How a Kamloops entrepreneur's invention makes dealing with dog poop less smelly and gross | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How a Kamloops entrepreneur's invention makes dealing with dog poop less smelly and gross

A dog in Kamloops wearing a WALK STAR Dog Waste Caddy around his neck.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Nicole Duff

Dog lovers in western Canada can expect to see a first-of-its kind product on pet store shelves, thanks to a creative entrepreneur in Kamloops.

Nicole Duff came up with an idea to make carrying and disposing of used dog poop bags easier and less smelly. After over three years of hard work, her product is hitting pet store shelves in western Canada.

The idea for The WALK STAR Dog Waste Caddy was inspired by Duff's personal experience as a dog owner.

"I was so happy when my husband agreed to have a dog, but he wasn't very interested in it," Duff recalled. "It was my responsibility to clean up the poop bags, which I agreed to, but I didn't want to carry bags of poop around.

"I searched pet shops for something to carry the bags with and would see giant sections of all sizes and colours of bags but never the product I was looking for. I realized there are likely other people who were feeling the same way."

Nicole Duff (left) with husband Neil and family in Kamloops after receiving their first production order of WALK STAR Dog Waste Caddys.
Nicole Duff (left) with husband Neil and family in Kamloops after receiving their first production order of WALK STAR Dog Waste Caddys.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Nicole Duff

Duff said she used a computer program to cut and paste pieces together to design a visual mock up of her idea and sent it to an engineer to turn it into files for manufacturing.

"I used to have a business designing home textiles where I had textiles manufactured in various countries," Duff said. "I learned a lot about business and manufacturing that I applied to this new venture. It is as though the first business prepared me for WALK STAR."

Duff's husband Neil became her business partner.

"My husband is not a risk taker but he gave me the go ahead," she said. "I jumped right in. I am creative and take chances while he is more level headed, the two of us are a great team, we even each other out."

The Duff's started developing the product over three years ago. The bottom cup part is made of silicone and the top half has a sealable cap designed to prevent odours from escaping. She said the caddy can expand to accommodate a Great Dane's poop bag.

"We manufacture in China as there are no factories in Canada that does this kind of thing and the cost to manufacture in the U.S.A. is too high," she said. "In the beginning, language barriers and opposite time zones slowed things down. Then COVID hit and the factories in China shut down. We would not get a response back for weeks. It took time for factories to get running again. We ended up working with another team called Sofeast, based in Maryland, who helps companies with manufacturing. Sofeast provided us with a Chinese speaker and helped us navigate, which really sped things up."

Duff said the name for the product and the business did not come right away, and those they considered were already registered.

"The name was inspired by my Grandma, who is a very strong lady," Duff said. "She ended up falling and breaking her pelvis, and after she healed up so well she only needed a cane for walking, a friend of mine called her a Walk Star. I thought the name was cute so I used it."

Anipet Animal Supplies is a pet supply distributor out of Surrey who will be supplying pet stores across western Canada with WALK STAR Dog Waste Caddys and has already received orders. Duff said she is a planner and has set monthly and annual financial targets for the business.

"I have big goals," Duff said. "A friend of ours who makes equine products to sell at pet stores gave us a connection to an international distributor who loves the caddy. We just sent samples two days ago and are waiting to see what happens next."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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