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Sandra Allison knows how difﬁcult it is to ﬁnd an attractive pet urn. When her beloved poodle Molly died, Allison couldn’t ﬁnd the kind of urn she was comfortable using. By Steve Cronin
Everything she saw was either made overseas or made out of resin. “I was willing to pay a good price for a good urn. But I couldn’t find it,” she said. When Allison did find what she was looking for, she not only saw an urn worthy of her lost pet, but also a business opportunity. Thus was born a new line of offerings for American Mutt, a company dedicated to providing customers with people and pet products that are made in the United States. “I knew there were more people like me out there who wanted something unique and exclusive to honor their pets,” said Allison, who runs the business from her home in Hickory, North Carolina. American Mutt now sells urns for all kinds of pets, as well as their owners. In addition, it carries a wide variety of other products, ranging from clothing to tableware. American Mutt isn’t Allison’s first business venture. She had worked in corporate management and purchasing but decided that was not the life for her. “I found that more and more, I was staying up all night buying from China,” she said. “I knew I needed a career change.”
Artist Jeremy Lee turns an urn for American Mutt. (Photo courtesy of American Mutt)
The company produces urns that are appropriate for dogs, cats and other types of pets – from iguanas to horses, Allison said. A calculator on the American Mutt website helps customers determine the size urn they need. “If you could peek into my warehouse of urns, you would be amazed. Every time I get a new batch, I’m like, ‘I want this one, I want that one,’” she said. The company originally sold urns online and at home shows, but it has started reaching out to funeral directors about its products. Allison and Brown realized that their pet company should also start selling matching urns for the pet owners themselves. “As the company developed, we realized you have to change with the market. When my customers started saying, ‘I want one for me,’ we knew we had to go more generic and put a knob on top. Now it can be used for anybody or any animal,” Allison said. Customers can choose urns that are in stock, which ship in one day, or request custom urns, which require about six weeks to produce. When customizing, customers can specify urn size, colors used and the type of top the urn comes with.
The company serves the entire United States, and Allison has started expanding its sales force in hopes of establishing an even larger presence. The entrepreneur knows this is only the beginning for her company and says American Mutt is likely to expand its product line beyond the urns Gaddy can manufacture. “We will eventually get into other styles and types that are made by other companies. We will constantly grow with the market. But, we will only bring it to the market if it is a truly unique item,” Allison said. “If everybody else carries it, it’s not for us.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of American Cemetery & Cremation, published by Kates-Boylston Publications, and is being shared with permission.
When founding American Mutt in 2016, Allison teamed with Virginia-based veterinarian Robert Brown, who opened Cherrydale Veterinary Clinic in Arlington, Virginia, in 1972. The pair was committed to providing customers with American-made pet-related products. Allison’s search for the perfect pet urn ended in 2017 when she met Janet Gaddy, a sculptor and art professor based in North Carolina. Allison loved Gaddy’s work, even if the artist wasn’t initially sold on the idea of creating urns for people’s four-legged companions. “I met her at an art show. I loved her work; it was like nothing else I saw in the whole building. I said, ‘That is what I wanted,’ because I could see it is very unique,” Allison said. Gaddy made the urn for Allison’s poodle, and the American Mutt founder knew she found urns her customers would love. “I said, ‘Oh, my goodness. I just have to have this in my business.’” Allison recalled. But Gaddy wasn’t interested. Producing the urns is a laborintensive process that takes about 30 hours. But Allison wasn’t taking no for an answer. “About the fourth time I asked her and begged her, she finally agreed,” Allison said. Gaddy now works with a team of artists to produce the urns, which are available on the company website for $225 and retail between $800 and $1,000. Each urn is a unique creation and is numbered, registered and includes a certificate of authenticity. The urn for Allison’s poodle Molly was numbered 1. “The one thing we don’t want to do is go to a mass-produced item. These are hand thrown; it’s not forced in a mold. They’re really one of a kind. That is why they are numbered,” she said. “When you buy one, you are really buying a work of art.” Allison said it was also important to her that the interiors of the urns be decorated and as beautiful as the exteriors. Once the urn is made, the artists then produce the lid, which can be customized by adding bones or other items to commemorate the specific type of pet.
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