At first glance, Trevor looks like your above average guy: brown eyes, sandy-colored hair, and just the hint of a smile. You’d never know by looking at his photograph that three years ago, he became an accident statistic as he walked his dog, Naraku, in his neighborhood. Trevor Jensen describes what happened that fateful day:
“It was early in the morning and Naraku and I were doing our normal 4 mile loop. We were almost home and waited at the crosswalk for the light to turn green. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a car come barreling through the intersection headed straight for us. It’s true that time slows down a little bit because I remember very clearly playing out the following scenario in my head: the bumper is at the level of my dog’s head, she will get hit and dragged under the car. I decided to shove her out of the way with one leg and took the force of the car on the leg that was planted on the ground. I was hit hard enough to propel a 230 pound man on to her hood, up in the air and land in the street. The driver kept driving. My bond with Naraku is so deep that I risked my life to save her. Most people have a hard time understanding why I would do such a thing for a dog.”
One of the alarming facts that Trevor discovered after his accident is that in this country, on average, a pedestrian is hit by a moving vehicle every 8 minutes.
Trevor wanted to change that. So he started Pup Protector, a company that designs and creates innovative, mult-purpose pet products. How he did that is an entrepeneurial dream come true. Still very much a start up company, Pup Protector has rolled out its first product: a line of ultra-bright lighted, LED leashes and collars for dogs. Pup Protector’s mission? ” … to have a light up product on every dog that walks their human companion at night or early morning. We want to bring awareness to this issue and provide solutions. We hope no one else has to risk their life for their best friend.”
Healing Rescue Dogs Interviews The Guy Who Got Hit By A Car:
HRD: You created a very up-beat video that tells your story and stars Naraku. The video downplays your accident and tells the product story through the eyes (and mouth) of Naraku – a very smart Weimaraner. Before we get into the product details, tell us about your canine spokes-heroine.
Trevor: One of the things about launching this company that I was excited about was that I could showcase the bond I have developed with Naraku. I have had her since she was three months old. She’s nine years old now. I spent a lot of time learning to train her; learning how to understand dog language, which is mostly body language.
I think this video shows that she is more than “just a dog,” which is an important, subtle message in the video.
And as for the video, she was having the time of her life. All the attention was on her. She was acting like a little diva. I kid you not, she understands words , she knew what we wanted and delivered it perfectly. By the end of the day, the guys who shot the video were convinced that she spoke English.
HRD: So, tell us about the actual video production. How long did it take to script it out? to shoot it? Who helped with the production? It’s a great intro to your company, by the way. Naraku performs beautifully! Is she a natural or did you have to work with her a lot before you shot the video?
Trevor: Naraku and I have a special bond that I wanted to show the world. We actually did the whole shoot in one day. Believe it or not, she does some variation of these “tricks” as part of her normal daily routine. The video was really a dream come true, as I said before she is 9 years old and I am starting to notice that she is slowing down. This video will forever be a tribute to my little angel that I can show to my children and my children’s children.
The script was really fun and planning out the routine Naraku would do was a blast. We did a huge story board and planned it out over a couple of weeks. Our video crew Alejandro Miyashiro and Gavin Filipiak shot some great scenes and Alex Graham of Second Estate Films did the sound and voice overs. Also thanks to Mardee Formales for the fashion shots!
HRD: How soon after your accident did you get the idea for the LED collars and leashes? Without giving away any of your trade secrets, can you walk us through what happened from that first “aha moment” to where you are today?
Trevor: After 3 years of standing by and seeing that no one else was going to start a movement, I decided it was time. We just knew we wanted to raise awareness and fight the problem. At first we didn’t know what to do, but we knew something had to be done.
The aha moment was when we would see bikers with blinking lights riding by. You hardly ever see someone riding their bike at night without wearing some sort of light or reflector. We thought… why can’t we start a campaign to make that the case for dog walkers too? We decided to make that the rule for dog walkers and not the exception.
We saw that LED dog products already existed but there were not any companies that were pushing the message. It seemed like they were selling products first and using the message to sell more products. We think that is backwards, we want to push the message first and provide a solution to the problem.
As for the other products out there, they just felt cheap. They were flimsy and not very fashionable We knew we had to make a good looking product that people would want to show off so we could get people excited to put them on their dog. When people are excited about a product, they tell their friends. That is another way to get the message out there.
We went through about 30 engineers. The costs were very high to design prototypes. We almost gave up because our credit cards were maxed out and we had no money. I was starting to doubt myself in a serious way.
We finally found a group that was willing to work with us and get us some prototypes without a huge expense if we promised to use them when we made a large order. That’s why we have a target number on our crowd funding campaign. We need to hit a certain production volume to be able to manufacture these products at a reasonable price and reward our manufacturing company for believing in us and giving us a shot.
HRD: Other than yourself and Naraku, who are the other members of your team? How did you pull everyone together?
Trevor: I could not do it without my team. My brother Spencer is an amazing person. He has been helping underprivileged his whole life. He quit his job at a group home to help me with this mission. He is great at social media and has the most positive attitude I have ever encountered. We have hit a lot of rejection trying to get this movement off the ground and he is always there to remind me that we are doing the right thing and we just need to fight through the adversity.
I would say the third pillar on our team is our web and IT specialist, Michael Bokosky. He designed the whole website from scratch. He has been working 15 hour days right beside us making sure this project runs smoothly. I don’t even understand how he has remained so positive throughout this whole experience, but he really believes in what we are doing.
I mentioned our film, sound and production crew already, but they were all extremely important. All of them worked for next to nothing. That film should have cost $10K or more with the equipment they used, and they just did it because they believe in this cause. Amazing people.
All of these people are dear friends. They see how important this cause is and have worked hard to push the message with the belief that we will make the world a safer place. These are the people who deserve the credit. I am just a guy who got hit by a car.
HRD: When did you “go live” on the internet and what kind of a response are you getting?
Trevor: We went live on Tuesday, March 12th. So far we have had over 4,000 views to the video. It’s been great. We get pictures of parents watching the video with their kids and feedback from all sorts of people saying what a great idea this is and how happy they are that someone is tackling this issue. We have had dozens of people share their stories about getting hit by cars and it reinforces our belief that we are fighting a worthy cause.
HRD: Let’s talk about the products. In layman’s terms, what is Thermoplastic Polyurethane? How did you come up with this component for your product line? How long have you been selling collars and leashes? What feedback are you getting from your customers?
Trevor: Thermoplastic Polyurethane is a strong plastic material that is considered safe enough to use in products like reusable baby diapers. We wanted an extremely durable material because dogs are not easy on collars and leashes. We also like the sleek look and the reflective qualities.
We just wanted something that looked simple, was durable, and fashionable. We get stopped in the street all the time by people asking where they can get them. It’s a product they have never seen before. We have had people flat out try and buy our prototypes off Naraku’s back for $100.
We won’t be able to deliver the product until the campaign is over, in about 2 weeks, but we have given out some prototypes. The response is great. People can’t believe that a dog product can look this good.
HRD: What’s the best thing you like about these collars and leashes?
Trevor: We read the complaints about other LED dog products and addressed them in our product. Our standard 3 volt batteries can be changed easily. You can find the batteries almost anywhere.
Our collars and leashes are very fashionable. We went through many different styles before we found one that the US marketplace has never seen. They look great with the lights on and with the lights off.
They are also tough. In reality dogs can tear apart almost anything, but these leashes and collars are not easy to shred. We smashed and pulled and submerged and bit and tested these products in many different ways to make sure they could handle a dog’s life. I wish we filmed the things we were doing to the collars and leashes. It was pretty funny.
HRD: What’s been your biggest challenge so far in rolling out the business?
Trevor: The biggest challenge so far has been launching the campaign. We were denied by Kickstarter and couldn’t get funding to launch a business in a segment I was new to. I’ve been doing commercial real estate my whole life and people thought I was crazy to get into pet products. They didn’t understand that it was more than just pet products. I wanted to start a movement.
We also struggled to get an engineer to work with us on prototypes. Pulling a team together without any money is no easy task either. I am still shocked at the team we assembled. Utterly amazing.
HRD: What’s one thing that really surprised you (in a good way) about this venture to date?
Trevor: The way people have reacted to the story. Unfortunately it is pretty common to hear about pedestrians being hit by cars. Our video is truly inspiring people. That is a great feeling. I always felt alone because people couldn’t understand the trauma associated with an accident like that. But hearing other people’s stories who have gone through similar situations gives me a sense of community. Not that I want to hear everyone’s horror stories, but I am glad we are providing a benefit for people.
HRD: What can my readers do to help you spread the word about Pup Protector?
Trevor: They can donate to the cause and receive some cool rewards. Obviously two of the most popular rewards are the collar and leash. They can also donate without a reward.
They can also spread the word and encourage other people to contribute. We want to continue to make videos to raise awareness and make it normal for people to reach for their lighted products when they leave the house to go for a walk.
Up-date on Pup Protector’s progress:
Healing Rescue Dogs and many other fans, read this post on Pup Proctor’s Facebook page, dated April 4, 2013: ” Our crowd funding campaign wrapped up and we now have enough funds to get more products for you guys! Thanks everyone!