CARLSBAD — Last year, during the peak of the recession, Michael Drentea rolled the dice and took a gamble on a business concept that was inspired by his love of dogs.
The idea centered around an incident involving Nikki, his 9-year-old Yorkie.
“I was running at night a lot and wearing a reflective lighted armband,” he said. “My girlfriend, Rocio Simental, wanted to put it on Nikki when we walked on Carlsbad Boulevard so the cars would see her.”
After being overwhelmed with inquiries about the lighted collar from other dog owners, Drentea and Simental got the idea for the business. They named it appropriately, Dog’s Nite Out.
A former account executive with No Fear, Drentea was able to parlay his experience in action sports into a line of apparel and accessories for canines.
“Once we got the lighted collars, I said we need to offer more to make this business work,” he recalls. “We love the beach, we love dogs and we love the Chargers and Padres. I wanted to include dogs in the Southern California lifestyle.”
Drentea’s vision was to be an online distributor of high-end sports equipment carrying labels of Body Glove and the NFL to enable dogs to share their owner’s love of surfing, kayaking, camping and hiking in the desert.
“Wherever you go, your dogs can go with you in style, and at an affordable price,” Drentea added.
An avid surfer, Drentea decided to take his idea up a notch.
“When I was on Carlsbad High School surf team, I found out about surf dog contests,” he explained. “I wanted to be part of it. I said to (professional surfer and shaper) Scott Chandler, ‘Can you make a special surfboard for dogs?’”
Chandler responded by designing a foam board with a track top that provides traction for paws. A recessed handle makes it possible for the owner to hold the board and keep the dog on top.
Like Drentea, Chandler enjoys surfing with his dog, Zoey. In 2007 they and the rest of the Chandler family won the second annual Loews Coronado Dog Surfing Championship.
“This area is now known as the Dog Surfing Capital,” Chandler said. “It’s a great way to bond with your dog and build that trust to get him in the water. I also have a pot belly pig that I take surfing.”
Another component of Drentea’s vision was for his business to contribute to the community. To do so, he adopted the idea of having the first dog surf team, featuring celebrity surf dog Ricochet, where each dog raises money for charitable causes. In 2010-2011, the team raised money for Carlsbad High School Basketball, Carlsbad Museum of Skate Boarding and Action Arts Center and Skate Park, Jerry’s Kids MDA, 2nd Chance Rescue, Surf Dog Ricochet’s Surfin Santa Paws Toy Drive, Rady’s Children’s Hospital San Diego, Canine Companions for Independence and the Helen Woodward Animal Center.
It was actually the Helen Woodward Animal Center that came up with idea of an annual Surf Dog Surfathon in 2006. Since then they’ve seen a spike in interest in the sport.
“Our first year, 25 surfing dogs registered,” Spokesman John Van Zante said. “In 2010 we actually had to cut off registration at about 110 dogs.”
Dog’s Nite Out just celebrated its first anniversary in February. Drentea said he realized his business had already made a difference when he read this post by “Adam” when Dog’s Nite Out was nominated for the Channel 10 A List: ”The collar they sell literally saved my puppy when he left the front yard and wandered into the street at night. A car stopped and said the collar was like a neon light as he shined his lights on the collar.”
Drentea reports that his product offering will continue to expand with an emphasis on safety.
“We are getting lighted jackets for the fall,” he said. “Our red dog wetsuit is a favorite amongst ocean rescue companies seeking lifeguard-standard-issue red for rescue.”
Currently, Drentea is taking grooming lessons in preparation for opening a full-service dog boutique with grooming in Carlsbad within three years. For more information about Dog’s Nite Out, visit dogsniteout.com.
Beginning March 27 the Helen Woodward Animal Center will offer surf dog clinics at Dog Beach, Del Mar. Cost is $45 per dog, one lesson, including surfboard. To pre-register contact John Van Zante at (858) 756-4117, ext. 556 or e-mail email@example.com. The next Surfathon is scheduled for Sept. 11.