PDX Pet Design on ‘Shark Tank’: A Look Inside the Company

PDX Pet Design entered the Shark Tank in Season 8 with their unique cat products.

We interviewed Tara O’Mara, who started the company with her husband, Jason. The couple combined their science and engineering knowledge to carefully create enjoyable toys for cats. “Pet owners love our cat-centered designs and we continue to receive positive feedback about the quality of our products and their transformative power in kitty households,” she said.
Here’s what else she told us about…

Buy a SHRU for your cat here.

Buy a LICKI Brush here.

How the Idea for SHRU – The Intelligent Cat Companion- Came About

The idea for came about out of true necessity. Jason and I were living in a 700-square foot apartment with three cats and, each day, we’d come home exhausted from work and face the play demands of our kitties. Trips to the pet store proved futile, as the cat toy industry hadn’t changed much in the last 30 years. With our backgrounds in science and engineering, we knew we could build a toy that would truly entertain a cat while the humans are out for an extended period of time, so we set about doing just that. As we developed the product, we continuously asked ourselves what the cats would want and approached it with kitty-centered mindset.

Their Bestsellers-SHRU & LICKI Brush

SHRU helps to keep kitties mentally and physically stimulated, which is a huge unmet need that all cat owners face. For that reason, SHRU is our bestseller. We stand behind the quality of our products 100 percent, and continue to receive unsolicited praise for the transformative power of SHRU on a kitty’s well being. LICKI Brush is the tongue-shaped brush that humans can hold in their mouth to “lick” their cat. Regular use of LICKI Brush promotes bonding between the human and cat, as it helps the human simulate mother-kitten bonding behavior. SHRU is by far our best seller to date, though LICKI Brush is gaining on SHRU in popularity! 

How Their Products Are Different From Those on the Market

Many cat products are designed with a human-centered approach, “How will this piece of furniture look in someone’s home?” or “How will this toy appeal to a human in the pet store aisle?” We approach things differently, with the animals at the center of our designs. During product design, we try to get into the pet’s mind and view the world from their perspective. It wouldn’t be unusual to find us mimicking their behavior, at their eye level, when working on new product designs. 

Appearance on the ‘Tank’

Many of our friends and family have encouraged us to apply to Shark Tank. While it always sounded like a great idea, we were always way too busy and our response was “We have a business to run!” In the summer of 2016, we were invited to apply to Shark Tank and we figured it was time to put ourselves out there, and we’re sure glad we did!

Gratitude for Kickstarter Campaigns

We used Kickstarter as a crowd-sourced funding platform for both SHRU and LICKI Brush. Both times, we vastly exceeded our goals with the amazing support of Kickstarter backers. It is an understatement to say that we could not have done this without our Kickstarter backers. Creating physical products is expensive as there are many hidden R&D, tooling, manufacturing, and inventory costs and there’s simply no way we could have self-financed these products. Startups typically take on investors to address this very problem. Kickstarter is an amazing alternative, as you can raise money upfront and still be able to focus on serving your audience and not your investors. 

Pros to Working With Her Husband

Jason and I have science and engineering backgrounds, which helps in that we approach problems with a similar attitude, a systematic approach that’s open to new ideas and data. This has definitely helped us in developing products together, and it doesn’t hurt that we live together so we can work on the business together at literally any time of day. The true unsung pros of working with your spouse is that you don’t have to schedule meetings because you can literally get creative and meet at any time of the day.

Buy a SHRU for your cat here.

Buy a LICKI Brush here.

Other Tank products for pets: