Melissa Messina and her husband Mick travel the midwest every year selling dog collars through her company MazzyCo at craft shows

Melissa Messina was working full time as a graphic designer in 2008 when she decided to purchase a Halloween collar for her Alaskan husky-Dalmation mix, Mazzy. She went to big box stores in Omaha trying to find Halloween-themed fabric but couldn’t find anything appealing. She looked online but everything was out of her budget. She was determined to make a collar for her beloved dog. If she wanted the perfect collar, she would have to make it herself.

Messina’s experience turned into Mazzyco, an Omaha home-based dog collar company that uses fabrics you can’t find in a big box store to create collars which appeal to dog owners all over. She has special orders and has turned her company into a well-oiled machine.

“There’s tons of ribbons out there, and that was the ticket. The ideas are endless,” Messina said.

Mazzyco, is now Melissa’s full-time job.

Messina had never sewn before. Her mother gave her a basic sewing machine for her birthday and through trial and error, she started to piece together fabrics she found in Omaha. She had no intention of starting a business at this point. She made collars for friends and started to show her work to co-workers.

Melissa began bringing her collars to craft shows. Her first show took place in 2007 at her alma mater, Marian High School. She brought 25 collars and she and her husband, Mick, who works full time, sold 20 of them.

From there, Melissa Messina started selling her collars at larger craft shows and now they travel around the Midwest doing up to 40 shows a year. Their largest show takes place in Minnesota once a year.

At this point, Melissa Messina was working at a large financial institution and working on her dog collars once she got home from work every night. Her last year of working at the bank, she was pushing it as far as possible with her collar business, working long hours to make as many collars as possible. It wasn’t until her dog collars started to earn enough money that she was able to go full-time with her collar business.

Word-of-mouth is their way of advertising.

“I’ve never paid for any advertising; I don’t do a lot of promotions to gain followers,” Melissa said.

Word-of-mouth is Mazzyco’s advertising source.

“We get so many people who say, ‘Oh, our daughter has your collar, so I had to get one for my other daughter,’” Mick Messina said.

Through word-of-mouth and their travels, they have gotten into multiple stores, which was a struggle in the beginning. Melissa has even started to make exceptions to the “dog” part of her brand. One customer had a request for a different animal.

“I made a harness for a potbelly pig, she said. It was their pet and they needed it to I guess take it out on walks. I didn’t meet the pig in person but that is the one that sticks out. The pig harness sticks out,” Melissa said.

They had to learn about the business side as the company grew.

“That’s the side that’s not as fun for sure,” Melissa Messina said. “It was easy at the beginning; you would save your receipts, talk to your CPA at the end of the year.”

Mazzyco now has a bookkeeper and a separate CPA to handle its transactions every year. Melissa Messina also has to find an insurance plan every November, which she finds to be the most stressful task.

“As a small business, a big stress that hits us every November is figuring out health insurance and it causes me endless stress for weeks, trying to find the right plan,” Melissa Messina said. “That was always one of the reasons early on that I feared doing it full time.”

Every year, Melissa asks other craft show vendors whom they are using for insurers, so she has a place to start.

With all the stressors, Melissa Messina has enjoyed her work making dog collars and has even made some new friends.

“We’ve made a lot of our good friends through the Farmers Market and craft shows. That part of it has been great. To be around people you like,” Melissa Messina said.

I am a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in May of 2020 with a degree in Journalism and minors in English and Jewish Studies. My writing interests include Middle East politics and mental health.