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katie petty paw wash

Kid Inventor Turned Adult Business Owner on Taking Risks and Clean Dogs

Taking your dog for a nice, long walk is an excellent way to sneak in a little exercise, enjoy the outdoors and have a chance encounter with a fellow dog owner. It’s also an excellent way to get your house messy with a bunch of little paw prints (especially in December as the pitter patter of snowy, icey, slushy and muddy paws come and go.)

That’s why Katie Petty invented a tool and started a business to help keep grimy paws clean: the Paw Wash. Simply stick your dog’s paw into the hourglass shaped plastic container, swish it around in some warm (possibly soapy) water, pull it out and the job is done.

The Paw Wash is so simple a sixth grader could’ve invented it. And that’s exactly what happened. Katie invented the Paw Wash for a sixth grade science fair in the early 2000s  and her dad said, “We need to patent that!” So they did.

Today, the Paw Wash is sold in stores nationwide and online. And Katie (now 26 years old,) recently left her full-time job to focus on growing the business.

Katie joined us at KCSourceLink HQ to discuss patents, product development and youth entrepreneurship. You can watch the full video interview above. Or, if you’re about to run out the door to take your dog for a walk, here are five key takeaways from our conversation:

1. Do something you're truly passionate about

If you’re going to survive late nights packing plastic tubes into cardboards boxes, the constant headaches of dealing with customers across the globe and the missteps that will inevitably occur when you’re trying to accelerate your startup, you have to care deeply about what you’re doing.

And don’t forget to celebrate the small victories and savor the joyful moments. Entrepreneurship provides endless opportunities for happiness and camaraderie, if you’re mindful enough to accept them.

2. Make the most of the resources you have.

Remember, Katie started her business in the sixth grade. All she had to get started was a fair bit of ingenuity and the love and support of her family.

When she needed more guidance to take her business to the next step, she turned to an area expert. And over time, she continued to grow her network (and knowledge) getting to know more and more folks in Kansas City.

And here’s the real key: Katie gives much more than she takes. The strength of your network only increases when you’re willing to go out of your way to help others. So if you enjoyed Katie’s video today, find an opportunity to pass your wisdom onto someone else.  

3. Learn by doing.

Katie built her product and her business while going to school full time (middle school, high school and college, mind you) and until recently, while having a full-time job. Her willingness to work hard is admirable enough.

But we’re even more struck by the bravery it took to learn about running a business on the fly. We trust that Katie spent plenty of hours reading business books and absorbing tutorials online. But she also took a giant leap into the unknown to improve the lives of dogs and dog owners everywhere and provide for her family.

That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.

4. Success happens one step at a time.

Jump about a minute into the video and check out the original Paw Wash.

Spoiler alert: it’s a PVC pipe.

Katie worked alongside her father for a long time to perfect the design. They tried different shapes, lengths materials, and even had brushes in one prototype. (They eventually nixed those because they were too hard to clean and suction worked even better.)

This process is a perfect reminder that success rarely happens in leaps and bounds, and it’s certainly not linear. But if you can see your goal, and are willing to put in the time and sweat, you can succeed.

5. Take risks (now!)

Katie talks to youth interested in entrepreneurship now, and her advice is simple: go do something, now! What better time to explore new fields and try out some crazy business ideas than when you’re a kid.

Most of us don’t have youth on our side anymore, but we do still have “now!” Life is too short to spend months, years and decades arguing with yourself about whether or not you’re entrepreneurial idea will work out. Instead, go find out.

Ready to try your hand at entrepreneurship?

Good, glad to hear it. Send us some more info here and we will be in touch with actionable steps you can take to start or grow your business.

Oh, and one more piece of advice:

6. Whenever possible, hang out with a dog.

If you haven’t pressed play on that video yet, you should. Portia (the dog) is so cute! Thank you to Lauren Caldwell and Travis Pflanz of Kansas City Dog Club for letting us hang out with their awesome pup.

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