Are you ready to meet some of the world’s most interesting animal entrepreneurs? The latest short-form series, Wags to Riches, on the Million Stories platform (the free entertainment channel from the Singleton Foundation) showcases animal enthusiasts who have capitalized on society’s animal craze and turned their passion into profitable and successful business ventures.
And let’s face it. There’s something magical about animals. From their wonder and mystery to the way they delight and enrich our lives with unconditional love with no strings attached. We cannot get enough of them. Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and every other social media channel are filled with animal videos that make us laugh, smile and cry. And here’s a startling fact: Recent studies show that a good portion of people love their pets more than their partner.
It’s no wonder that in 2020, pet industry sales reached a milestone, surpassing $100 billion for the first time. To say we’re gaga for animals is an understatement. Wags to Riches gives us an insider’s look at the unique ways animal lovers are contributing to the booming animal industry. Dr Cassandra Sander-Holly is a Doctor of Physical Therapy using horses to help disabled kids learn to walk. Sammie Hernandez is a fifth generation father and daughter sheep shearing business, with more than 800 clients, that keeps farm animals happy and healthy. Christopher Cargnoni created Fresh Paws, a fashion brand, kicking the pet accessory industry up a notch with its novel streetwear made exclusively for dogs and their human companions. For those with a fondness for felines, Crumbs & Whiskers, a cat café where you can share a Cup of Joe with a room full of cats and kittens looking for their furever home.
Other episodes cover a range of animal entrepreneurs from goat yoga to dancing cats to guinea pig dating and those stories are just for starters. With each episode, Wags for Riches, explores the stories of the most ingenious and interesting animal entrepreneurs, stories that are sure to inspire the animal lover inside everyone.
The growing popularity of pets and animals raking in the dough caught the attention of the show’s creators and encouraged them to explore this trend. “We wanted to develop a fun, interesting and unexpected series about entrepreneurs,” says Michael Albright, Creative Director of Million Stories and the Singleton Foundation. “When we heard that in 2020, Americans spent almost $104 billion on their pets, we began our research and soon found all kinds of creative businesses involving animals, and that’s when we had our show.”
What the Million Stories team discovered were some truly fascinating entrepreneurs who carved out their own niche in the animal industry. “We looked for entrepreneurs who turned their love of animals into successful careers, but also had amazing stories to tell,” explains Asher Brown, showrunner and CEO/Founder of Pollution.tv. “For example, Sammie Hernandez, a 5th generation sheep and alpaca shearer intent on becoming the first woman to run her family’s company, and Dr. Cassandra Sanders-Holly, who turned her passion for horses into a thriving business and nonprofit using horses to help over 1100 children with special needs.”
The experience in making Wags to Riches touched a soft spot in the hearts of the show’s creators. “Dr. Sanders-Holly is beyond inspiring,” says director Lara Everly. “Her story had the whole crew in tears.”
For Everly, the animals had a lasting effect beyond just the fond memories. “I fell hard for a very outgoing and sweet kitten at Crumbs and Whiskers Cat Cafe named Bono,” says Everly. “He looked just like my cat Finn who passed away last year. I was tempted to take him home with me…but we already have a kitten and puppy. I hope he wound up in the best home.”
For all of the animals’ adorableness and their indelible impression on everyone, they cannot escape their nature and are not keen to taking direction or holding still for their close-up. “There’s a reason they say never work with kids or animals,” states Everly. “Animals are going to do what animals want to do, unless they’re extremely well-trained. We had a guinea pig pee on our host, a pig eat from the crafty table, a dog poop on a fashion runway, a sheep run off mid-shear, and many animals run away from the camera.”
As if a series about animals isn’t fun enough, Wags to Riches’ host, Dariany Santana, compliments these remarkable stories, immersing herself in the everyday experience of the animal enthusiast’s businesses. “Dariany is wonderful!” says Brown. “She’s an entrepreneur herself (co-owner of an amazing restaurant). And so, she understands how much hustle it takes to run a business. Dariany brings a spirit of fun and adventure to every episode, whether she’s testing cat DNA in a lab, building a luxury doghouse or playing matchmaker for guinea pigs.”
As the host, Santana admired the entrepreneurs’ determination to follow their heart and do what they love. “I was inspired every day that I was on set,” says Santana. “The way these entrepreneurs just knew in their hearts that they had to pursue their dreams, even if they seemed unorthodox or were huge risks made me want to do the same.”
“For anyone yearning to start their own business, it’s important to see that pursuing your passion can be so fruitful,” continues Santana. “These people love what they do and love the animals that are an integral part of their careers; and as a result, they not only have thriving businesses but they’re living fulfilled lives.”
By following their love for fine-feathered, furry, reptilian and everything in-between friends, these animal loving entrepreneurs went from Wags to Riches. “These were animal lovers who started with nothing but an idea,” says Albright. “Our hope is that this series inspires other potential entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.”
“It often felt like I was herding cats,” continues Everly. “At times, I quite literally was. Luckily, the real heroes of the story are the animal entrepreneurs themselves, so we did our best and rolled with whatever happened with the animals.”
Any animal diva moments aside, Everly relished the whole experience. “I loved working with the animals,” says Everly. “They are pure, amazing creatures and it’s always super rewarding. The most shocking part is that I didn’t wind up with 13 more pets by the end of the shoot.”