By Linda Scales
Alumnus Tim Skelly admits to being shocked when he first learned about the international social media frenzy that had ensnared Muddy Mutts, the Ottawa-based company he co-owns with his wife Johanna Leffler. The frenzy was over a question posted on Twitter: if a dog wears pants, should the pants cover two legs or four?
Muddy Mutts – a (four-legged!) underbody splash suit that helps keep dogs clean and dry but is designed to allow them to do their “business” – was credited with ending the explosive Internet debate.
The furor was instigated by a tweet sent out by Maxim editor Jared Keller on December 28, 2015, but Skelly (MBA ’05) didn’t learn about the online debate until a week later. Although the final verdict was unpredictable, from a business standpoint, the dogged debate turned out to be brilliant advertising for Muddy Mutts.
“We always knew we had a great product,” says Skelly as he describes the waterproof, adjustable coats that are hand-made in Ottawa. “The evidence is that every time I take my dog out for a walk in its coat, there hasn’t been a time when someone hasn’t stopped me to talk about the coat.”
However, for a small home-based business, getting product visibility was a big challenge. But on January 5, 2016, all that changed when the Today show aired a piece about the social media frenzy and Muddy Mutts. This was followed by coverage in other media, such as CNN, BBC, and the Washington Post.
Skelly said that January is typically the slowest month for sales: for example, in January 2015, he only sold four coats. But by the middle of January 2016, Skelly had received orders from 110 countries and had “more coats sold or on order than we would normally sell in a year-and-a-half,” he said. The price of this practical dog wear ranges from $70 for the smallest sizes, which fit tiny dogs such as Yorkshire terriers, to $95 for the extra-large sizes worn by giant breeds such as the Newfoundland or Irish wolfhound.
“It was always our intention to slowly grow the company, but this is the turning point,” says Skelly about the impact of the social media debate on Muddy Mutts. “I don’t think we can go back from this now, so we are ramping up the manufacturing.”
“It’s a good problem to have,” says Skelly.