Lincoln-based SitStay was one of the first online pet supply retailers when it was founded in 1996. The company maintained its spot in Lincoln’s e-commerce ecosystem for 22 years (154 in dog-years) before announcing the next phase of the company’s journey.
SitStay was acquired by pet product manufacturer Buddy Brands earlier this month.
SitStay is a leader in pet e-commerce, aiming to supply unique, and top-quality assured pet supplies and necessities for service and therapy working dogs. They specialize in treats, vests, and other supplies for the working dog industry.
Jill Liliedahl, current CEO of SitStay, said the decision to transfer ownership of the company originated with SitStay partner Monte Froehlich.
Since its founding, keeping SitStay in Lincoln was a matter of pride and principle for Froehlich, who is also a real estate entrepreneur. However, he felt the timing was right to turn SitStay over to someone with more e-commerce expertise to guide the next phase of growth.
“Monte Froehlich was really important in maintaining SitStay as a Lincoln presence for so long. He loved that it was a Lincoln story,” said Liliedahl. “But it was time to find a new partner so we could take SitStay to the next level.”
SitStay’s operations have since moved out of Lincoln, but they didn’t go far. Buddy Brands is based in Wichita, Kansas, where the company makes a multitude of solution-based products, such as dog beds and magnetic dog collars and safety leashes.
“It’s been a collaborative effort to move operations over to Wichita and make sure that everybody is set up well moving forward,” said Liliedahl.
“We intend to continue to bring tremendous value to [SitStay’s] customers with quality offerings and still operate SitStay somewhat independently,” said Buddy Brands President Trevor Crotts. “Buddy Brands will retain as much of the staff of SitStay as possible, and continue to build and grow upon its history and values.
Liliedahl is staying on to assist with the transition but will no longer be involved in the SitStay’s day-to-day operations moving forward. Liliedahl has moved to a position as U.S. Lead for Inventory Planner, a system that SitStay used that helped transform their business through inventory management.
“I’ll be Inventory Planner’s first U.S. employee,” said Liliedahl. “I have a few business ideas but also want to switch gears a little bit and learn some different skills, then come at that with full effort.”
Liliedahl also has experience in the entrepreneurial world. Before joining SitStay, she ran her own startup for three years, Pop Art, LLC, which made custom popsicles.
Liliedahl said SitStay’s longevity in the e-commerce space began with the original owners having a strong understanding of the market they were entering, that market being one of people who love their pets like family.
“People don’t see spending on their pets as expenses they want to cut,” said Liliedahl. “They see it as crucial, that they need to take care of a member of their family. I think that emotional attachment to our pets is something that’s baked into SitStay as well.”
SitStay commitment to customers and pets is ingrained in the company’s culture. Their products are all individually vetted and tested by staff members and include items like the Natural Doggie cold-pressed coconut oil supplement line for dogs, and Brown Beggers treats made from natural USA-sourced ingredients.
SitStay’s focuses on owners’ loving connections to their pets and innovative products for service animals took the company far. Half of SitStay’s business is in the service and therapy dog industry, something everyone in the company’s history has taken pride in.
“We worked with local groups that do training for service dogs and therapy dogs, and learned more about what products they needed that could help solve problems,” said Liliedahl. “I think Buddy Brands will be well-positioned to continue to create new products and improve what’s already there.”
One of Lincoln’s original e-commerce startups is saying goodbye to the city, but it’s staying in the Silicon Prairie where Liliedahl hopes it will continue to grow.
“I’m excited that the acquisition worked out and I think SitStay is in really good hands now,” said Liliedahl. “Even though it’s not in Lincoln, I feel good that it’s still in the Midwest and will hopefully create more jobs in the future.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.