled loading. No one will be using this as a training tool to replace the hangboard, etc. But this is OK. Your idea is awesome anyway. Even if it isn't a "training" tool, it is a great climbing-themed fun/novelty/gift item. Somewhat similar to the climbing hold mug (where the mug handle is replaced by a plastic climbing hold). No one is actually building climbing strength with such an item, but people love them anyway. It brings a reminder of climbing into everyday life, and makes for a good gift item. The important thing is to understand what your target demographic will be, and adjust your design and marketing as such. I repeat: the core "training" crowd will not be interested in this product (except as a fun novelty). The general gym and recreational climbing crowd will be. As such, if you want the product to be as successful as possible, make sure to optimize the design to work for the "novelty" purpose. This will mean leaning toward a larger and more positive hold that your average novice climber can hold on to. There really isn't a need to have tiny "training" crimps, since, again, this isn't going to be a useful device for training. In general, it is probably best to keep the design compact and simple. No need to have an entire hangboard's worth of holds for "training" selection. Just keep it simple with one or two holds. This will make it less complicated and it will fit more easily in a bag. Same deal with marketing. Don't get caught up in describing the "training" uses. Make it simple and fun. Advertise in Climbing magazine, since they are more targeted toward the broader/casual climbing crowd. Lastly, there is the price-point. People will pay $60 for a proper training tool, but they won't for a silly novelty gift. Your product is the latter, so try to keep it under $30. The good news is that the market for casual/recreational gym climbers is much bigger than the market for legitimate training tools. I bet you'll sell a ton of these.
Hey JMC thank you for your feedback! This is definitely really helpful. The point of focusing on the more general crowd vs the intense exercise group is a great point. In terms of price point I was looking for under $20 because I can't really see people spending anymore than that.
Greg Stinson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 20
t.farrell wrote:Is there going to be a version for dry tooling? This is essentially a metolius rock ring with a hole drilled in it and ropes threaded through, right? I feel like it'd be much easier to go buy a used hold at my gym for $3 and thread it with some accessory cord. Advice: 1. Have a finished product before you seek media. Mail them samples. If you don't have sales/aren't viewed as viral, you'll (likely) need to offer whatever media outlet some sort of incentive. If it's going to be as big as you think, then maybe the product alone (especially exclusivity) would be enough to incentivize a magazine to pick it up, but I would expect to pay if I were you. 2. I do not have experience here. No comment. 3. Pick up the phone/email them. Even if you're just reaching customer service, if you come off as serious (and persistent), you'll eventually end up speaking to someone who can assist. Say you have a new climbing product/dog toy and are interested in licensing it to them. Ask if they have a corporate contact that you can speak to. Also you're probably better off pursuing dog toy/dog outdoor product manufacturers.
Hi farrell,
In response to just buying a hold and making it yourself that wouldn't be a dog toy then. The blue climbing hold will be made of rubber as well so that the dog can chew on it and play with that if they don't want to play tug of war for whatever reason. I also found that dogs love to lick out penut butter from the center of the hold. I ended up reaching out to So Ill and Meticulous like others have reccomended! Both said they were not looking for products at this time, but you were right it was as easy as just calling them up. Thank you for that advice!
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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