Interview: Weredog (Special Edition)

Today we are proud to bring you a UK Special. We have managed to arrange a meeting with probably the biggest maker on our little island. Weredog is a young but rapidly growing shop based in Bristol, United Kingdom. 
 
They had an overwhelmingly successful Black Friday and Weredog Day sale in 2019 which speaks volumes of their presence in the toy market.
 
Please enjoy this special extended edition of Interview with a Dongsmith.
 

[Monster Smash]: Thank you for this, I really appreciate it and certainly look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions for me then, by all means, go for it.

[Karabiner]: ‘Ello! No worries at all :>

[Monster Smash]: Firstly, what should we call you? Kara the name you go by or something else?

[Karabiner]: It’s usually ‘Kara‘, the full name always sounds kind of formal to me. x)

[MS]: Haha, I know the feeling, as far as pronouns go, how would you like to be referred to? He, she, they?

[Kara]: He/they is fine! I do sort of float a bit, but it’s largely a character exploration thing.

[MS]: Makes sense, I was a Furry many many years ago and certainly don’t consider myself one now but Fergus started as a fun creation for the brand that is sorta me now.

[Kara]: I think it’s pretty much undeniable that I’m in the fandom, honestly, the aesthetic just works for me. X3

[MS]: I have questions around that later on, to be honest, seeing Weredog grow etc I always thought that was the case. We’ll get into that in a bit as I’m really keen to learn more about you.

Could you tell me a little about yourself, your background and what your official role/title is at Weredog?

[Kara]: Well, I’m 27, I’m what I think I’d generally call a ‘tinkerer’, and I suppose my hobby background would largely be… Engineering, though my degree is in photography. o:

As for titles, we’ve actually discussed that a lot – ‘owner’ always sounded a bit off, but I am the founder and I generally guide the brand and the products we release.

So… CEO? Creative director? X3 They sound a bit too “important” for the size of the team right now but I think they work.

[MS]: Do you do the photography of your products given your background?

[Kara]: Yep! Absolutely everything we’ve released media-wise has been me – I will admit I need to re-shoot our product images for consistency though. x)

I also keep the site’s aesthetic coordinated, so, colour scheme, fonts, etc.

[MS]: That’s certainly a back catalogue of work then.

[Kara]: Aah, a reshoot would only be a couple of hours. As long as we have all the toys at hand anyway!

I do enjoy the photography side, obviously – it was my main hobby for a really long time, so getting to apply it here has been fun.

[MS]: Did you always do Product Photography? I did photography for a long time but it was all wildlife stuff. It was quite the learning curve to photograph glossy, sparkly silicone toys.

[Kara]: Actually no! I typically did landscapes, light-painting, long exposure stuff… But I think it helped, considering the amount of artificial lighting I used.

 

[MS]: Did you always do Product Photography? I did photography for a long time but it was all wildlife stuff. It was quite the learning curve to photograph glossy, sparkly silicone toys.

[Kara]: Actually no! I typically did landscapes, light-painting, long exposure stuff… But I think it helped, considering the amount of artificial lighting I used.

[MS]: Those are great. I have tried landscapes and I honestly do not have an eye for it.

[Kara]: Thank! And yeah don’t worry o: But yeah, I mean, I’ve always been interested in knowing how to do things myself, where the ‘magic’ lays – photography had/has that appeal.

[MS]: You said you were a tinkerer (if that’s a word) and I feel like that describes a lot of makers very well as we all have to sculpt, draw, photograph etc.

[Kara]: Tinkerer, yep X3 I am not a sculptor myself, or an illustrator (though I do paint from time to time).

I just enjoy making things in various for me o: Actually, that chessboard image up there was lit with a three-channel RGB laser I designed and 3D printed, hahaha.

[MS]: I love that photo, the colour is great.

That nearly leads me to my next few questions. Who else is there at Weredog? I seem to remember there were two of you as founders?

[Kara]: Cue and I are the directors – he largely does admin stuff and keeps the website functional and up-to-date; Shalkaii, a friend of mine, came on board as our production manager at the start of the year, and we have Ninde managing our support tickets and legal stuff. We’ve actually got at least two more coming on soon, once we’re in our new building – and every person here can make toys even if it’s not their primary job. x)

[MS]: Wow that’s an impressive team.

[Kara]: I was doing this alone for about a year, just kind of messing around with materials and designs; I actually quit my job and used my savings to get set up.

[MS]: Thanks.

[Kara]: Hmm… I think I had an idea that the ‘project’ would be called Weredog after a couple of months, but it wasn’t anywhere near a full company at that point. But I’d gotten to the point where I could make things consistently, and folks would message me on Telegram asking to buy them, so for a little while I’d send stuff out on a one-to-one basis, a couple per day. x)

[MS]: Given the successes I’ve seen you’ve had over the last year with black Friday etc, it’s safe to assume this is your full-time job now?

[Kara]: It’s been my full-time job for… Two, going on three years? I don’t yet take a proper wage, the business just pays for my basics, but we’re getting to the point where that should change soon. o:

[MS]: I can hardly believe how quickly you have grown. Do you have any ideas what’s caused that?

[Kara]: It’s kind of taken me by surprise as well – I think there’s just been room for a toymaker in Europe, and I reckon folks can see the effort that goes into our designs and brand in general. Though obviously, we do push for advertising, try to keep the Twitter active and people interested, just out of necessity; this *is* our job so it has to be able to support us and our staff.

[MS]: I’d agree with that as it was the reason for my own shop and others I know for starting up. The UK in particular has very few makers and I can’t say for certain why.

[Kara]: Especially through the pandemic, I know a couple of our guys were pleased to be here and not working for one of the many businesses that were forced to close.

Yeah, I don’t know – I think it’s a bit pricier here, perhaps?

Just in terms of facilities, materials, etc; so you have to do more volume to make it affordable for people. Many folks who get into it seem to do it as a side thing, which is awesome – you get to do your regular job full-time and have toymaking on the side as a hobby that brings in money.

[MS]: Possibly. There’s certainly something as I could probably count most of the makers (if I exclude Etsy only shops) on one hand

Yeah, that is a good point. Speaking of COVID, how has Weredog changed its process’s to account for this?

And has COVID affected your business much in general?

[Kara]: Well, we’re fortunate in that all the guys who’re physically working *at* Weredog live in the same house, at the moment – so the whole ‘spreading between households’ thing isn’t an issue right now.

[MS]: That’s super helpful given all the regulation changes.

[Kara]: Tell me about it x) As far as it affecting us, though – our suppliers deliver to us, we make the thing, and we ship it out. So the lockdown wasn’t too awful. If anything I think we saw a small boost in sales as people got bored at home, so it was nice to be able to continue operating for folks. o:

[MS]: That’s pretty good then. So I’m fortunate that I own two of your products and in fact, Gage was the first-ever toy to enter our house that wasn’t something from the high street.

[Kara]: Oh, awesome! How’d he compare? x)

[MS]: So when he arrived I couldn’t stop giggling as I had never seen anything like it before. He was certainly popular. We then got Jack and oh boy, that is a big toy

Some cheesy interview questions here. Where do you get your ideas and how long does it take you to go from concept to market?

[Kara]Jack’s larger sizes are enormous, that was quite a project to work on. X3

[MS]: Oh yeah, he’s huge. I was speechless when he arrived.

[Kara]: Hmm, well I have been the one coming up with all our product concepts, then I build a ‘mood board’ and work with modellers to get them realised. I 3D print all the sizes, then spend a few weeks refining the surface texture for each model – if I push it, I can get something out in a month or two.

I could learn to make the 3D models myself (and I can obviously use the software for finishing/print prep), but I prefer to go to folks who’ve already got the experience because I can choose a developed style that fits the project.

[MS]: I agree with that final sentiment as that’s something we do at our own studio. Time is finite and the most regular comment I hear is the lack of time due to drops, marketing, shipping etc.

[Kara]: Oh absolutely, there’s a lot to be done in a day here. x)

[MS]: You said you were relocating. If I remember rightly, you are based in Bristol, aren’t you?

[Kara]: Yup!

[MS]: Do you plan to stay in Bristol?

[Kara]: Yeah, it’s quite industrious here, seems like the ideal place. o:

[MS]: It’s a very varied city with a lot of cultures so it’s not surprising. Could be worse places to set up!

I have a question from a community member for you…

“How hard was it to get more mainstream sex toy shops to stock your toys, and how has that affected your businesses as one of the only furry toy companies to have their products stocked in physical stores?”

[Kara]: We actually got contacted by a few interested retailers fairly early-on! I think having a decent-looking brand and website helps get folks on board – as long as you can make it lucrative enough for a stockist, they’re super enthusiastic to have good-quality silicone in more ‘niche’ shapes. x)

As far as how it affected us, it’s just a nice, consistent revenue stream that comes in every month or so. I would say I don’t know if I’d define us as a ‘furry’ sex toy company, at least in terms of the brand; but obviously, it is run by furries. x)

[MS]: Makes sense. I can’t think of many makers period that have achieved that so well done!

[Kara]: Thanks!

[MS]: No worries, it’s cool to know you still do that.

What’s your favourite toy that you guys produce? You have a tidy little line up now include the can!

[Kara]: Honestly? Personally, my favourite product is Mason, but dildo-wise it’s Riot; I do enjoy human shapes. :9

[MS]: Yeah, Mason has done well and I actually have questions about him!

Another from the community…

“Will Masons hindpaws ever be available in multi-color pours?”

And will you be offering Fades to your standard lineup?

[Kara]: Not in the near future. I tried, and I did do experiments, but because of the shape it’s tricky to recreate consistently.

Fades may come eventually, but I’m sticking with ‘swirls’ for now, like Loch’s signature – they’ll be available to order on any toy soon. 😀

[MS]: Makes total sense and I completely understand. I think it’s easy to overlook how difficult it is to not so much do a pour but do it constantly.

[Kara]: Even for stuff like separate ‘pads’ done as a split-pour, the mould has to be designed so that all those parts are on an even, level plane, and it takes all the personality out of the design. X3

[MS]: Yes!

How many toys can you make these days during a busy period? I imagine you get a real routine going when orders spike.

[Kara]: Ten to twenty per day usually, and we’ll have that up much higher in the new facility!

[MS]: That’s fantastic news and an impressive figure.

So recently Bad Dragon has released their own paw toy to which the toy community really came out stating that your work was copied.

Do you feel your work was copied?

[Kara]:  Naw, I was chatting with Varka about our dragon paw projects months ago – we had both actually printed our first prototypes on the same day, using the same model of printer, which was kind of funny x)

[MS]: What an odd coincidence. Do you guys as a business have much of a relationship to Bad Dragon?

[Kara]: Yeah! I’ve known Varka for a few years, he was quite supportive as I was just starting out. There’s a pretty good chance we’ll be partnering up on some things shortly, actually.

[MS]: There has been speculation for a while suggesting that Bad Dragon is looking to expand out to the European marketplace and achieve this by purchasing Weredog.

Do you believe these rumours to have any grounds for truth or people getting carried away?

[Kara]: Well! Since it seems to be getting out – we’re exploring the option of them coming on board as an investor. Definitely not a buyout, they’d have a minor share and we’d keep all our own autonomy, but they want to support us as a brand so that we might work together a few years down the line :>

[MS]: Wow that is huge, to be honest.

[Kara]: I certainly wasn’t expecting anything like it this soon! It could be the difference between whether we ultimately succeed or fail.

[MS]: It’s a testimony to your quality and success. You guys seem to handle demand very well and aren’t know for huge delays.

[Kara]: Well – we would always like to be faster, but thank you!

[MS]: That is quite a fact, what sort of projects should we look out for? Bad Dragon involved or not.

[Kara]: Well my next two projects are actually of the same character; I’m currently at work on a dildo and a paw for ‘Gideon the werefox’.

[Kara]: The biggest ‘project’, though, is going to be our move into the new building and the subsequent changes to all our processes so that we can make stuff even faster. We don’t have specific things lined up with BD that the public will see in terms of products any time soon, though we’re going to collaborate on processes so we can cut down lead times and keep pushing quality.

[MS]: That will be interesting to see how that turns out as BD has a reputation for slow delivery. It might be that you help them in that area.

[Kara]: There may be inherent limitations that we aren’t aware of yet – if we got an unexpectedly large surge from a sale, for example, then producing that can take a while.

But we’re always managing production on the basis of keeping wait times down, ideally well under a month!

[MS]: Such as 2019s black Friday? I can’t remember your stats but you guys seemed to sell a tremendous amount of toys.

[Kara]: Black Friday was large-ish. The biggest one we’ve done so far was Weredog Day this year, where instead of doing a sale on a single colour, single-firmness basis, we let people buy *any* toy at the discount we gave.

We sold three times as many toys, AND launched a new toy into the sale, AND gave a larger discount x) So we spent months making those as fast as we could with very little margin.

[MS]: Ah yes, was that the launch of Loch wasn’t it? You sold over 500 toys in general in that sale if I remember correctly.

[Kara]:  Hmm, around that, a bit less if I recall. o:

[MS]: Those are still amazing numbers and hopefully, you will see that again.

Are there any makers or toys out there that you are particularly fond of?

[Kara]: Well, Raphy (NamelessAngel) makes some great stuff – he even makes the original models by hand out of clay. 😀

[MS]: I have to say this has been a great interview and I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say that it’s been extremely interesting and engaging.

Thank you so much for your time Kara.

Final Thoughts

This has been an interview with the shop owner of Weredog. It’s been interesting learning more of the people who create these amazing products and to get an insight into what goes on in an independent shop.

I want to thank the amazing Kara for his time for my pestering questions. If you are interested in more interviews then give us a shout on Twitter or [email protected]monstersmash.co.uk.

Equally, if you think you might have an interesting story to tell and want to talk then feel free to contact us as well, we would love to hear from you.

Also feel free to talk to us on our discord server!