By Kristine Cannon
In a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in the Scottsdale Airpark, Scottsdale resident Kenric Hwang sets down a stack of “thank-you” letters and cards on a gray cart.
One card—from Los Angeles-based shelter Wags & Walks—has a handwritten note that reads: “With the help of Max and Neo, we’ve saved 1,100+ dogs this year! We are looking forward to saving even more at-risk pups in 2019 with Max and Neo by our side!”
Hwang unfolded another letter stamped with the Our English Setter Rescue logo in the upper left-hand corner.
“Our setters many times come with nothing or a chain or belt around their necks now have a new, very own collar,” the note from the Ohio-based rescue read. “Our volunteers carry bags in their cars with collars, leashes, bowls, water bottles, and we are so very thankful.”
The seemingly endless stack of kind words is what Hwang says is the most rewarding part of Max and Neo, a philanthropic business he started in 2015.
Hwang founded the business in 2015 after the passing of his two dogs, Max, a doberman, and Neo, a German shepherd.
Because Hwang was traveling so much, he couldn’t adopt another dog; so, he began fostering them through Saving Paws Animal Rescue in Glendale and has since fostered 35 dogs.
During this time as a foster dog parent, he realized how important collars and leashes were to shelters.
“When I first started, I wondered, ‘Why does a rescue need one hundred leashes in a month? It just seems excessive.’ But if you really think about it, when somebody comes to adopt a dog, they don’t give them the dog without a collar or a leash. At a minimum, they have a collar on,” Hwang says.
Determined to help and provide more long-term support, Hwang started Max and Neo.
Max and Neo manufactures high-quality dog products, including collars, leashes, harnesses, supplements, treats and CBD oil, and sells them at the same or lower prices than retail stores charge.
Martingale collars, for example, start at $11.99 and have features one wouldn’t find on most collars, like a lock and a loop specifically for dog tags.
“When (shelters) see that we put that much work into just the collar, they know that we’re not going to go out and source anything that wouldn’t be good,” he says.
For every product purchased, an item is donated to a shelter—one for one.
Max and Neo donates 150 boxes a week to shelters across the country, each box containing about $400 worth of items.
Since its inception, Hwang has donated over 230,000 dog products to more than 3,000 rescues across the country—including 75 in the metropolitan Phoenix area—totaling about $3.5 million worth of dog gear.
This past Christmas, Max and Neo donated $800,000 in products to more than 2,000 rescues.
“This company was built to donate; it exists for this reason only. So, giving back is in its culture,” Hwang says. “Our dog rescue list is growing at an incredible rate, so we just need to keep our sales rate up to match it.”
When Hwang started Max and Neo, he considered sending donations solely to local rescues.
“But then after a few months, we were giving them too much,” he says, adding that’s when he decided to open up the list to shelters out of state.
What sets Max and Neo apart from other organizations who give back to shelters and rescues is the amount they donate and how frequently they donate.
“The thing about these donations is there is a sense of urgency in donating. If I wait until the end of the year to see what I’m going to donate, there are dogs that needed it from January to now,” Hwang says.
Max and Neo accepts virtually all rescues that apply on its website.
“We don’t discriminate; we send to everybody, and everybody gets the same amount of stuff,” Hwang says. “The only time we don’t take a rescue is if we go to their Facebook page and they have really bad reviews; but we also understand that that happens to good rescues.”
Rescues signing up for donations choose from 11 different donation boxes.
“They give us their address, they tell us what style box they want, and they can go in and change it anytime,” Hwang said, adding:
“We’ve had rescues tell us, ‘You guys have the easiest program ever. We just sign up and a box comes.”
“It’s really manual because no software can do it, and every rescue wants something different,” he says. “We wanted it to be a little bit more personalized, but we can’t make it too personalized. It’s a balancing act.”
Shelters on the list receive one box every four or five months. Hwang’s goal is to send a box every three months.
“Our goals aren’t based on how many sales we make. It’s based on how many donations we make,” he says, adding that eventually, he’d like to get to the point where dog rescues spend no money on leashes or collars ever again.
In the meantime, you can follow Max and Neo’s Facebook page where, every Friday, they post a list of the shelters receiving a donation box that week.
“When you put the label on (the box), you see the name of the rescue and where it’s going and it just feels good; just donating in general feels good,” Hwang said.
To purchase an item for your pooch—and give back—visit maxandneo.com.