I sat down with Gina Quiroga, co-founder of Olive, hoping to get to better know the (human) faces behind Olive. I've been a loyal customer of Olive for some time and have grown increasingly curious who's behind the cute little green dog. Needless to say, I was pretty psyched when Gina suggested I stop in for for a little Q & A. Olive is a short drive from me, just 20 minutes north of downtown Austin, sequestered on 3 acres in what was seemingly "country" before the now-oh-so-common suburbanization of anything remotely close to Austin. Once you get past the tex-mex restaurants and steak house chains you're immediately taken in by the beauty of the juxtaposition of open land complete with roaming deer, long-eared hare, and the random road runner or two.
Gina is one of those people you like immediately. Her smile is super warm and she's got an impish twinkle in her eyes. We met in the second building situated on the rear of the lot, which is home to Olive's office and inventory. There I also met Maya, a standard poodle (pictured above as a puppy), Bert, a shih tzu, and Frankie, also a poodle and most recent addition who I later learned was found near the airport. Everyone was on their best behavior and spent most the visit snoozing on a rather wide assortment beds except for Gina who sat upright facing me.
Q: So, why Olive?
A: Do you mean the character or the concept?
Q: I was thinking mostly the little green dog, but by answering the latter you'll spare yourself another question.
A: Ok, here goes. When we formed the company in 2006, we knew we wanted a mascot of sorts and truthfully were originally thinking something a little more retro - like Rin-Tin-Tin. We liked the little green dog because she/he's very relatable and doesn't imply a specific breed or type of dog. The name was a suggestion of our then design team Modern Dog.
The concept came out of our love for dogs and design and our desire to offer pet products that were a little more sustainable. Quite frankly, there's a lot of crap on the market and we thought we'd take a stab at offering an alternative to this.
Q: Has this been a challenge?
A: Yes and no. The market was ready for this and consumer demand has driven the process. What was challenging initially was finding pet products that fit the bill and met our standards. There wasn't much in the way of well-made pet goods. We blurred the lines quite a bit, offering many people products for pets.
Q: Can you give me an example?
A: Sure. Are you familiar with a line called Eazy Bean? (I nodded no.) Well, eazy bean makes very cool bean-bag like cushions for people that we initially sold as pet beds. The only problem was they were pricey. Too pricey for the pet market. So that was part of our learning curve.
Q: But it's must be easier now? There's tons of green stuff on the market.
A: Yes and no. You're right there are many 'green' products on the market, but sadly most don't conform to sustainable design or, what we call, "well-made goods for dogs & cats." Fortunately, the revitalized arts and crafts movement has taken over in ways the green initiative might have missed the mark. Many goods crafted here in the US and in other parts the globe are supremely made. There no question they're ethically made too because most instances the maker is also the seller. Our craftspeople are just like us, small operators hoping to reach a wider market. It's very satisfying to partner with them in their journey.