Gina and Scott Davis were torn. They made it to the final-pitch round — the one on camera — to raise money for their business on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” but filming was on their son’s first birthday.
The Long Lake couple decided Ziggy would forgive them and went to the studio in June for an episode that aired Sunday.
It worked: Mark Cuban agreed to invest $250,000 for a 25% stake in Dog Threads.
“It was definitely surreal even seeing it now,” Gina Davis said, happy to finally be able to talk about it.
Dog Threads started in 2014 when the couple was looking for an outfit for their late dog, Thomas, to wear to a Fourth of July barbecue. They didn’t like what they saw in stores, so they decided to design and make their own.
As they built Thomas a wardrobe — and made themselves matching outfits — people would stop them on the street and ask where they bought them.
The couple was looking for a side project to build together, and they thought they might have found it. With Gina’s design background — she was running a small women’s clothing business at the time — and Scott’s sales and marketing expertise, they decided to explore the market.
They crossed paths with Lucy & Co., the local outfit behind Dogs of Instagram, and made a pitch. The order was larger than expected, and the two found themselves in a crazy autumn, finding a production partner and designing their own online marketplace to launch at the same time. The business had its official first sale on Black Friday 2014.
After a successful launch, the couple reinvested the profits, allowing Gina Davis, 30, to switch her energy full time to Dog Threads two years ago. So far, they have made $465,000 in sales, $196,000 of it last year. Projected sales for this year are $240,000, they told the Sharks.
The majority of their business comes from direct online sales for the matching outfits. About one-fifth comes from retail sales of mostly dog-only outfits, said Scott Davis, 36.
They have found no one with a full year-round matching outfit business, though they have competition in the pajama market, especially around the holidays.
The couple is in an increasingly crowded market sector, but a growing one, according to the American Pet Products Association. Last year, the group estimated that 60.2 million households had a dog. About 90% of those consider the dog a family member, racking up $72.1 billion in sales last year for pet products, up 8% from the year before.
While 42% of that spending is for pet food, pet clothing is a small but growing part of the remainder, the group said.
While the Davises know most families don’t dress like their pets, special occasions like a party or a greeting card offer an opportunity for their dogs to join in the family fun.
The margins are OK — it costs them $10.75 to make a pet outfit that sells for $40 and $21.50 to make a human shirt that sells for $68. But the couple had decided at the beginning of the year that to improve the margins would take outside investment because they would have to order larger shipments of the designs.
“We had to scale more quickly,” Gina Davis said.
At friends’ urging, they filled out the “Shark Tank” application. On the show, Cuban appeared on the fence whether to make the investment but said he saw an opportunity in licensed merchandise. As majority owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, he said he could put the couple in touch with the team’s merchandisers.
Gina Davis said some licensing deals are in the works but could not discuss details due to the “Shark Tank” contract.
The show’s airing is giving the couple some extra energy as they design the spring and summer line for the company, she said. But planning for the holiday season was tricky because they didn’t know precisely when their episode would run.
“We don’t want to overinvest,” she said. “It’s a balancing act, but I think we did a good job by overstocking, but not over too much.”
In the meantime, the family will continue to make clothing for Instagram-worthy photos, their own now with Ziggy and new rescue dog Jonesy. While they don’t spell out the amount, the couple pledges a portion of every sale to nonprofits that help animals.
The couple also is looking to make another change: designing their own fabrics for the clothing. “We feel it’s a great way to scale up without fear of competition,” she said.
All in all, the couple feels Ziggy’s birthday was a good-luck charm and helped them navigate the tension on “Shark Tank.”
“It definitely brought good energy to our pitch,” she said.