When Diane Seimetz Duncan isn’t writing strategic briefs or chasing the latest consumer trends, you can find her running after her furry little sidekicks. All of which inspired her latest entrepreneurial venture, Dogtor Doolittle, an all-natural solution designed to keep your pup’s paws and fur looking anything but ruff. If you’re wondering how this ad girl, soap maker, wife, mother and grandmother could possibly add one more thing to her ever-growing to-do list, read on. We think we uncovered all the answers!
How many pets do you have? Names and ages, please!
Three dogs – Francine Felicia, mini doxie, 18 (recently passed, but furever in our hearts); Rupert Joseph, terrorist chihuahua, 12; Snyder, Russian Toy Terrier toddler, 2 1/2. Pebbles and Bam-Bam are our 12-year-old feral cats with a hairball problem.
What motivated you to create Dogtor Doolittle, your own line of pet care products?
I’ve been an animal lover and advocate as long as I can remember (probably would have been a vet if I were smarter). With so many furkids, we were always buying a spritz for this issue or a salve for that condition. As I expanded my line of bath and body products (for humans) I started taking notice of ingredients used in commercial pet products as well. I was dismayed – and a little alarmed – at the number of toxins they contained. The experience prompted me to research safer alternatives. I quickly discovered there weren’t many that were widely available, so I began formulating my own little litter of clean-label pet pampering.
Launching a new product in the middle of a pandemic is pretty ballsy. Why now?
No time is ever the right time, at least in my life! So when opportunity knocked, I squeezed through the dog door and bounded forward. Chewy.com asked to carry all three of my products – Mane Tamer leave-in conditioner, Happy Pads organic paw balm and Poochie ‘Poo solid dog shampoo. They all contain natural, organic and Ecocert ingredients, and come in sustainable or zero-waste packaging, both of which are growing in demand. Turns out with more people spending more time at home (and on e-commerce) than ever before, they have the time for more DIY pet grooming, too. So launching Dogtor Doolittle now was probably more lucky than ballsy.
Why do you think it’s important to use chemical-free products on dogs and pets in general?
Animals have faster metabolisms and smaller lungs than we do, which means they process chemicals at a faster rate and breathe them in more rapidly. This makes it harder for them to safely eliminate toxic ingredients. Pets also have a keen sense of smell, so even a fragrance that’s “light” to us can be overwhelming to a dog or cat whose fur is embedded with it. These chemicals can also cause serious eye or skin irritation. Unfortunately, the rate of cancer and other life-threatening disease are increasing among domestic pets; industry advocates point to exposure from pesticides, home cleaning products, contaminated food and chew toys/treats embedded with PVC and phthalates as potential causes.
How did Dogtor Doolittle find its home on Chewy.com?
In October 2019, I received an email from a category analyst at Chewy asking if I would like to add my pet line to their roster. I knew from years working with retailers like Sam’s Club as well as a variety of product manufacturers how difficult it was to even get a meeting with a merchandise buyer, let alone get your product on the shelf. Every now and then, I’d receive a solicitation from a broker or rep promising to get you in front of these folks – for a very large fee. So, when I was contacted directly, I did a bit of a mental double-take, wondering if the request was for real. I decided to forge forward as if it were, and responded with an enthusiastic, “Heck yeah!”
What do starting an ad agency and launching a brand have in common?
At least for me, they both required an idea, the desire, one eye on the prize and the other looking for really good people to help. As a creative person, I’ve always known that achieving success is not a solo pursuit. I’ve been fortunate to have great partners at Launch, with complementary skill sets that make it work. In launching pet products, I benefited from the talents of an amazing graphic designer – Amy Holcomb – who created really engaging branding and helped my packaging stand out. I also received sage advice from friends in the formulating and soap-making community who’d sold their products at retail. They gave me the knowledge and confidence to keep chugging, even when I was far outside my comfort zone.
Have you started other businesses before?
Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m kind of a serial micro-preneur. I’ve knitted baby sweaters, baked cakes, trafficked in Limoges porcelain boxes. Handmade soap just seemed to be the obvious next opportunity.
What are your future plans for Dogtor Doolittle?
Still at the excitable puppy stage, I’m trying to get my arms around big e-commerce, studying category trends, testing new ingredients and formulations, and seeing what sells. I’m weirdly comfortable in the deep end of the pool, so once I have these well in hand, I’ll throw myself a great big wrench to keep myself on my toes.
Do you ever sleep?
I started thinking I might have a problem when a friend recently texted me at 3 a.m. and said, “I figured you were up…”