Dayton entrepreneur hopes he has next ‘pet rock’
Visit mossballpets.com to see the selection. Each Moss Ball Pet comes with a terrarium and materials to create the environment. It also comes with an adoption certificate for the pet, and a lifetime VIP membership that gives you 15 percent off for every future purchase.
DAYTON — Moss Ball Pets could take the nation by storm — they could be the next Pet Rock. Joshua Buscay hopes his business venture could be the next craze to hit the United States.
Moss Ball Pets, known as marimo, is a species of green algae that grows in a spherical shape with a velvety appearance. The green balls of algae are a cultural natural treasure in Japan and are celebrated as a symbol of luck and love. The fuzzy “pets” are kept under water in a terrarium or fish tank for display.
“What I find interesting about that, is that something so silly, something so insignificant can make a huge cultural impact,” Buscay said. “In Japanese culture, it is a very prestigious gift to someone. With the potential lifespan of hundreds of years, it is something that lasts forever.”
Buscay wants to spread love, luck and happiness across the U.S., and so far he has sent thousands throughout the nation, he said.
INVITED TO FACEBOOK
Facebook invited Moss Ball Pets to the headquarters in Menlo Park in San Francisco, on Aug. 13 and 14, right where Mark Zuckerberg works, Buscay said.
“It was so cool. We knew that our product was kind of trendy and almost hipster in a way,” he said. “We know it makes the perfect little thing to keep on your desk.
While there, they sold and gave away a few hundred terrariums.
“Now in San Francisco in a very densely populated area, we have a pretty good amount of our product out there,” he said. “People give them away as gifts quite often. It is the perfect gift.”
Buscay started the online business about 22 months ago in Dayton. He’s well known in the area for helping and designing the project that put the American flag atop C-Hill. His printing service Sign Designz was also in business for many years in Carson City. Currently he is CEO/Marketing Director for another business he started, AMP Social LLC.
Moss Ball Pets is staged out of Buscay’s brother’s garage. Buscay’s two children, daughter Aria, 6, and son Atreyu, 8, and his friend Chris Huckeba help with the business.
The kids help with marketing, appearing in photography and also help take care of the pets. Children are a big part of the market so their input is valuable, he said. Atreyu helps with product development by coming up with new terrarium ideas.
“With being such a young kid having a completely different perspective on everything than us adults,” Buscay said. “He actually comes up with some really good ideas.”
CHOSE MOSS BALLS
As an entrepreneur, Buscay said he enjoys starting new companies. He wanted to do something along the lines of e-commerce and he combined that with a hobby for houseplants.
“I wanted to make sure that the product that we ultimately sold was something that we were passionate about, and something that was unique — as in not the same thing you would find on other websites,” he said.
The versatility of the marimo appealed to him because it requires very little maintenance. As a frequent traveler, Buscay had a hard time keeping house plants alive.
“A good friend of mine told me that having houseplants creates happiness,” he said. “I travel a lot, so what ended up happening is the plants would die. Ultimately it led to me being unhappy because I really loved my plant and I let it die, which I didn’t really feel good about that.”
He said as long as you have water in your terrarium, you should be able to leave it for a while, although it is recommended to change the water every two weeks.
“The Moss Ball Pets are very hearty,” he said. “What a great living organism to have, but not have to feel so responsible that you might have to kill it.”
The biggest killer of moss balls is heat. They aren’t supposed to be put in direct sunlight, as they thrive in conditions similar to the bottom of a riverbed or lake.
The marimo are not moss but actually algae. In Japan, people have been calling them moss balls for over a century, so the name stuck.
“It’s a colony of living organisms,” Buscay said. “Technically the moss ball is not just one being, but it is a colony of living organisms, which I find fascinating.”
They are sourced from a sustainable farm to ensure the moss balls will never leave the natural habitat.
BECOME A FAD?
Could Moss Ball Pets become a cultural fad in America? Buscay hopes so. From a business perspective, there’s the potential to make a good amount of money, like the Pet Rock did, he said. But he really likes bringing the idea from Japan and what the marimo represent.
“The more moss ball pets that we sell and get out to the united states, in our opinion is that we’re spreading that love, luck and happiness across the United States,” he said. “Money aside, we’re doing kind of a fun service”