I was teaching math at the American InterContinental University in Illinois when I decided to start selling in Amazon’s store to generate a little extra income. I called my store Pandaloon, and I filled it with fun, panda-themed gifts. Amazon made it easy for me to list new products, find customers, and quickly ship orders, and after several months, my little side hustle grew into a sustainable business that generated more income every month.

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Things were humming along nicely when I decided to get Huxley, my puppy who actually looks like a panda in everyday life.

An image of a small black and white dog standing on a beach and looking at the camera.

Naturally, he needed his very own bear costume, so I created a homemade costume that made him look like he was a teddy bear walking around on two feet. I posted a video of him running around in the costume and it went totally viral, reaching 30 million views in the first few days, and eventually totaling more than 160 million views.

Puppies play in pet costumes from Pandaloon

People started emailing me saying they wanted to buy my costume, and that’s when I decided to pivot my Pandaloon business from selling wholesale products to building my own brand.

I hired a local seamstress to help me create a pattern, then I found a sewing company to create my final prototype and patented my unique design. I’d saved the money I earned from my previous Amazon sales, and I was able to use it to fund all of the production for the first batch of costumes. I started out selling a panda costume in just a couple of sizes, and Amazon helped me get my brand in front of a lot of customers quickly in the first year.

An image of a small black and white dog wearing a panda costume

As Pandaloon grew, I wanted to reach even more customers by getting our costumes in local pet shops, but the store owners were hesitant because they wanted to see a full line of products and I only had one costume. I started working on more costume ideas to create a line, and quickly realized that all of this new inventory would be quite the investment. That’s where the TV show Shark Tank came in.

Amazon’s fulfillment network provides customers with fast, low-cost, reliable delivery while creating opportunities for independent sellers to lower costs, increase sales, and grow their businesses.

I thought it was a long shot for me to get on the show, but I decided to audition anyway. I stood in line at 4:00 a.m. to claim my spot in a huge line of people at the casting call. We had 60 seconds to pitch, and I prepared it just like I’d seen on the show. Huxley came along to model the costumes, and I knew it went well when the casting director asked for a picture of him.

I ended up going on the show and getting a deal from investor Daymond John for $60,000 for 25% of the business. I had prototypes of the additional costumes to pitch on the show, and the deal helped me get the funds to start sewing them. We were able to start producing costumes of a lion, unicorn, polar bear, teddy bear, and rabbit—the whole gang!

An image of dogs in a variety of Pandaloon costumes including a unicorn, a lion, a panda, a rabbit, and a teddy bear.

Once I had the new costumes made, I added them to my Amazon storefront to continue scaling my business. After our Shark Tank episode aired, we saw a 2300% spike in sales. I leaned on Amazon’s fulfillment network to help manage that big change while keeping my customers happy.

I’ve been very focused on maintaining that momentum, and our sales continue to grow every year. Amazon’s customer engagement features like promo codes and updates have made it easier to keep in touch with people who already love our products, and we continue to get great reviews that help us earn trust with new customers. Our full line of products has also helped land Pandaloon in boutiques and brick-and-mortar pet shops.

Some people might think that creating pet costumes is a silly career choice, but to me, it’s all about helping my customers make meaningful memories with their pets. One person who saw a video of the costume told me that she hadn't laughed this hard since her husband passed. It means so much to be able to bring joy to people’s lives and to encourage pet parents to celebrate these moments with their furry loved ones.

We continue to add new sizes, costumes, and features we know our customers will love. I get really excited about our mission to help people celebrate with their pets, and I look forward to what’s next for Pandaloon as we keep growing with Amazon.

Learn about more of the cool small businesses selling in Amazon's store.