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Q & A with Jennifer Cao

Jennifer Cao |

As Co-Founder, Vice President, and Toy Designer of ZippyPaws, I receive a lot of questions about how ZippyPaws began and where the inspiration behind our toys comes from. Your interest in ZippyPaws and the work that we do means so much to us, and I’ve been wanting to respond to your questions for quite some time! This blog post is a response to several of the most frequent questions we get:

How did you come up with the name ZippyPaws?

I came up with the name “ZippyPaws” during my last semester in college. I was brainstorming keywords nonstop, trying to find a combination that would form the brand name that would be printed on every product I will ever design. I knew that if I named my company “Pet Toy Designs LLC,” my company would be lost among a sea of pet manufacturers. Since my company name would probably be the first thing people notice, I knew it had to be a conversation starter.

It was an exciting but daunting task, and being the perfectionist that I am, I agonized over that decision for weeks.

It popped into my head after hours of brainstorming, perusing thesauruses, and bugging my friends about their opinions. Right away, I knew it was perfect.


What is ZippyPaws supposed to mean?

The word “zippy” means lively or full of energy, which are the emotions I wanted my toys to bring to millions of dogs and their owners. The word “paws” succinctly shows that my company caters to our beloved pets.

In merely nine characters, “ZippyPaws” shows people that we are a pet company that is fun and whimsical! For me, the name ZippyPaws adds value to our business by exuding our company values: showing that we are fun, trendy, and creative.

Today “ZippyPaws” is a name that has gained traction in the pet industry for over 7 years. From being one of the Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2017, winning Editor’s Choice Awards from Pet Product News, and Product and Category Awards several years in a row, to reaching over 50,000 followers on Instagram, the ZippyPaws brand name has become synonymous with creative, cute, and fun dog toys.

Here’s a little peek at how our logo has changed over the years!

How did you start designing dog toys?

A lot of people assume that I studied art when they learn that I am ZippyPaws’ designer. Actually, I majored in business at the University of Southern California, but art has been a major part of my life ever since I was a little girl. My appreciation for great design and all things beautiful really took off during my teenage years, as I took more art lessons and extra classes on the weekends to develop my craft.

When I first started ZippyPaws about 7 years ago, I knew that it would be the perfect intersection for my love of dogs, my eye for design, and my business degree. In the early days, I used colored pencils and a sketchbook to jot down my designs. Soon I realized it wasn’t a great solution because I had to haul my thick sketchbook and a handful of pencils when I wanted to be creative outside the office.

Currently I use my trusty iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to create all of ZippyPaws products, from the newest plush toys, to outdoor gear, to leashes and accessories. I want to continue the tradition of hand-drawing each toy, adding my personal touch and whimsy to these products that bring joy to my customers and their furry friends.

Tell us more about how you approach creating new toys?

Throughout the design process, I always focus on the core essence of a toy: what purpose does it serve and why is it unique? I approach new product designs in a variety of ways:

1. Design an exclusive new squeaker, then create a toy around it.

The Jigglerz toys were created to feature our patent-pending Jiggler squeaker. The idea for the squeaker first came to mind when I wanted to make a squeaker that would make noise when a dog shakes a toy. I noticed my dog loves to hold a toy by its leg or ear and shake vigorously. I thought it would be so much fun for him if I created a toy that made fun noises when he shook it. After months of perfecting the Jiggler squeaker, I finally came up with a low-cost squeaker that is made out of the same material as our regular squeakers. After the squeaker was finalized, I designed the characters around the squeaker to give them cute, expressive faces. 


2. Find an awesome new fabric, then find a creative way to use it on a new toy!

The Corduroy Cuddlerz were designed because I fell in love with the soft corduroy-like material that had nice, thin stripes. I thought they were be perfect for a soft toy made for snuggling.

3. Improve the functionality and/or design of existing products.

I wanted to incorporate the durable rope used in our Climbers rope leashes into a tug toy, and thus Monkey Ropetugz came into being! The rope runs throughout the toy, making the toy stronger and less likely to fall apart. The rope leashes are a ZippyPaws specialty, and they add our unique character to the Monkey RopeTugz.




4. Create trendy products that are great for photo props! #instagramfamous

ZippyPaws was the first company to make the ever-popular emoji characters into toys for dogs, back in 2014. Squeakie Emojiz were a huge hit, because people loved having their dogs pose with the same emoji icons that they use online. Our Emojiz toys tapped into our love of sharing parts of our lives with our pups and continue to make for fun photos! 

5. Combination Approach!

I capitalized on the trend of gourmet donuts in the food scene by creating our popular Donutz, a bestselling line with seven different flavors! Donut-shaped plush and vinyl toys for dogs are a dime a dozen on the market, but I wanted ZippyPaws’ offering to look more realistic and be more durable. To achieve the aesthetic look, I used a layer of colored felt and a wavy outer edge to mimic the irresistible glazes and embroidered multi-colored “sprinkles” to give the toys more texture. For durability, I designed a mold for a crescent, or half moon, squeaker that when doubled up exactly fit the inside of a Donutz dog toy.

Even when one squeaker eventually wears out due to excessive love and play, there’s another one to extend the life of the toy! Now our Donutz line has expanded to include mini and Jumbo sized Donutz, all made with the same high quality materials and squeakers!



Have more questions? Feel free to reach out to us on our website, Instagram, and Facebook!

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