[Dr. Julie Buzby and Chloe]
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in 2017 Americans spent a total of $69.36B (billion!) on their pets. With figures consistently growing year after year, it’s pretty obvious we love our furry friends in this country. Among those leading the pack, providing care and service to pet owners is Dr. Julie Buzby, who lives in Beaufort, South Carolina. Dr. Buzby is a woman on the go who wears lots of hats. We were fortunate enough to get some time with her and learn more about her amazing company, Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips.
LR: I know you’ve been a veterinarian for over twenty years and have pets of your own. Did you ever think you’d become a product inventor too?
JB: Never. I am an accidental entrepreneur. A client of mine came up with the idea of putting something on his dog’s toenails to keep his senior dog quiet on the floors at night. He quickly realized his device did much more than that though. I saw the early prototypes at our veterinary hospital’s annual Open House and it was love at first sight! I like to say he had me at “hello”. He pointed to his dog’s toes and my mind started racing. Because my practice is now predominantly caring for senior and special needs dogs, I knew there was a huge need. We could impact and improve pain and mobility for these dogs but not slipping. Slipping is a biomechanics problem. These simple devices were what I’d been looking for my whole career, I just didn’t know what they looked like until I saw them that day. My friend didn’t want to pursue his idea. He was busy patenting something else and said, “If you think you can help dogs with it, Julie, go for it.” And that’s how our business launched. I knew this product was going to change the way we care for our senior, slipping patients and that they needed this solution.
LR: For those who aren’t familiar, can you explain what ToeGrips are and how they’re used?
JB: ToeGrips are nonslip rings that fit onto a dog’s toenails to enable traction on slippery floors. Dogs use their nails for traction. They flex their paws and engage their nails like soccer cleats digging into the ground. Hard nails can’t grip hard floors. ToeGrips work by allowing the nails to grip, unlike dog socks and boots, which interfere with a dog’s natural gripping mechanism. ToeGrips are simple, natural, affordable, and effective!
LR: What types of dogs benefit most from ToeGrips?
JB: Senior and special needs dogs and even more specifically would be arthritic dogs, dogs with hip dysplasia, dogs with cruciate ligament injury, dogs with hind-end weakness, blind dogs, Tripawd dogs, dogs that use wheelchairs, dogs with IVDD, and rehabilitating and post-surgical dogs.
LR: Are ToeGrips unisex? Do they come in different sizes?
JB: Yes, they are unisex, come in seven sizes (XS-XXXL), and are color-coded by size for simplicity.
LR: I know you operate a vet practice, run Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips, and are a Full-Time mama to a large brood of human kiddos too. How do you balance it all?
JB: I owned a practice in Pennsylvania and sold it so I could be home with my kids. We homeschool them and that’s what I really what I consider my Full-Time job. Practicing veterinary medicine is part-time now and ToeGrips is my hobby, even though I put in about 40+ hours per a week in the company. When your work is your passion, it doesn’t feel like work. My husband often says to me when I go to the veterinary hospital, “You’re the only person I know who looks a hundred times better when you come home from work than when you go.” Caring for my clients and patients brings me great joy. Caring for our customers and their dogs is also very rewarding! How do I balance it? I have a great husband who’s actively involved in keeping me afloat. I also have great help – we have a close family friend whom we’ve hired to help us homeschool since we have seven grade levels being taught right now.
LR: What advice would you give to women looking to follow their passions and start their own business?
JB: Start on a shoe=string budget and expand as you are able. Debt is crippling. The less debt you have, the faster you will become profitable! Have a core group of wise counselors whom you go to for advice. Plans succeed with many counselors and it’s dangerous to go it alone.
LR: Where can people go for more information or shop ToeGrips?