Fur is Family

"4BF is all about giving our best friends the best we can give through play and fostering a relationship that goes beyond the surface; a love that only a best friend can give."

4BF stands for: 4 Best Friend. That is exactly what they take into consideration which each and every toy that's created: our best furry friends. Just ask shop dog Tyson if you don't believe us! (I know my boys are jealous of all the toy testing he gets to do!) 

Not only is 4BF a growing brand (They landed a Petco deal!), but they are also all about family! Even the youngest family members, Annelise, Addie and Ava help out. Looks like the 4BF family has some #girlbosses on their hands. 

Queue Dog Mom upload of Bodie & Zeke: 

Bodie and Zeke got the Crazy Bounce Ball Rope. It's a necessity in this house, not only because there are two of them, and it's a rope that can be used in an epic game of Tug O' War, but also it is a treat ball. Frozen Peanut Butter, or treat distraction?! Yes please! This Mama has some work to get done, after her first job! 

 This interview is unlike anything we've done so far, because there is so much to learn about a small business. The family behind the brand are courageous, fearless, and passionate: throwing caution to the wind and giving it everything they've got. They are chasing life, much like Tyson chases that Bumpy Ball, and with every new adventure a reward is on the horizon. 

4BF isn't JUST rubber toys  It's rubber toys that can be trusted: non-toxic and carefully produced. 

And the journey is just beginning: 

Let’s start with the 4BFUSA origin story!

·       What year was the company established? 
  • The company kind of has two parts its origin begins with rubber manufacturing.  In 1945, Grupo 201 Oficial was born as a family-owned company in a small workshop in Mexico City, specializing in natural, colored rubber products. The name of the company is derived from the unique participation of Mexico’s 201st fighter Squadron, which was attached to the U.S. army’s 58th Fighter Group during World War II. Grupo 201 became a gold standard for rubber athletic balls and still makes them to this day.  The Ledesma family is still running their operation in the factory that was established in the early 70's.  That building has an interesting history of its own and it is by the Grace of God that they are thriving in that same space. Their balls have been used in the Olympics and started being a favorite of the athletes’ dogs.  They were being stolen and adored! 201 Oficial decided to use a the most natural form of a premium rubber from the Havea trees in Oaxaca to start manufacturing balls strictly for the athletes’ best friends in 1998.  Rodrigo and Adriana Ledesma, the son and daughter in law to the original owners started 4BF as a side project.  After years of going to trade shows and local marketing, they made it into Petco Mexico and other big stores in Mexico City and throughout the country. 
  • In 2014 they decided it was time to try to expand into the United States, but they needed a trusted partner; one that was like family.  Our family friend, Nemecio Garcia Naranja, who Paul likes to call, “my Mexican Father,” was the uncle to Adriana.  This man left such a legacy and everyday presence behind in our hearts and Mexico City.  I could write a book on our feelings for him.  Not long after he introduced the two families and the partnership was legitimately formed, he lost his short and very intense battle with cancer.  Not a day goes by without us thinking of him and wondering if we are making him proud.  Paul was actually, reluctantly ending his career in the funeral industry when Paul’s dad, Kevin, and Nemecio presented the idea of establishing 4BFUSA.  Initially, we thought they were out of their minds, but as we got to know the company’s passion and toured the facilities where these toys are made, we knew it was something so unique, something that was destined to be a part of our journey.  When we found out the number of strict guidelines that go into this premium rubber manufacturing process and when we saw the owners with their own dogs, we knew it was something we would take so much pride in.  Now, we have big dreams for this little business and we are so excited to be writing this story and embarking on this adventure that gets better every day.

What does 4fbusa stand for, and when/how soon was the ‘ah-ha,’ moment that it was the name

  • 4BF stands for For Best Friends because that is what this specific rubber and natural rubber polymers, pigments and essential oils was for.  They wanted only the best for our best friends.  

Would you care to share any names that were explored, but didn’t make the cut? 
  • Our friends in Mexico City knew they wanted a number and letter combination like they have in Grupo 201 Oficial and 4BF came up, never wavered and stuck! “Since the beginning this was the perfect name we consider for company. We loved the combination and meaning of numbers and words.” Salvador Cabral, Grupo 201 Oficial.

Above, we found out the year you started, but we want to dig a little deeper:  

How long was the process from the first idea of the company to the first action of making it real?  
  • 4BF USA was presented to Paul by his dad in December of 2015.  We thought he was “off his rocker” when he opened a suitcase full of rubber dog toys in the middle of our living room.  At first glance, we thought it was an already saturated market, but after we did our research and visited the factory, Paul realized this was a legitimate hidden gem.  Paul was actually getting into commercial real estate and we put an offer on our first apartment complex and a group of duplexes and rental properties in our hometown.  The offer wasn’t accepted and the group of duplexes and rental properties was sold before we put in our offer; we took it as a sign.  We were going to put everything in to building this brand and making 4BF a household name if a list of criteria were checked.  Rubber of this quality is hard to come by, especially for our dogs, but we wanted to make sure this rubber was the very best.  We got toxicology reports done, got Roxy’s approval and everything checked out. 
  • In February of 2016 Paul met with his father and family friend, Nemesio Garcia-Naranja, who was like another father to him.  Nemesio’s niece is Adriana Ledesma, so he knew both families very well.  He unexpectedly and tragically passed away that following year after a fast and furious bout with Cancer.  His sickness and then his passing gave us more momentum to make something beautiful of the company he helped create.  He was there to legally make 4BF USA an official LLC in March of 2016.  Paul went to his first SuperZoo trade show in Las Vegas in August of 2016.  At SuperZoo 4BF was actually in the aquatics section, but people still found us!  4BF Mexico already had a reputation for being really, really, really good at rubber, so when we came in we met so many fans from all around the world just waiting for their chance to have these toys and be a part of the journey.  We made our giveback program our core and were reassured on the sustainability and the humanity in the manufacturing process.  Every toy we sold, a charity of choice would be helped.  Nemesio’s belief in us has always been a constant driving force that leads Paul every day. 
  • Our investments along with Paul’s dad’s investments have helped with production costs, new packaging and now there was a new family putting blood sweat and tears into the growth of their brand that was now our brand too!  Roxy was our first baby and we kept thinking about how we wanted to make that love the center of our business too.  We loved her so much and we wanted to help more dogs less fortunate too.
  • With more opportunities, more retail spaces and now possible private labels for huge companies, 4BF USA is something very real.  It is something so real and I think it is making someone very dear to us smile, belly laugh and belt out his Mariachi songs and gritas in Heaven and a certain dog over Rainbow Bridge wiggle that little Boxer butt and smile that “Roxy smile” in approval.  We are very proud and very hopeful.

What is the company’s biggest accomplishment to date? 
  • In the beginning, I think the biggest accomplishment would be that we have actually been a topic of conversation amongst some of the big box stores and people that have been in the industry for decades.  I had one woman, a very respected one, who has been in the industry since birth; tell me that she hasn’t touched or smelled rubber like ours for 30 years.  She said, “My dad used to get balls like this from England when he first opened his store. You can’t find rubber like this anymore.  It all smells like petroleum.  If you do find it of this quality, the manufacturing capabilities aren’t there.”  That was verification right there that we have something special.  Another moment came at a trade show when the same gentleman that bought our entire booth the year before found us and paid us cash for the whole thing again.  He loves our brand.  We cried.  Receiving recurring orders from customers promoting our brand in their own personal stores, stores that are running on their own passion gives us so much pride.  
  • We are currently in over 100 independent stand-alone retail spaces.  We are also proudly being sold on The Grommet and at Petco. We have some distributors servicing another 200 stores, and have an As Seen On TV advertising campaign that the original shark from Shark Tank, Kevin Harrington verbally 😊 endorsed.  With every passing month comes new opportunities and we are so grateful.  We have so many dreams for 4BF that we are chasing and leaving caution to the wind.  We are constantly learning and evolving.  We have a saying within the team… “It’s just a part of the story…” that we chime in unison when a lesson is learned!  With faith, love, positivity and the safety of our best friends at the center of our business; I think we will be alright.

Why the focus on rubber toys? 
  • 201 Oficial knows rubber like the back of their hand.  They have perfected it.  They just transpired that knowledge into what we know about our pets and what is safe for them to play with.  We’d love to expand into 100 % natural cotton plush over our rubber for a unique plush toy and expand into our own line of all-natural vet approved treats as well.

Can you let us in on some of the details of picking quality rubber?
  •  We evaluate all characteristics of our rubber with some standards of hardness, color, elasticity. All our experience during years about rubber help us to know which rubber has premium quality for our products.”  Our friends, the manufacturers, take pride in being a gold standard for rubber products in Mexico providing all kinds of products in many different industries.  They even make rubber bumpers for work vehicles. I wish everyone could tour the facilities where our toys are made in Mexico City and the rubber tree ranch in Oaxaca.  It is truly a family and everyone is most excited about 4BF.  The rock climbing rope we use is hand tied and every toy gets quality checked numerous times throughout the process.  We actually have a “Behind the Scenes” YouTube video that you should check out until we can take you to Mexico City to see it for yourself!!!

Also: Did you have any knowledge of rubber when you first decided to delve into dog toys, or did you learn about it as you went? 
  • Paul and I knew high school chemistry level knowledge on rubber and I kept thinking about Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion when the guy invented the rubber soled shoes!  We have learned so much from our partners who have lived and breathed rubber manufacturing since 1945!  They have all been around it their entire lives.  It is so much a part of their everyday and they teach us as we go.

Which toy was the first shop creation?
  • First dog toy created was a ball because of all our knowledge in sports ball manufacture, but with softness and elasticity to endure dog’s play-ability. The story on how we started with dogs toys came in 1998 from a customer that looked and liked very much our sports balls and said that his dog loved our ball. We started then with very specific formulas for pets.”

And: has there been a toy failure? One that sounded like a good idea, but didn’t turn out? 
  • We have a complete process of research and development for each product we create, but some products we need to test several times because in first samples they don’t have quality we need. several meetings with all our team from design and factory to modify molds, temperature and times of process to have the best quality toys. We have had failures in new products but each failure is an experience on how to do things better every time.”

There has to be a furry tester/s! Who are/is the shop dog?

  • Here in Albuquerque, NM at 4BF USA, our “shop dogs” are Tyson an 8 month old spastic Boxer pup and our fur nephew that we are fostering for our Insta-famous The Jetsetting Family at least a year while they travel the world, Simba Sanchez.  These two guys are so lucky and have an endless supply of toys.  They take their job very seriously looking rather dapper in their 4BF bandanas and testing the toys new and old.  Our original 4BF USA Queen, Roxy, passed away last October and we cannot believe it has been a year without the best dog and friend we have ever known.  She has a legacy at 4BF and is the face on the 4BF Crazy Bounce Rope.  That is why you will see an occasional #makeroxyproud in our posts.  We also have three chickens: Merida, Elena and Cinderella who Simba still thinks are his snack and not his sisters; we are working on that.

How does the shop dog/s inspire the company? And which toy so far is their favorite? 
  • Our pups inspire us everyday and give us ideas on how to make our toys better and even inspire us for completely new things on the horizon for 4BF.  Currently Tyson and Simba’s favorites are the Crazy Bounce Rope that they play with together and the Bumpy Ball that they take turns fetching.

Tell us about the humans behind 4bfusa, we know it is a family business!
  • In Mexico City the entire Ledesma family leads the way with manufacturing behind Grupo 201.  Salvador Cabral who is Rodrigo Ledesma’s cousin and right-hand man.  Paul Daniels is “el toro determinado” (the determined bull 😊) and leader and managing partner of 4BFUSA.  He sometimes lives out of a suitcase and meets with the buyers, our CLA brokerage team, distributors and business colleagues around the country and in Mexico. He graduated from UNM in 2006 and went straight into the family funeral business.  Three years ago, this amazing opportunity was presented not long after he decided the funeral industry was something he was ready to leave.  He has so much respect for the industry and all of us were given a very unique outlook on life being a part of it.  Paul’s dad, Kevin Daniels, is an amazing business man and mentor to Paul.  He has helped fund this venture financially and emotionally!  Paul’s mom, Leonor Daniels is not an official partner, but she sure is a face of support and guidance as we celebrate her culture and heritage with this Mexican-American partnership.  Steve Wedeen is our business partner, family friend and advertising guru.  He is responsible for everything “graphic design” in our business.  His knowledge and creativity have made 4BF USA what we know and love today.  He made it ours.  
  • I am Kristen Daniels, Paul’s wife.  I am not a partner, but I am probably the biggest cheerleader of the group.  I am also heading up the social media front as a complete novice, but I am having fun!  I also help with expos and local events!  I graduated from Texas A&M (Whoop) in 2006 and started teaching 4th grade in New Mexico the following year. I plan on making my way back into the classroom as soon as our little one is in full time school!  
  • Our girls: Annelise 8, Addie 5, and Ava 3 have so much fun with the business and we always try to get them involved.  They help unpack boxes and hang up inventory in our garage, make posters for promotional events, and their favorite is making notes for all the dogs in our social media ambassador pack.  Addie says she wants to “work with Daddy at 4BF when I grow up.”  We hope this is something they can all help run when mom and dad want to retire.  Jeff Camosci became a partner at 4BF as an industry advisor that keeps us in check everyday!

Bring us along on a typical work day! What does it look like? 
  • Paul has an office space here in town, but much of what we do goes on at our home in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Every day is different, but it typically starts with walking the dogs, feeding the dogs, a quick workout, a protein shake and….emails, Paul is usually checking inventory and checking movement of orders while the girls’ morning routine is moving along.  After we get the kids ready, out the door and into their schools, conference calls and local appointments start.  Paul also attends occasional distribution company staff meetings across the country, does his own sales presentations to potential clients and we attend Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Florida and SuperZoo in Las Vegas, Nevada.  We hope to attend Interzoo in Germany next year.  Paul was just in Atlanta last week for one of those staff meetings. 
  • I, Kristen, am doing the social media side, so I post my daily post, comment on all the cute doggies and kitties I see (especially our pack members/testers), check in on our promotional stuff, and ship out samples to prospective stores/distributors and social media influencers.  We have a monthly photo contest and we usually have 2-3 giveaways each month that we are a part of.  We are currently introducing our official mascot, Sheriff Ruff, at some exciting local events.  He will be posing for photos and passing out bandanas while we work our booth.  We are really busy perfecting that whole booth presence experience for local events.  Our advertising and graphic design guru, Steve Wedeen and his assistant, Diane de Leon, have been a huge help in this project.  
  • Right now, we are fully immersed in this along with press opportunities.  That is local.  Paul is also in the works of expanding into Canada and we got our first International order in Nigeria this week!  My work day kind of ends when school ends and mommy-duties begin with homework and extracurricular activities.  The girls are currently helping me with all of the social media influencers.  They make “artwork for the doggies,” which are little thank you cards that go with our promotional packs.  Paul usually takes another conference call or two and does some email correspondence before dinner and then he wraps up his day too!  Every night the girls include the “4BF doggies” in their prayers.  Having something you are passionate about, the work never really stops; even when we sleep, we dream!

Currently, you’ve been shipping promotional packages. How did you choose the candidates? And what is the next goal?
  • I really was very open to working with everyone.  Ashley Sharp of Pupfluence enlightened me on her world of pup-influencers, respectfully referred to as, Pupfluencers. If they were the first 200 accounts that reached out, they got the 4BF USA VIP treatment.  I have met some of the coolest people and get to interact with doggies that play with our toys every day.  I say it all the time, “happy playing pups = happy 4BF Team!”

We see you attend pet expos and conventions. How many have you done? 
  • We try to do two big shows a year.  Each show has been an integral piece in our growth as a team and a company.  They are one of the costliest parts to this journey, but we feel the biggest benefits have come from our time and efforts there.  They are so much work and very overwhelming, but they have taught us so much about the industry and so much about ourselves!  Global Pet Expo in Orlando usually in March and SuperZoo is usually in July/August. 
  • Paul and the 4BF Mexico partners started attending the expos beginning with SuperZoo 2016.  We had our old packaging and a small booth.  Our products were missing for the first day of setup, but Paul and an awesome gentleman named Buddy flew through the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on their chariot (a golf cart at high speeds) until they found the pallet!  We were also in the aquatics section haha.  At Global Pet 2017 our booth fell over when a lady with a trash bin accidently knocked into it, we got it all fixed and beautiful; then, we met our brokers, Chuck Latham and Associates.  Super Zoo 2017 we were so excited to debut our new packaging and look.  This was my (Kristen) first show.  The booth had awesome traffic and our products were a hit.  We had a nice guy from Branson, Missouri buy our whole booth!  
  • Global Pet 2018 was unique because we had new connections and people had heard about us and were actually looking for our booth! Our entire booth was bought by a Floridian mother and son owned pet store!  SuperZoo 2018 was a success as well.  We met more people that have shaped our team and help carry out our mission every day.  We had two individuals join us as partners as well.  We made it official at SuperZoo 2018 with Jeff Camosci and Steve Wedeen and they were morphed into this loving family!  With their knowledge, support and now that they are officially part of the team; we are now moving forward with a momentum we never had before.  We are now focusing on our local Albuquerque scene that we are so excited about.  As a Mexican-American company, we have focused mostly on those expos to utilize relationships 4BF Mexico already had, but now, we are focusing on 4BFUSA in our hometown, which is so exciting!!!

What’s your favorite part of these events?
  • I love seeing the creativity and innovation in the industry.  It is amazing the amount of love that goes into each product and service provided.  These expos are a chance to see a little bit of everything.  We are also able to rub elbows with the industry greats!

And where are you setting up next? 
  • We are currently focusing on our community.  This weekend we are attending Long Leash on Life (one of Albuquerque’s Best of the City) Customer Appreciation Events where our mascot, Sheriff Ruff is making his debut telling everyone, “There’s a new toy in town.”  In a few weeks we are sponsoring a really cool event for another amazing retail space and the Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce.  It is called Tales and Ales and it is going to be held at the newly opened dog park at our nearby Cottonwood Mall.

Dog toys are a popular industry, how do you strive to stand out? And what’s the most difficult aspect so far?
  • Our toys are truly unique in the sense that we have over 70 years of experience making rubber products.  Our manufacturer knows what goes into the rubber making process.  The formulas, the ingredients and the care that goes into each toy.  4BF is a special project that has evolved into the most important project for all of us.  We know what goes into the toys, we can innovate and adapt to the consumer and we are excited to grow and learn.  The most difficult aspect has been creating brand awareness in a popular industry that already has some great companies leading the way. 

If you could sum up what 4bfusa is about in one sentence, what would it be?
  • 4BF is all about giving our best friends the best we can give through play and fostering a relationship that goes beyond the surface; a love that only a best friend can give.

With every project we do, we have idols. What companies do you look up to? And do you have a dream company that you’d like to collaborate with?
  • We have so many we look up to: Kong, WestPaw, Chuck-It, Becco and Playology are some of the ones in our category.  We are all unique in our own way and it is inspiring to see how they are doing their own things with playables.  They push us to better ourselves.  Our next focus will be adding to our line and doing private labels, but our dream would be to add treats, leashes, collars and plush toys to the company and we would love to collaborate with some of these food gurus like The Honest Kitchen or Trudog Health.  
  • We love Zippy Paws plush toys and it would be cool to collaborate with them.  We really want to collaborate with respected vets that we know to ensure that optimal certified health is being presented with our products.  We love collaborating with rescues and charity foundations all around the world.  In fact, it is the biggest part of our mission.  The more successful we are; the more we can spread the love, lend a hand and become advocates for the less fortunate best friends that need us so badly.

 The last two questions are for the kiddos!

Can each girl tell us her favorite TV show or movie with or about dogs? 
  • They each love Mutt n Stuff and Puppy Dog Pals.  They got a big kick out of Boss Baby because the parents worked for a “PuppyCo in the marketing department.”  They said, “just like mommy and daddy!” Haha.  Puppies and kitties are their absolute favorite, so this works for them!!!


Can each of them draw a picture of a dog for us?!?

Make sure to follow us, & get all updates on future blogs: Brothers.Goodboy
And of course follow these guys: 4BFUSA
Whaaaaaat!?! They've got a Youtube Channel too! 4BFUSA on YouTube

**Want to be interviewed? Have a pet or pet company you want to see interviewed? DM us!**


Post a Comment

My Instagram