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Business // Entrepreneurs
Christina O’Connor

Friendly Approach Keeps Biz Thriving

Last week, I gave an Ilio Dentals’ Teeth Treat to each of my best friend’s three dogs. By all three of their accounts – if their rapid consumption and wagging tails were any indication – they loved the treats.

That was exactly the kind of reaction that Ilio Pet Products co-owners David Pang and Michael Choy received when they debuted the product at the Pet Expo in 2011.

“We were throwing these things on the ground, and the dogs were just inhaling it,” Pang says.

David Pang (left) and Michael Choy with their Ilio Dentals' Teeth Treat Photo from David Pang

David Pang (left) and Michael Choy with their Ilio Dentals’ Teeth Treat Photo from David Pang

Ilio Dentals’ Teeth Treat, formerly known as Gum-bone, cleans dogs’ teeth and freshens their breath. The spear-like shape is designed so that the dog will slow down its chewing to optimize the treat’s cleaning capabilities. (According to Pang, the treat is so tasty that the dogs were eating it too quickly!) Plus, it features natural products – including chicken and fish. Teeth Treat also is gluten-free.

Pang and Choy, who launched Ilio Pet Products in 2007, wanted to create a line of dental treats to address the pervasive issue of periodontal disease in dogs.

“Most people do not brush their dogs’ teeth,” Pang says.

In addition to Teeth Treats, Ilio (“dog” in Hawaiian) also has a line of other items, like its popular Puppy Pads that can absorb up to a liter of liquid for pups who are being potty trained, as well as adult indoor dogs. Ilio also has a line of treats with flavors including chicken long rice, kalua pig and hau-pia cream.

Ilio grew out of what was once a side job for Pang, who has been in the pet in dustry for more than 20 years. He owns a chain of pet stores in Taiwan, and previously owned a store in Honolulu, where he would occasionally create his own products to sell. When the Puppy Pads took off, Pang sold his local pet store to focus on Ilio.

Since then, Ilio has expanded to include distributors throughout the Mainland, Asia and more.

But although Ilio is now an international company, it still maintains a very hands-on approach to business. Pang and Choy both travel several times a year to meet with their distributors and manufacturers in person.

“I truly believe in the belly-to-belly approach of business,” Pang says. “It is a lot easier to do business with people when they know you … and it’s not just an email or phone call. It’s not the easiest way to do it, but I think, long term, that it is the right way to do things.

“They look at us as partners, and we look at them as partners,” he adds.

In the next few months, Ilio has plans to unveil a new line of products that aim to address a number of issues that dogs face. The first of these will be Zen Bone, a treat stocked with lavender, valerian and kava designed to calm down hyper canines. Zen Bone is set to be released in April.

In developing products, Ilio has what Pang describes as sort of a “backwards” process. While a lot of large companies may begin with a financial bottom line, Ilio first creates the best possible product, and then determines how much it will cost to create it.

“If you do your job right, the philosophy at the company is that the money will come,” Pang says. “If you start with the money, you are going to have a whole bunch of problems.”

Teeth Treats and other Ilio products can be found at stores including Longs Drugs, Walgreens and various pet stores. Teeth Treat had a buy one, get one free deal last month, which still is available in pet stores while supplies last.

For more information, visit iliodentals.com.

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