EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 21, 2013

Salem inventor competes in business competition

Salem woman a finalist in startup contest

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Melissa Tagliamonte isn’t about to quit her day job any time soon, but the budding inventor may well be on her way to becoming an entrepreneur.

The 39-year-old mother of two has designed Dreamy Paws Pet Bed — a soft, portable place for dogs and cats to sleep.

But it’s not your typical pet bed, it also includes space to store supplies and anything else Fido may need, Tagliamonte said.

“How many people staying at a hotel wish they brought their bed with them?” she said. “Now, they can bring their pet’s bed and luggage in one carrying case.”

Her invention has won her recognition as one of six finalists in a business start-up competition being held tonight in Manchester. Tagliamonte and the other finalists were chosen from among 30 people in the contest hosted by the Manchester Young Professionals Network.

“It’s exciting,” Tagliamonte said. “This is for that person who wants convenience and style for their pet.”

She must pitch her product and business plan to a panel of judges, who will narrow the finalists to two.

“I can’t wait to talk about it,” said Tagliamonte, who has more than 15 years of experience in sales and marketing.

The winner, who receives $55,000 in prizes and cash, will be announced at a reception in June, according to E.J. Powers, co-chairman of the NH Startup Challenge.

Powers, one of the judges, said yesterday he was impressed with Tagliamonte’s product, for which she has developed a prototype and is obtaining a patent.

“We’re excited to have her pitch her pet bed,” he said.

Powers said Tagliamonte, a member of the network, stands out from the rest of the finalists because they are technology-based businesses. The others, most of which are from Manchester, are: Regaalo, the New England Culinary Center, Ustablize, TechLok and Test Soup.

Tagliamonte, who is married with two young daughters, said she came up with the idea for the pet bed after a friend, Stephen Gaudette of Nashua, asked her to look after his Chihuahua, Bogey.

Gaudette had to make multiple trips to make sure Bogey had all the toys, food and blankets he needed, she said.

With the help of an engineering firm she found online,Tagliamonte designed a pet bed she thought would best serve their needs.

Bogey enjoyed resting in her prototype. So did her cat, Grady.

She has started a website, dreamypaws.com, where potential customers see more than a dozen cushion designs for Dreamy Paws.

Tagliamonte has also bids from potential manufacturers and may market her idea to a pet supply company. She and husband, Dana, have invested $10,000 in the project.

In the meantime, she hopes to do well in today’s competition, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at abi Innovation Hub in Manchester. One of the prizes is $20,000 in cash.

“If I were to win this challenge, it would make a big difference,” she said. “The $20,000 would cover my production costs.”