PROVIDING PETS WITH HIGH PERFORMANCE PROTECTION
KELLY STEVENS - Pet Business Magazine
Roanna Sabeh-Azar describes her company, Neo-Paws
International, as "Nike to the dog world". However, outfitting
canines with two pairs of High Performance Neo-Paws costs less than
half of what a single pair of high performance Nike sneakers will
run you. For a mere $55, dog owners can plant their pups' feet in
footgear that will protect all four paws from the broken glass of
city streets, as well as nature's own tenderfoot terrors such as
branches, twigs and thorns.
"People say, 'Dogs are dogs and they have lived
in nature for centuries. What's the problem?"', said Roanna
Sabeh-Azar. "Well, they have also lived with fleas, infested
with ticks and with parasites in their intestines and we don't expect
them to live like that anymore."
Sabeh-Azar knows first-hand how rough the outside
world can be for our canine companions when we don't outfit them
appropriately. "I used to go bike riding a lot and I'd have
the dogs follow me', she said. 'After the first week, I noticed
my dogs limping. I figured they must have had sore muscles. But
when I looked at the bottom of their paws, there were cuts all over
them and they were chafed."
Now, thanks to Neo-Paws, Sabeh-Azar's dogs, Mex and
Buster, can run behind their master without running their unprotected
paws through a gauntlet of road debris and natural paw offenders.
NO HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
For Sabeh-Azar, starting Neo-Paws was not a new feat.
She has been an active part of the business world for years and
successfully self-employed for several of those. As a matter of
fact, she continues to help out at the family restaurant today and
has previously run her own business importing home furnishings and
decorative products from Mexico. It was with money from those past
business endeavors that she started Neo-Paws International.
Neo-Paws International was founded in October of
1994 and originally boasted an employee roster of one part-timer.
Over the past few years, the company has grown to employ three people,
and often work is subcontracted out. The staple product of the Neo-Paws
line - the shoes, which come in both regular and high-performance
styles - has been augmented to include Neo-Paws Jackets, Neo-Paws
Saddle-Bags, Neo-Paws Rain Coats, Neo-Paws Kitty Kollars, Premiere
Glow Reflective Collars and Serf Life Vests and Car Seat Belts.
a salesperson is confident and convinced about what they're selling,
how could they not convert the minds of millions?", posed Sabeh-Azar.
"Proof is ultimately in the pudding, as they say, so we (at
Neo-Paws) always offer our customers a lot of dessert."
Convincing others to embrace your product line is
only half of the battle though, according to Sabeh- Azar. The acceptance
process starts a lot closer to home. "Believing in a product
is the key", she said. "At Neo-Paws, as much as it is
a business, and a very great one, our intentions are mostly to aid
the public in realizing the importance of proper care for their
In fact, after the shoes were introduced to the pet
market, calls poured in from customers asking whether Neo-Paws also
sold jackets for dogs constructed from Neoprene, the material used
for the shoes. At the time, Sabeh-Azar told them 'no', but the question
planted a seed for an idea that would eventually materialize into
an extended product line utilizing the functionality of wet suit-like
"The reason I come out with all these products
is not only because I think they're great and would really be an
asset to the pet industry, but because I realize they are needed
and there is a demand for such products", said Sabeh-Azar.
THE WARM BREEZE BECKONS
Born in Toronto, Canada, during her mother's visit
to see an aunt here, Sabeh-Azar spent her early years in Beirut,
Lebanon. She later moved to Canada where she has spent the last
29 years. But Sabeh-Azar says her days in Canada are numbered.
"You reach a point in life when you look at
all the hobbies and interests you have and if your environment is
not conducive to them you must question what to do", said Sabeh-Azar.
She has decided that the answer for her is to move to California.
She may not know exactly where or precisely when, but she does know
that the warm breezes and palm trees are calling her name. "What
feeling is better than running along a beach, mountain biking through
a dense forest, horseback riding on 100 acres while followed by
your dogs, a synergy between woman and animal?", asked Sabeh-Azar.
She answered her own question with "The ability to enjoy these
activities all year long!"
But retailers need not worry about the effect such
a move would have on Neo-Paws International. Sabeh-Azar has no plans
to abandon the helm but instead hopes to use the move to expand
the company. She sees the United States as the ultimate hub for
her company "because of the business opportunities that it
provides." Among these would be a more direct relationship
with the substantial portion of her customer base which comes from
the United States.
And bringing the customer the goods is Sabeh-Azar's
ultimate business goal as she attempts to get her "products
in every pet store across the world".
"You have to be really confident in what you're
doing and in your products", said Sabeh-Azar. "The cutthroat
attitude is everywhere. We just have to learn to live with it, be
better and faster than everyone else, and remember that the survival
of the fittest doesn't apply only to the animal world."
PLAY IT SAFE, BY EVE ADAMSON - Pet Products News
Safety products are selling well for two reasons,
said Roanna Sabeh-Azar, owner of Neo-Paws International in Toronto,
Canada. "First, these products are more available now. Second,
the role and status of animals are changing. Dogs are no longer
just pets but part of the family, and you have to take care of your
If you still haven't decided to play it safe by stocking
safety products for dogs in your store, you aren't alone. "Some
retailers are still holding back with these products", Sabeh-Azar
said. "They seem scared to spend the money because these are
high-priced items. But what retailers have to realize is that customers
want the high-performance stuff. There has to be a realization and
an acceptance that although these products cost more, they have
a great profit potential especially for boutique type stores. Product
knowledge is where it's at. People are so ready to protect their
pets right now.
"People are becoming so much more aware of and
open to pet products," Sabeh-Azar said. "They see them
and say, 'Gee, my dog does need shoes. The salt on those icy streets
is really bothering him, or the fox tails, or whatever.'"
"Look at safety products for people," Sabeh-Azar
added. "Manufacturers keep making the products better and better.
The same thing is happening to pet safety products. It is the responsibility
of the manufacturers and distributors to assist in selling these
products by supplying point-of-sale material, but retailers have
to do the work to promote the product. You have to say, 'Hey, have
you seen our new reflective collars? They're safer!' There's an
emotional and psychological component here. People want to keep
their dog safe, but they have to know you have the resources to
"With the growing participation between dogs
and their owners, protective and functional utility gear is needed
for both," said Sabeh-Azar. "Pet owners listen to retailers'
opinions, so talking to customers and describing the importance
of outdoor dog gear is ideal."
Roanna Sabeh-Azar of Neo-Paws International