Mother-daughter duo Annah and Sam Stretton discuss combining their interests to create a superfood for dogs and setting up a wellness brand for pets. Fashion designer Annah explains the leap into the growing pet care market and what owning a fashion label has taught her about being in business.
What does your business do?
Annah: Doggy Daily is a dry supplement for dogs that is added to their food and designed to improve their overall quality of health. We travelled as a family through the ownership of dogs and we've seen the high prevalence of lifestyle diseases in dogs which have essentially been induced by humans in that we are responsible for what our dogs eat. It is alarming to think that close to 50 per cent of dogs get cancer and if I look at the dogs we've owned that runs true; three of them have travelled some sort of cancer journey.
I'm in a demographic where I can afford to feed my dogs the very best of kibble and the very best of everything, so I kept thinking why was this happening when I was giving them all of the right food supposedly.
What was the motivation for starting it?
When Olive developed a tumour I just became a mad woman thinking what can I do that isn't medical.
Wellness is a big part of my life so I looked at how I could travel a journey of food for Olive and what that would look like. I reached out to a lot of people, read a whole ... lot, I googled a lot and I tried a lot of different things, essentially looking for the cure in food. What happened was her meal at night became sort of a concoction of raw food and vegetables. I partnered with a couple of holistic vets and started talking to a research vet in Australia and they also became passionate because they knew the medical route wasn't the only way.
We started on this journey about 18 months ago and launched the business this year, selling the product online.
Were supplements for dogs available prior to the launch of Doggy Daily?
Doggy Daily is the first of its kind. There are a lot of things for joints and different tablets around but our product is a powder - fresh food, pumpkin seeds that are ground, turmeric mixed with a probiotic - all those things that we know are really good for humans; we've looked at how they translate and how they can become a wellness tonic for dogs. The most unlikely people with the most unlikely dogs are buying this supplement, interestingly.
How big is the team?
We're fortunate that we've got the support of Stretton Clothing - the infrastructure in terms of being able to develop websites, packaging and dispatching capabilities and we're able to run a business within a business initially. We've also got the physical business so we can take stock and activate the business from there. At the moment it is just Sam and I and then we're working with a governance board of six.
This business is different to fashion that you're familiar with - what made you want to branch out into pet care and how have you found this new terrain?
Doggy Daily is a digital footprint initially. We started talking to the supermarkets, activating through New World, and we're in discussions with Animates at the moment so we're also looking at being stocked at specialist pet stores - ones with both big and small footprints.
Sam: Because we're a new company and just starting out, the amount of customer correspondence is quite high. People message me all the time asking about a specific issue, we give a lot of support and talk people through the supplement. Whereas with fashion you don't need to give as much support. There's lots of different issues and areas that can be isolated to develop different products.
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If you were wondering, why do we do this? Produce a 100% Natural, NZ made product good enough for humans to eat and encourage you to feed it to your Doggies... It's because we are crazy in love with Dogs too! This is our fam, clockwise from the Left: Annah, Scout, Sami, Gracie and Olive 🐶🐶🐷 #mustlovedogs #doggydailynz
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How do you split your time between your fashion label and now Doggy Daily?
Sam has the main share of Doggy Daily and now we've developed the product and we've got our delivery and warehouse there's not a lot more to do at the moment. For me, I'm very involved in my foundation work in the social space and charity - that takes up 50 per cent of my time and then the other 50 per cent of my time I work with Sam on Doggy Daily and Annah Stretton. I'm at the stage now after 27 years in fashion that I'm looking at how I can make a meaningful contribution to vulnerable communities.
What are your long term plans for Doggy Daily?
Annah: We've just set up the governance structure for Doggy Daily and one of the first conversations that happened was, is the company all about Doggy Daily. Doggy Daily is the product name and the company's name itself we're looking to change - we're playing around with things like Whiskers and Tails, to get a generic name that then enables us to develop different products within. Doggy Daily is the first product and Moggy Daily is being tested on cats as we speak.
Is export on the cards?
Being New Zealand made, though we import some ingredients, and New Zealand packed here in Auckland is incredibly important for an export footprint. We hope to be exporting within six months, we're in active conversations with Australia, and the United States, Canada and China are also markets that we've put on our radar.
What advice do you give to others wanting to start their own businesses?
All of us have great ideas, the key to it is how we bring those ideas to fruition.
When I grew the fashion company it was very organic and I started it with no real strategic vision or plan - I hadn't really thought about what export looked like and what succession would look like, so from the point of view from Doggy Daily there was a really clear strategic vision of what we wanted to achieve and the time we wanted to achieve that by.