Viva Singer seems like a name you might see on a marquis along the strip in Vegas. And if you’re a canine with a keen sense of fashion, that’s exactly where Viva’s name belongs.
Singer, 44, is the owner of Hotdogs Alldressed. She creates haute couture for fashion savvy pooches around the world.
Hotdogs was not the first business venture for Singer, who once owned a consignment clothing shop for kids. “As a single mom, it was a good way to clothe her cutely,” said Singer. “But then my daughter got big so I needed to clothe my dogs cutely.”
The first Hotdogs creation was a collar for Singers’ boxer Ben. Ben was allergic to nylon, so Singer made him a custom-made, star-studded leather collar.
“I’d had horses before, so I was familiar with good quality leather. So I made him a leather collar that was cute, because he was cute,” said Singer.
Singers’ friend soon began selling Hotdog collars at her pet store, Petite Patte, on Monkland. “It was the first time I’d made sales to anyone who wasn’t related to me”, joked Singer. Then the collars began to sell and Singer decided to sell her consignment clothing store and pursue Hotdogs full time.
“The business grew fairly quickly: I found a niche market, and it all started with Benny’s collar.”
Much of her start-up financing came from the Quebec government. “It helped me get started, because I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had no experience in exporting and importing,” said Singer.
This investment has paid off for the government: the loan has been repaid and Singer currently has six full time and five part time employees.
Since Benny’s collar’s debut nine years ago, Hotdogs Alldressed has expanded every year to date. The warehouse has moved three times, each time to a bigger location in order to accommodate increasing demand. The collars range in price from $20 to $50, the leashes are between $40 and $80, the dog tags are $12 and the high end sheepskin and motorcycle jackets are upwards of $100.
“We send out well over a hundred orders a week, double that during the months leading up to Christmas. The biggest seller is the tags,” said Singer. “They could be a business all on their own.”
Hotdog products are sold throughout North America, Europe and Japan. “90 per cent of my sales are in the U.S.,” said Singer. “The U.S. is very avant garde in this industry.” Singer has several sales reps, who introduce her products to retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
And she has made it into the movies. Hotdog collars has been sported by movie star pooches in Windixie, Legally Blond 2, and Lolo ,the bulldog from The Osbournes. Paris Hilton’s dog, Tinkerbell, has also been spotted sporting a Hotdogs Alldressed original.
“The Canadian market has started to pick up in the last year,” explained Singer. There are now more than a dozen retailers in Montreal that carry Hotdog pet accessories.
The Little Bear pet store on Ste. Catherine’s St. has been offering hotdogs products for the past eight years. “The owner goes to a lot of trade shows; that is where he discovered Hotdogs”, said Brian Jamieson, a sales clerk at Little Bear.
“The products are good; they tend to be more resilient than some of our other leather models,” said Jamieson. “I’ve never heard any complaints and as far as I know, none have ever been returned. They’re one of our best sellers.”
Singers’ marketing strategy revolves around word of mouth, creating quality merchandise and simply getting the product out there for people to see.
Hotdogs has been recording profit since it started nine years ago, with increasing profit margins every year to date. “Most people in this business are only around three or four years. We’ve been around for nine years, so we’re pretty well established,” said Singer.
And fear not feline friends, Hotdogs also has a line of cat accessories. Should Hotdogs Alldressed continue at the rate it’s going there should be a line for all you pets out there. So owners beware: you’ll have to keep up with your trendsetting furry friends.