One of the great things about attending BlogPaws is getting to know the person behind a company. When I met Shanelle Johnson last month at the conference, we happened to be sitting at the same breakfast table. We struck up a conversation, and I didn’t know at the time that I had her company’s product sitting in one of my swag bags, compliments of the Cat Writer’s Association (CWA).
Shanelle and her husband Scott Johnson started their company Wittle LLC, with their product, Door Buddy, launching in October 2015. While they have a great and unique product, what also struck me about their company is that they are committed to giving back.
A conversation with Shanelle
What was the inspiration behind Door Buddy?
Door Buddy is really another one of those textbook “necessity is the mother of invention” stories. It all started one night in June 2014 when my nine-month-old daughter was having a party playing in the cat’s food bowl in the laundry room, when I thought she was playing with her toys behind me in the kitchen.
Even though it was the funniest thing to my husband, we knew that the party could have easily turned to tragedy because of the choking hazard. I knew I could not let it happen again, so I started searching online for something that would not only keep her out of the laundry room, but that would also let my cats in.
The only solution that we could find to solve both of these problems was a baby gate and that is what we decided to get. The baby gate did work, but not only did it cost a small fortune, it was also a pain to use since the laundry room is one of the most frequented rooms in our house. Not to mention our 28 lb Maine Coon simply refused to jump his big butt over the gate.
Needless to say, we used the gate for about a week when we decided we had to come up with an easier way. Our brains went into overdrive. Our very first homemade solution worked like a charm. We knew in our hearts that this was something that could help others in a similar predicament. So, after a year and a half of further concepting, prototyping, testing, and a lot of stressing, we introduced Door Buddy to the public.
Will you talk about the importance of giving back?
My husband and I grew up on opposite sides of the world, but we grew up with almost identical ethics and a clear understanding that the joy of giving back far outweighs receiving. We both grew up with many pets, and we both know firsthand how much excitement and happiness pets can bring to someone’s life. When we launched Wittle LLC, we knew that we wanted to make giving back a fundamental part of our company. We both believe that as small business entrepreneurs we have a responsibility to help create a better future for the children and pets of tomorrow. Because “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people [and businesses], can transform the world.”― Howard Zinn
What made you select Pet Partners?
When we set out on our search for an organization to partner with, we were looking specifically for one that is making a difference in the lives of both people and pets. We had many discussions and did a lot of research, but we finally found one that we felt was a perfect fit. The organization we selected was Pet Partners out of Bellevue, Washington.
We chose Pet Partners for numerous reasons, but the most important being the profound impact they are making in the lives of people and pets through the healing effects of the interactions between them. What makes it so special is that a lot of the animals that become Pet Partners Therapy Animals have been adopted from shelters. Some come from extremely abusive pasts, but with the love, care and instruction of amazing adopters and handlers, these animals make the most compassionate and kind therapy animals.
We love reading the Pet Partners stories, like the story of the dog Charlie that visits Gwen and brings her happiness and distraction from her day-to-day life in hospice each Tuesday; and the story of Buddy the therapy dog that loves to listen to the children read to him at the local elementary school. These are just two of the thousands of therapy dogs, cats, horses and even llamas that are bringing comfort and joy to children in the hospital, veterans with PTSD, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, people with disabilities, along with so many more.
The impact that these amazing animals and their handlers are making with the help of Pet Partners is truly spectacular. We are so happy to be able to give back to Pet Partners by donating $1 for every Door Buddy sold on our website.
I hear you have a rescued cat!
Yes, our sweet Coco is a Lynx Point Siamese. About two months after Scott and I got married, we just felt like our house was not a home yet, so we decided to make a trip to the Shelby County Humane Society. As we were looking through the shelter, it seemed like all of the cats were trying to grab our attention except for Coco, who was tucked away in the back corner. She just looked fearful and was literally shaking. When we finally got her attention and she looked at us with those beautiful blue eyes, we knew she was the one. We don’t know all of the details of her pre-adoption life, but we don’t think it was very happy and loving, as it took her months to really settle down. But, she finally came around. She is such an amazing, kind and loving cat and she is wonderful with our little girls.
Anything else we should know about your company?
We launched Door Buddy in October 2015 and it certainly has been an amazing journey. Scott and I both love working together as a team and it has been exciting to see our relationship grow through this process as well.
One thing that we both felt very strongly about since the beginning was the fact that we wanted to produce Door Buddy right here in the USA. So many companies outsource abroad to reduce costs, but we have chosen to keep the production and assembly local so we can have a greater impact on the community around us. We have already started adding team members to help on the production side of things as well. Even though we are a small family owned company right now, we have big dreams and ambitions.
We are very excited and passionate about giving back and creating a better future for the children and pets of tomorrow. Our little company slogan says it best… we are “A Wittle Company on a Big Mission.” …LOL…
Will you share a fun fact with us?
A fun fact is that Scott and I are both Southern. He is a Southern boy from Alabama and I am from the Southern Hemisphere. I grew up in South Africa and came to the USA on a golf scholarship after high school. Scott and I met in our sophomore year in college, and as they say, the rest is history. Oh yeah, and he is very proud that he beat me at a game of golf one time.
It’s Giveaway Time!
Shanelle and Scott have kindly allowed us to give away a Door Buddy to one lucky reader! U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited. If you are an international entrant, you can choose a U.S. friend or rescue/shelter to have the item sent to. The giveaway closes on July 28, 2016 at noon Pacific.
If you’re unable to click above, please click here to enter the giveaway.
Disclosure: Although Shanelle and Scott did not provide us with their product directly, we did receive Door Buddy for free from CWA. We only share information we feel would be relevant to readers.
Have you ever needed something like Door Buddy to keep babies or dogs out of your cat’s area?