Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Four Dirty Paws: Katie Petty’s Springboard to Success

By  0 Comments

The investment consisted of PVC pipe found in a barn and end caps purchased at a hardware store for four dollars. But now that invention is the basis of an exciting new business venture for 27-year-old Katie Petty.

At the ripe old age of 12, Katie developed the Paw Wash, a device to clean a dog’s paws. After years of tweaking and testing, that original tube of PVC is skyrocketing the Kansas City, Missouri, woman into the business world of pet grooming.

“My sister and I begged for a dog, and we got Sadie, a German shepherd-lab mix. In fact, she’s my inspiration for my invention. I grew up on a farm in Louisburg, Kansas, and each day I cleaned Sadie’s dirty paws; it was a chore,” she recalled. “I had an assignment for a science fair project in school, and I thought maybe I could find an easier way to clean her paws. I took two bowls and taped them together and that didn’t work. Then, I went to our barn and found a piece of PVC and talked with my dad about building my idea. After church one Sunday, we stopped at the hardware store and bought the end caps. It worked, and that’s how my invention was created.”

Just the Beginning
Katie then lovingly decorated her PVC masterpiece with little black paw prints, drawn with a Sharpie marker. When her dad, Mike Mulich, saw the finished product, he asked what she would call it. That’s when the name Paw Wash was born. Her dad, also on the resourceful side, realized the potential of his little girl’s creativity and inventiveness. He urged her on and suggested seeking a patent.

“Paw Wash was invented in 2002 but patented on February 8, 2005, because it takes a while to get a patent. I was extremely excited, and it was very fulfilling,” she enthused. “I was the first one to invent a device to clean an animal’s paws. After working the idea for three years, we weren’t sure if it was possible to make Paw Wash a success. But it becomes your baby; you stick with it.”

Katie describes Paw Wash as a device to clean a dog’s dirty paws and keep them healthy. In fact, some customers have told her they use Paw Wash to deliver medications to their canine’s injured paws. The versatility of Paw Wash allows for easy travel, so when your day calls for a visit to the dog park, Paw Wash can help you keep dirt, mud and debris out of the car. The column of blue plastic features an hourglass shape that allows the Paw Wash to create suction. Grooves in the sides allow the water to flow better, while pumping the Paw Wash up and down along the dog’s leg creates a fluid dynamic of suction. Allow it to pump up and down, and the product moves, not the dog’s paw. Two different sizes allow the Paw Wash to go up to the dog’s elbow and clean anything and everything a dog can dig up. The suction is so strong it can pull seeds from between the paw’s pads.

Taking the Next Step
From that invention, Katie and her dad formed the Paw Wash corporation and sought out mentors and guidance from others. The original concept was refined and manufactured at various plants over the years. Sales came through trade shows and other endeavors. But for this young lady, an education was also a priority, so Katie focused on school and then college. She graduated in 2012 from Kansas University with a degree in film and media studies and a business minor. About a year ago, she decided to devote her full-time efforts to the company. For six months, she attended ScaleUP at Kauffmann Foundation to develop her entrepreneur skill set. Not only did she increase her knowledge base, she also connected to new factories to make her product, developing a partnership that would advise and support her dream.

“I am now full time with Paw Wash, and I do nearly everything, but I’d like to move back to solely inventing and creating products,” Katie remarked. “Over the years, I’ve found that sometimes you need to spend money to bring on somebody to do some things for you. You need to farm out some things because you can’t do everything well. In fact, others who specialize in areas can save you time in the long run. I’m looking to bring on a sales associate to be a part of a team to help me. I’ve also brought on an accountant to help with my QuickBooks. To be successful, I need to focus on creating new products to go under the Paw Wash name.” A new warehouse location will also allow Katie to move away from packing and shipping every order so that she can concentrate on inventing and networking at pet trade events. Right now, her facility is located on 104th Street in Leawood, Kansas.

Developing a Global Presence
As for the future, Katie is keenly focused on building her retail sales. Paw Wash is already featured in 150 stores across the United States, Canada and Japan. It’s carried on Amazon and talks are under way to feature it at The real breakthrough would be an opportunity to be carried in the big retail pet stores.

“I’m really focused on growing my retail sales. To do that, I’ll create more combos of my products that would include the Paw Wash and a Paw Wash mitt for drying for the small and large sizes. Customers really like the paw washing and cleaning kits. I’m also wanting to do a private label shampoo. I’ll also be designing the box differently to make it more customer friendly,” she commented. “But I’m dedicated to developing innovative and practical pet health solutions that improve and support a higher quality of life for pets and their owners.”

Katie’s had her ups and downs in this business. Others have infringed on her patent and manufactured their own version of Paw Wash, cutting in on her sales. Costly court battles have followed, with Katie claiming legal victory, but knock-offs of her ideas are still being created. Now she realizes her counterattack will be a better-made product with excellent customer service. When Indian Creek flooded in July 2017, the waters wiped out her entire inventory of products. The dirty creek water ensured that none could be salvaged, not even for donation. Yet Katie sees nothing but success and opportunity before her.

Passion and Philanthropy
“I’d tell others thinking about having their own business to never give up, but make sure you do something you love. I love food but I wouldn’t operate a restaurant,” she laughed. “Just be passionate and love what you’re doing to keep doing it.”

Giving back to the animal community is also part of Katie’s philosophy. Her dog Sadie, the inspiration for Paw Wash, was a rescue animal. She focuses on assisting groups with the goal of placing wayward animals, and she participates in the pet telethon with the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. Another favorite is Wayside Waifs, one of the first charities she supported.

Katie also credits a great deal of her success to her family supporting her dream. Just added to that roster of rooters is her new husband, Garrett Petty. “My support system is my family,” she said. “Some days are really hard. You need people to believe in you and encourage you. Setbacks happen, but don’t be afraid to mess up. Just keep going and eventually you’ll make it.”

She also highlights the support of parents to encourage their young dreamers. “Don’t write their ideas off. Help your kids pursue their ideas. My parents helped me, and I can’t begin to put a value on what they contributed along with the rest of my support system. If your kid has an idea, encourage them; put them in contact with the right people.”

Katie keeps her first Paw Wash invention in her office as an inspiration to remind her how far a young farm girl from Louisburg, Kansas, can come. What began as a sixth-grade science fair project, fashioned from salvaged PVC pipe, has propelled this Kansas City woman into the stratosphere of success, launched by the creativity of a 12-year-old and the love for her dog. ■