It took time for SLiK Hound to perfect its high-fashion dog collars, but now the business is thriving.
Dogs are man’s best friend. So don’t they deserve a collar that looks and functions better than the $8 special at PetSmart?
That’s the idea behind SLiK Hound, a young Kansas City company. It’s best known for its Pop Fashion line of dog collars that feature bright colors and designs, combined with extremely durable construction.
The collars are lined with satin for the dogs’ comfort, and Kevlar thread—the same kind of material used in bullet-resistant vests—is used to stitch everything together.
“We’re the only dog-collar company that I know of that stitches with Kevlar thread,” co-owner Nick Luke said.
SLiK Hound is the brainchild of Nick and wife Amy, a local couple who happen to own four dogs of their own: a whippet, an Afghan hound, a Saluki and an Italian greyhound. The Jackson County natives, who’ve been married four years, started dating when they were students at Fort Osage High.
Their company’s collars come in a range of lengths, widths and styles, including more than 260 different fabrics.
‘There’s No Book Out There’
The Lukes got into the dog-collar business in 2011, after they made friends with Gretchen Miller, the owner of Westport’s Doggie Style Bowtique and Pet Salon. She mentioned that her supplier for fashion dog collars was getting out of the business—and that there might be an opportunity in the market.
Nick and Amy raised startup money, the bulk of it coming from an $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit. They invested in machinery and material, and they started making dog collars.
The only problem? “They just felt like something that somebody made at home,” Nick said. That’s the problem with a niche product like theirs: “There’s no book out there on how to make dog collars.”
Over the next three years, the Lukes burned through their startup money as they slowly got better at making the collars.
In 2014, the couple decided to make another big push into their business. They emptied out Amy’s retirement account and bought a tent and other equipment so they could start traveling to trade shows. The quality of their goods improved, too—each piece had the exact same finish and quality as the next.
The work paid off. Every show they attended, they brought home enough money to pay that week’s bills. Specialty shops started placing orders.
What’s Next for SLiK Hound
Today, you can find SLiK Hound collars in 35 stores, primarily in Kansas City, Chicago, Des Moines and other Midwestern cities.
Orders have grown to the point that Nick and Amy have hired a full-time employee, her younger brother, and are moving SLiK Hound into a new space at 500 Delaware in River Market. (The business had grown to the point that it occupied pretty much the entire second floor of their house.)
An open house for SLiK Hound’s new place is planned for May 7, with a ribbon- cutting at noon, Nick said.
The Lukes are already thinking about their next product, though this one will be something that dog owners can wear. “We’re going to be actually doing matching bracelets to the dog collars,” said Nick.