Pittsburgh Pet Bloggers Find Unique Business Niche
May 28, 2020 06:38PM
By Vanessa Orr
Photo courtesy Tori Mistick of Wear Wag Repeat
Just about everyone who has a pet thinks that his or her animal is the cutest, but how many of them actually have their own followers? Local bloggers Tori Mistick of Wear Wag Repeat and Bernadette Kazmarski of The Creative Cat have helped make their animals popular on the ‘net—and now those same pets are helping them build their businesses.
“My blog started as a hobby and a creative outlet focused on my two favorite things—style and my dogs,” explained Mistick, who started her site seven years ago. “I was working as a social media consultant for local businesses, so I did it on the side for a couple of years before realizing that while I was growing their social media accounts, I wasn’t thinking of mine that way.”
Mistick began focusing on content for pet parents and started to gain more followers. “Before, it was about anything I was up to, but then I found my niche talking about dogs, projects to do with dogs, trips to take with your pets, etc. Now my posts reach about 70,000 people.”
Readers are big fans of Lucy and Burt, Mistick’s two chocolate Labs, who appear in most posts.
“I’ve had Lucy since she was a puppy, and she’s now 8,” said Mistick. “A year and a half ago, we rescued Burt from Action for Animals in Latrobe. He’s a special needs dog who has epilepsy and was in the shelter for over a year. He’s just perfect; and now he and Lucy are soulmates.”
Through her blog, Mistick met a lot of people in the pet industry and decided to start a podcast to learn more about them.
“My podcast focuses exclusively on women in the pet industry, and I’ve done more than 100 episodes now,” she said. “I focus on women because when you attend these pet trade shows, you realize that while men may be running the big companies that have been around a while, a lot of the smaller, innovative companies are run by women.
“Besides, men already get enough attention,” she laughed.
Mistick’s site attracts readers who enjoy hearing about her dogs, as well as those looking for pet resources. One of her most popular posts featured a flower crown made for her dog, which was inspired by a crafts project. “I went to a flower crown workshop at Blue Daisy Floral and made one for myself, then took a picture of my dog wearing it,” she said. “It went viral on Pinterest!”
The site is also known for its dog-friendly event guide.
“Unfortunately, COVID is going to mess things up this year, which is a shame because there are so many dog-friendly things to do in Pittsburgh,” said Mistick. “It’s great to meet other people through your dog.”
Mistick’s site has been so successful that she went full-time in February, and she also now has an online store in addition to her podcast.
“I met so many cool women in the pet industry who were dog-mom makers that I decided to carry some products made by them,” she said. “I also have other artists who create exclusive designs for me.”
One of the advantages to running her own pet site is that Mistick has the flexibility to do what she wants to do. “Sometimes ideas work and sometimes they don’t,” she said. “You just keep going and trying different things.
“What’s great about an online business is that you can go online and learn how to do almost anything,” she added. “You can be really agile and try out what you feel like trying without having to get anyone’s approval.”
Of course, that’s not the only perk. “The best thing is that I get to spend all day with my dogs,” she said. “They are my coworkers, and they star in most of the content. I get to play with them, train them, and make them fun treats, and it’s my job, which is pretty great.”
Bernadette Kazmarski of Carnegie runs The Creative Cat, which she started in 2009.
“I went to a conference as a member of the Cat Writers Association of America, and everyone was talking about blogging,” she explained. “I’d had a website since 1995 that I set up to promote my animal portraiture, but it didn’t include anything personal; it was just a way to show the progress of my work.”
A cat rescuer for more than 40 years, Kazmarski realized that blogging might give her a way to share those stories as well as her art.
“When you rescue cats, you usually end up with a household full of them, so I started to write about the cats in my life,” she explained. Her site really started to take off in 2011, when she began posting a new sketch of her cats every day.
“I hadn’t been doing enough artwork, so I decided to start doing daily sketches,” she said. “I gave myself 15 minutes max to sketch the cats every day, and then posted it. I did this for three years and ended up with a body of 1,000 sketches that went from a single pencil sketch to complex pastels.”
Kazmarski now uses this artwork on merchandise she makes, including tiles and keepsake boxes.
“It upped my skills because I knew people were watching for it; I couldn’t back down from my own challenge,” she said. “I’m so glad I did it; it not only grew my audience, but people shared my sketches everywhere.”
The Creative Cat features a mix of different things which appeal to the more than 3,000 follows of her daily digest and 8,000-plus followers on RSS feeds.
“I’m a commercial artist and graphic designer with a degree in writing that does pet portraiture,” she said. “I originally tried to keep things separate, but when I mixed them together, it worked better.
“I can’t talk about my work without sharing bits and pieces of me, and I’ve found that putting my personality out there counts for a lot,” she said. “People appreciate it when I inject my 10 cats into things; like running a story with a photo of all of my cats in the kitchen in the morning waiting to be fed.”
In addition to her artwork, Kazmarski includes stories on cat health and behavior, and personal rescue stories from doing TNR (trap, neuter, release). “Lately, I’ve been focusing on pets and COVID-19; I pull a lot of my topics from the questions people ask,” she said. She also uses her site to find cats forever homes by working with local rescues to feature adoptable cats.
Even better, the Internet has helped Kazmarski find her tribe. “How many people did we all used to bore at work telling cat stories?” she laughed. “Now I’ve found a niche and an audience.”