Meet the Maker is a new blog series on The Dapple featuring Q&As with small businesses, creatives, and makers who are crafting unique products for dogs and dog lovers.
Today on Meet the Maker, I’m thrilled to be interviewing Lona Williams and Hope Reiners of MODERNBEAST. The talented duo launched their company as a way to create some truly gorgeous design-forward dog gear—and donate 100% of the profits to helping pups. We chatted about the challenges of starting a business, how they find balance, and why dogs (especially ours!) love the MB POD bed.
In one sentence, how would you describe MODERNBEAST?
We create contemporary toys, apparel and home goods for dogs and cats with a refined sense of adventure and their guardians with an eye for design.
What led the two of you to create MODERNBEAST?
We were inspired by Newman’s Own, which has a 100% give-back program. I wanted to create a company that would do the same for animals. Hope and I met doing a Best Friends Animal Society event at my home where we bonded over our passion for animals. After a few glasses of wine, we decided we could do it!
How do you feel that each of your unique backgrounds prepared you to lead MODERNBEAST?
Lona: I was a writer for TV and film for many years—and a mom to two humans and many special needs dogs. The joyous imbalance of work and life showed me that there is not a single right way to do anything. I’ve found this to be an important mindset to have when starting a business. The leaders of movements and organizations that I admire most 1) adapt to change, 2) admit mistakes and, perhaps most importantly, 3) inspire those around them. Those are my daily goals.
Hope: My career initially started as a graphic designer. From there it expanded into web design, which is a starting point for many small businesses. Working with various clients I learned the ins and outs of starting a business, which in turn helped us get MODERNBEAST off the ground. I think we both have a ‘go with the flow’ attitude, which helps us easily navigate the ups and downs of a new venture.
What was the most challenging part of launching your own business?
Starting out, MODERNBEAST often felt like a three dimensional puzzle. That moved erratically. And fought back. We would find that prized corner piece that would resolve one challenge, only to turn and find another missing piece somewhere else.
Manufacturing in the U.S. was our biggest challenge. But it is also a core value of our company, so we gave it a lot of time and attention. Now, we’re focused on how quickly and how best to expand. It’s a joyously imperfect, ever-challenging process.
Your focus on giving back is really inspiring—how do you choose your non-profit partners?
Our 100% give back program is the fuel that fires everything we do at MODERNBEAST. We’re continually inspired by the incredible, life-saving work that our Featured Charities do every single day. They do the hard work.
Initially, we supported 501(c)3 animal organizations that we were supporting prior to MODERNBEAST and had personally adopted from. Now we hear from organizations directly and we invite people on our site to tell us about amazing organizations that they love. In truth, it’s a process guided by passion over guidelines—but it works!
Tell us about your work environment.
Our offices are on Abbot Kinney in Venice, CA. It’s a dynamic and creative community filled with dogs, art, commerce, amazing restaurants and our favorite bar. Inside our offices, you’ll find from 3 to 5 dogs sleeping, testing product, and barking at deliveries. It’s heaven.
We always wish that there were more companies focusing on design-forward dog products—explain why you felt it was important to create dog products with an eye for design.
Just as you started The Dapple because you didn’t see what you wanted out in the world, we didn’t see dog toys, apparel or home goods with a clean, modern aesthetic. Everything we create is designed for our own beasts in our own homes.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work with MODERNBEAST?
By far, the most rewarding part of MODERNBEAST is supporting the organizations that save the lives of animals every single day.
What are some of your favorite items for sale right now?
Our favorite product (and many of our customers’ favorite as well) is our MB POD beds. They fill our homes, our offices and we’ve yet to meet a dog that doesn’t love to “nest” and nap in our pods. We have beautiful colors, our design is simple and effective for full beast body support and best of all, you won’t need to hide our pods when company comes over.
Any exciting upcoming plans for MODERNBEAST?
Currently we are working on expanding the apparel side of MODERNBEAST. We have great new tees and sweatshirts in the works as well as some beautiful holiday neckwear launching next month.