Today, I spoke to Wendy Diamond, who is the founder of Animal Fair, the premier lifestyle magazine and author of It’s a Dog’s World. Wendy is a great example of a someone who has positioned herself as a leading expert in her field. In this interview, Wendy talks about how she’s built a successful animal empire, what inspired her, how she’s used technology to grow her brand, and much more.
You’ve been quite successful in building your website and magazine around animals — have you always been an animal lover? Where did the inspiration for Animal Fair come from?
Most animal lovers are born animal lovers and I fit in that category. Growing up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio I had a German Shepherd named Pepper who taught me to have an unbridled love and appreciation for animals. But my personal brand didn’t begin with pets, it began with people. After living and working abroad for a few years I found myself in New York City with nothing to do and I began to feel shallow, so I got into volunteer work. My career started helping homeless people in New York with the Coalition for the Homeless, an organization I am still supporting today. But I didn’t get into working with animals until after I adopted my Russian Blue, Pasha and Maltese, Lucky from a local shelter in the city, where I witnessed how horrible the shelter system was. It was then that I knew that by putting forth an effort, I could make a huge difference and inspire others to do the same. In 1999, when Animal Fair launched, roughly 12 million animals were euthanized in shelters because they were unable to find a loving home. Today those numbers are down to 4 million animals euthanized yearly. And today we are the premiere animal lifestyle media company.
We produce the premiere lifestyle animal magazine supporting animal rescue. All our projects are cause related and makes work meaningful. Our magazine has featured Beyonce, Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke, President Obama and family, Renee Zellwegger, Charlize Theron, Matt Leinart, Shania Twain, Regis Philbin, Barrymore, Halle Berry and Tom Hanks. Our website AnimalFair.com has hits from across the world with content syndicated to over two million visitors. We create annual national events to help local charities such as Yappy Hour® which has raised well over $200,000 for local shelters. I love fashion and so does Lucky (but only the highest fashion) so we created the first ever pet fashion show, Paws for Style, to raise money for animal rescue.
Also, we love to travel so we created the Five Dog Bone Award® winners who are selected based upon their excellence in pet-friendly travel and product services. After writing two best selling books titled How To Understand Men Through Their Dogs and How To Understand Women Through Their Cats, I became the face of Chicken Soup for the Soul – What I learned from My Dog and What I learned from My Cat. And now my newest book, It’s a Dog’s World, has been released with Random House. But like I said, my inspiration is simple: doing good for the underdog. Whether that is a person, dog, cat, family member, charity or organization, I’ve held true to that since I started my company.
Animal Fair has been around for the last decade — how has your business strategy changed with the evolution of the internet and technology? Has it helped to build your audience?
Technology moves so fast, and I can’t even begin to believe how we got any work done ten years ago based on how fast I work today. I know I didn’t get 300 plus e-mails a day in 1999. It’s always about keeping up with technology, but with the expansion of the internet and this e-boom, my true goal has never changed. I’ve always wanted to help animals, the underdogs, those who need help the most. Technological advancements have just made that easier. Websites like PetFinder.com can help you locate and adopt any breed, yes ANY breed of dog to rescue (people don’t believe you can rescue any breed), which was a lot harder to do ten years ago.
The same goes for tracking a lost dog. Microchips like HomeAgain in your pet may sound like a painful process but it takes no antiseptic, feels like any normal vaccination and the microchip itself is no bigger than a grain of rice. Once a pet is tagged, if they are lost and found elsewhere and scanned, they immediately come up in a national database no matter how far or long they have traveled, which ultimately saves costs at shelters, which needs all the space it can get for needy and abandoned animals.
As for building my audience, I enjoy Facebook. It’s a great way to stay connected and it’s a great tool for business. I do feel a bit silly having a “fan page,” but Facebook only allows you to have 5,000 friends, so Lucky and I have a fan page where we can share news about adoptions, cross-country events like our upcoming Yappy Hour® tour, and photos from our pet travels. As for Twitter, I’m still figuring it out. But keep an eye out for more of my tweets!
You’ve written a few books with more in the works — is writing a natural expression for you? Did you plan on becoming an author from the beginning?
I majored in Marketing at Pine Manor, which required a lot of writing, but I never could have imagined I’d become an authoress (let alone the woman who coined the phrase ‘pet lifestyle’). For me, my writing is less of a natural expression and developed more as a vehicle for my philanthropic work. I created my two cookbooks, A Musical Feast and All Star Feast with the help of celebrities like Madonna and Derek Jeter solely to raise money for homeless people and children. Once I got into business of pet lifestyle, the books just starting pouring out.
My latest book, It’s a Dog’s World, is my “pet opus” and I’m proud to release it as a culmination of a decade adopting, living, working, traveling, dating, exercising, cooking, cleaning and doing everything with my dog. So in a way, I suppose it is an expression of my ten years of work incorporating my dog Lucky (who can never be alone) into my everyday lifestyle. I wanted pet parents to jump into the 21st century when it comes to dog parenthood. It’s time to get out of the doghouse and into the home!
You’ve partnered with many celebrities, including Charlize Theron and Drew Barrymore, and appear in major news outlets. How do you think your personal brand has contributed to these successes?
Partnering with celebrities is not about my promoting my personal brand, and never has been. Very early in my career I recognized that promoting celebrities with their rescued animals would help bring awareness to adopting shelter animals worldwide and people would realize adopting animals is not only a wonderful and cool thing to do, but it also brings unrequited joy and happiness into one’s life!
What’s next for you? Any thoughts of expanding your business or personal brand?
What’s next? I’m constantly wondering that myself. Sometimes I wish I was my dog Lucky and someone would just carry me from one thing to the next. For starters, we’ve just re-launched our website, AnimalFair.com. This year I plan to finally finish my documentary, In Search of Puppy Love, which will give hope to the 104 million singles in America. I’m collecting ideas for my new book How to Train Your Boss to Roll Over, developing a line of pet products exclusive for those passionate about animal rescue and I’ve recently joined forces with the United Nations to help raise awareness of endangered species.
Wendy Diamond is the founder of Animal Fair, the premier lifestyle magazine and website for animal lovers in support of fairness to animals and animal rescue. Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Renee Zellweger, and Drew Barrymore have all graced the cover with their animals. Wendy Diamond and her dog Lucky are frequent pet contributors to the Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Good Morning America and media outlets around the world. Wendy Diamond’s natural humor can be read in her two best selling books How to Understand Men Through Their Dogs and How to Understand Women Through Their Cats! Random House is publishing Diamond’s next entertaining albeit informative book titled It’s a Dog’s World in February 2010. She joined Internationally known speakers Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield to represent, co author and be the face of the new Chicken Soup for the Soul What I Learned from My Dog and What I Learned from My Cat books out now in stores.