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Exploring Life & Business with Gina Castagnozzi of Giving Paws

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gina Castagnozzi.

Hi Gina, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I came to LA, as so many folks do, hoping to make my mark on the world, although I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to go about it. Little did I realize that the experiences that would guide me to my life’s work had already taken place. When I was eight years old, my parents brought home our first pet, a cat that I named Peppermint. My love for animals erupted that day and has grown every day since. Over time, that love turned into a career devoted to caring for animals, as well as a life of activism and active participation in animal rescue.  This trajectory has led me to where I am today, founder of Giving Paws. Giving Paws is a company dedicated to improving the quality of life for homeless pets by giving back to rescue organizations who do the incredible work of caring for these animals and helping them find forever homes. Through our line of pet products (including poop bags, leashes, collars, blankets and more!), we will work to improve the health and well-being of animals while they are on-route to their forever homes. I am anticipating a full product launch by Spring of 2022.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been beautiful, but certainly not without many obstacles. I think that anyone who is launching out on a path of their own will tell you that it can be lonely. I am solely responsible for every aspect of this endeavor. It’s been a remarkable learning process for me. I have many years of hands-on experience working with animals, so creating functional products was really a fun aspect for me. Navigating the world of manufacturing and importing has been challenging, to say the least. The most rewarding part of this whole process is building a brand that has the potential to make a significant impact in the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable pet population. It’s the charitable aspect that drives me and excites me. In my opinion, companies today have a social responsibility to pursue philanthropic endeavors.  In animal welfare, there is so much that needs to be done and so many animals that need help. Pets are a part of the family and the increased consumer spending on our fur babies reflects this.  Imagine if, for example, that leash that you bought from your neighborhood pet store was not just going into the pockets of a huge, purely for-profit enterprise, but instead was giving back to a local pet rescue that helps save senior dogs in high kill shelters? We can all make a difference, and for me the most rewarding part is thinking about how to grow this business in order to have the greatest possible impact on our nation’s homeless pet population.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
First and foremost, this brand is driven by my desire to help as many animals as we can.  We are a socially responsible brand that, we hope, will excite and unite pet owners around a common goal of supporting animals in need. I have really focused on creating a product line that is trendy, functional, high quality, and affordable. It has been my experience that many brands who give back have positioned themselves in more of a niche market with higher priced, handmade items. While there is definitely success in this model, I instead want to focus on keeping our products affordable for the average pet owner as well as improving and putting our spin on the most popular pet accessories on the market. For example, a traditional nylon leash remains a top seller and a staple for pet parents because of its function and affordability so we will be offering our own unique line of nylon products with some design improvements that people will be sure to love. Another product that we are launching is a line of vegan leather collars and leashes. While traditional leather products dominate the market, we are proud to be advocates for all animals; and with that mission at the forefront, we in good faith will not be using leather in any of our pet products. This leather alternative is stylish, waterproof, incredibly durable, and made in the USA. I’m confident people will love this material even more than traditional leather. Each product has been individually developed and influenced by years of experience in the pet care industry. We have developed all of our products with the animals first and foremost in mind. Not only the animals that will be using the products, but also the animals that will benefit from the sale of these items. We are proud to be an LA-based small business and we look forward to making an impact on the quality of life for our local homeless pet population.

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I grew up in the Midwest in a suburban town just outside of Milwaukee. I was a tomboy for sure. I loved being outside. Still do. Anything outdoorsy or adventure driven excites me and brings me back to my childhood roots. I loved being around animals. I was the kid who always wanted to stop and say hi to every dog. I had cats but never dogs growing up. Now of course, I have both – 2 cats, and 3 dogs – all rescues, naturally. I believe having animals from such a young age instilled in me a sense of responsibility and compassion. It’s those traits that are the foundational building blocks that drive Giving Paws.

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