Carrie, thank you for participating our interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Carrie Ushiba, mom and creator of PawdPet, a new tech accessory for kids. My background is in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage Family Child Counseling and worked as a Social Worker for Los Angeles County Department of Children Family Services for many years. My career shifted when I got married and moved to Monterey Peninsula and started working for HSBC in Human Resources. My career has taken me from social work to corporate and I’m now pursuing my dream of becoming an entrepreneur mom!
How did the idea for PawdPet come about?
The inspiration for our product began when we were on a long fight with our daughters and we wanted the trip to be smooth and peaceful. We had loaded a movie for them to watch, but after a while, they got tired of holding it in a good position and became frustrated as young children often do. So then I held it steady for them. But after awhile, I found it tiring and uncomfortable. My daughter has a favorite stuffed animal, her “bun bun” bunny rabbit. I thought, hmmm, maybe that’ll help. Sure enough, bun bun saved the day. We propped the phone onto bun bun’s belly and he held it in a good position and voila, success! The girls were happy and still for the rest of the trip.
I hand-made a version for my children to use, and wherever we went, people would say, “that’s cool… and that’s a brilliant idea” That’s when we thought, “why isn’t there something like this on the market?” – a cuddly stuffed animal that children would love and that could hold, carry, and protect their iPhone, iPod, or tablet. At that point, PawdPet was born!
And how long was the process from the original idea to the release of the first PawdPet?
We kicked it into high gear two years ago after a full year of due diligence of product research and patent process. We launched our product in October 2015 at the Gearapalooza event in San Francisco with The Bump Club and Beyond hosted by Jaime Grayson aka The BabyGuyNYC.
Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?
We hired an industrial design firm in Oakland to help with our branding and design.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?
The biggest challenge was communication with factories overseas. We were dealing with multiple factories to make our PawdPet so communication was critical to ensure all the parts came together to create one complete product. We had manufacturing set-backs due to lack of communication and misunderstanding. Today, we have an established relationship with our multiple factories and communication has improved since the beginning. After initial set-backs, we decided to partner up with a company that assists with on-site quality checks and direct communication with factories to ensure improved communication and manufacturing processes.
Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?
Prior to development, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to support manufacturing cost. We successfully raised more than $30k – thanks to our family, friends and new PawdPet fans. It was through our successful Kickstarter campaign that led us to where we are today. We are very grateful for the ongoing support and love from our dear family, friends and PawdPet fans all around!
What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more PawdPets?
We will continue to promote PawdPet to increase sales. We are currently working on generation 2.0 of new design and fun animals. Due to customer’s request, we have started manufacturing a 2-pack of steel plates for additional devices. We will continue to listen to our customers as we strive to grow and expand our product line.
What sort of feedback has PawdPet been receiving so far?
Because it’s a brand new product and there’s nothing like this out on the market today, at first glance, people think it’s just a stuffed animal. However, once they realize it’s more than just a stuffed animal, it’s multi-functional, they are intrigued! Kids love the cuteness of it and parents love the practical and multi-functionalities of PawdPet!
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone considering creating their own app?
I’m a firm believer in – “You don’t know until you try!” Everything starts with an idea… don’t think too hard about what IF’s… just GO FOR IT! You don’t want to live wondering or thinking about it – give it a shot and see how far you go. The most amazing journey is all about the process, not the end result.
Thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing a bit about your company. We really appreciated the chance to get to know you!
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Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.