Joanne and Mark Falvai with Five, their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Falvai Creative Dog Treat Advent Calendar brand ambassador. This is the Qualicum Beach couple’s second go at creating and distributing an advent calendar. — Lauren Collins photo

Falvai Creative sets sights on canine Christmas present

Qualicum Beach couple sells first advent calendar to Earl Spencer — Princess Diana’s brother

A year after hooking customers with a fly-fishing advent calendar, Joanne and Mark Falvai are hoping to reel in dog owners with their latest creation.

For the 2017 Christmas season, the Falvais have created a dog treat advent calendar, with treats from Nanaimo-based business Kali Wags, following on the success of last year’s popular fly-fishing calendar. Each day leading up to Christmas, starting Dec. 1, dog owners in Parksville Qualicum Beach and the world over will be opening the dated doors of the calendars for a canine-approved Christmas treat.

Mark said he started planning the 2017 advent calendar in May this year, and had to design all of the cutlines and tabs to create the box, as well as the pieces that go inside the box.

The advent calendar this year, Mark said, is designed to look like a dog house.

“It’s literally just panels of wood that I’ve recreated over and over and turned it into a dog house, and then found a dog and put a hat on it,” he said. “I wanted the box to be 3D, not just flat. I put a lot of work into that.

“As a designer, I’m quite proud of this guy because of the amount of stuff that went into it. It’s a ton of work, so getting it right and getting it done was good.”

Locally, the dog treat advent calendars can be purchased in Parksville at Bosley’s and Pet Mania and in Qualicum Beach at Alcove Homegrown Living and Qualicum Pet Foods and Cat Rescue. For more information, visit www.falvaicreative.com or etsy.com and search ‘Falvai Creative.

Just as with last year’s fly-fishing calendars, Joanne said, the Qualicum Beach-based couple has been shipping the dog advent calendars all over the world. She said the really fun part is waking up on Dec. 1 and thinking of all the other people opening the first box of their advent.

“Last year was our first (advent calendar), and we went, ‘How many people all over the world woke up and opened their door number one? The whole month, it’s like you’re with people. They’re posting pictures online with their fly and everyone’s getting the same one. This year when I think about families with their dogs, it’s just really cute.”

Last year, Mark Falvai created a fly-fishing advent calendar through his previous business, Allure Tackle, which he founded in 2012 but sold within the past year.

RELATED: Entrepreneur ties one on for the holidays

“We had some success last year with the fly-fishing one,” Mark said.

Toward the end of November, 2016, Mark said, they were shipping hundreds of the fly-fishing calendars in one week.

When they started this endeavour last year, he said, he had a feeling the advent calendars were going to take off.

“I thought they were a good idea, then it does (succeed) and you go ‘Wow, careful what you wish for,” Mark said with a laugh.

Mark said it’s a very short window to prepare and ship the calendars.

“You really have a month, because no one wants to see anything Christmas until at least November, and quite often, not until after Nov. 11. That only leaves two weeks — three weeks at best — because you’ve got to ship it.

“Your entire business is maybe three weeks long and it’s just crazy. Everyone wants it at the exact same time.”

And both Joanne and Mark try their best to get the calendars shipped to everyone in time — despite the cost.

One client last year, Mark said, wanted his fly fishing advent calendar shipped to him in England — to Althorp Estate stables, to be exact. That client was Earl Charles Spencer, the late Princess Diana’s brother.

“He contacted us on Etsy. He didn’t call himself Earl Spencer; he just used his name Charles Spencer,” said Mark, recalling he and Joanne didn’t know who it was they were speaking with initially.

Mark said he tried to find Spencer a deal, adding he told Spencer since the Canadian dollar was low, the exchange rate would work in his favour.

“I’m talking to him like he’s any old guy, and he keeps saying, ‘Yeah, no problem. Just send it.’

“We were in such a busy mode and I was running out of paper — I’m using newspaper to pack — I don’t even know what I sent them, but I sent them one in whatever kind of box because we were shipping hundreds in that week,” Mark said.

It wasn’t until Joanne went to send off the package that she looked carefully at the address and did an online search, realizing it’s the location Princess Diana is buried. But since it was a time-sensitive gift, Mark and Joanne said, the couple didn’t have time to “re-pack it pretty.”

“I would’ve sprinkled lavender on it for God’s sake… We didn’t know, so we just treated him like every other customer,” Joanne said.

Afterward, the couple said, Spencer sent them a note saying people who worked on the stable grounds loved it and would be putting in more orders. Mark said they ended up asking Spencer who the gift was for, but the Earl stayed tight-lipped.

“He wouldn’t say because he wanted to keep it a secret and didn’t want to spoil anything,” Mark said. “But it was for someone in the family. I looked who fly fishes and I tried Googling it — they all do.”

Since the couple’s advent calendars have become so popular, they have already started planning for the future.

“I have some really fun ideas for next year,” Joanne said. “It was about two weeks ago, I was driving to work and I called Mark and I said, ‘Is it the right time to start talking about next year? Are you ready for my idea?’ because I just had a brainwave as I was driving. He just said, ‘No.’ (I said), ‘OK, I’m telling you anyway because it’s a really good idea.’”

Asked what those idea are, the couple refused to give away any details.

“One of the obvious ones is something for kids, so we do — I’m not going to tell you what it is — have an idea for that,” she said.

However Mark, who has since started a new business, Falvai Creative, has a different approach.

“We kind of have this hashtag/punchline with us: Advent calendars aren’t just for kids, and I’d kind of like sticking with that,” he said. “I’m thinking we might sort of stick with that and forget the kids — even though we have four of our own — and just keep going with this ‘advent calendars aren’t just for kids’ because I think you can do some really fun stuff.”

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