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After working in finance for 12 years, Devin Shanahan was ready for a change. She didn’t feel like her job aligned with her interests, which included dogs (she and her husband had three rescues) and interior design, and she wanted a more flexible schedule. For years, she had also been struggling to find comfortable, durable, and stylish dog beds for her pups. As she was looking for something new to do, she decided to take matters into her own hands and start designing her own dog beds. So, in 2021, Kingboy was born.
“I thought this would be a great way to merge a bunch of my interests,” Shanahan tells The Wildest. Even the company’s name was inspired by her real life: it was the nickname she and her husband gave their 14-year-old Spaniel mix, Rufus, after they put him in a jacket that her husband said made him look like Lorenzo de’Medici.
Eco-Friendly Is the Future
Shanahan wanted Kingboy beds to be both chic and durable — pieces that would add to an apartment’s aesthetic instead of detracting from it and that wouldn’t begin to pill, flatten, smell, fade, or otherwise dissolve after a couple of months. She gravitated toward bold, primary colors, and geometric designs that would elegantly conceal all of the hair and mysterious stains that dog beds inevitably attract. Shanahan also had another important goal: making the company eco-friendly.
“I’m not, like, a crunchy granola-type person, but it’s impossible to ignore how terrible global warming is, and everything that’s happening with the Earth right now,” she says. One of her main missions was to ensure that the company didn’t leave a negative environmental footprint. She wanted to use recycled materials, and work with U.S.-based suppliers and manufacturers.
This was no small undertaking. As Shanahan soon discovered, committing to eco-friendly materials means having a significantly smaller pool of suppliers from which to choose. And she didn’t want to make empty promises to her customers either. “I was being really particular,” she says of her early research. “I didn’t want to say that my beds are made of recycled materials, and then be using things like virgin, or non-recycled thread.” Everything on the beds, from the fabric to the zippers, had to be at least 50 percent recycled, Shanahan decided.
Learning to Steer the Ship
Between researching materials, talking to various suppliers, and finalizing prototypes, it took Shanahan about a year and a half to get the company up and running. There were some growing pains at first. Shanahan laughs when she recalls the first iteration of the Kingboy website. “I launched it with terrible branding that I thought was amazing,” she said. Shanahan has an aesthetic that she describes as “insane and colorful,” and she was excited to incorporate that into the look of the company’s site. But she soon realized that all of that insane color was distracting from the products themselves. She also had to learn about the direct-to-consumer business, social media advertising, and search engine optimization.
“When I was in finance, it was kind of like I was working as a cog in a machine. Someone tells you what to do,” she says. As the founder of her own retail company, “I was kind of just shooting in the dark, and saying, ‘This might work! This might work!’ And honestly, a lot of things did not work well. It was a lot of trial by error. I’ve learned a lot.”
Although Shanahan works on a temporary basis with consultants and social media experts, Kingboy is still largely a one-woman operation, run out of her Tribeca apartment. She does have family help. Her husband still works in finance, and her dogs, Rufus, Rocket, and Fanny, help road test Kingboy’s beds. Shanahan says her dogs are still sleeping on some of the first Kingboy prototype beds nearly two years later.
Kingboy’s Purpose — and Future
For Shanahan, making dog beds that look good and last a long time is especially important now, because dogs play a bigger, more visible role in our lives than ever before. While Shanahan and her husband have children now, she says she identifies with millenials who either delay parenting to focus on their dogs or decide to not have children because they feel fulfilled by caring for their dogs.
Dogs, she says, “are more integrated into our lives, so let’s make dog beds that can be better integrated into our apartments, and that aren’t ugly things in the corner.” She adds: “People used to keep their dogs in their mudrooms, and now I feel like no one would do that.”
Kingboy is still growing. Shanahan says she’d like to work on collaborations with dog influencers or other companies as a way to get more inspiration and expand her creative horizons. In the meantime, she and her husband are about to start fostering another dog; an Afghan Hound, Shanhan’s favorite breed, though she says it’s difficult to find one that’s a rescue. “My husband doesn’t know this yet, but I really want to keep the dog,” she says, laughing. That dog will definitely need a bed of their own, but Shanahan can probably hook them up.
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Madeleine Aggeler is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a writer at New York magazine’s The Cut. She lives with her dog, Cleo, who works primarily as a foot warmer.