Louisville-based online retailer Cuddle Clones Inc. is in the business of creating custom made stuffed replicas of house pets for animal lovers. Their clients are mostly people who are looking for a Cuddle Clone to replace their deceased pets. According to founder Jennifer Graham, her customers just want to hug their dog or cat again, even if it’s just an incredibly realistic replica.
Graham said she got the idea for Cuddle Clones a few years back when she was resting her head on her pet Rufus, a Great Dane. At the time, she thought it would be nice to have life-size plush version of Rufus. She submitted the idea to a few business plan competitions, and encouraged by the positive feedback, she decided to turn it into a reality.
If you want a Cuddle Clone of your very own, all you need to do is send them a picture of the pet you want cloned. Just upload the picture on their online store, choose the ear and tail positions, and add any other key characteristics you would want the clone to have. The next step is the payment. Clones of smaller creatures such as hamsters, fish, birds, ferrets, or lizards cost $129. Larger ones such as dog, cat, horse, cow or donkey can be cloned at a fee of $199. The smaller clones will measure between 4 and 8 inches in length, the mid-range ones will be close to 13 inches, while the largest ones can be up to 17 inches. Life-size clones can be created as well, at a much higher fee.
Once you’ve made the payment, the company starts the process of creating the clones. The stuffed dolls are made from high quality plush material that’s specifically chosen to match your animal. “Our top challenge is manufacturing a high-quality product,” Graham said.
After several unsuccessful outsourcing trials, the company decided to open their own manufacturing workshop in China. “We now have seven employees at the workshop, which opened in March 2013,” Graham explained. She said that she manages the facility by talking with operations managers every night via Skype. “We are trying to get them to understand the high quality design needed for our products and to build up a large inventory of plush materials.”
Graham revealed that her company is now selling at least one clone per day. Cuddle Clones also managed to raise $300,000 in its initial offering to investors last February. And although they haven’t advertised much, Graham said that simple word-of-mouth marketing is proving very effective.
“From sending someone a Cuddle Clone to hug to cope with the loss of their pet to sending a teenager off to college with a plush version of their best friend, we really are creating big smiles,” she said. “As pet lovers ourselves, it makes us happy knowing that our customers are happy.”
Photos: Cuddle Clones