I get asked, “Do you meet amazing people?” Every now and then someone has an amazing business story. Such was the case while taking Daniel and Jennifer Williams of Louisville out sailing along the York River on a brilliant and warm afternoon.
“I’ve got my own business,” Jennifer said. “We make stuffed animals of your pet.” She let that sink in and I thought it was fantastic. “It started as an MBA project at the University of Louisville and took several years to develop. We’re now six years into the business. You can find it at cuddleclones.com. I have 15 employees in Louisville and 35 in a workshop in China, which we own. That’s unusual in China. I go there once a year and we Skype a lot. China used to charged people $250 to have a pet, but with the growth of the middle class it’s now down to $25. Could be quite a market for us there.
“We work off of pictures that people send us. They have a lot of pictures of their pets. We don’t need any specs or sizes. The clones are going to be small, life-size if it’s a small pet but smaller if it’s a big pet. We wouldn’t make a full-size Great Dane. We tried it once and it didn’t work out. Too gangly to really stand up well.” Daniel added, “We won’t copy trademarked characters, either, say from Disney.”
“The chihuahua is our top dog, followed by the pit bull. It’s difficult to do bulldogs because of all the wrinkles in the face. We have to make very tight stitching. So we don’t make their coats from hair, but rather fur because it has to be cuddly. We go to dog conventions to follow trends, and you’d be amazed what people are into. They love their pets. There’s a high-end hotel in Los Angeles that caters to people with dogs. We bumped into someone who built a special room at home for their dog. It cost $40,000.”
“We met a woman who loved our brand and told us her story. She went to Thailand to adopt two children, but it was important that they love her two dogs as well. She couldn’t take the dogs to Thailand, so she hired us to clone them and took the clones with her as gifts to the kids. Everything worked out fine.
“Another woman had two dogs and one of them died. The surviving dog no longer wanted to sleep in the dog bed. She had us clone the dog as a stuffed animal, and now the two of them sleep fine in the bed.
“I’ve been interviewed on radio and TV, including the Today Show, by Hoda Kotb. We have a big presence on Facebook with lots of testimonials. One woman thanked me for starting my business, which was nice.
They themselves have two dogs, Winnie and Izzy, which are mixed among three or four breeds. I postulated ambivalence about cloning our departed Summer, a Lakeland terrier who wound up with a man much better suited to handle her. Daniel said, “I know what you mean. You may want to start with something small, like a Christmas tree ornament or a Christmas stocking.” Jennifer added, “Not sure I’d want to clone ours either. It’s a very sensitive matter.”
Earlier in the day, Daniel Williams explained that they live near Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby runs next week. “We live about a 40-minute drunk walk from the track,” joked. “You could drive in five or ten minutes, but on the day of the race everything is jammed. It’s in a sketchy part of town, so people who live there make a few bucks by parking cars all over their lawn.” And their bathroom as well, Jennifer added, quoting them: ‘’’Come and use our bathroom for $5.”
Late in the sail, after Jennifer and Daniel each had good runs in fluky air and gusts, a USCG cutter named Hawk rode up the York River. I was headed downriver and seemed to be in their way, so I radioed my intentions. Later they sent out a patrol boat that pulled me over for inspection. It took them a while to board, but they were pleased that I had all my papers and conditions in order. I asked “Why me?” and got the routine answer that they can board anyone anytime. The presiding E5 boatswain mate seemed surprised that I was a USCG captain and federally registered.
Pirate Patch Debunked
It felt a little like an invasion of pirates. One minute you’re sailing and the next you’re under siege. Earlier, Daniel noticed that I took off my sunglasses whenever I went below deck. He said, “That’s what pirates used to do. They weren’t blind in one eye; they just needed to keep one eye in the dark so they could see out of the sunlight.” Sure enough, The Wall Street Journal and Mythbusters came up with this explanation:
Some assume pirates wore eye patches to cover a missing eye or an eye that was wounded in battle, but in fact, an eye patch was more likely to be used to condition the eye so the pirate could fight in the dark.
It takes an average human eye about 25 minutes to fully adapt from bright sunlight to seeing in complete darkness—if a pirate was fighting on deck in the sunlight, then had to continue the fight under the deck where it is usually pretty dark, it could take too long for their eyes to adjust and for the pirate to be able to see. The eye patch could be used to prepare one eye to see in the dark, so when they would go below deck they could swap the eye patch from one eye to the other and see with the eye that has already adjusted to low light conditions. This would allow them to instantly see in the dark.
Sailing Judiciously without Cuddly Sailors
A mother and daughter with Virginia roots joined a New York couple for a serene sail in gentle winds on the York River. Jennifer Renea Kirk and her daughter Alys drove across from Yorktown where they are staying at the Hornsby House Inn.
We could see it from the river, just down from the Yorktown Monument. They were in town celebrating a birthday and getting ready for her other daughter’s wedding the next day in Richmond. Renea ran the helm admirably most of the day, having taken lessons previously.
Frank and Marion Tinari were staying at the Williamsburg Inn. She graduated years earlier from the College of William & Mary. She lamented not getting into the clinical psychology graduate program there, but she’s done all right for herself nonetheless.
“I’m an elected judge for the New York 10th Supreme Court Circuit comprising all of Suffolk and Nassau counties. I used to be a judge for a court that handled misdemeanors involving people 26 and under. I had a chance to be a judge handling foreclosures, but I’d done that before and would rather stick a fork in my eye.” Frank interjected, “Long Island had the record for foreclosures during the recession, 20,000.”
The couple met while working in the New York District Attorney’s office. Frank still does work there but mostly he handles personal injury plaintiffs in private practice.
He said, “I had an interesting case once prosecuting a fellow for mortgage fraud, $2 million worth. He got sentenced to three years and eventually got out. A few years later he did it again, this time charged with $10 million fraud. So he was getting better, but he still got caught. He came to me and said that I did a good job prosecuting him, very fair. Would I do it again, only this time defending him? I did, but he was found guilty and went off to prison again. So I hold the distinction of prosecuting and defending the same guy for felony fraud.”
Let’s Go Cruise with Cuddly Sailors
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