In 2010, Jen and Joseph Watson found a dog abandoned in a dumpster. What would come from their discovery, a dog named Daisy, would spark the idea that later became the K9 Sport Sack.
Due to their business’ success, the couple was named the Utah Small Business Persons of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
After finding Daisy, the Watsons fell in love and decided to adopt her. During this time, Joseph was training for a bike race and the couple would often go out for bike rides.
After leaving Daisy at home all day while working, they were eager to find a way to have her tag along. They tried to use backpacks and other carriers on the market, but none satisfied their needs.
With the initial idea, they created a bag of their own, a forward-facing dog backpack that allowed Daisy to journey out with them on their bike rides. All of a sudden, people were flagging them down to ask where they could buy one.
They made a couple of bags for some of their friends to test out so they could get some feedback, but it was a busy time for the couple. They were preparing to move to Las Vegas, where Joseph was pursuing his master’s degree in history.
As a result of the feedback and the demand they saw, the Watsons decided to make a small batch of 100 bags, which they took to a pet convention in Las Vegas. Those 100 bags were sold out by the end of the day.
“We figured we must be on to something, there are other dog people like us who want to carry their dogs,” Jen Watson said.
Their business saw success at the local pet convention level, but they wanted to bring the product online. Taking the next step, they began online sales — and in 2015 they had a breakout.
The following year, the pair quit their jobs to pursue K9 Sport Sack full-time, and they moved back to Orem in 2017. Jen Watson said this is when the company really exploded.
They now have 15 employees, with most being full-time, and the sport sacks are sold on major platforms including Amazon, Chewy, PetSmart and Petco.
Not only are they seeing success in the United States, but they are seeing it globally. According to a press release, the K9 Sport Sack is sold in 20 countries and 500 stores around the world.
Watson joked that they started a business accidentally, originally having no intention of making the bag into anything but something that was practical for them.
“It’s really a fun thing to see how much people have enjoyed this product that we made for our own dog,” Watson said. “It’s been fun to go to pet stores, as we have traveled around the country and world, to see our product there or see someone biking down the street with one. We’ve been on bike rides and walks along the river trail with our family in Provo and have seen people ride by or walk by with their dogs in a K9 Sports Sack.”
For Jen, she went to dental hygiene school while Joseph studied history. It was a learning process for them both to start a business but they are reaping the benefits, as shown by the announcement that they were named the Utah Small Business Persons of the Year.
“It gives validation to our hard work and our team’s hard work,” Watson said. “It also, for me, speaks loudly of the pet community. The pet community is a really unique and awesome community to be a part of because pet owners, dog owners, are really invested in their fur babies.”
The bag has not only been a positive for pet owners who want to take their dogs bike riding or hiking, but it has also been used in other ways. It allows elder dogs, or those dogs who are disabled, to be taken on adventures as well.
Watson even brought up some customer feedback from owners who have dogs with a certain disorder. The disorder causes dogs to have trouble keeping their food down unless they are fed in an upright position — and the K9 Sport Sack solved that problem for those owners.
“It’s really allowed people to take their dogs places they weren’t able to before or take them on those longer adventures,” Watson said. “It’s been neat to see the different applications and it’s nice to hear back from our customers about how much they have enjoyed it.”
While many businesses have had trouble during the COVID-19 pandemic, the K9 Sport Sack has seen growth. Watson attributed that to people heading into the outdoors for entertainment, whereas they would previously go to a movie or out to dinner.
She described it as a refocus on what type of activities people are doing.
With regards to their move to Utah and the growth they have seen, Watson said it has been a great fit for their family and she has enjoyed seeing the pet community and businesses grow during their time in the state.
“I grew up in Utah so I like to see Utah and Utah County businesses grow,” Watson said. “It’s been kind of fun to see businesses want to be here because there are great people here, there are great people with great skills.”
The K9 Sport Sack comes in a variety of different sizes and shapes, varying from smaller dogs to bigger dogs with a maximum weight of 80 pounds. The Watsons will participate in a national ceremony as well as a virtual ceremony celebrating Utah on Thursday.