In This Episode
To prevent pets from gnawing at or rubbing their wounds, many veterinarians choose to use the e-collar or “cone”. While the plastic tube is somewhat iconic, it’s also bulky and, in some cases, dangerous to others. Spurred on in creating an alternative based on a personal experience, Maciej Wojcik, the Director of Sales and Business Development at VedMedSolutions, developed a recovery garment that resembles a hospital gown for pets.
In an episode recorded live at the New York Vet Show, Maciej joins Shawn and Ivan to discuss how he came up with the idea, how he has grown his business, and some of the challenges in dealing with a physical product.
- The Idea Behind Alternative Recovery Garments
- Developing a Company With a Physical Product
Shawn: You’re listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. You’re listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. My name is Shawn Wilkie and along with my awesome co-host. We interview the interview turfs in the veterinary space every week Ivan. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce today’s guests.
Meet our guest – Maciej Wojcik of VetMedSolutions
Ivan: Hi, my name is Ivan Zak and we are interviewing today Maciej Wojcik. He is the director of sales and business development at vet Med Solutions, and he carries the Bachelor of Business Administration from the Wilfrid Laurier University. I believe that’s in Kitchener. In Ontario because I live nearby and the topic we’re going to talk about the recovery garments and from personal side of things maciej is bilingual in English and polish and he was a semi finalists at the University in the entrepreneurship competition.
Shawn: Awesome. Well, it’s really great to have you matching on a podcast. We’ve been friends for a couple of years and I really think what you guys are doing is truly Innovative, you know, it’s a solution that hasn’t been used. Used by anybody else as far as I’m concerned and I know you’re a young guy from Canada that’s really eager to kind of grow his business and get out there and show people what you guys are working on. So welcome to the show.
Maciej: Thank you very much guys for the introduction and the overview of my background. It’s a pleasure to be here and I’m really excited to be able to join you guys on the podcast here.
Shawn: So the traditionally caller the veterinary cone has been around forever there big bulky. I’ve seen my brother’s dogs. My friends dogs have them on You guys are really kind of I guess revolutionize out with a new approach. And so I guess before we start talk to us a little bit about what exactly you do. And yeah, I’m why its innovative and why it’s Unique in the industry,
Maciej: Right, so we actually started the business with my dog Sarah. She was a labradoodle and she had to wear the e-collar and you know her being a puppy and get her space or jury. Those two just didn’t work out. Well, she was full of energy the e-collar was being banged around the house at that time. My sister was very little Also, you know, it’s almost like a weapon this e-collar being around her house and our veterinarian actually recommended using like a onesie or a t-shirt instead of the e-collar and we try that but it’s obviously not meant to protect the wound and be worn on pet so it didn’t work well and we started to innovate and create our own design in partnership with animal hospitals and the current version of the product after I went through various prototypes in the early stages. Is called The Spooner shirts and that’s short for Spay/Neuter shirt. So that’s kind of been the base of our company. It’s a recovery down that you can use for space neuters abdominal areas any other incisions hot spots that you need to protect and currently animal hospitals offer it to their clients as an option to the e-collar some just included into the cost of surgery because they find that the E cars just don’t work well and people don’t like the cones so they kind of just put them into the cost of surgery. Since then we’ve kind of branched off our line that we call the vet Med where line short for Veterinary Medical layer and we have all types of dressings and recovery options or from the hip and thigh the shoulder for the neck upper body for the head basically any area that you need a bandage or covered. We have a solution in a sleeve for you.
Ivan: I’m looking at your your website and some of the where and because it’s not a visual show my first impression that some of them look really cool. It looks It does look like a human gown that you put on in the hospital that has a split in the back. So you everybody can see your butt but looks quite interesting now, that’s that’s quite Innovative. Exactly. And the first down we created was actually like a medical teal green color.
Maciej: So the first thing that people said, oh, it’s a hospital gown for pets. So that’s the first kind of reaction. We would CAD Sean also asked him his first question, you know, what makes it, you know different about and Especial than like the another t-shirt or other products on the market and when we started developing the the scooter shirt, what we quickly learned is animal hospitals. They don’t like hearing stock. They want to keep their stock as low as possible because it just makes it easier for their team to manage easier to put it on in size. So what’s unique about the scooter shirt is that it’s unisex and Universal. So when you receive the product depending on how you adjust and configure it you can use it for a male or female and you can also use it for cats. The rabbits so from that point of view. The only need to carry about seven sizes as opposed to having let’s say 30 or 40 different variations on every single size Sock it
Ivan: Sure is the pain in the butt to assembly ecall ER when you’re trying to release an animal going home and trying to get them all flipped and plugged in. So I definitely see the point. So, who are you main customers you you mostly because you’re based out of Canada and you mostly in Canadian Market or do you see the traction anywhere else and how long you’ve been on the market as well?
Maciej: We are from Canada. So we did start in the Canadian Market by launching at a Veterinary conference in Toronto. And that’s Are we first really started to get traction? We primarily sell to animal hospitals. But we do also sell to pet owners. It’s really product that is to be sold to the hospital because they are the point of sale for the surgery and they can offer the solution for them there. So that’s been our whole strategy since then, but we have expanded to the US market and we’ve been there for a few years now and cover all the major US Veterinary conference and we definitely see a drop ship picking up from both. Awareness on the veterinary community and also the pet owner Community. I’ve heard some pet owners coming into clinics and they tell some of our clients that they don’t want the surgery unless they have this down on because they have past experiences using the e-collar. They know it’s a headache and they really just want something that’s more comfortable for their pets. But we have been doing this now first prototyping actually began in 2011, but we just brought it to Market in 2015. That was in Toronto and then 2016. We started expanding to the US markets and we’re actively looking at the UK and Australia and rest of Europe as well as next potential markets.
Ivan: That’s very interesting in that. I was just thinking about the you know, you’re a revolutionising the e-collar and our colleague and dr. Andy Roark use that as the part of his show in the e-collar. I wonder if he’s going to try one of your apartments for his show. It’ll be interesting beginning. Can you cause we were talking about entrepreneurship here and we talking about how do you know what he start your business and and specifically in which you need to man. So, how do you how do you go about it? You have a product so it’s physical products. And software and then you came up with the idea. Can we talk about the development of the company? So what was the first prototype look like? You know, what? What did you guys made it all was it like a t-shirt or someone else, you know, you know sweat pens that you guys cut up with your sister. And you know, like what was the that to being you know, successful couple markets, you know selling a product making it in, you know, where do you Outsource your production any of the information that is not proprietary how you take it from idea and how How did you get here?
The Idea Behind Alternative Recovery Garments
Maciej: Yeah, let’s give that background. So in the very very very early beginning when we found our dog wasn’t all going to equal our we just tried anything. We’re like, let’s try to use a small towel. So I way you can cover the stay incision and we kind of wrapped it around then with our Veterinary recommending like a onesie or t-shirt. That’s exactly what we did. We went to Walmart. We bought like a little baby onesie and we put it on our dog and you know, it works someone. Well, the problem is, you know is just not designed for it. So with our products that can actually urinate without having to remove it that’s important. If you have a puppy that maybe isn’t trained. So we realize that there are some important features and elements that we need to add to the product for this to actually make it a product that people would want to buy and especially in the veterinary Community where they’re looking for certain features. So the first thing we did learn is the product needs to be breathable, you know can’t be something that’s going to prohibit healing when you’re putting on an e-collar the wound is actually fully open. So it For breathability. So what we started experimenting is with your percent cotton based Fabrics that are very light and breathable yet durable, because when you have you know, especially larger pets walking around in these don’t want them to easily rip and come off. So we really work closely in collaboration with animal hospitals. And again one major thing. Oh bumpy run into is the sizing immediately clinics were asking us when we approach them with this idea. It has to be a product that simple the size put on Or else is just going to be again that logistical difficulty trying to stalk and carry the item. So that’s when we came up with the tie string design over the top. It eliminates all with inaccuracies because we now make sizing length based. So we always tell clinics if you just want to you know measure this product on a pet. You just take the distance from the midline of the front midline of the back leg that gives you the right length of the down and then you just use the ties over the top and secure that way and you know, Also has the additional advantage that the ties on the top actually create an open top design which further promotes the breathability Adjustable easy to put on and veterinarians really like that because they found that it would be easy to stock and offer to their clients and especially with some animals. They’ll be more lean. They’ll be a little bit larger in those pies make it easy to secure an adjust and from then it was just lots of testing making sure that it be Universal for different types of animals. It just tweak the prototypes and cuts. We do have some production since you did ask metal initial question in Canada, and we also have some Partners in Europe. So that helped manufacture for us.
Shawn: So so interesting I think you know where I want to go to the with the conversation next is we’ve had two dozen episodes of our podcast. We’ve had all kinds of Technology innovators on but never never a physical product and so it’s really interesting to think of something in the veterinary space like the cone being replaced with an innovation that it sounds like the veterinarian that use it and also clients. I’ve experienced it are really comfortable with and so it seems like you’re at the stirred of you know, that hockey stick curve and growth and what do you think is going to help you get past the curve in the hockey stick and really kind of see that product take off and kind of get to the next level. And where do you think you are in that group? Are you at the beginning of it? Are you starting to kind of see, you know, the double and triple digit growth? And and what do you think it’s going to take to get to that straight up, growth?
Developing a Company With a Physical Product
Maciej: That’s an excellent question. So the hockey stick curve is actually something that we often compare our business to and it is exactly what we’ve been experiencing in the beginning. So in the early phases it was just a totally new idea It’s a Brand New Concept. We were one of the first on the market so, you know the vet Community they had their questions or doubts whether it would work because they were so used to using the e-collars. So a big portion of bringing this product out to the market is the education. It’s Them the products. It’s an in-person demonstration that they really need to see and I would say in terms of where we are in the hockey stick curve would be pretty much right at the start of the first curve, especially in the last few months. We’ve been sitting just a lot more inquiries and direct responses from clinics contacting us telling us look my client went online, but your product came into the clinic we really like this and we want to know carry it or word of mouth or reference. So, you know, the more of these conferences that we do. The more of it kind of has this natural organic growth definitely it’s helps that we have partnered with the University of Florida where in VCA hospitals and VA and in partnership with other big corporate chains of clinics since that weigh the products can gain exposure and awareness to a large group of hospitals, which then further kind of fuels the organic growth of the product. So going forward, we’re just doing lots of trade shows or building a sales team so we can go clinics. Clinic do lunch and learn the demonstration and really it’s a lot of it as educational
Shawn: I was just at CIX in Toronto one of the top technology conferences in Canada. And I saw this company called Rocket be and so really interesting company, they build indestructible pantyhose and they think it’s an eight billion dollar market the only company that’s got the patent for this indestructible pantyhose in the world and they are experiencing insane world. You know hundred thousand dollar days in the sales of these pantyhose and it’s because nobody else is quite done it like they’ve done it now the market for your product is not as large. But do you have any competitors that are doing the same thing? And what are you doing to make sure that you’re better than the competitors if there’s people in your space, sorry, but the patio comment
Maciej: No worries about that. So yes, we do have other competitors as with any category there are dozens of different. Companies that make bandages x-rays medical equipment. So that’s of course expected even though we were kind of one of the first categories on the market to introduce this type of product. What makes our product really different is that it is the in terms of The Spooner shirts our abdominal garment. It is an open top design. So as I mentioned kind of previously it helps breathability to the wound and also resolves all the sizing issues since everything is just a bowl with the ties on the top that product is Currently patent pending and it has a lot of unique features built into it. So we are fairly confident that patent will go through so that’s kind of our most protective product there. And in terms of our other lines of products, we also have various patents that were pending and also filing to try to keep it protected. But of course as with every product Around patents and have different types of options. So, you know, one of the things that we do that some other competitors may not necessarily do is that for a really low minimum order quantity. We do have custom embroidery that we can put it onto the products and we don’t mark this up very high. We purely do this to help clinics with their branding and we currently have a number of clinics that are using this program and it’s great for them because it’s just a nice touch to have their logo onto the product a lot of Clients are taking photos of their pets wearing this gown, so their logo is being shown on social media. So those are the types of things that we work on to keep us different and also competitive in the market.
Shawn: Thanks so much for listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. We’re pretty social people. So you’ll find us on every social media channel. Also, you can check out our website at the veterinary Innovation podcast.com. Thanks so much for listening.