For the Love of Dogs: SiliDog Marries Innovation With Philanthropy
This is Bentley. He inspired founder Mickey Lickstein to start SiliDog.
Great ideas are often so simple; it’s a wonder they haven’t been done. So it goes with SiliDog, the south Florida startup bringing pet tags into the modern era.
SiliDog tags are brighter, more durable, and more customizable than traditional dog tags. Plus, every design supports a different charitable cause. They come with a lifetime warranty, given that they’ll never wear out or scratch, and best of all, they’re silent as a stalking cat. How? They’re the only tags on the market made from silicone, and we bet you’re banging your head on the wall.
It wasn’t your idea, but you can still be a part of the movement. The young company has sold about 5,000 tags in its first five months but still wants to do better. SiliDog launched a Kickstarter to raise some funds and get direct customer input on what shapes you want next and what charities you’d like to support, all while offering an improved glow-in-the-dark model at a discounted early-adopter price.
“Everything is run out of my parent’s garage,” says SiliDog’s 24-year-old founder Mikey Lickstein. “Employee numero uno is my mom. She sits up with me every single night.”
“We’re 100 percent self-funded, no help at all,” says Lockstein’s best friend and SiliDog designer Mathew Kaplan. “It’s been all organic growth, the most advertising we’ve done is a $50 bump on a Facebook post. It’s 100 percent pure word of mouth, people sharing us on Facebook, and us going out.”
It’s a business, but it’s really a labor of love, and like any great love story, there’s a touching origin.
It all started when Lickstein was a freshman at the University of Florida. He studied accounting and entrepreneurship while working at the Humane Society and fostering neglected dogs. One day, he got a call from friends on their way back north after Thanksgiving break. They’d seen a pickup truck pull over on I-75 and kick out a young mutt. The sight broke their hearts, so they called Lickstein knowing he’d give the pup a good home.
“He was beaten, abused, and cut up all over,” Lickstein says. “He was scared of me. I’d come home from school or partying, and he’d stay in the corner. He didn’t trust people.”
With a lot of love and patience, Bentley the mutt warmed up to his new friend, and soon they were cuddling up and having lots of fun. But Bentley, due to his injuries, was scratching incessantly. The noise of his tags became a nuisance, and more importantly, the info was being scratched off faster than Lickstein could afford.
“This free dog was costing me $60 in dog tags in one month,” he says. “I figured, there’s got to be a better solution.”
Lickstein found that solution while handling a silicone phone case. He contacted Kaplan out at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and together, they designed the start of the SiliDog. Lickstein’s mentors at college helped with the patent and business plan, and once he was sure nothing like SiliDog existed, it was time for beta launch.
A good round of testing saw full-scale launch at the start of 2015, and to date, SiliDog are making families happy in all 50 states and in 15 countries worldwide.
“I really had no idea what it really could be, I just wanted to help a friend,” Kaplan says. “It’s just kept growing, and it keeps getting more and more exciting. We feel like we have so much potential because we’ve grown so big with so little.”
Maybe part of that success is the warm fuzzy feeling Silifans get every time they purchase a SiliDog tag. You know your money isn’t just lining the pockets of a couple kids. SiliDog spreads the love by donating a portion of every sale to a different cause.
Pink hearts go to breast cancer research through the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Red fire hydrants support public safety organizations and help raise money for service dogs with fire departments and police. Profits from blue bone sales go toward animal welfare associations, and the classic white circles help fund Lickstein and Kaplan’s own non-profit providing special needs adults with animal therapy sessions, a cause close to both men’s hearts and families.
This is what the SiliDog tags look like.
With the Kickstarter, SiliDog unrolls a new design taking into account its customers needs and wants. They flipped the tag 90 degrees so as to lay flat. They’ve made the silicone more durable than ever, and there’s a new line of glow-in-the-dark tags so you can see your pet in any environment.
Just as much, the Kickstarter is a way for SiliDog to crowd-source ideas for new shapes, colors, and charitable efforts that the SiliDog user wants to see.
“We just want to hear back, because we’ve heard a million ideas from silly stuff like squirrel tails to basketballs,” Lickstein says. “We’ve seen people want multiple tags for their dogs, too. We’re thinking, OK, if people are going to buy them frequently, we can make seasonal tags like pumpkins, Christmas trees, and Jewish stars — make them collectible.”
There have also been offers from different collegiate groups and companies looking to get SiliDog tags in the shape of their logo, so licensing may be in the near future. For now, SiliDog is focused on closing the Kickstarter at their goal of $10,000. That would give them the chance to roll out new shapes and colors without sweating the details. They’ve raised 80 percent to date, and there’s still 10 days left. The ball’s in your court.
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