Entrepreneur and pet healthcare expert Kristen Brand appeared on Shark Tank season 13 to pitch for her pet welfare business, Pawnix. At first, Kristen only wanted to help her frail dog, Emma, but soon her personal project spiraled into a full-blown business as she realized there were few options for dog owners to help their scared pets cope with loud noises. Kristen rose to the challenge and created noise-canceling headphones for dogs, hoping to help scared dogs across the country.
She asked for $150,000 for 10% equity stakes in her business. Let’s see how the Sharks reacted to her ask!
What Is Pawnix?
Pawnix is noise-canceling and Bluetooth-enabled headphones lessening the shock of loud noises for dogs. The product uses tried and tested state-of-the-art technology to block terrifying noises reaching the ears of your fur buddies. The aim of the product is to help owners make their dogs feel relaxed by counterconditioning them against loud noises. Pawnix is a custom-fit product and can be tailored for the unique needs of all dog breeds.
Entrepreneur Kirsten Brand took Shark Tank season 13 stage with her fifteen years old dog, Emma, to pitch for her business, Pawnix. She listed the many events Americans love to celebrate and how public celebrations are incomplete without fireworks, especially the fourth of July. Kristen pointed out the unsavory aspect of celebrating our holidays and events: noise pollution. She shared that just like millions of other dogs, Emma is scared of loud noises like fireworks and thunderstorms, so much so that she busted out of her confines and ran away in 2017 during a fourth of July celebration. Fortunately, Kristen got her back, but other dog owners are not so lucky.
Later, Kristen searched the market for a solution but couldn’t find anything that would work for all dog owners. So, she utilized active and passive noise canceling technology to invent Pawnix, her noise-canceling headphones for dogs. Kristen then demonstrated how the headphones worked on Emma, making the Sharks coo and giggle at her fur baby. Kristen closed her pitch by calling her product a necessity for dogs who are scared of loud noises.
Kevin asked if the headphones made the dogs uncomfortable because, as per his understanding, dogs are sensitive to sounds and cherish their sense of hearing. Kristen accepted that it takes a while for the dogs to get used to the headphones, and they need active training to associate them with positive stimuli instead of just loud noises. She shared that Emma, being her muse, had to go through a lot of fittings to help her lock down the perfect iteration for her head.
Robert wanted to know if the headphones could play music or other sounds, and Kristen replied in the affirmative. She explained the headphones are supplied with a chipset that detects the sound, translates it into wavelengths, flips it 180 degrees, and relays it back out to counteract the original sound. Kevin interjected and commented that that’s how all noise-canceling headphones worked, and Kristen agreed, elaborating that Pawnix used the same state-of-the-art technology as the noise-canceling headphones for humans, but they have altered it, using software and active technology, to cater to the hearing needs of dogs.
Lori was curious about how serious the loud noise problem was for dogs, and Kristen was happy to elaborate. She explained that since dogs are sensitive to sounds, they hear more than humans and get hurt more severely in case of loud noises. Consequently, they release cortisol in their body as a stress reaction that intensifies their sensitivity to the noise, trapping them in a vicious cycle of conditioned pain.
Mark prompted Kristen to tell more about her background and motivations. Kristen replied that she has been in the pet industry for about nine years, working as a research and development specialist at Mars Petcare. Her answer made her credible in the eyes of the Sharks, and Mark reacted to her expertise positively.
Robert asked about the cost and margins, and Kristen’s answer disappointed the Sharks. Mark commented that she didn’t have a lot of margins, and Kristen countered that there was room to bring down the cost of production and increase margins. Mark advised that she could sell the product for more, and Daymond intervened, saying the product was already expensive enough for dogs. Mark reasoned that the technology was expensive even for humans, and those willing to pay would pay no matter the pricing because the product is not cheaper; however, you look at it. Kristen interjected that she wanted to start sales at reasonable pricing to get the product on the market, but they could improve on her design and launch advanced versions for a higher price.
Kristen revealed they have made $106,000 in sales in almost a year, and Robert commented that it was good enough, but she could have made more if she sold the headphones with just the minimum and some noise absorption technology. He was concerned that Kristen was targeting a narrow niche and would soon lockout; he was out.
Lori appreciated Kristen’s work and thought that, with her background, she was perfect for this business. She didn’t think the product needed the technology and could be sold as adorable apparel for dogs if it blew up on social media. Still, she pulled out of the deal, citing that she had a different vision for the product.
Daymond thought the product was not for him from the market standpoint, so he was out.
Mark listed three things he looks for in a business before investing: unique differentiation, the owner’s ability to sell it, and his passion for the product. While Pawnix had the first two down, he didn’t think he cared about the product enough to seal the deal, so he was out.
Kevin didn’t want “doggy headphones” in his portfolio, so he stepped away from the deal.
Kristen walked off the Shark Tank season 13 stage with no deal.
After the episode aired, fans of the show took to social media to express their disappointment with the product. They called the product dumb and pointed out that even a sick dog like Emma couldn’t keep the thing on her head during the pitch.
Despite the backlash on social media, Pawnix is still in business, selling from Amazon and their website.
Our Review of Pawnix
Knowing the nature of most dogs, we think a product like Pawnix will only be a nuisance to dogs. Dog owners will have to train their dogs long and hard to keep the headphones on their heads, and even with the custom-fit, a violent shake can make it slip off easily; Emma couldn’t keep the product on her head longer than ten minutes. If Kristen went with Lori’s vision and sold the product for much cheaper and only as a fun product for dogs, the business might take off.
Pros of Pawnix
- Noise-canceling technology
Cons of Pawnix
- Design inaccuracy
Who Is Pawnix for?
Pawnix is for dog owners with dogs who are scared of fireworks, thunderstorms, and loud noises. If your dog is hypersensitive to sounds and easily frightened, you might want to invest in Pawnix.
Are There Any Alternatives?
Pawnix has no known alternative in the market though some dog owners use earmuffs like Mutt Muffs to help their dogs with their anxiety.
Our Final Thoughts
Knowing that noise-canceling technology is not cheap, it makes sense for Pawnix to be expensive, yet we see no viable market for the product. Kristen might make more money if she sold the product as an accessory because her design still needs a lot of work.