The founder of the first talent agency for celebrity pets on the unexpected path to her dream career.
It’s a steamy summer Tuesday and Loni Edwards is headed to a photo shoot for her dog Chloe. To clarify, Chloe is not your average pet. She’s a celebrity dog influencer with over 139,000 followers on Instagram (you may know her as @chloetheminifrenchie). On an average week, the 3-year-old French bulldog can be found shooting a campaign with a major fashion brand or jetting across the world (she goes everywhere from San Francisco to Miami to Milan). And for her efforts, Chloe is compensated on par with human influencers. In fact, she’s even got her own LLC.
At the center of it all: Chloe’s mom-slash-manager Loni Edwards, founder of The Dog Agency, the world’s first management agency for celebrity pets. The agency, which started with Chloe, now represents over sixty pets from beloved mini pigs like Prissy and Pop (who have more than 600k followers) to famous rabbits like Wally (311k followers on Instagram). Edwards helps her clients to connect with brand partners and negotiate contracts. Some of her pet clients even have book deals, stuffed animals in their likenesses and have even been featured on the pages of Vogue.
To hear Edwards tell it, The Dog Agency arose somewhat by chance. She had studied at Harvard Law School before moving to LA to work in intellectual property litigation for a major firm. But, soon into the job, Edwards began to crave a more creative career path. So, she put in her notice and headed back to the east coast. A first startup idea – a travel app - failed. “We just did everything wrong,” recalls Edwards. “But I learned so much from that experience about how to run a business.” Her second company, a tech-enabled fashion accessories line, was a success, and allowed her to patent and license her proprietary technology.
Around that time, Edwards decided to get her dog Chloe. “I put her on Instagram when I got her because looking at her just made me so happy and I figured it would do the same for other people,” explains Edwards. “She quickly amassed this huge following.” Brands started to reach out to Edwards about working with Chloe, so she put her legal background to work negotiating good deals for her pet. Soon, other dogfluencer parents were seeking her out for advice on their own contracts and The Dog Agency was born.
Now, Edwards’ business – and the industry in general – has grown exponentially. “Everyone knows that influencer marketing is amazing because you get that authenticity factor,” she explains. “But with pets there are all these bonuses because they have higher engagement, their content has a higher likelihood of going viral and there’s also just that innate feel-good factor you get with a cute animal.”
“If you had told me four years ago that I would be doing this, I would have thought you were crazy,” says Edwards. “But it’s truly the perfect job for me because I can bring in my legal background, but I also get to do something creative that I love and hang out with the cutest animals in the world.” Which is why Edwards says she always advises fellow female entrepreneurs to keep an open mind when it comes to their careers. “It’s so important to just try things, see what works and what doesn’t, adjust when needed and stay open to shifting gears as new opportunities arise,” she says. She also stresses the value of delegating. “It’s really key, especially as a woman, to get to the point where you understand that you can’t grow your business if you try to do everything yourself. You have to find people you trust to handle different jobs.” And when it all starts to feel a little overwhelming? Well, you could always spend a minute or two looking at cute pets on Instagram.