Four years ago, Catherine Whiteman’s love for her Brittany Spaniels inspired her to start a business out of her home in Athens, New York. Three Wags opened in 2016 creating quality and domestically made pet accessories that she felt confident in. Like many small business owners during COVID-19 however, Whiteman faced some new challenges.
Whiteman found a new direction. The products Three Wags sells are handmade, so it was an easy transition for her to create masks when she had requests from friends and family. Whiteman wanted to sell a mask that she was confident in, reflecting the brand, and found a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) pattern that was developed in the 1930s. The pattern contoured the face and included a slit for a filter. Eventually she added embroidery and monograms.
Three Wags adapted to address the mask shortage and help the public remain safe. There was such a demand for people to have a mask – any mask - that the developed pattern wasn’t customized until she started receiving requests from friends. When personalizations became more popular, she started selling custom masks made with different patterns.
"I never thought that on today, I would be here [making masks]. And I never expected the volume in the first days…it shocked me. And made me feel even more that this is something the public needs and they weren’t finding. There was such a demand for people to just have a mask rather than taking the extra time to [make one].”
As Three Wags’ masks grew in popularity, Whiteman noticed people were ordering bandanas for their dogs with similar patterns to the masks they were ordering for themselves. She realized this was a great opportunity in her core customer base, and shifted again to meet this new demand. Three Wags began selling matching face mask and dog bandana sets.
“Some people probably roll their eyes and think it’s silly, but a lot of people have enjoyed it. If doing something little makes people feel better about the way they look then I’m all for it because then they’re more likely to wear the mask.”
“The heart of my business is the relationship between dogs and their people; everything I make is improving that relationship.”
As Greene County starts to reopen, masks are going to be even more important for limiting the spread of COVID-19. People want to feel good about what they’re wearing so custom masks are likely to grow in popularity. If Three Wags’ mask and bandana sets bring people a little joy or they make them want to walk their dog, then Catherine Whiteman has met her goal.