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Press: Pet tag startup relies on wide community of designers

Pet identification tags have become a lot more expressive thanks to DogTagArt's designs.

Pet identification tags have become a lot more expressive thanks to DogTagArt's designs.

Jack Carrier with MaggieThe new business uses a “crowd-sourcing” platform that allows artists, designers and pet lovers to upload full-color, original graphic art designed to fit on a round aluminum tag. If company founder Jack Carrier approves a design, it's offered to customers. 

Designers receive royalties when their tag designs are ordered online from the business's Web site, www.dogtagart.com.

“I found a technology that allows me to print on superdurable, virtually indestructible tags,” Carrier, 33, said. “This discovery allowed me to open up design to the community. It's open submissions.” 

The colorful designs currently run the gamut from breed silhouettes to abstract art to dog cartoons to slogans like “Got treats?” or “Can you dig it?”

Customers can choose from more than 100 designs — and counting — created by 21 artists to grace one side of Fido's ID. The other side includes information provided by the pet owner, such as address and phone number.

DogTagArt designers include folks from Western North Carolina and beyond. The first person to design a tag for the business was Asheville-based artist Karen McCabe.

“What Jack's doing that I think is very novel is understanding dog owners' desire that their dogs look good,” said Barry Silverstein, volunteer branding and marketing consultant for Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College's Small Business Incubator. “I was intrigued by the idea of coming up with stylish ID tags for dogs where owners (even though they're projecting) can feel like their dogs are expressing themselves.”

DogTagArt is supported in part by a $25,000 grant from A-B Tech's Small Business Center and Incubator. The business recently was chosen from among 14 emerging technology companies to win the grant. Scott Freshwater, owner of the local HomeVestors franchise, provided DogTagArt's initial seed money.

Although the tags were originally envisioned as pet tags, Carrier foresees a secondary market for runners and bikers, who can use the tags as identification or for medical alerts. He's also has a number of friends who wear the tags as jewelry.

“You can type really anything you want to on the tag,” Carrier noted.  As the business's only full-time employee, Carrier prints each tag to order from his office at the business incubator.

The DogTagArt Web site was launched in mid-July under the umbrella of Carrier's company eTag. Enthusiasm for the tags took off quickly, so Carrier's focused on that side of the business, but he plans to develop another safety option for pet owners. In a few months, customers will be able to set up a Web page on the DogTagArt site containing extensive emergency contact information for their pets. That site address would be printed on the pet's tag and serve as a backup if the pet is lost.

“Phone numbers fail. We'll have a Web address specific to an animal, such as www.dogtagart.com/fido. If someone finds the dog, he can put a message on that site that immediately would be e-mailed and texted to the owner,” Carrier said.

Depending on the design, the tags retail from $9-$15, with $1 per sale going to the designer.

Carrier came up with the idea for his business because his 13-year-old chocolate Lab, Maggie, tends to wander away. When researching the idea, he learned that one-third of all pets get lost during their lifetimes and many are euthanized because they can't be identified.

This knowledge inspired Carrier to team up with the Asheville Humane Society. Anyone who adopts a pet from the society receives a code that includes a donation from DogTagArt to the society if they purchase a tag from the business. Carrier said he'd like to work with other nonprofit animal rescue groups as well.

by Anne Fitten Glenn  (copied from Asheville Citizen Times Sunday Edition on September 6, 2009)

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