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Millennial pet parents are conscious consumers who want to integrate individuality and sustainability in our journey. For us, holistic choices guide every aspect of pet parenthood — first by choosing rescues over puppy mills, followed by small businesses over big-box stores. It’s this type of pet parent that has inspired brands like Modernbeast, whose women-owned team designs and curates products for dogs and cats with a “refined sense of adventure.”
Founders Hope Reiners and Lona Williams don’t compromise when it comes to utility, style, or sustainability. To wit: their beautifully printed bandanas are cut from a yard of fabric and their best-selling felt dog toys are stuffed with recycled soda bottles or calming organic lavender (the cat toys are stuffed with catnip, naturally). They even stock products for pet people, from boutique scented candles to artisan stoneware mugs. But perhaps what’s most impressive is that they donate 100 percent of their profits to select animal rescues. We caught up with Reiners to learn more about Modern Beast’s unique mission.
What motivated you to start Modernbeast?
It was originally my business partner Lona’s idea. We met at her home about five years ago. She used to do a charity event for Best Friends Animal Society and I did a lot of the design work pro bono for that event. And we just kind of bonded over dogs, of course. She told me about this business she had been working on where she wanted to create a pet product line that essentially mimics Newman’s Own — where all of the profits go back to a charity.
What were your first steps to make the dream a reality?
We teamed up and created our first product line and launched it about five years ago. And we kind of did things backwards. We started a wholesale business first. Our first store was Ron Robinson here in LA and we did a big launch party. From there, things kind of grew quickly on the wholesale side. And then we had an opportunity to open a pop-up retail store at Westfield Century City, which was only supposed to be for a month, but it did so well that we extended it to almost two years. And only then did we finally start our online site.
Why did you want Modernbeast to be more nonprofit-oriented rather than following a traditional business model?
I think just because both of our passions are really animals. Animal work and charity work. And we always just felt like, why are we creating products without giving back to something? And I think it’s just important to always keep in mind that you could be doing good for others versus just making money.
How do you pick the organizations that Modernbeast’s proceeds go to?
We met through our Best Friends Animal Society event, so they were our main organization for the first couple of years of our business. And then just being more in the animal space, we started to meet a ton of different organizations, and then it transitioned into ones here in LA that we knew and respected. Now we’re at the point where people are starting to reach out to us, which is also great because then we learn more about other organizations [including A Purposeful Rescue, Stray Cat Alliance, Wags & Walks, Vintage Pet Rescue, and NKLA.]
Modernbeast was created with a very intentional mission, and the materials used to create your products seem really intentionally sourced, too. What’s the process behind that?
We’re constantly trying to improve on becoming more sustainable and not creating more waste. Our toy bones are cut out of wool and we use the excess from that for our felt hats. Same with our bandanas — they’re cut out of a yard of fabric and we use that excess to make our little modern mice. If you open up one of our beds, it’s kind of like a greenish stuffing because most of that recycled stuffing comes from 7-Up bottles. And then our wool is technically a sustainable material because it’s always growing back and it’s not harming the animal when you take the wool off — that’s why most of our dog products are made out of that.
So, what’s next for Modernbeast?
We actually just started distributing to Japan. We have a great distributor there and South Korea, and we’re kind of building our business there. We’re transitioning into designing collars and leashes, which is always something we’ve always wanted to do. We’re extending our T-shirt line as well because that’s one of our better selling products. It’s kind of funny because people love to dress up their animals, I guess because our animals are like our babies.
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Rebecca Caplan is a writer based in Brooklyn whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Reductress, and Vulture. She lives in Brooklyn with her perfect, toothless dog Moose.