Montanans love their pets, and if you've bought a toy or pet bed for your dog in the last few years made by the West Paw Design company, you're in good company.
For the past 20 years, Bozeman-based West Paw Design has been recognized around the world for its products and its practices.
A desire to make something in Montana was the spark for Columbus native Spencer Williams to buy a small Bozeman-based pet toy company in 1996.
“What I loved about the product and the company was that we could actually make products that brought joy in connection with people's lives and their pets,” said Williams, the founder of West Paw Design. “So we started learning step-by-step how to make those and we had a small group of people and we started to grow. In 1997 we grew significantly and we added some new products to the line and re-did our marketing. What was amazing is in 1997 we started hiring and two of those people who we hired in 1997 are still with the company today.”
West Paw Design currently employs 75 people at their headquarters in Bozeman and makes about 150 products.
From the beginning, sustainability was critical - sustaining the business, sustaining employees, and sustaining the Montana environment.
West Paw uses recycled materials and even recycles its own used products sent in by customers.
But after 20 years, why stay in Montana?
“You know making a product in Montana is something that's part of my blood,” said Williams. “My family were homesteaders here, and so it always made sense to me that if I got into the business to make a product that meant actually having a factory and having employees who made a product as opposed to cutting a P.O. (Purchase Order) to a foreign country to produce product over there and bring it into the states. That's a fine business model but it wasn't what got me into business.”
“The result of that is that we can also have great control over our product from the environmental standards, to the labor practices, to the way in which we design and produce the product,” said Williams. “It comes down to the quality and safety for the pet and the owner and we have ultimate control over that.”
And that control has led West Paw products to find homes in 30 countries.
To do that they've invested in an environment that focuses on safety - and employee comfort.
“I would not do this any differently,” said Williams. “It's for me, such a satisfaction to know that right here we can make the product that goes worldwide and right here we've got a team that competes globally. We bring joy and connection to people and their pets around the planet.”
For the West Paw family, the future looks bright - a new product coming out this spring - and look for an entirely new line of products in the next couple of years.
West Paw Design was also recently recognized on the international level for its business practices. The company won the Global Pets Forum Award being recognized as the world's best company at moving the pet product industry forward in a positive way. The awards presentation was last month in Warsaw, Poland.