Every dog has its day. For Chase McElroy, Raad Mobrem, and Jonathan Luna Rivera, their days are just getting started. These three UCSB seniors are the proud entrepreneurs behind Dura Doggie Disc, the “indestructible, Frisbee-toy that turns into a food and water bowl.” Bright, hardworking, and ambitious, the three 22-year-olds are attempting to take on the $20 billion dollar pet toy industry with what they believe to be an already successful product.
It all started last fall when McElroy, Mobrem, and Rivera enrolled in an entrepreneurship class offered by UCSB’s Technology Management Program. The class aimed to introduce students to the venture creation process, as well as give them an edge on practices and entrepreneurship in the current business world. The main assignment was to develop ventures of their own and present them to the class. McElroy and Rivera, both business economics majors, and Mobrem, a mechanical engineer major, decided to take the project one step further and actually manufacture a product rather than just present an idea of it.
From the get-go, they were a determined bunch and knew precisely what they wanted to do. “About 15 or more years ago, my dad stumbled upon this [material] and we used it for my dog’s toy,” said McElroy. “My dog had it ever since then and wasn’t able to chew it up or tear a whole in it, whereas with other toys, my dog could chew it up in a day. So, I thought, ‘I should make a company out of this.'” McElroy took advantage of the class project and approached Mobrem and Rivera. Shortly after presenting his Frisbee idea, they were all on board.
“When Chase told me his idea, I was like, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s make this happen,'” said Mobrem. Knowing the material – natural rubber and nylon – was extremely tough and durable, the student entrepreneurs decided to take it, manipulate it, and remarket it for the pet toy industry. But the UCSB seniors had no knowledge of the market for dog toys, let alone the massive pet toy industry. As a result, they spent months conducting market research studies, approaching dog owners everywhere they went, and interviewing owners and employees of such pet stores as the Pet House in Goleta and Montecito Pet Shop.
Their intention for all this was to learn more about the business, not promote theirs; but Mobrem had a better idea. “I thought, ‘Hey guys, just for fun, let’s try to make some potential sales and see what happens.'” After talking at length to concerned pet shop owners about the problems of dog toys (roughness, durability, price, choking hazards, etc.), they presented them with their Frisbee disc. “It’s the only Frisbee out there like it,” said Mobrem. “They all loved it.”
After this positive response, the Dura Doggie Disc guys were confident their product would sell. They created a plan of attack to ensure the success of their project and establish the foundation for their business. Mobrem was in charge of sales and marketing, Rivera took care of the legal aspects, and McElroy made sure the company would run smoothly. “I kind of wanted to start this a few years ago, but I would always get lost trying to do it on my own,” said McElroy. “But when you have three people and one person gets down and hits a wall, you have two other people who can pull you back up.”
When final presentations came around, their group was the only one in the class who actually manufactured a product. “Our professor really liked our idea and kids were staying after class to ask us questions,” said Mobrem. “We had a huge stack of them and just started passing them out and we realized, ‘Wow, people really want this.'”
Almost seven months after starting their company, McElroy, Mobrem, and Rivera are still at it, juggling their hats as businessmen and full-time students. “It’s always in the back of our mind,” said McElroy of the difficulty of having to balance their professional and personal lives. Added Mobrem, “Whenever we get a free chance or see someone who has a dog, we talk. Through Facebook, our blogs, our online website – we want people to hear our story and learn about our product.”
Come graduation, these UCSB grads know they will still have to get other jobs to fund Dura Doggie Disc. But they are ready and willing. “Even after graduation, we’ll still have to work,” said McElroy. “I could go out and get a good paying job and pay off student loans, but I would rather to do this and go into more debt instead.”
They fully intend to pursue their company and hope to one day become a successful product design firm. For now, you can find McElroy, Mobrem, and Rivera running around Santa Barbara with Dura Doggie Discs in their hands and smiles on their faces. “We’re just thankful and happy to be able to be doing this,” said Mobrem.
To learn more about Dura Doggie Disc or purchase their product, visit their website duradoggiedisc.com.