Hey Dan how are you today?
Hi Rishi, very well thank you. We launched our online store last month, so it’s been very hectic at Pure HQ over the last few weeks, but very exciting at the same time!
First off, can you give me a bit of background to yourself?
After finishing a Psychology degree in Newcastle, I began working towards a doctorate in clinical psychology at a nearby hospital. I lasted about 2 weeks of 9 till 5 before returning home to start my first business with my childhood friend Mat, who was a personal trainer at that time. Using Mat’s qualifications in nutrition and human health, our first business was in the nutritional supplement industry, championing healthy eating. We then started a marketing business which has been successful enough over the last few years to enable us to embark on our latest venture; Pure pet food. The lessons and understanding gained of both business and nutrition from our past experiences has helped enormously, shaping how we have approached taking Pure to market.
So tell me about Pure Pet Food:
Pure makes natural dehydrated, human quality pet food. The main difference with Pure is that our foods are produced using a process called dehydration. This means we avoid the harsh cooking procedures involved in making the wet and dry dog foods currently available to owners. We make Pure from 100% human quality ingredients, becoming the first pet food company in the UK to be regulated by the human, rather than animal food authorities.
As dog owners are becoming more educated to what is actually in commercial foods, and how they are made, many are turning to feed low processed, raw and home cooked meals, using high quality ingredients. Pure takes away the inconvenience, health risks and costs that raw feeding and home cooking can bring, whilst providing a healthier alternative to those feeding one of the current commercial options, whilst again causing no further inconvenience or cost.
What sparked the idea for Pure Pet Food?
Myself and Mat grew up together on a small farm in Yorkshire, lucky enough to be brought up on the fresh fruit and vegetables our families produced. Having dogs ourselves made us look at the pet industry and the foods that were available, it made no sense to us that a highly-processed food, containing low quality ingredients, manufactured into small biscuits and fed each and every day could possibly be ideal! Why should our pets be exempt from getting a minimally processed and varied diet, made from quality ingredients, just like humans do?
What did you find were the key challenges in getting this business off the ground, and how did you overcome them?
Being the first natural dog food to be made in a human quality facility resulted in huge challenges almost every step of the way. When we initially turned to industry experts for advice, the common opinion was what we were trying to achieve couldn’t be done. However we persevered over that first 12 months, resulting in us gaining the regulation we required to start making Pure foods on a bigger scale than my kitchen!
What are your greatest challenges now, and how do you plan to overcome them?
I think our greatest challenge right now is making owners aware of Pure. We know there are a huge number of owners out there who don’t want to feed the highly processed commercial options available, but are also restricted from feeding a raw or a home cooked diet for a number of different reasons. We would like to think the story behind the company and the products themselves would be of interest to owners, and our main aim is to connect with them. We hope print, online and social media can help us achieve this, without the massive budgets available to the pet food giants who we are up against.
How has the business been funded?
We have funded the business in a number of ways and tried to use every resource available to help us get going. A lot of the funding for Pure has come from savings from our previous business. We were also lucky enough to receive an innovation grant from our local council, who have been incredibly helpful not just from a financial point of view, but also with guidance and advice as we brought Pure to market. I would definitely recommend anyone starting up a new business to do the same, as there is a lot more help out there than I think a lot of people are aware of.
How did you test the product?
We initially started making the recipes in my kitchen, with a small dehydration machine we saved up to buy. We had friends and family pets try out the foods, which went down a storm. We then worked together with some of the UK’s leading pet nutritionist’s to further hone our original recipes to ensure they were complete and balanced meals suitable for dogs of all age, breed and size.
So now you've got your product, how did you get your first customers?
Our local newspaper ran an article on Pure just before we launched our online store. That had a much bigger impact than we could have ever imagined. Our first sale was just 10 minutes after the store went live. I think the article helped enormously, and was actually reposted by news blogs and twitter pages all over the UK, and even in New Zealand and the US.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement to date?
I think we would say our biggest achievement was being regulated to produce our food in a human quality food facility. After this the challenge was to scale the business without incurring huge costs. We have been lucky enough to establish some great partnerships with our suppliers and manufacturers, who believed in the project so much that they gave us credit terms immediately. I think this has given Pure a great base to sustainably grow the business and take it to where we imagined it could be when it was just an initial idea.
Our first ambition is for pet lovers all over the UK to be able to feed a Pure food diet to their pets. After that we see huge export opportunities across Europe, and then the world. We get our inspiration from other British businesses such as King of Shaves, who faced very similar challenges to Pure, going up against the giants of the shaving industry. Hopefully we can have similar success by providing an innovative alternative to the options currently out there.
What advice would you give any aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do your market research and be sure you are in business for the right reasons. You have to want to do it for more than just financial reasons. Find something you’re passionate about and don’t be afraid to give it a go!