In 2019, Iván Grajales and Joyce Landa adopted Logan, a brown mixed corgi that would change the course of their lives by leading them on a path to entrepreneurship.
The couple began to attend dog events throughout the island and to network with other dog owners. Inspired by a noticeable increase in dog lovers and how they care for their pets, Grajales and Landa decided to start Pawls, a brand of pet care products.
A couple of months after launching their e-commerce website in 2020, they noticed a greater need for skin allergy products, so they focused on this segment, and their business took off.
Then came the Covid-19 pandemic. Pawls imports most of its raw materials to make the final products in Puerto Rico. Like many businesses in just about every industry, the company saw its share of supply chain issues, shipping delays and price hikes. Fortunately, Puerto Rico is a small market, Grajales said, and Pawls was able to continue to focus on growing its brand as quickly as possible and maintaining sustainable margins.
“We started during the pandemic, and we believe that it was a main driver for our growth,” he said, noting that Pawls’ sales have been growing 100% year over year.
Pet ownership grew significantly during the pandemic. Different studies and surveys provide different numbers, but they all show an increase. For example, according to the ASPCA, nearly one in five U.S. households have acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. A survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) shows that pet ownership in the U.S. increased to 70% of households in 2020, and pet food spending increased 11%.
Pawls thrived during the pandemic, and today it provides a variety of made-in-Puerto Rico natural and organic products for dogs who have skin allergies that cause itching, hotspots and dry skin. The products are sold online, in Pawls’ San Juan store, and in more than 50 retail stores on the island, including Walmart, Pueblos, Amigos, Selectos, Econo and boutique pet stores.
Getting their products on Walmart’s shelves and serving more than 70,000 customers in less than three years are the brand’s greatest achievements to date.
“In a short period of time, we’ve managed to position ourselves as a leading brand of natural products to treat skin issues in dogs and offer general health support supplements,” Grajales said.
Pawls’ products help pet owners, too. The company’s mission is to help pet parents enjoy their pets and provide a long and healthy life for their companions.
“Pets are our family, and we have a passion for providing pet parents the right tools to help their pets live their healthiest, happiest lives,” he said.
Pawls competes with U.S. brands such as Earthbath and Ark Natural by offering products that are truly made with 100% natural, organic and high-quality ingredients. While Pawls’ formulations are methodically developed by herbalists, competitors often don’t specify how their products are formulated, which can mean generic formulations and lower-quality products, Grajales noted.
Doing things the right way often means doing things the hard way, but to Grajales the journey is worth it.
“The most exciting part is the process. As long as you like your idea, it won’t be a waste of time, and if you manage to build a profitable business, that’s secondary,” he said. “Every day is an opportunity for us to strive for victory. We welcome challenges, make thoughtful leaps, and commemorate achievements along the way.”