In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that
have shaped their business philosophy.



Co-founder, Pawtology


Background:  

Pawtology’s flagship product, PawFriction, is a paw pad coating system designed to increase dogs’ traction on slippery surfaces, boosting mobility and decreasing injury risk for older dogs or dogs with orthopedic or neurological conditions. Stacey Bone, a practicing small animal veterinarian, co-founded the St. Louis-area startup with medical device engineer Jeff Harms in 2015 and soon plans another product launch aimed at addressing the needs of geriatric pets.

The Mistake:

Convincing myself that a product is too difficult to develop and launch.

I graduated from veterinary school and never really had aspirations of being a businessperson. I always assumed I was going to be a practicing veterinarian for the rest of my career and was pretty comfortable with that. I took my first job in Las Vegas in 2008. Within the first month, it seemed every client I talked to asked the same questions. Multiple people were saying, “My dog slips all over the floor. I go to work and come home to find my dog can’t get out of the kitchen. Is there anything out there that can help with this?”

I started doing research into what was out there. There were only a couple of products. They worked, but all had individual flaws. I really started to develop the idea for PawFriction eight years ago, but convinced myself that this wasn’t something I could do. I got in my own way. I allowed my own self doubt to keep this product under wraps.

I’d sit down and talk with friends, colleagues or even clients and they would say, “This is a great idea. Why don’t you do this?” I would convince myself it was too difficult to do, that there was really no way I could get the science to work. It became a whispers of the past kind of thing, a great idea I once had. But that was all it ever was – an idea.

I had moved back to St. Louis a few years earlier and was talking to some very good clients in 2014. I told them about this idea that had been marinating for years. It just so happened that one said, “You really need to meet our son. He’s an engineer and he could probably help you.”

After a couple of weeks, I finally decided to talk with him. I reached out to Jeff, now my business partner, in an email. He said, “Absolutely. Let’s meet and talk.” And I almost canceled it. I thought, “I’m happy where I’m at as a veterinarian. This just seems like a lot of stress and it probably wouldn’t work out anyway.” But I met with Jeff and it was like an instant click. After talking with him for maybe 45 minutes, I was just suddenly invigorated with the idea that this could happen. I think it really took meeting with somebody else to set that fire in me and put together our expertise and knowledge to get this launched.

I got in my own way. I allowed my own self doubt to keep this product under wraps.

The Lesson:

I learned that if you have an idea you think has legs, it’s possible. It may take finding somebody who maybe has a little bit more expertise on one side of it or another, but just about anything can be done.

My second realization was that, if you have an idea or are in a startup, surround yourself with people who are like-minded. Anyone in your life or in your business who tells you this can’t be done – get those people out. I think someone offering advice versus someone hindering your ability to grow is completely different.

The third thing is the old saying: “Don’t create a problem, then create a business to fix it. Create a business that solves an existing problem.” So, if you’re hearing the same thing over and over again, listen to people around you talk about the problems that exist. Look for a solution. If there is one, then look for flaws. If you can create a better solution for that problem, you will instantly serve a market that already exists in the world.

Pawtology is on Twitter at @PawFriction.

Photo courtesy of Stacey Bone.

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