Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)
Like many pet brands these days, the idea for Just Fred arose from personal need. Founder Tennille Teague loved taking her Dachshund, Mo, with her to the office and out to events or dinners with friends but felt embarrassed by the traditional carrier she was forced to tote him around in. “I didn’t want to call attention to him in a traditional dog carrier, and I didn’t want to put him in a bag that might look a bit better but wasn’t comfortable for him,” she tells The Wildest. So, she made her own. When people started stopping her on the street to ask where they could get one for themselves, she realized she had a potential business on her hands and Just Fred was born.
The brand is about more than just pretty dog carriers, though. Just Fred also uses their influence (and profits) to advocate for senior dogs and is partnering with Badass Animal Rescue in Brooklyn to help encourage senior dog adoptions. “Senior dogs are some of the most vulnerable in any shelter,” says Badass founder Krista Almqvist. “The stress of a shelter is tough on any dog but for seniors — often abandoned in their later years — there’s an added layer.”
“I really feel for older dogs that end up in shelters,” Teague says. “I can’t stop thinking about how they must feel about being given up at that point in their lives. Add to that the fact that many of these dogs are seen as less desirable compared to puppies and it really is heartbreaking.”
Through their work together, Teague and Almqvist hope to combat the stigma around adopting older dogs. “Senior dogs have the added value of experience,” Teague says. “They know about living in a home and have some foundation around socialization, so you avoid the puppy and adolescent stages, which can be challenging for some (housebreaking, destructive chewing, etc.). At the same time, the gratitude and love of a senior dog is incomparable.”
In an effort to help, Teague donates five percent of Just Fred’s profits to Badass Animal Rescue and partners with them in other ways to spotlight senior dogs in need. At the same time, she is growing her business, expanding her product lines, and bringing on new investors to help turn Just Fred into the do-gooding pet super-brand she knows it can be.
What were you doing before you founded Just Fred?
I am originally from Michigan, but I moved to NYC after college to work in advertising and I often produced campaigns for brands grounded in social causes, like one I produced for PETA to raise awareness about the mistreatment of animals in the entertainment industry. As a producer at advertising agencies, it was my job to create innovative and artful content for global brands, so I guess you could say I’ve always been drawn to creating compelling brand stories and worlds, which was certainly helpful when I decided to launch Just Fred.
From the start, Just Fred has been a vegan brand. Why was that important to you?
I really believe that our fellow creatures should be our friends, not our bags. So, when I started designing the collection, the idea of using animal products felt misaligned with that philosophy and with the company’s mission of ensuring kindness in every choice we make. And while our community is not exclusively vegan, we have found that when they are making choices about what to buy, they see a vegan option as a bonus, not a compromise, which is wonderful.
And you’re self-funded, right?
Yes. And I have to say, as a solo founder, bootstrapping the business has been the biggest challenge, so far. That said, we recently opened up our angel investment round, and I couldn’t be more excited about the interest we’ve received.
What has been your biggest seller so far?
Definitely our limited edition carrier. It is encased in a plush material that protects the pup and gives them something soft and cozy to cuddle up against. And sales and feedback from customers were so great that we decided to make it a permanent part of our collection. The large size is by far the most popular and is currently sold out, although we have a robust list of pre-orders I’m excited to fulfill.
Why do you think that particular carrier is so popular?
There are just so few options out there for aspirational looking totes that can carry medium-sized dogs. I think it also helps that the limited edition carrier — like all our carriers — has an extra-sturdy bottom. That means dogs are able to balance in them without their feet pushing through or sliding around. It helps them feel confident and know that they are safe when they are being carried.
You’ve got quite a few celebrity dog fans as well, including one of The Wildest’s favorites, Tika the Iggy.
Yes! I haven’t had the chance to meet her and her dads in person yet but whenever we speak, they are nothing but kind and full of grace. I so appreciate their love for our carriers and, above all, their love for Tika and Kala.
Have you always been a dog person?
I’ve had dogs for as long as I can remember. My first dog was Tisha — a magnificent, gentle Siberian Husky. I was quite young at the time, but I remember many winter mornings when my father would go for his daily run in the snow and she would pull me along in a sled beside him. I vividly remember her running to that little plastic sled and jumping up and down beside it every morning, excited for the day’s run. It was probably good motivation for my father, too. He didn’t want to skip his run and let her down.
You also have an extensive partnership with Badass Animal Rescue in Brooklyn. How did that come about?
As a pet parent in Brooklyn, I often heard about them and even applied to join their foster program. Then, I met the executive director, Krista Almqvist, and we instantly clicked. She demonstrates such incredible empathy and wisdom in how she guides Badass in their rescue efforts.
We discussed how senior dogs don’t get enough attention in the world and partnered in an effort to change that. So now, every Sunday, Badass features an adoptable senior dog in our collaborative Instagram series: Best FREDS Come in All Ages: A BADASS Senior Spotlight and five percent of every sale at JUST FRED is donated directly to Badass Dog Rescue to help ensure the senior pups they rescue are given the support, love, and care they deserve.
Last year, you partnered with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund during Black History Month and you partner with other non-profits throughout the year. What draws you to these organizations?
A big part of our brand is inclusivity and ensuring all of our pet parents feel seen and valued, and we are always looking for ways to give back. We currently have a rainbow dog bandana on our site, with 100 percent of the profits going to The Trevor Project. We also have a hoodie coming out in August in collaboration with Badass Animal Rescue, and there are other partnerships in the works that we are hoping will come out this year.
Are there any other new products you care to tease?
Our first toy is currently in the works. It’s called the U.F.O (Unidentified FRED Object), and it’s an activity toy that accommodates a favorite spread (like peanut butter) for hours of independent play. The look was inspired by retro Japanese toys and it was designed to be easy for your pup to hold in its paws. We also have a new backpack carrier coming out in the fall, which I am so in love with and I truly believe others will be, too. And last but not least, we’ve got a new leash and sweater brewing for the holidays, as well as a few collaborations in the works, although I can’t say more about those just now.
Love a collaboration! Who is your dream collaborator?
It would be amazing to collaborate with GANNI. I love their approach to fashion and their mission to become fully vegan. It would be incredible to create a dog tote together that celebrates their incredible style. I’d also love to create a sweater with them that comes in matching dog and human sizes.
Former fashion designer Petra Jungebluth on making eco-friendly, exquisite coats and cozy beds for her dogs — and yours.
Whether you’re driving cross country or flying internationally, your pup can comfortably tag along.
“I always felt bad when I saw animals in bags on an airplane because they just didn’t look cozy... I thought, there must be a better way to do this.”
Customized meals, sustainable toys, handmade sweaters, and more.
The online boutique’s founder on the importance of supporting BIPOC-led pet brands.
“We don’t consider what we are doing animal welfare work. We are taking a holistic approach to well-being for animals and humans.”