Nora Henick: Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about The Dog Agency?
Loni Edwards: The Dog Agency is the first animal celebrity management agency and we work will all kinds of celebrity animals ranging from dogs to cats to bunnies to pigs. You name it – if they’re famous on social media, we’re interested. We help with everything from media, advising, strategy, brand collaborations, to partnerships. We’re basically a partner to all of these celebrity animals – helping them grow to their full potential.
NH: When did you start The Dog Agency?
LE: The Dog Agency started at the end of last year, officially. But, it’s based on the past three years of managing Chloe (@chloetheminifrenchie) and getting deep into this animal celebrity influencer world. Meeting all of the media partners and brands that want to work with them and the other celebrity animals and their owners… so it was a long time building, but the official launch was the end of last year.
NH: How did you realize that there was a need for something like this? Obviously you were managing Chloe, but how did you realize that other people would possibly want you to manage their pets?
LE: So I realized that there was a big need for a company like The Dog Agency as a result of personally being in this space and seeing that the majority of the other celebrity animal owners kind of got into this world by accident – they got a new pet, they thought it was adorable, put it on Instagram, Facebook, and all of a sudden they amass these huge followings. They don’t know what to do, they’re not in marketing, they’re not in PR, they have a full time job so they’re not checking their animal’s emails regularly and when they are checking and they get these contracts from brands they kind of freeze up. They don’t know – should I sign this contract? They don’t have a background in law. So I was kind of unofficially doing this pre-launch of The Dog Agency because the other celebrity dog owners in New York that I had become friends with would come to me with these contracts, seeing that my background is in law, and say, “What do you think of this contract? Should I sign this? Is it fair?” So I was unofficially advising to my other friends in this space and was meeting with brands who were like “Oh my God, do you know any other animals we can work with? Chloe’s great but we want to do a bigger campaign.” So I was also unofficially connecting the dots both on the media side for publications who wanted to create content with these celebrity animals for the brands that wanted to work with them and decided that I love this world. I love cute animals and I have this experience coming from a legal background, so the whole contract side of things was very second nature to me. It was the perfect mix of what I love and what I’m good at. I saw that there was a need for it so I created The Dog Agency as a result.
NH: I love cute animals too, as you know since I love Chloe. So I know there’s a lot of mixed opinions on the idea of influencers on social media. A lot of people have come out and said that it portrays this sort of fictitious idea of life. With animals it’s obviously a lot different. Everyone knows that these animals aren’t sitting there posting these pictures themselves, so there’s a lot more room to be a bit more creative and free with what you’re doing. There are almost, in a sense, less expectations. What are your thoughts on this controversy around the influencer and how it differs for animals?
LE: I think when we’re connecting the dots between brands and clients, we’re very careful to connect the dots where it makes sense. So we talk to the owners to figure out what they’re interested in, what products they love, what they want to work with and match it that way. We want everything to be as authentic and real as possible. A lot of our clients say no to a lot of opportunities because it’s not natural, it’s not a product that they want to promote or that they like, and so both us and our clients are super careful to maintain that integrity and only partner where it’s something they’re happy about and it’s something they want to share with their audiences as opposed to taking anything that comes and trying to collect the dollars. It’s very carefully thought out and done in a way that is genuine and authentic. When you do it that way, you don’t make as much money as someone who’s saying yes to everything, but as a result, you maintain the integrity and the authenticity which is of the utmost importance.
NH: Yeah, I definitely agree. Why don’t you tell us about what you were doing before you started The Dog Agency?
LE: Before I did The Dog Agency, I initially started out as a lawyer. I graduated from Harvard Law School and worked at a big firm in Los Angeles and decided I wanted to do something more creative, more entrepreneurial. So I moved back to New York from LA and became an entrepreneur. I started this company called emPOWERED, which is a tech-enabled fashion line. I got the utility patent on adding phone charging capabilities to bags, wallets, and luggage and so I’ve been licensing my utility patent to other brands.
NH: Awesome – and so since you’ve definitely found a way to balance something that you’re good at with something that you love, what would be some of the best business advice you could give to our readers?
LE: I think it’s super important to pay attention to what you’re good at and what you like doing and then be open to opportunities as they arise. So when I was in law school I never would have thought I would be running an animal celebrity agency, in fact, I don’t even think celebrity animals were a thing back then. When I got Chloe and she became famous, I was introduced to this world, almost by accident. I think keeping your eye on what’s going on and what business opportunities are arising is important - there wasn’t a company like this before, this is the first of its kind. So I think being open to things that you can use your expertise towards improving and making better, and seeing what needs there are in the market is really important. So being open-minded, thinking deeply about different problems and ways to make things better and being open to changing careers and changing paths when you see a great opportunity.
NH: Agreed – that’s all definitely things I’m learning as I continue with LFC. So, now for a tougher question, how do you want to be remembered?
LE: As an entrepreneur. As someone creative, who finds innovative solutions to problems. emPOWERED was an innovative solution to a problem I had, my phone was always dying and I wanted a seamless way to charge on the go that didn’t impact my style negatively. I wanted cool, nice, well-made bags that had this power component as a functionality built into them. I love partnering with brands and working with Chloe. I was building this business around my best friend, Chloe the Mini Frenchie, and so not only was The Dog Agency was a great way to do that with Chloe but also help lots of other humans do the same thing with their best friends, whether it’s their pig or their bunny or their cat or their dog. It's exciting to see who they want to partner with, and help them work with these brands that excite them. I get do these fun campaigns, create cool content, and make the process easier for everyone.
NH: Besides being a lawyer before this, do you think there are any other skills that have really helped you launch this business?
LE: Having the relationships was really what allowed The Dog Agency to take off so quickly. Right now our total reach with all of our clients is over 35 million. We have clients all over the world. We’ve worked with incredible brands ranging from movie studios to human fashion to pet products. We have all of these incredible clients and all of that is a result of creating these relationships over the past three years so I think that’s very important. When I was meeting all of these people I wasn’t thinking, “Oh in a year or three years, we’re going to work together.” So I think just being open to meeting creative people and building these relationships across the board is really important.
NH: And our last question – do you feel that being a woman has impacted you at all in this industry? We always get mixed answers on this question – we’ve heard a lot of positive things from women in the fashion industry. For example, women who are designing for other women often feel like they have the upper hand. However, we know that’s not always the case, there’s definitely still a lot of obstacles we need to overcome as working women. Are there any moments that have really impacted you?
LE: I haven’t had obstacles with being a woman in this industry, almost the opposite really. I feel like I get a lot of press because I am a woman who’s been successful in entrepreneurial pursuits. There’s a big push lately of promoting entrepreneurial women and women in business so I think it’s almost been a positive as opposed to being a negative.
NH: It’s great to see all of these business-focused sites pushing stories about female entrepreneurs. Any last words for everyone, besides for a reminder to follow Chloe the Mini Frenchie of course?
LE: If you have animals, you should put them on social media! The animal content does really well and it’s fun and everyone’s looking at it.
NH: I love looking at it. I’ll follow any and everyone’s animals. Thank you again Loni!