Up Close: Jessica Siegfried

Up Close & Personal

Dogged Determination

When you think about pit bull merchandise, the words dainty, soft and sweet don’t usually come to mind. Pittie Chicks is trying to change that. Founder Jessica Siegfried started the online business out of love for the dogs, and because she felt like women pit bull lovers were being left out. Many of her designs have a feminine touch to cater to the ladies, but there’s something for anyone — from the Powered by Pit designs for men, to even bibs for babies. When the Dunmore native, now Moscow resident, is not challenging misconceptions about pit bulls, Jessica is the senior designer at BlackOut Design in Downtown Scranton. Her talents helped the Pittie Chicks logo win gold at the 2012 ADDY Awards. Pittie Chicks has even gone global — they started shipping doggie goods internationally and are even on the helmets of a roller derby team in Ireland. All the pit bull clothing and jewelry are locally based and proceeds give back to help pit bulls in the area. There’s always new stuff rolling out at pittiechicks.com, including a brand new PittieLove t-shirt that’s as easy to love as Jessica’s two playful pups. Meet Jessica Siegfried …

EC16UPC_5_WEBWhen did you start Pittie Chicks?
I started in January 2012. We had already had our female pit bull, Lola. And through social media and Facebook, I got involved with a lot of the rescue groups in the area. I do graphic design — that’s my day job. So I was donating time to help them, helping design logos and posters for events, things of that nature.

What inspired you to start the business?
I noticed that a lot of the pit bull owners and people who were running the rescues were female. I know from owning Lola, when you go online to look for things like pit bull apparel, everything was unisex. They were black and had big spiked collars and made them look mean, like they’re tough dogs and they’re really not. They’re sweethearts. I feel a little need here so I’m going to fill it. So I started designing clothes for females. When it originally launched there were two designs. Then I attended my first event, which was Race to Rescue, a 5k that benefits a local pit bull rescue. I just did it because I figured if I’m going to sell some shirts, I’ll donate some money and then I’ll be done. But I sold out, and they kept wanting more and more. So I started a Facebook page, and next thing you know it snowballed. And now I have 11 apparel designs. I have outerwear and hats. I just launched a men’s t-shirt and baby bibs. I do handmade jewelry now too. Everyone I try to use is local or small, like artisan. I believe in shopping small and helping each other. We donate a portion all of our sales to pit bull rescues in the area.

EC16UPC_6_WEBIs Pittie Chicks online only?
Yes, I’m strictly online. We do travel in the summer to events. This year we actually went as far as Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The website, pittiechicks.com, is where we’re purchasing from solely right now. Facebook is usually where I promote or give people a heads up if I have a new design.

Are you still seeing a constant demand from customers?
Absolutely. I kind of can’t keep up with it. I launch something new, and all of a sudden they’re like, “I want that, what else are you going to do now?’” I have a lot of repeat clients — they’re really loyal. It becomes a community on Facebook. If you visit our Facebook page there’s a lot of people that share photos and stories. It’s pretty neat. So, whenever we come up with something new, I can pretty much recognize the first 20 purchases.

Is it nice having that support from customers passionate about your business?
Absolutely. A lot of it is for the love of the breed, too. You meet pit bull owners and they’re die-hard advocates for the breed. It’s all about responsible ownership and everyone understands that owning a pit bull carries with it a whole different set of responsibilities. It’s not just a dog, you know? It’s much more than that and these people understand that and they just love them so much, and it’s great to see them all rally together.

EC16UPC_3_WEBWhat is it you like about pit bulls?
Oh gosh. What isn’t there to like? They’re just so great. I do love them. They’re loyal and just so sweet. And that’s what kills me, when you’re walking your dog and people go across the street (Although I’ve seen recently that there’s a lot more positive promotion about pit bulls now). I have a lot more people coming up to me, wanting to pet them and wanting to meet them than five years ago when we first got Lola. I think a lot of it too is, people tend to recognize my dogs, now. It’s funny. We were in downtown Scranton for Arts on the Square, and people would be like, ‘Oh my God, is that Lola?’ And they’d come over and want to say hi. She’s like a local celebrity. Once we spent hours in a pet store, because everyone wanted to come up and meet them. Everyone has a story; why they love pit bulls; how it happened. It’s cool.

Sounds like Lola is quite the star. Tell me about your second dog.
We have a 1 1/2 year old, his name is Bull, which is probably the best name possible for him, because he’s like a bull in a china shop. He doesn’t know his own size. He’s just like a big, wiggly teddy bear. He’s hysterical. Where Lola is small, dainty and serious, Bull is just a goofball. There’s never a dull moment.

Why did you want to stay in this area and base your business here?
I’ve always been into local and community and it’s such a tight-knit area. It’s where I grew up, so if I can help where I can, that’s definitely a positive for me.

It seems like there’s kind of a culture of supporting pit bulls in this region. Have you noticed that?
There really is. There are some pretty big rescues in this area and when they have events like Bark at the Park, Race to Rescue and there’s a National Pit Bull Awareness Day event that they do every year — hundreds of people come. It’s amazing. I just see them everywhere. And if you look at the website of Griffin Pond Animal Shelter, there’s so many pit bulls that all need homes.

EC16UPC_1_WEBWhy did you decide to donate a percentage of your proceeds to rescue groups?
They work so hard, tirelessly, and they don’t get paid for it. It’s not a nine to five job, there are other components. They’re fostering, they’re promoting, they’re rescuing. It’s so inspiring how hard these people are working for the breed. They’re making a difference. There’s just so many out there to help.

What would you suggest to anyone who wants to help pit bulls?
I would say to reach out to any local rescues in the area. Even just taking a dog out for a walk at Griffin Pond Animal Shelter in Clarks Summit. It just means the world to the dogs. If you can foster, wonderful. If you can adopt, even better. Everyone just needs help right now.
— kirstin cook