Pup North is a Traverse City based company that locally produces and “designs products exclusively for Michigan’s four-legged explorers.” Started in November 2014 by two dog loving friends, Pup North is the brainchild of Rachel Tompkins and Lauren Maxwell. Read the conversation MyNorth’s Eliza Foster had with Rachel and Lauren about Pup North, the designs behind the bandana’s and what the future holds for the fashionable four-legged friends of Michigan.
Tell me about Pup North. Where did the idea come from? Why did you decide to create a company around dogs?
LM: Pup North is our new, Michigan-centric dog accessory company, based in Traverse City. My business partner Rachel and I met in TC and quickly discovered we have a lot in common. Our love of Northern Michigan and our pets really laid the foundation for Pup North.
RT: To fully explain how Pup North came about, you’d almost have to spend a day with Lauren and I and count the number of times we reference our dogs. We both have a ton of affection for them and animals are something we’re both genuinely passionate about. We also both have entrepreneurial spirits and we were seeking a way to combine our interests and talents into something no one else had done. Thus, Pup North!
You guys are obviously dog lovers, what kinds of dogs do you have?
LM: We are! I have a two-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Barley.
RT: And I have two puggles — Cormac and Maddy. You’ll notice all 3 dogs as our product models on our website!
What is the brand statement behind Pup North?
We design (and locally produce) Michigan-specific dog apparel and accessories that celebrate a shared love for the Great Lakes State and our favorite four-legged explorers.
What has the response been like so far?
RT: The response has been super positive! We opened for business less than a month ago, and already have had a ton of great feedback, sales, and even a few wholesale orders. People who see our products are always surprised that no one else had thought of this.
Your designs are really unique and interesting. Who creates the designs that go on your products?
LM: Thank you! It’s a joint effort — Both Rachel and I are conceptual designers, so the designs themselves were really fun to brainstorm. There really was a lack of well-designed dog accessories and we’re trying our hardest to fill that void.
RT: We actually started with a list of nearly 100 design concepts. After doing some informal focus groups (thank you friends and family!), we had the difficult job of narrowing down our product line to our initial 5 designs.
Right now it looks like you only carry bandanas, but will you carry more products in the future? What kinds?
LM: We currently offer 5 screenprinted bandanas, all designed and printed here in Traverse City. We’re currently sourcing and testing some other products —including tote bags, leashes, dog shirts, and new bandana designs — which we plan to introduce as the summer season approaches.
Are there local stores that carry your products or is it online only?
RT: We’re excited to announce that Pup North products can now be found at Suhm-Thing in downtown Traverse City and in Birmingham. We were also selected to be part of AwesomeMitten.com’s holiday popup shop. And of course, you can always find our stuff online at pupnorthlife.com.
What sizes do you carry? Could a Yorkie wear your products? A Newfie?
LM: The great thing about bandanas is that they’re basically one size fits all. By folding down the top edge, my 12-pound spaniel can wear the same bandana that my sister’s 100-pound Great Pyrenees wears!
You haven’t been open long, but any inspiring stories so far?
LM: We have a clear-cut fan favorite with the Michigan Paw design. We’ve already had orders for that bandana from Florida, California and Alaska, all wanting their dogs to represent the Mitten State across the U.S.
RT: It makes us smile to hear about those who left Michigan to pursue adventures or careers and still want to show their Michigan pride!
What are the next couple of months looking like for you? Do you have any cool new things that you want to share about Pup North?
RT: We’re actively pounding the pavement, with the goal of getting our products in at least one store in every Northern Michigan destination city before the summer. Once the holiday rush is over, we’ll also be going back to the drawing board as we decide what our summer collection will look like.
LM: We’re also looking at the possibility of sponsored events in early 2015. If this winter is anything like last winter, all of our dogs will be suffering cabin fever and could use some play dates — so stay tuned!