When it comes to careers, Sky and Jack Armstrong of Ahwatukee have been reborn twice.
Now the Missouri natives and Ahwatukee residents are in the third act of developing unique services and accessories for pets.
Until the market crashed in 2008, Jack owned several businesses in Pennsylvania and Florida, designing equipment and furniture for physically challenged people and seniors while Sky ran a business training women and children in self-defense.
Their world tumbled in 2008 when they “hit the perfect financial storm,” Jack said. “Anything that could go wrong did.”
But they picked themselves up and entered corporate life, enjoying a good salary. When 2018 began, the parents of three decided to start a third act together with their new business, QR World.
The Armstrongs left “the secure corporate world of salaries and expense accounts” for what Jack calls “the uncertain and exciting future of entrepreneurs,” creating pet accessories and a new identification system for pets that uses QR codes.
“We knew we wouldn’t be happy working in the corporate world at this stage of our lives,” he explained. “We don’t plan on retiring because when you do something you love, it’s a joy, not work.
“We saw the pet industry as a market that could use some fresh ideas. Since we both love animals it seemed like the perfect fit. And with our design, sales and marketing skills. we both felt we could make it.”
Their online business, qrpetstore.com, specializes in leather products for dogs and pushing the use of QR codes, which he calls an “international language.”
The Armstrongs believe the use of “QR” in their company’s name carries “the dual meaning of the international acceptance and use of QR codes and the international language of love and kindness showed by animals to each other and to humans.
“Our mission is to develop, promote and distribute ideas, products and services that help animals live productive, healthy lives. This mission is primarily focused on all animals that are cared for by humans.”
Armstrong has a patent pending on his Shark Fin Collar, a big departure from the collars currently on the market, though the website also offers other styles of collars as well as leather leashes and treats “that we feel are exceptional.”
“When we decided to get into this business, we saw no real innovation in collar design,” Mark said in explaining the origin of the Shark Fin Collar. “You see the same styles and designs that were around for the last 40 years. And we saw the explosion of electronic devices for dogs. But what we did not see is a great looking collar that had electronics integrated into it.
“So, we worked on that design, and that is how the Shark Fin was born. During the patent application, you are asked to describe the design, and the best description we could give was it was shaped like a shark fin. We sell the Shark Fin now because people think it’s cool and innovative. It sets their dog apart.”
What will set the collar further apart from any competition, he believes, is the GPS tracking system they hope to begin installing in the collars early next year.
Jack believes that even though his company is in its infancy, he’s got a good shot at making his mark – and securing a financial future.
“The pet market is a $70-billion industry,” he said. “There are many new start-ups. But it seems like there is still a lot of room for new ideas. And in the end, he who markets the best wins.”
He designs his products “by talking to those who will use them.”
“Too many engineers never leave the lab,” he added. “You must go out and get real-world feedback to find out what people want now. That’s why we do pop-up stores. You get to talk to all kinds of people who are more than willing to tell you what they need and to critique your products.”
He envisions three divisions for the company – one built around the QR code, one with wearable electronics and a third “that we find to be very fun – the collars and leashes we make.”
“We can work with products like these into our 90s,” he quipped.
Though he said he and Sky have been lifelong pet lovers, they don’t have any right now.
“After our last dog passed away and through the moves that we made, we decided to wait until we were permanently settled again and not traveling so much. So I’m sure it won’t be long,” he said, adding, “We have two ‘grand dogs’ that we dog sit for.”
“It’s a big responsibility having pets, you have to be able to devote the time that they need,” he said. “That’s why when we do move into a commercial space, employees’ pets will be allowed at work.”
Though he admits that “being willing to leave the six figure corporate life – a sure thing – for the unknown challenge of a new business is the hardest thing” about being an entrepreneur, Armstrong said he’s excited about his business’ possibilities.
As he explains on his website, “What we are today will pale in comparison to where we are going and the animals and humans that we will reach with our groundbreaking ideas, inventions, products and services for the animals we care for.”
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