Longtime personality on Canadian television turns entrepreneur; makes life easier for cat owners with Luuup
For most folks over a certain age, Dini Petty is a TV icon. A legendary broadcaster, Petty broke onto the scene back in the disco 1970s, when she piloted a pink helicopter in a pink jumpsuit as CKEY radio’s young, dynamic traffic reporter. She then became a staple at then-fledgling TV station Citytv in the 1980s, and by the ’90s was the host of her own highly successful talk show on CTV, The Dini Petty Show.
As far as Canadian TV celebs go, Petty was one of the most well-known. Which makes her latest venture something worth turning heads for: at 71 years of age, Dini Petty is one of Canada’s most successful crowd-funding entrepreneurs. And Petty’s big idea is a – wait for it – kitty litter box.
The Luuup claims not to be just any cat poop containment system; it claims to be the best cat litter box ever made. So what exactly makes a litter box worth all the fuss – and funds? Luuup is clever and ingenious in a way that cat lovers truly appreciate: It has a stacked-tray design that sieves pet waste, making scooping utterly simple and mess-free. As Petty describes in a YouTube video produced with her son Nick, a co-partner in Luuup, the three-tray slot design stacking system has a perpetual sitting loop. “You never have to scoop again. No more wasting cat litter, simply top it up from time to time.”
With a goal of raising $50,000 on Kickstarter, the Luuup Litter Box became the first pet product to raise more than $1 million (all figures in Canadian dollars).
“It was incredible. I sat glued to my computer for eight or 10 hours a day for like five days going, ‘That’s crazy, that’s crazy,’ ” Petty says, recalling the launch of the campaign.
On the day I caught up with Petty, skids of the Luuup were being shipped out of a facility in southern Ontario bound for legions of homes and apartments, and condominiums and seniors’ residences to thousands of cat lovers across Canada and the United States. But the story of the hottest thing in pet waste started long before this day.
The Luuup’s origins go all the way back to the 1990s, when it was an infomercial hit, and Petty was an original investor. She had happened upon this novel box while getting her hair done, Petty says. “It was 1994. When I went to my hairdresser’s there was a guy on the floor with a litter box and I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ he said, ‘I invented this new system and I’m looking for an investor.’ He said, ‘Look this is how it works,’ and he showed me … My mouth dropped open and I said, ‘That’s amazing.’ I stuck out my hand and said, ‘Hi, I’m Dini Petty. I’m your new investor.’ ”
Petty used the original product, which had a picture of her cat Kitano on it, until she hooked up with a dog lover. She then passed the whole kit and caboodle – cat and cat poop contraption – to her aunt Dot, who was living in Toronto. “She would say, ‘You know that was the best thing ever made, that kitty litter thing. It’s amazing Dini, it’s just so easy.’ ”
Over the years, Petty lost touch with her kitty litter project. Two decades after her first involvement, she has re-acquired the rights to the product and, together with her son, has mounted a relaunch. The newly rechristened Luuup Litter Box started to scratch things up on the crowdfunding social media platform Kickstarter in January. “We launched it on my birthday and wanted to do it on the Internet,” she says matter-of-factly unaware of what would happen next.
Since the success on Kickstarter, the Pettys have added their product to Indiegogo, another crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. Since being listed on Indiegogo.com, the Luuup has rung in over US$2-million, doubling the money raised on Kickstarter. To date both sites combined have 34,000 backers and growing. Petty says the response from backers has shown how many people want to order the product, and the money will help further grow the business of Luuup.
Nick Petty says partnering with his mother gave him new insight into her drive and success. “Growing up, I saw firsthand what it took to be truly successful. She made it look effortless, but she worked around the clock. I don’t think anyone outside our home knew just how much time she dedicated to her career and side projects,” he says.
Petty marvels at how much inspiration can be found on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. “I often go into the archives because the ideas that people have put forward, whether or not it gained money, are incredible. There are so many ideas out there for documentaries, for books, for films, for ideas, for this and that. It’s an extraordinary place to go to see what the great minds of the world are coming up with. It’s an incredible insight on what is going on in the world.”
And Petty is enthralled with the breadth of ideas of her fellow indie upstarts, other creative minds are likely going to be inspired by the woman who launched the most successful pet product campaign ever.