26 Bars & a Band is a leading maker of modern pet accessories and widely regarded for its design, innovation, and customer focus. Changing the face literally of the plain, boring retractable dog leash with its best-selling Avant Garde™ series, 26 Bars & a Band proved that dog owners who love fun and hip designs do not have to settle for the ordinary.
When “numbers guy” Mike Kaneko met “design girl,” Sandi, his future wife, little did he know that their opposing talents would work to create a common vision for business: to create products that inspired them. Who knew that their love for animals and good design would translate into a modern brand of pet accessories? What began out of their garage in 2004, has grown to encompass award-winning Avant Garde™ retractable leashes, dog harnesses, and Paul Frank-licensed pet products.
The dynamic duo behind 26 Bars & a Band recently chatted with Pucci & Catana about being a small business and what's coming up on the horizon.
|Sandi and Mike of 26 Bars & a Band|
1. When did you start to work for the company?
Sandi and I started 26 Bars & a Band in 2004. And like P & C, we love dogs and cats! Actually, we are still outnumbered at home with 3 cats and 1 dog.
2. Tell me about 26 Bars & a Band. How the company was started & what kind of products you design?
We noticed that the current line up of pet accessories was lacking in design and functionality. This sparked a business idea of creating something new and different for retractable leashes. When we did our first trade show, HH Backer, in 2004, we were just so happy that the trade show went well because it showed us that we could make a go of running a business. We had this vision to actually put some personality on the existing blank canvas of retractable leashes, which desperately needed to be covered in something fun, pretty, rebellious, and unique. So looking back to 2007, it's amazing that we started the Avant Garde retractable leash line with 1 style. The Avante Garde collection currently has 21 designs to choose from.
In 2009, we agreed to a licensing agreement with Paul Frank (now part of Saban Brands) to design pet accessories. Sandi had been a big Paul Frank fan and played a big role in landing the licensing collaboration. Paul Frank is a respected and distinctly recognizable brand, so we are proud to work with a company that has such a global presence. In the fall of 2012, we branched out into pet apparel with the launch of our Paul Frank hoodies, which were highly regarded by reviewers for their attention to detail, clever designs, and plush fabric. Most recently, we released our most personalized collections yet with the Snapshot photo retractable leashes and Snap Case line of interchangeable retractable leash shells. We design all of our products from beginning to end, so there is a lot of research and development and pre-production before a new product hits the marketplace.
3. What are you favorite products?
We love products that convey function through fun and innovative design. And this extends to anything that we use on a daily basis. Of course, this includes our Avant Garde retractable leash, which we use daily with our dog Toffee. At the moment, we love flip & tumble, Bluelounge, and Areaware.
4. Are you planning to introduce anything new this summer?
Good question! We are actually in the production phase of a new product that we're planning to debut at SuperZoo in July.
5. Describe a day in the life at 26 Bars & a Band.
Our first order of business is to brew ourselves a nice cup of coffee from our over-used Keurig. I know that it is cliche, but we can't get started without that first cup. Sandi will usually be in her office working on marketing, social media, new product development, or other creative tasks while I will communicate with customers or distributors. Next, comes a short meeting on anything that needs to be discussed that day. Usually, we break for lunch way too late (around 3) and head out to a local eatery. We take turns choosing lunch--with Sandi opting for something healthier and myself something not so healthy like In-N-Out.
After lunch, we will have a short meeting with our office staff and see where we are at for the day. We will then discuss plans for PR, marketing, future growth, and new products in the upcoming quarter. We also spend time planning and making sure that we meet our annual goals. At the end of the day, we reconvene and talk about what's coming up for the next day. After closing up the office, we head out to pick up our daughter.
6. Are pets allowed to come to work? If yes, tell us about them.
Definitely, yes. Toffee, our dog, has been coming into work as long as he's been with us. We bring Toffee into the office every day, so he can protect us (in his mind at least) from the dangerous delivery people. When he's off duty, he naps on his favorite Paul Frank bed, which is pretty much the whole day.
7. Are you guys obsessed with social media like us here at Pucci & Catana? What does social media do for you?
Absolutely! Social media has been a great tool for us to reach out to customers and retailers about the latest happenings at 26 Bars. It also lets our fans get to know us in an informal way and provides a place to let them know about our company giveaways, culture and products. We've been on Facebook for awhile, but most recently, have begun connecting with visitors through Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and our blog, Behind the Bar.
Here's the secret 15% sale code for our webstore! It's valid until July 1st at midnight and feel free to use it on some 26 Bars & a Band leashes! The code is "BLING". Happy shopping!