Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Steve Ryan, Co-Founder of Fetch the Sun, located in San Diego, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Fetch the Sun is a lifestyle brand for dogs and humans who love adventure. We design, produce, and market apparel with designs that incorporate elements of outdoor activities that can be easily shared with our four-legged best buddies.
It makes sense that our furry friends have a wardrobe just as cool as ours, so everything we make, from shirts to hoodies to hats, has an option for both people and dogs. This allows dog moms and dads to match their pups.
However, if matching is not their thing, our clothes also look great on their own.
Our human clothes are designed with comfort and style in mind, making them perfect for everyday wear and a great way to show love for both dogs and outdoor adventure. Our Adventure Fetcher dog shirts are unique in that they provide a couple of different ways to dress dogs. Either slip it on like a traditional dog shirt or take it apart and snap it up along the sides without having to manipulate a dog’s legs and paws.
Tell us about yourself
The idea for Fetch the Sun came from a love of dogs and outdoor adventure. We established this brand to inspire people and encourage healthy, outdoor fun with their pups. Our philosophy is that by promoting outdoor adventures through our products, we're making dogs happier and improving the world for them.
My wife and I co-founded Fetch the Sun. We are longtime dog lovers. I am veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Aside from running Fetch the Sun, I am a proponent of veteran care. I volunteer as an adaptive surfing coach, taking fellow veterans surfing to aid in healing physical and mental wounds through surf therapy. My wife, Jennifer spent most of her professional career in the aerospace industry doing sales and customer service for a small, family-owned aircraft parts company in San Diego.
In addition to managing operations at Fetch the Sun, she is a certified dog trainer and enjoys using my positive-only training techniques to help dogs and puppies learn and grow. We view Fetch the Sun as not just another clothing label but a community of dog lovers committed to making the world a better place for our four-legged friends. And we're so grateful to have this supportive community that has helped us grow our business. We can't wait to see what the future holds for us.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Fetch the Sun has had many satisfied customers who continue to come back to shop with us, and this is a huge accomplishment for any brand. However, while we love our customers and are so delighted that they are happy with our products, I see our biggest accomplishment as the establishment and success of our animal shelter donation program.
Since our founding in 2019, we’ve been able to donate a portion of every sale made to animal rescue organizations throughout the United States and Mexico. To date, we’ve supported over a dozen of these amazing organizations, and we’re extremely proud to be able to give back to the animal care community. It’s exciting to see our business grow, as this has a direct correlation with how much we’re able to donate and therefore increases the number of animals we can help save.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Not only were we starting a brand, but we were also creating a new market. I knew that, like me, there are millions of people who love dogs and adventure. I knew that I wanted quality apparel that reflected my love of dogs and adventure. What I didn't know was if those other dog-loving adventurers shared my desire for this clothing in their wardrobes.
So really, the hardest thing about this was the lack of certainty. When you're starting something new like this, there's no definitive roadmap to follow and no guarantee of success. This can be both exhilarating and terrifying, as it requires a leap of faith into the unknown. But for those who are up for the challenge, the sense of satisfaction that comes from building something from scratch and seeing it thrive is unlike anything else.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Any budding entrepreneur can hit the interwebs and find tons of articles dealing with what it takes to be successful. I've done it and still do for certain topics. However, there are three strategic principles every entrepreneur should embrace: preservation of integrity, being uncomfortably adventurous, and planning for flexibility. These principles transcend time and are germane to every industry.
- Always operate with integrity. This means being honest with yourself and others, being transparent in your dealings, and keeping your word. People will remember how you made them feel, so make sure it's positive. Make it a non-negotiable part of your strategy. Don't ever compromise your integrity today to make a quick buck, as it could cost you way more down the line in terms of lost sales and a bad reputation. You are an extension of your brand, so make sure you represent what it is and what it stands for. Any time you're tempted to sacrifice your integrity, think about that deed being on the front page of your local paper. Would you feel good about it? If not, don't do it.
- Be adventurous, and don't shy away from learning new things. It sounds cliche, but really, be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. In business school, I concentrated on finance and did my best to avoid all things marketing. I had to take one advertising class to satisfy my grad school coursework, and it was painful. Even throughout my first year as a business owner, I shied away from social media and the marketing side of things because I wasn't really good at them. It was frustrating and difficult for me to understand, and the benefits seemed to be lacking. But eventually, I got better. I'm still not a whiz, but I am proud to say that I can hold my own. The axiom "do what you’re best at and delegate the rest" doesn’t always apply. If you're bootstrapping a business, you're only going to be able to delegate so much. A startup is synonymous with having to take on multiple roles, and chances are you're not going to like all of them or be naturally good at everything. However, at the end of the day, you not only have to survive all these tasks, but you also have to figure out how to do them well.
- Be flexible, but have the plan to fall back on. Mike Tyson famously said that "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." I’ve been metaphorically punched in the mouth quite a few times in this business, and having that plan was essential to moving through those obstacles. Yogi Berra said, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because you might not get there." Knowing your starting point and where you want to be in the next month, year, decade, etc., is absolutely critical. The economy is going to change your plan. Consumer tastes and trends are going to change your plan.
- Your personal needs are going to change your plan. Yes, things are going to change, but you adapt your plan as you go. When faced with these inevitable changes, it's much easier to tweak an already established strategy than to start from scratch. I planned on Fetch the Sun being a side hustle and never conceived it as a full-time venture, but guess what? I changed up my plan to include moving the goal of where I ultimately want my brand positioned in the future, and we’ve shifted efforts to reach those milestones along the way. Plans are crucial and need to be fluid.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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