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Going to the Dogs

Online seller fills a need for custom pet clothing by starting at home.

Dogs take center stage at Shelly Coby’s Web store, PupRwear, a fun boutique for custom and designer doggie duds and accessories.

There, dog lovers will find everything they’ll need to pamper their four-legged friends from pink harnesses embellished with flowers and studs, to doggy bridal dresses and tuxedos, to dog carriers, to playful dog bowls and toys, to bedding, and everything in between.

Coby searches for high-quality, new, popular and unusual items for pampered pups every day.

“We strive to bring [customers] the latest, fabulous doggy must-haves, wholly unique and not found in most pet store chains,” she says. “There are so many fabulous doggie designers, and I’m always searching for more.”

The store not only carries popular items for lap dogs, but also for larger dogs, and offers personalized customer service, she continues.

“We are currently gearing up for Halloween, and have a huge selection of costumes,” she adds.

‘Two burritos’ inspire store

It all started with two pugs in October of 2004. Coby’s pups, Ralph and Oprah, needed coats to cope with the cold New Mexico winters. However, it was hard to find clothing that fit Coby’s little critters. She bought the coats she found, but they weren’t a good look for the pooches.

“My poor pugs looked like two burritos!” she recalls.

To fix the wardrobe malfunction, Coby dusted off her sewing machine and got to work. She made her own pattern—dog patterns weren’t easily accessible in those days, either, she says—and voila, she had coats that fit.

They were also “comfortable and in fashion,” she adds. “I enjoyed my newfound hobby so much that I began making custom coats for all sizes of dogs.”

Coby thought all dogs should have items that fit, whether they weighed 1 pound or 150, and whether the dogs were long and lean, or short and plump, she continues.
Ralph & Oprah, PupRwear.com

She began selling custom coats, harnesses and dresses at area craft fairs and pet stores. Later, she expanded to bigger events because dog lovers couldn’t get enough of her products.

“I was asked frequently if I had an online store,” Coby recalls. “I finally bit the bullet and went online in March 2009.”

A trendy shop with a fun spirit

Visitors to PupRwear will notice Coby not only provides them with a variety of items—more than 5,700—she also gives them detailed information about the products and how to choose the right one for their canine companions. For instance, on her Sleepy Time page, Coby tells customers what to consider when choosing a bed for their furry friends.

She tells them they need to consider their pup’s size, the position he or she sleeps in, how much they shed and, of course, décor.

Shoppers will also notice Coby’s love of animals right away—and her playful take on online selling. Just take a look at the Chihuahua donning a pink Mohawk and an edgy collar that serves as the icon for shoppers who want to use the store’s live chat feature.

K-9 connection

Coby’s love of animals started at an early age. She remembers having a kitten as a child, dressing her in doll clothes and pushing her around in a doll buggy.

“I’m not sure how cooperative she was. I remember my father telling stories about my poor kitten,” Coby notes. Her parents also raised dachshunds as show dogs, so she was used to having puppies around, early on.

One year, her father bought her mother a miniature poodle. Coby was about 9 then, she says.

“I quickly bonded for life, and she became my dog,” she notes. “I think that is when I felt more of a personal connection with dogs, as opposed to cats.”

“I truly believe that if you do what you love, you will never work again!”

Words ‘woof’ noting

Sales have tripled on PupRwear in the last year, Coby adds, and several customers have complimented her site, saying it is the best dog shop online. But there are challenges to selling online, like credit card fraud.

“Although it isn’t strictly an online issue, credit card fraud is an issue that I have to watch for with every order,” Coby continues. “Also, every online store has the issues of the customers not being able to try on or touch an item prior to purchasing.”

Because of this, the store owner makes every effort to describe products as best she can and is available via phone or email if shoppers need sizing assistance, or have questions. “Every designer has their own sizing,” she explains. “A size small with one designer can be a medium or large for another.”

Coby also puts size charts next to items that need them.

The online selling misconception

We asked Coby to share some of what she’s learned throughout her years of selling online. The first thing she mentioned was the “misconception about starting an online store.”

“I’ve seen infomercials that insinuate that it’s so easy to start an online store, claiming that for just a few hours a week, you will be making thousands of dollars in a month or two! That’s not my experience at all,” she says. “I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but there is so much competition now for any type of product, both online and with big-box and discount stores. Big-box and discount stores can purchase some items in such large quantities and sell for less than wholesale, so check that out first, and [keep in mind that] just because they don’t have [certain items] right now, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future!”

She suggests sellers do a lot of research to see how many online stores carry the products they want to offer and how much they charge.

“Check Amazon and eBay for their pricing of the same products,” Coby continues. “Take a search engine optimization course. Plan on spending a lot of hours in the first stages of starting your website. It is likely that you will not be receiving many orders for at least the first six to eight months, or longer.”

But, in the end, the hard work will be worth it, she says. It has been for her. Sure, Coby works long hours, but the time flies by.

“I truly believe that if you do what you love, you will never work again!” she says.

Visit PupRwear.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Debbie

    I like your site, however even your 6x size is only meant for a Medium size dog. Those of us with LARGE dogs like Dalmations or Dobermans, large but slender dogs, would like to be in fashion also. I have not yet found a site that accomadates the TRUE Large dog, but most state that they do, those people own little dogs obviously. So would ours be considered MONSTER Dogs?



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