Husband and wife team Amy and Ben Rennell talk about starting their sustainable petfood business and how Kickstarter helped them on their journey.
What does your business do?
Feed My Furbaby is a pet food delivery service which is tailored to pets and their individual needs. The idea is people can go to our website, tell us four things about their dog and we design a customised feeding plan and set up a repeat delivery so people don't have to think about buying pet food again. Currently we offer a 5kg box of dry dog food which is $49 with free delivery anywhere in New Zealand.
We had the idea in February and launched our Kickstarter campaign on November 5 which ran through to November 28, and we raised $5000 to fund packaging set up costs. Production starts next week and we hope to ship product before Christmas.
What was the motivation?
We've always had dogs in our family and the idea came from one busy morning when we ran out of dog food and I had to go to the supermarket to buy more food before work and they didn't have the food that I normally bought and I had to get something else, and I thought 'This is crazy, I do this all of the time and this is quite a stressful experience, there has to be a better way'.
We started doing research to see if there were pet subscription services based around a bit of personalisation and found there wasn't and that sustainability hadn't really been addressed in the pet food industry, and it started from there.
The subscription service market is crowded - how will you differentiate yourself?
Subscription services are becoming very popular and people understand the concept now as a business model; and so combining those trends we built it around something that addresses pet nutrition and trying to do the best we can for the animal, and make life easy for the human in the equation as well. Pet food is a big market, and it is crowded and there is plenty of competition, but that is why we have looked for unique selling points. Our packaging is a big differentiator for us, as is the convenience of our tailored feeding plan.
Why are you manufacturing both the pet food and the packaging?
We had the opportunity to start something from a completely clean slate, and we asked ourselves what an exceptional pet food service and product would look like and that's where we were adamant that we wanted to be as sustainable as possible, and we wanted to be New Zealand made. We wanted to have enough control to design a fantastic high-quality petfood that by selling direct to consumer we could make it easy and affordable. The idea is that our food is premium - as good as anything you could buy from a vet or specialty store - but you'll be buying it at supermarket prices, delivered to home, and it comes in sustainable packaging.
You recently did a round of fundraising of Kickstarter, how did that go?
The total pledge was $5000 and that was to cover the production set up and the cost of our packaging because that's the bit that is an over and above expense to do what we do really well. We shot to 25 per cent funded on day one and had to work hard to build momentum from there. With just one day to go we reached our funding goal, so to finish on 110 per cent was a great result. It's great to know that we have an eager group of dogs and their families excited to try Feed My Furbaby as soon as our first batch is ready.
What feedback have you received about your product?
It's been really exciting going to market on Facebook and the feedback has been awesome. People have been saying 'Wow, this is such an exciting idea, it's exactly what I want', asking if we can do cat food as well, and we've been really stoked with the feedback. It's early days, we actually haven't started shipping product out yet, but to get the feedback we've had from market is really exciting validation.
What are your long term plans?
We want to expand into more flavours and varieties, and do cat food as well. After that, we're looking at how we can integrate other technologies into what we do such as pet wearables [like a Fitbit]. One of the four things we ask on our web platform is the activity level of the dogs, and tweak the amount of food it needs based on activity and in the future we hope to track activity levels, too. We probably wouldn't develop our own device as there are people out there doing a pretty good job of it but we'd look to partner up with them. We want to be personalised and customisable, and that would be an automated customisation.
What advice do you give others thinking of starting their own business?
Be patient with ideas and impatient with execution. Take action and starting to execute your ideas is a really important step. Busy is not an excuse - you can find the time and you can make it happen.