How Overstock.com got into the pet adoption business
After coming up with the idea during a yoga session, the online retailer's CEO mobilized his site's existing technology to help cute critters find new homes.
Mon, Jun 02, 2014 at 03:58 PM
When things are "overly stocked," great deals can be found at bargain prices, a premise used to sell clothes, shoes, housewares and bedding. But what about pets?
The e-commerce giant Overstock.com recently took on pet adoption and, according to CEO and Chairman Patrick Byrne, it was "one of the best ideas of my life." The goal is simple: connect the overstock of shelter animals with the many people looking for the perfect four-legged addition to their family.
Upon launch, there were more than 200,000 pet profiles online for dogs and cats as well as alternative pets like horses, rabbits, alpacas, pigs, reptiles and birds. If the pet is legal and you can fathom it as a pet, you can probably find it here.
Byrne says this great idea struck him in the middle of his yoga practice in November 2013. "I realized we have built some really world-class technology and it just suddenly occurred to me in a moment of inspiration — Gee, we could apply the same thing to animals around the country in shelters."
He's a farm boy at heart
You might not think a yogi CEO grew up on a farm, but that's where Byrne’s roots are. He recalls "the happiest years of my life" growing up in rural Vermont and surrounded by farm animals. "Animals are not objects," he says, but that doesn't mean the same technology that matches objects to people can't be used to match adoptable animals to owners. His team ran with it.
At the core of the program is software that draws on a feed of more than 6,000 shelters around the country. In keeping with Byrne's beliefs that no "puppy mills" or breeders are allowed on the site, the service is strictly for shelter animals that are in more desperate need of a forever home. The moment a new animal is listed on any partner website, all information is gathered into Overstock. Byrne isn't doing it to compete with the shelters but to give the shelters a wider array of potential pet owners.
The perfect match
There are many shelters that have yet to partner with Overstock since the undertaking is new, but Byrne says he's happy to welcome more to the group. Qualifying shelters can join simply by calling 800-843-2246 and it's a quick, easy process to get started. "Most likely they don't have to do any extra work; as far as the shelters are concerned, they just keep doing what they're doing," Byrne says.
Not surprisingly this isn't the first philanthropy project Byrne has drummed up within the confines of Overstock.com. More than 10 years ago, the Worldstock program was launched, featuring products from around the globe, all of them made with fair trade practices. Post-recession in 2008, Main Street Revolution was launched, a program that encourages the consumption of products made in the U.S. and from companies with fewer than 20 workers.
So if you're ready to welcome a furry (or feathered) friend to your home, there's a new place to shop.
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