Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Brother-sister duo Jeremy Canade and Sophie Bakalar are problem solvers. They created Fable in 2018 as a response to an astounding lack of innovation in the pet market. Since then, Fable has grown exponentially – an apt response to the many additional problems our society has faced.
The last few years have ushered in a huge surge in pet adoptions. Companion animals – dogs in particular – are well suited for this type of human existential crisis: given the number of necessities that can now be delivered to our doorstep, dogs are oftentimes the only reason you have to put on clothes and go outside. They’re our friends and family, and at a time when it has not been as logistically possible to see members of our human families, their impact on our lives is insurmountable.
No one knows this more than the founders of Fable. The company makes highly functional, aesthetically beautiful pet products that are designed with your pet’s mental health, your lifestyle, and your home in mind. The famous Crate doubles as a beautiful side table, while the Magic Link allows you to multitask on an active walk. The Game is mentally and physically stimulating for your pet, helping ease anxiety and dole out treats all at once.
But, don’t listen to me. I’m just a girl on a mission to convince her boyfriend to get a puppy (and a Carrier). Take it from Jeremy, who spoke with me about founding Fable and a new era of animal-centered design.
I’d love to start by learning a bit more about your background. What inspired you to create Fable?
JC: "My sister Sophie and I grew up in a household with animals (four cats, a dog, and a hamster at one point), and we’ve always been huge animal lovers; that’s at the core of our inspiration for Fable. We both have a background in entrepreneurship, leading us to become strong problem-solvers and innovative thinkers. When we were searching for a new dog bed for our family dog who was getting older, we were unable to find a product that was thoughtfully designed for his age and needs that also looked good in our home. We started to think about animal goods more broadly, and specifically about how we could improve the market by creating a new category of products designed for function and visual appeal, leading us to start Fable."
Where did the name come from?
JC: "A Fable is a moral tale typically involving animal characters – we think the name is perfect because it emphasizes that animals help us learn more about ourselves and help us lead richer lives. We also felt that the name hits the perfect mix of adventure (characters in a story navigating challenges in the world) and warmth (sharing stories)."
When did your passion for design begin? At what point did it fuse with your love for pets?
JC: "My passion for design began at a very young age. I grew up with a deep appreciation for art and architecture since I come from a family of artists. My family’s shared passion allowed me to bring rich design and product development experience to Fable. While I’m not an industrial designer by trade, Sophie and I are both passionate about the impact that great design can have on our lives and the value of creating functional solutions to real challenges through elegant product solutions.
Living in New York City, we realized how difficult it can be for urban dwellers to care for their animals the way they wanted to due to the unique challenges of small-space living. This led us to fuse our two passions of design and animals together to create quality products that make life easier for humans and animals alike."
In your opinion, what makes Fable stand out?
JC: "We are creating game-changing, beautifully-designed products that customers didn’t know could exist before Fable, and the quality of our products incentivise our customers to come back for more. We take the time to listen to our customers' feedback, so that we can better design products that are actually needed by our consumers, rather than clutter the animal care space with the release of intentionally disposable products to make a quick buck. Focusing all of our products around function, safety and elevated design is what gives our brand an advantage. Additionally, all of our products are designed with a strict no-pain philosophy: restrain and modify behavior, without causing pain, which helps us to stand out in the pet care category."
Can you describe the experience of launching a brand – highs, lows, unexpected joys and challenges?
JC: "Madness. Without question, launching a brand from scratch is a huge undertaking and it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s particularly challenging when you’re trying to build something new (we insisted from the start that we were committed to designing our products and not whitelabeling) rather than focusing purely on branding and distribution (which are challenges unto themselves) – and doubly so when the products you’re building are physical. You just have to keep perspective during setbacks and remind yourself how lucky you are to be in the position to have so many people (customers, colleagues, investors) trusting and supporting you, and what a privilege it is to build something on your terms in this life."
One thing we love about DTC companies is the sense of community that they’re able to build online. How would you describe Fable’s community? How do you engage with them?
JC: "We consider it an enormous privilege to connect with our customers online and to be welcomed into their lives. Hearing their stories and seeing our products being enjoyed by real people and pets is what drives us. Our social media platforms are neighborhoods for animal lovers to connect with each other and for us to showcase their stories of adventuring with their animals. We have a strong TikTok following and even include consumer content on our website through our RealPets campaign, which shows our products being used IRL."
As a founder featured in our “Quality Makers” series, what does “quality” mean to you?
JC: "'Quality' means superiority or excellence in kind by definition – the concept really is the core of our business model. Regardless of what might be expedient or popular, we have always only been interested in creating products we can be proud of. This philosophy manifests in painstakingly and thoughtfully designing every aspect of every product from the ground up, holding ourselves to the most rigorous testing and quality control standards we can devise, using the highest quality materials we can reasonably source, and actively engaging with our customers to constantly improve our offerings.
What dreams and goals do you have for Fable as you continue to grow?
JC: "I see Fable at the forefront of animal enrichment and animal-centered design. Our companion animals are complex, sentient beings and they deserve far greater consideration for their well being than we currently afford them as a society. We will support research/causes that advance our society’s understanding of animal needs and rights (as intelligent sentient beings), and we will help meet those needs through our designs. We will continue to innovate in the space and make life easier and more rewarding for humans and pets."
As a tried and true cat person, the pandemic has helped me understand the centuries-long dog hype. And Fable has helped me envision how I could realistically include a dog in my busy life and small apartment. Ready to ditch your clunky dog crate? Check out Fable’s gorgeous pet products here.
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