Molly, the family feline, provides inspiration for BlogPaws LLC co-founder Tom Collins. The Frederick-based social media company teaches pet enthusiasts how to use social media effectively and connects them with the brands they buy. Jonathan Castner / for BizWest

Users’ online reviews tap into pet-products industry

FREDERICK — The pet-products industry tipped the scale at $53.33 billion in sales last year, according to the American Pet Products Association. Part of that success comes from the thousands of bloggers who review many of those products while weaving in entertaining stories about their own pets.

In 2009, two seasoned bloggers — Yvonne DiVita and Tom Collins — recognized the potential for developing stronger relationships between pet bloggers and pet-product companies and decided to come up with a way to bridge the gap.

“Tom and I went to a BlogHer conference with 3,000 other bloggers and had a conversation about how we weren’t getting enough attention from pet brands,´ said DiVita.

To remedy the problem, they came up with the idea to create a conference that would bring pet bloggers and pet-product companies together in a win/win fashion.

“We were paws on the ground in December 2009,” Collins said, defining the launch of BlogPaws LLC. DiVita and Collins originally founded the company with Caroline Golon, who has since moved on. Yvonne’s daughter, Chloe DiVita, joined the team in 2011 and goes by the title “chief of everything.”

The company hosted its first conference in April 2010 with 217 attendees. Since the reception was so good, it decided to hold another weekend in September.

Cconferences have been held annually, with nearly 400 attendees at the 2012 event. The 2013 BlogPaws conference will be held in May in Virginia.

In addition to meeting pet-product sponsors, conference goers choose sessions that range from how to find blog content and increase search-engine optimization to how to turn a blog into a business and hold fundraisers.

“The goal of most pet bloggers is to create a full-time professional career or to raise money for causes,” Collins said.

BlogPaws members get to help and be helped by each other by sharing ideas, expertise and support. They also get opportunities to get paid for their work through contact with pet-product companies.

“We also give back,´ said Chloe, noting that $55,000 in cash and $10,000 in goods have been donated to animal shelters and rescues around the nation. The money comes from contest winners who get to donate their prize money to shelters or rescues of their choice. Conference keynote speakers also donate their fees to the same organizations.

“There are about 30 different rescues and shelters we’ve donated to,” she added. “Treats, toys, beds and even office supplies are some of the goods we’ve donated in addition to the cash.”

“We have a multi-sided platform with multiple groups of customers,” Collins said. Revenue streams include conference sponsorships, conference admission, advertising on the BlogPaws website and occasional live event coverage for pet-product events.

Conference sponsorships range from $5,000 to $50,000 and include ongoing marketing opportunities after the show. Last year’s event brought in 54 sponsors.

Conference registration starts at $199 for three days plus meals. Advertising on the website ranges from $12 to $15 for each 1,000 impressions.

BlogPaws membership is free for individuals who meet the requirement of being active online writers writing about pets. “We have a human review to make sure people are active,” Collins said.

BlogPaws is headquartered in Yvonne’s and Collins’ basement. When they started the company, both already were working in the blogging industry. “We started it under the banner of Windsor Media Enterprises,´ said Collins, adding that their start-up costs were time and talent — especially since they secured a sponsor for the first conference one month into the start.

Through Windsor Media Enterprises, which still exists, they published books, built blogs and helped people start blogs.

In 2012, BlogPaws joined Pet360 Media, an online digital media network for pet bloggers, advertisers and publishers. “We add face-to-face contact for them with our conferences,” Collins said.

How many pet bloggers are out there? “We have 17,000 followers on Twitter, 8,000 likes on Facebook and 2,200 registered members,” Collins said. “The total numbers are a lot larger than that.”

FREDERICK — The pet-products industry tipped the scale at $53.33 billion in sales last year, according to the American Pet Products Association. Part of that success comes from the thousands of bloggers who review many of those products while weaving in entertaining stories about their own pets.

In 2009, two seasoned bloggers — Yvonne DiVita and Tom Collins — recognized the potential for developing stronger relationships between pet bloggers and pet-product companies and decided to come up with a way to bridge the gap.

“Tom and I went to a BlogHer conference with 3,000 other bloggers and had a conversation about how we weren’t getting enough attention from pet brands,´ said DiVita.

To remedy the problem, they came up with the idea to create a conference that would bring pet bloggers and pet-product companies together in a win/win fashion.

“We were paws on the ground in December 2009,” Collins said, defining the launch of BlogPaws LLC. DiVita and Collins originally founded the company with Caroline Golon, who has since moved on. Yvonne’s daughter, Chloe DiVita, joined the team in 2011 and goes by the title “chief of everything.”

The company hosted its first conference in April 2010 with 217 attendees. Since the reception was so good, it decided to hold another weekend in September.

Cconferences have been held annually, with nearly 400 attendees at the 2012 event. The 2013 BlogPaws conference will be held in May in Virginia.

In addition to meeting pet-product sponsors, conference goers choose sessions that range from how to find blog content and…