Sophomore Entrepreneur Uses Pet Supplies to Propel Him to Success

Published: Feb 23, 2012
Jared Shlager ’14 started his first company when he was 16, but he has been shadowing, interning and working in the pet supply business since he was only 13.
Jared Shlager ’14 started his first company when he was 16, but he has been shadowing, interning and working in the pet supply business since he was only 13.
Jared Shlager’s residence hall room is also his board room. As the CEO of two companies, the UT sophomore is living the college life while balancing the responsibilities of an entrepreneur.

It means less time for socializing with friends, and having to step out of class to answer phone calls routed from the toll-free customer service number listed on his website. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Some days you don’t sleep a lot,” said Shlager, an entrepreneurship major from Boston, MA. “I don’t regret it though. It’s a great learning experience.”

Shlager ’14 started his first company when he was 16, but he has been shadowing, interning and working in the pet supply business since he was only 13. His father, Bryan Shlager, owned a chain of pet stores, which he sold to Petco. Bryan Shlager now serves as an industry consultant and buyer, in direct competition with his son.

While a teenager, Shlager would go with his dad to conferences and on business trips. Instead of swimming in the hotel pool, he would talk with other attendees, ask questions and make impressions from his unusually astute interest at a young age. He gained several mentors this way — successful businessmen in the industry who took him under their wings, offering advice and hands-on opportunities.

Shlager has interned his way through a major Canadian pet products manufacturer and distributor, Hagen, learning marketing, purchasing, accounting and customer service. He set up a distribution warehouse for another company this past summer, learning the logistics as he went. It was all excellent experience for entrepreneurship, since he is the one-man show running his businesses.

“I’m accounting, purchasing, social media — I’m everything,” said Shlager, who started a pet toy design company, JMS Creative Designs, before launching the boutique, online pet supply store Pet La Vie.

He has been able to use one company to help pay for the startup of the next. He launched Pet La Vie in October 2011 because of his financial success with JMS Creative Designs. He has just under 1,500 pet products for sale with the goal of adding another 8,500 by this summer.

“I’m always calling my dad with new ideas,” said Shlager, whose mind is constantly creating. He wants to get a minor in management information systems so he can do more with ecommerce and smartphone applications.

“My friends in middle and high school said I’d be the next Donald Trump. I believe I can do it,” said Shlager, who uses what free time he has to train in boxing, another industry in which he wants to make a name for himself — as an athlete. “I have big ideas.”


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