Who said being in the doghouse is a bad thing? This fall, coming to some Brooklyn neighborhoods, you will begin to see some new housing popping up. We’re not talking about next new hot luxury highrise, but a doghouse outside your favorite coffee shop! Boyce Technologies, working together with the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s (NYCEDC) Futureworks NYC program, gave a helping hand to unleash Dogparker!
Dogparker is an internet connected, climate controlled, smart dog house to shelter your dog while you run into your favorite restaurant or buy groceries. Having a Dogparker at a storefront is a win-win for the dog owner and the local business owner. Dog owners now have a safe place to keep their dog while they shop or run errands, and the business owner wins the business of client who may have forgone patronizing their business since they can’t allow a dog on premise.
Chelsea Brownridge and Todd Schechter came up with the Dogparker concept when walking their dog Winston, a terrier mix rescue dog from Bedford, New York. Winston has a ton of energy and loves to go on walks. As Chelsea described, “Winston has FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and puts on a sad, dog face when I have to leave him behind.” Unfortunately, many NYC businesses do not allow dogs, such as restaurants, supermarkets, laundromats, and nail salons. “I didn’t want to tie him up. There is lots of dog theft and aggressive dogs. So I asked myself, what if there was a safe place for Winston to wait for me?”
So the idea was born. However, many challenges quickly revealed themselves. How do you create a shelter that people can easily share? How to keep it clean? Is it secure? How do we avoid extreme heat or extreme cold? How can it fit in the three-foot area storefronts are allowed to use? How do we get the manufacturing help we need?
With their savings, they built the first prototype in a garage in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, a modified version of a store bought doghouse. It was evident building more dog houses in a garage is not feasible nor scalable. For their concept to flourish, they needed mentorship, capital, and a manufacturing partner.
Then one day, Todd saw the Help Point Unit on the subway platform. He saw the name Boyce Technologies on the side of the Help Point and wrote a cold email. Charles Boyce, President, and Tom Powell, Director of Business Development received the email. Coincidently, they were already familiar with Dogparker since Futureworks NYC had already approached Boyce Technologies to see how they can donate resources and help support the startup. Upon reading Todd’s email, they invited Todd and Chelsea to visit the Boyce Technologies facilities. “We were blown away with the tour of the facilities. It was the first time us seeing a manufacturing facility. Todd and I don’t come from a manufacturing or technical background. If they can accomplish such high-end manufacturing, they can surely build a smart dog house in their sleep,” says Chelsea.
After the tour, Charles sat down with Chelsea and Todd, and he started asking questions about their idea. Chelsea and Todd shared pictures of the prototype and a video of the prototype in action. Charles was impressed with how far they have gotten building their prototype and testing it in the field.
“When Futureworks NYC called us inquiring if we wanted to donate our time and energy into a smart dog house, I have to admit; it was a bit strange. We’re not in the dog house building business! However, after meeting with Chelsea and Todd, and hearing their passion for Dogparker, reviewing prototypes, and understanding how this can help New Yorkers, we were happy to sponsor them through Futureworks” says Charles Boyce.
“We are extremely grateful. We know startups fail all the time. We’re lucky to have our relationship with Boyce Technologies because investors want to know you can build the thing you want to be built. So while people respected that we built our prototype in a garage and were able to bootstrap, we needed to figure out manufacturing in order to a viable and investable business. So Boyce Technologies filled in that piece of the equation for us. It made it much easier to go out and raise our first round investment. If not for the relationship of Boyce, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
So what improvements did Boyce Technologies provide to the Dogparker? First off, you can’t have a dog house without it looking like a dog house. The new Dogparker has a pitched roof, offering the traditional dog house look. The pitched roof also prevents people from sitting on top of it and repels snow during the winter. The new version is a custom-built doghouse, instead of the modified store bought dog house. The design is sleek, and no longer has any exposed screws. Indicator lights, a speaker, and improved card reader system have been installed providing a great user experience.
The interior can fit most dogs, even larger dogs like golden retrievers. The cooling system was completely overhauled to work all year around. It cools in hot weather and provides heat during winter months. A UVC sanitation system keeps the unit clean from any bacteria. An internal webcam was updated so that the owner can keep an eye on their dog via the Dogparker app. The dog house continues to be connected to 4G internet to communicate with owners and Dogparker central. With all these new features, your furry friend may not want to leave.
When asked about her experience with working with Boyce Technologies, Chelsea was most impressed by the culture of Boyce Technologies. “You can tell by looking around here that everyone is family. It is nice to witness that and also be invited into it. We were invited to work from their offices and would work out of Boyce Technologies a couple of times a week, and was always made to feel very welcome. While I can talk for days about how talented the engineering team is, how they make amazing products locally – which is incredible, I do think it is the culture they have been able to create here that is special and rare.”
Our experience working with NYCEDC’s Futureworks NYC has been inspiring, and we’re supportive of the work they are doing in helping promote advanced manufacturing. Part of our mission at Boyce Technologies is to push the boundaries of engineering. The team enjoyed working on this project, and can’t wait to witness the successful rollout of Dogparkers throughout Brooklyn and other walkable cities. We aim to keep New Yorkers safe with our innovations; this now includes our four legged friends.