Stephanie Volo – Fast 50 2003


Man’s best friend has a new best friend. This fast-growing nonprofit produces a catalog and an online store for dog lovers. Planet Dog features hundreds of natural and ecofriendly products, such as collars and leashes made of hemp and water bowls made of recycled plastic. Rabid sales have attracted lucrative partnership offers from big-time retailers (and, no doubt, some jealousy from the once-famous sock puppet). A portion of the company’s profits fund Planet Dog Philanthropy.


Stephanie Volo
President, Planet Dog
Portland, Maine

Additional Team Members:
Alex Fisher — Co-founder and C.C.O
Stew Maloney — Co-founder and C.E.O.
Travis Bezio — C.O.O.
Leah McBreairty — Director of Customer Service
Sean Callahan — Controller
Tiffeny Millbourn — Sales Manager
Jeffrey Cloutier — Customer Service Supervisor
Barbara Ford — Inventory Controller
Nichole Mitchell — Operations Specialist
Lindsey Maloney — Executive Director of Planet Dog Philanthropy
Product Development Team — Chauncy, Tallus, Bella, Maggie, Pete, Hobbes, Ruby, Riley, Seeger, Murphy, Atlas, Jasmin and Kevin the Cat.


Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Planet Dog is simple. Founded by two “Ben & Jerry’s eating and Patagonia wearing” kinda guys who happen to love their dogs like family, Planet Dog is committed to their mission: “to amuse, explore, innovate, create, philanthropate & celebrate… all in the name of the Dog.” What that equates to is 11 dedicated people, 11 loyal canine product testers, 1 website, a 36 page color catalog filled with everything you might want to assist, enhance, and compliment the lifestyle you share with your ‘best friend’ partnered with a highly effective and generous 501(c)3 non-profit. Fueled by 10% of Planet Dog’s profits, Planet Dog Philanthropy is dedicated to supporting unique and effective programs taking compassionate action to preserve and restore the natural environment, cultivate animal welfare and foster quality education. As for challenges, there are many. To produce a better product, both for the consumer and the environment. To continue to offer the finest and most generous customer service. To remember to groom ourselves on occassion. To innovate like rock-stars. To continue to grow in the areas of philanthropy. To continue to have fun.

What was your moment of truth?
Saying “no” to Wal-mart. We have always had a clearly defined direction but have found ourselves tempted by different fates that would have changed our mission and structure of what inevitably brought us success: “values equals’ value.” Our biggest challenge has been not to stray from that mission. In many cases that means saying “thanks, but no thanks” to larger brick & mortar and website retailers that compete with Planet Dog’s “bread & butter”: (in any and all combinations of the following) “the-high-end-boutique-pet-outdoor-all-natural-gift-store.” Bottom line, you will not find Planet Dog in Wal-mart. Saying “No” to Wal-mart is not an easy thing to do, but to us, it makes good business. As long as every decision is made with our Mission in mind… things should be ok. And as long as we can continue to fuel Planet Dog Philanthropy, Planet Dog will be in business: business for philanthropy’s sake. You see, the two work together like a full back and a running back (see football). Both are equally important and both have the interest of the other in mind. It makes for not only “good business”… but “fun business.” (The exact date? 6/20/2001)

What were the results?
In 1998 Alex & Stew had no office, no life, and worked out of Alex’s apartment. In 1999 there were 3 employees (that’s including Alex & Stew), 3 canine product testers, 76 SKU’s, 82 stores carried their product line, 244 retail customers with sales teetering around $16,000. That’s for the year. No website yet. It’s 2002 and we have 11 employees, 11 canine product testers, 842 SKU’s, 2000 stores (internationally), 7000 retail customers, we have a web site that is performing like a mad dog and we summarize our results with black ink instead of red. Planet Dog Philanthropy continues to thrive: saved a seal last week. Stew and Lindsey, (wife and Executive Director of P.D.P.) are currently, as I write this, attending to their 12 hour old healthy baby girl Skylar Clark. Oh, and we just introduced Planet Cat. Meow.


What’s your parting tip?
Approach business as if you were a dog. Only do things that feel good. Eat enough food. Drink enough water. Get enough sleep. Have enough fun. Woof.

Read more entries from the Fast 50 2003