In 2019, Jeremy Canade, A&S '06, and his sister, Sophie Bakalar, launched Fable Pets, a direct-to-consumer luxury pet brand that features innovative, high-quality pet products. "Fable is the third company Sophie and I have started together," Canade says. "We've always had some type of business venture underway since college."
Shortly after graduation, Canade and Bakalar, who attended Tufts University, launched an investment company, Perry Street Capital, followed three years later by a startup software company, di8it Charts, that was acquired in 2016 by the software company think-cell.
Canade then joined jet.com, an ecommerce startup, where he worked in strategy and business development while Bakalar worked in venture capital.
"Growing up, Sophie and I always had pets that were a big part of our family," Canade says. "As we tossed around ideas on what our next company would be, we realized there wasn't a household brand in the pet category that offered high-quality, problem-solving products, so we decided to create one."
As the company's co-founder, Canade shares what he's learned since he first launched Fable Pets at fablepets.com four years ago.
Where did the idea for Fable Pets come from?
Sophie and I learned there are no safety regulations on pet toys and accessories, so we decided to create our own protocol, making products from materials that are strength tested, durable, and food-safe for pets. We also keep the designs minimal, so there aren't any tiny pieces that can break off and pose a choking hazard for dogs.
Fable Pets products are optimally designed to make caring for a pet easier, and as a bonus, they also look good. Sophie and I felt we could improve on just about all the pet products on the market, starting with the basic leash. Our "Magic Leash" can be worn by dog owners as a belt, bandolier, or wrist strap that clips to your dog's harness or collar, allowing for hands-free, leisurely walks.
What was Fable's first product?
It was a collar harness. We wanted the hardware to be custom and to ensure it was secure. We learned that a lot of pet products aren't appropriately tested for safety, and some of the hardware used on leashes, harnesses, and collars is handbag hardware that isn't optimized for pets. We started with a high-end leather line and had the hardware redesigned to minimize accidental openings and keep dogs safe.
Looking back, can you recall any instructive mistakes?
We tried to do everything ourselves at first, for as long as possible, but in retrospect, I think for our own sanity, we probably could have brought on a couple of employees or contractors earlier than we did. I'd led teams before and I was used to working hard, so I wasn't super concerned about immediately onboarding employees. My priority was ensuring we weren't burning cash with payroll costs.
A lot of new ventures fail—why do you think your company has been successful?
I believe it's through force of will and dedication. When you start a new venture, there's a million points where you could easily throw up your hands and give up, so you really need to believe in your business.
After Sophie and I came up with the initial idea for Fable, I never doubted the legitimacy of our plan. Pet owners today have such a profound connection with their animals, and we saw a need for better pet products and more thoughtful designs.
What was the biggest surprise in creating your company?
I think it was realizing how all consuming it can be. As a founder, it's difficult to disconnect, and although I've always been goal-oriented and worked in high-pressure jobs, the degree to which I found myself identifying with our creations was something of a surprise.
I've also been blown away by the level of excitement and support we get from customers. For example, we initially launched a dog crate that also doubles as a side table as a test item, and it's proven to be one of our most popular items.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
I'm very proud of where we are, but if I could do anything differently, it would be starting sooner and moving quicker. We're still growing, and there's still plenty of opportunities for us to develop new products and expand.
What's next for Fable?
We're very passionate about developing more enrichment toys and products. I think a lot of pet owners appreciate how smart their dog is but don't consider how much mental stimulation and exercise their dog needs. Canine researchers say dogs' mental abilities are close to those of a 2-year-old child, and they need mental enrichment, just like young children.
One of our bestsellers is a dog enrichment toy called The Game that helps treat anxiety and boredom by mimicking the experience of hunting prey. It's an interactive toy that can hold over 1.5 cups of dry dog food.
My own dog, Ranger, a 5-year-old border collie, serves as both a model and product tester for Fable Pets and gives his paw of approval to new products before we bring them to market.