A Johns Island-based company that makes a foldable, portable pocket dog bowl and matching carrying pouch will soon land on one of the nation’s largest e-commerce websites.
Lowcountry Pet Specialties was among the companies chosen through Walmart's “Open Call” initiative to promote locally made products on the retailer’s marketplace website. The goal is to get it on Walmart’s physical shelves.
According to a press release from Walmart, more than 1,100 businesses from across the country pitched their products at the annual “Open Call” last year and just more than 330 were chosen to be sold in stores and online.
Lowcountry Pet Specialties was one of four suppliers in South Carolina chosen for products made, grown or assembled in the state.
The Mobowl (named for “mobile bowl”) is a $12.99 patented BPA-free foldable travel pet bowl that fits two cups of food or two cups of water and measures just four inches in diameter when open.
Launched nearly four years ago, the Mobowl is now sold at 120 pet specialty retailers worldwide and available on the Lowcountry Pet Specialties website.
“We have sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000-100,000 units. We have shipped 30,000 units to Europe,” said Lowcountry Pet Specialties founder John Hagerman, a retired engineer. “Europeans love this product; they are very active with their pets. (This WalMart partnership) is the project that really puts us on the map. By being in Walmart, it opens new doors for us to other retailers.”
Hagerman started Lowcountry Pet Specialties specifically to manufacture and sell the Mobowl. He came up with the idea after outings with his border collie at the beach and the park where he would forget to bring a water bowl.
“I would either cobble something up out of aluminum foil or I’d even pour water into my hand,” Hagerman said. “I looked online for a portable pet bowl, but nothing impressed me. I said,’ You know what? I'm going to make my own.’”
Hagerman’s friend had a 3-D printer and the first prototype of the Mobowl was created. Hagerman spent years testing different materials that was both safe for dogs and foldable into just inches. Hagerman has a trademark and patent for the Mobowl in multiple countries.
“The business was going great, and then the pandemic hit. And the problem was everybody was working remotely, so we didn’t have an opportunity to present our product or meet major retailers face to face and let them experience the product and feel it,” Hagerman said.
He discovered the Open Call initiative and applied last summer. Hagerman is currently in the process of supplying photos and a product description to Walmart's corporate marketing team and hopes to be online in the next few months.
The Mobowl is currently manufactured in Indiana, but Hagerman said he has plans to move production closer to home, especially if orders increase from the Walmart partnership. Hagerman said he hopes to hire workers to fulfill orders for increased production.
“We are looking now for a manufacturing site here in Charleston County. We're also looking in Colleton County to be able to fulfill the orders — Colleton County is offering some great incentives — in being able to warehouse all the products and all the packaging,” Hagerman said. “The plan is to maintain (inventory) we have now. Right now, we have plenty of inventory, but we're hoping that we deplete this inventory and we get back into production and start increasing production.”
Hagerman said he is working on inventing new to-be-trademarked products through Lowcountry Pet Specialties. He hopes the Walmart connection will spur national retailers like PetSmart or Petco to carry the Mobowl on shelves.
“Now that Walmart has brought us on board, I hope it will happen that (national pet retailers) are going to look at us with a much more serious frame of mind,” Hagerman said. “Our goal is to get it on the shelf. Once it gets on the shelf, that's when we will really ramp up production.”