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Will Smith backed this DTC dog food startup, here’s why. With Jinx Co-Founder Terri Rockovich

by Female Startup Club
April 20th 2021
00:53:57
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Founded in January 2020, Jinx celebrates modern dogs and their pet parents with a full range of nutritious consumables that make mealtime better for them and easier for their owners. The brand curr... More

before we dive into the show. Today we have some super exciting news as of this month. Female startup club is officially part of the hubspot podcast network. Something we love about the hubspot podcast network is all of the inspiring shows dedicated to helping professionals learn and grow, especially women in business. So if you love female startup club and want to check out other shows like us, we definitely recommend checking out being boss, the gold digger podcast and the shakeup. Check out all these shows and more at hubspot dot com slash podcast network. This is Terry Ratkovich for female startup club. Mhm. Mhm. Hey everyone and welcome back to another episode of the female startup Club podcast. It's Doom here, your host and today I'm joined by terry Rajkovic, the founder of Jinx, Founded in January of 2020 Jinx celebrates modern dogs and their pet parents with a full range of nutritious consumables that make mealtime better for them and easier for their owners. The brand currently offers kibble treats meal toppers and dental chews that have become a fast favorite amongst celebrities including the high profile investors like will smith.

In this episode, we're chatting about bringing a funded startup to market during the pandemic, why celebrities were quick to invest in this brand and the importance of differentiating yourself from a saturated industry. And while I've got you here, if you are interested in being part of my listener research interviews. I would so love to chat with you. Please email me directly on. Hello at female startup club dot com to pop something in the diary. Let's jump into this episode. This is terry for female startup Club Two. Yeah. Are you working around the clock to build a business you always imagined? Do you want to communicate with your fast growing list of customers in a personalized way, but in a way that gives you time to work on the rest of your business. Do you ever wonder how the companies, you admire the ones that redefine their categories do it? Companies like living proof and chubby's, They do it by building relationships with their customers from the very beginning while also evolving in real time as their customers need to change these companies connect quickly with their customers, collect their information and start creating personalized experiences and offers that inspire rapid purchase often within minutes of uploading their customer data.

Clay vo empowers you to own the most important thing to any business, the relationship between you and your customers and the experiences you deliver from the first email to the last promotion to learn more about how clay vo helps you own your growth visit Clay vo dot com slash F S C. That's K L A D I Y O dot com slash F S C. Female star presence. Mhm. Terry. Hi, hello, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited you're the first company I've spoken to about dog food. So I'm looking forward to digging into it. Can you start by introducing yourself and what your business is? Absolutely. So I am a co founder and Ceo of Jinx, which is a premium positioned nutrition brand offering dog food and dog treats.

Our website is think jinx dot com and you know, we really kind of stood up a brand in a legacy category because it was completely outdated and ripe for disruption. And so I'm excited to kind of unpack our story a little bit and then also give some context as to how we continue to kind of navigate what is a congested, noisy marketplace with a lot of competition. Mm Yeah, I bet. Gosh! So many different dog brands out there. If when it comes to food, I love the name, by the way, Jinx. Yeah, thank you. My co founder, his first dog was named Jinx. And so it was like some really real inspiration in terms of how we wanted to kind of create this identity around a brand that resonates with millennial pet parents. Oh gosh, that's so sweet. I love that. So nice. Where does your entrepreneurial story start? I would say that I began my career at a digital agency where I had exposure to a portfolio of France that ranged from early stage through Fortune 500 and I think in that moment I naturally gravitated toward early stage businesses and with that I would say that I had an opportunity to pivot into a startup and moved to the brand side and from there, I kind of jumped from start up to start up to start up and then kind of acquired some advising and consulting gigs along the way and just truly was inspired I think by the entrepreneurial spirit and environment and being so close to it and being like on the front lines and in the trenches and and doing work that you saw kind of come to life in really meaningful ways, was incredibly inspiring.

And so it was definitely during my time at Casper, the mattress company that I was there, pre launch, had the opportunity to kind of ride that rocket ship and then be fully inspired to kind of do something similar as it relates to finding you know, an archaic category, creating a disruptive model and a superior product and then offering it in a director consumer capacity and I have always been an animal lover and so I knew pet was kind of the category that I wanted to focus on, but I wasn't sure what that meant. And certainly through kind of a personal journey and my own experiences with having a rescue with a host of health issues in a picky palate that I was inspired to focus on nutrition because it's arguably the most important aspect of a dog's life. Mm Yeah. Oh gosh, you just want the best for them, don't you?

Yes, while you were at Casper, if you can think about, you know, the top three things that you learned about the DDC startups space, what would those things be? So I would say in any category, like these days it feels like there's a lot of fast followers when there's an original idea and so when you think about that kind of concept or the origin of you know, your business or your model, I think making it defensible and building a moat is kind of the best starting point. And so sometimes that shows up in brand identities, sometimes that shows up in product innovation, sometimes that shows up in you know, provocative marketing, but I think that building that mode and those points of differentiation and then defending them is the best starting point. I would say another lesson that I learned probably the hard way is that in decision can be handicapping and so in a world where there's a lot of Taipei's that end up being entrepreneurs and they really kind of chased perfectionism perfect, doesn't exist in terms of like what a reality is in a startup environment.

And so I would say like indecision can slow things down and at the end of the day time is money and so a decision is better than sitting and debating and spinning out and you know, not getting to where you need to be to get something out of the door and collect real data points and so it's really, really important to just feel mostly confident in the decisions you're making, putting something out into the world, getting feedback on it and then iterating very quickly. And then I would say the third thing is just like there is a desire for growth but it's really important to kind of balance that out with responsible growth. And so especially in a VC funded business, it is very easy to light money on fire when you've got millions of dollars and arguably there are, you know, millions more to invest in taking big risks. But I think everything should be intentional and everything should be thoughtful and you should spend that money as if it were your own.

And so you know, we've kind of added filters and layers to our business that protect our wallet in such a way where you know, we chased growth but in a really responsible way. And I think that fiscal responsibility is easy to lose when you've, you know, got this bank account with, you know, a lot of commas and you think that you've got like this runway to just test and figure things out and and take some big swings certainly. But also make sure that you know, you're making these fiscally responsible decisions. And so I would say those three things are probably acquired through my time at Casper and now we use as real applications for our business said jinx mm wow, that's three really great insights. I love that. Thank you so much when you were in the kind of initial thinking process around you want to go into the pet category, you want to be in nutrition. What were the things that you were thinking right off the bat? We're going to be your moat around the business. So I found it incredibly surprising and potentially equally as frustrating that, you know, I have been animal obsessed my entire life and had dogs and cats and lizards and ferrets and funnies and like the, the whole whole lot bank.

Yeah. And you know, having had animals my entire life and then having adopted a dog when I moved to san Francisco to kind of keep me company in my first very demanding startup experience. I was shocked that there were so many options and the majority of those options just frankly weren't interesting for my own dog. So he had a picky palate. Um he had a ton of health issues and he just actually wasn't interested in uh sustaining any type of food for any long period of time because he was so picky and because he had some digestibility issues and on top of that, because all of these brands are really positioned, I think, you know, in a really kind of legacy mentality, there was nothing that felt from a branding perspective that it was formulated for a modern day dog or was positioned and kind of rooted in an identity that resonated with a modern day dog owner and I found it so interesting that you've got this category that is incredibly noisy with so many options.

It's almost confusing. That doesn't have anyone that kind of rises to the top as having, you know, a superior product or premium position product that's formulated for Darks that we have and we can identify with that's kind of in a bag or in a brand that you're proud too purchase. Um you are proud to, you know, bring that back home and not immediately kind of put it in a container and throw the back away. Like it's thoughtfully designed, it's thoughtfully crafted and it feels like some of those steps have been bypassed specifically within the dry format market. And so it was kind of like if we have a blank canvas and we have the opportunity to build a superior product. So one that cannot only compete but beat other premium dry format brands within the category from, you know, a digestibility perspective, which digestibility means that the animal retains the nutrients as they process through the system so that they can kind of serve the most essential health needs.

So from a very technical standpoint, build a better product design a better product, but then also like wrap it in a brand that is compelling that resonates with the millennial dog parent. We really used that blank canvas and stepped into the space and had a disruptive mentality and said like let's do this right from the ground up and then put it in a model that feels much more modern than the current kind of experience or approach, which is in direct to consumer on a website through a subscription program because it is a highly replenishment product and make it still easy and convenient for the pet parents. You don't have to love heavy bag home from the grocery store or the pet store, but you know, in a format that is also easy to feed and enjoyable for the animal that has all of the, you know, positive aspects of a premium position food. And so, you know, it's a very long winded way of saying like, there were so many areas that we had to get right, which is why it took two years to kind of research formulate, find the team, Innovate produced test manufacturer and make sure everything was like as perfect as it could be before we actually launched at the top of 2020, wow, gosh, it all sounds great.

I'm so excited for you guys and don't parents all around the world. That's awesome. I'm interested to talk about, you know, when you have the kind of idea you're working at CAS par and then you say, it took two years to develop the product before you launched at what point did you kind of quit your job and decide on the business model and actually get started on the nitty gritty of building the business. So, as mentioned, I had worked at a couple of startups that had just generally inspired me and I would say that, you know, even working alongside colleagues that were equally as motivated, I had really kind of just been waiting for like the right idea, I always knew that I wanted to get into an entrepreneurial track, but I did have a lot of conviction that it had to be something I was obsessed with, or else, you know, it would be really hard to pull long days and long nights and really commit to like an all consuming product, our project and so I was kind of waiting for like the right inspiration and I, you know, I think that a lot of things feel right and this kind of started to feel right, as I reconnected with some of my former colleagues at Casper who are now my co founders and once we started kind of like unpacking the idea and kicking the tires and building the model and sizing up the opportunity, it all just kind of started to fall into place, and I would say like we were all at different gigs at that point, I was consulting and advising one of my co founders was to let Caspar and my other co founder had recently left and was just like taking some time and some space to figure out what his next move was.

So it was, it was a bit serendipitous and that we had come together, we had started kind of think tanking on the idea, we were all at different places in our careers and through that experience of kind of linking arms and and thinking about building something significant. We knew that there was a lot of really synergistic energy and a lot of intention and a lot of alignment in terms of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. And so I would say like that's serendipity and timing kind of led us to a moment where it felt really right, and I'm always, you know, relying on my gut and my intuition to kind of make decisions or at least validate some of the decisions that like my brain wants to make. And so, you know, I was kind of between things how to really easy gig advising early stage startups and collaborating with investors or founders or executive teams, and I just was so energized and excited by the concept and the opportunity to build a brand that I wanted to use as a dog parent has obsessed with my rescues, I couldn't sleep.

And I think like that's kind of like one of the biggest signals, like you're so energized and excited by the concept or the opportunity um, that you almost obsessed over it, and and it really does become very obvious that like that is that is your project, and that is something you can commit to, and that is something that you can see through And in a worst case scenario, you know that you're going to learn so much and it's going to be an incredible experience and you're, and you're really willing to kind of just hold on for dear life. Oh my gosh, so true. You've definitely got to find that thing that, you know, you can jump out of bed every single day and be excited about versus being like, oh, it's monday again, right? Exactly. That's the worst in the beginning when you guys, you know, you teamed up and you're, you're having this, this feeling this, this energy around the business. Did you know straight away that you were going to go down the route of funding or were you still thinking, you know, we need to invest some of our own capital to prove out the concept and validate the idea before we go down that route of funding.

Could you step us through kind of the money side of things? Absolutely. So I will say this, like there's a lot of differing opinions on fundraising and financing your business and you know who you take money from and how you design a cap table and like how you build reputation within certain communities like the VC community, the PE community, the family office community, the angel community and so forth and the more research we had done, we realized that this was a category, especially if you wanted to work with a manufacturing partner who could produce at the premium level we needed to produce. It's a category with very high M. O. Q. S which are minimum order quantities, which means you have to do so much volume just to get in a line run that it requires pretty significant capital. And so as we started to do some diligence around a co manufacturing RFP and and really kind of like build a team of industry experts, we realized that the capital and the financing piece was critical to doing it right and kind of getting the best partners.

And so that became an early part of the launch strategy. We started building our model and our fund raised deck pre product. And so it's like so bizarre to talk about this thing that truly doesn't exist and sell your idea without having anything tangible. And so I would say that was certainly challenging. But the way that we thought about financing or fundraising was we are going to pitch a lot of people get a lot of feedback, use that feedback to then inform how we think about how much we need and how we value a business that doesn't exist yet. And then like truly use our guts to figure out which partners feel right, just based on the conversations, the pitch, the feedback, the diligence and the negotiation and my whole theory with anything in life is like the more data points you collect, the more points of relativity you have and then you can kind of back into a decision that feels mostly right considering all things.

And so that's kind of the same approach we took to fundraising and pitching VCS and our experience was if you create enough excitement and then the demand starts to build, you then are postured or position to be selective about who you want to invite to the party, so to speak and who you want to take money from and you know how amenable they are to your terms when you're thinking about the cap table evaluation. And so all of those things were kind of part of our experience and our process and continue to be as we think about ongoing financing needs. Mm You have some really impressive people at the party investing in your business. And I'm talking about the likes of Alexis Ohanian from Reddit and Will smith and you know, all the other people that I read about online, what do you think it was that specifically made those people attracted to your pitch into your brand?

If you could drill it down to like a few simple pointers. Yeah, So I'll say this because I think it's important. We probably hosted collectively between myself and my business partners. There's three of us, We probably hosted over 70 conversations between Vcs slash funds. Angel investors, celebrity investors. Family offices, like the group was big, we had an excel spreadsheet and it had hundreds of names on it. And I know that we had filled out kind of the criteria for over 70. And so by the time you pitched that many people and get that much feedback like you can you can sell the business in your sleep because you've got so much conviction, you've kind of like perfected your pitch and you've been fielding so many questions that you can answer anything now, whether it's to someone's liking or not is, you know, is kind of subjective, but I think we had pitched so many people, we've gotten so much feedback that pitching initialized was actually towards the end of our fundraise and I think that our positioning and our model was just so tight, that really the only thing left to do was kind of the diligence on us as humans, as people who had been at startups that had impressive track records and kind of making sure that we checked out in terms of just general like reputation, that was really like the last kind of hurdle to jump.

And so, you know, I would say that like that very much show made a difference, having some of those most impressive and energizing conversations at the end of the fundraising process. But then I would also just say like our conviction and commitment to really building something significant and you know, dDC is like growing impressive, congested kind of concept and category, but D to C C. P. G. I think if done right and if grown effectively like has the potential to really be significant, especially giving the market size of some of these categories. And so I think like, you know, having kind of dreamed up this brand that didn't exist yet. That was rooted and intentionality for an addressable market that seemingly could have a lot of potential I think was just the right formula at the right time with the right partners who were kind of willing to take a bet. Amazing.

That's so cool. Okay, I want to talk about the launch strategy. I want to talk about your marketing and how you brought the brought the brand to life to the public and got people excited and buzzed about what you were doing. Yes. So I will say so we um we closed our financing And what would have been the top of 2019 and had already spent almost a year doing research, building the business strategy and the model and projections and all things needed to convince someone to give you millions of dollars. We spent 2019 identifying the right industry experts to add to our nutrition council. And then really like formulating the food producing the food, testing the food bagging the food, finding the right facility partners and distribution partners. And then also doing all of the brand identity work. We had built a go to market playbook Which was basically like, you know, our all of our marketing tactics and we were kind of marching up towards this launch date of January 2020 with no idea that the world was about to stop Rather abruptly.

And so when we soft launched our business at the top of 2020 and you know, we're kind of combating what was going on in the world with the impending pandemic. We really kind of left the majority of that playbook on the cutting room floor because we were forced to do everything digitally. We were forced to execute partnerships digitally and host media conversations digitally and advertised digitally. And so as a digitally native brand that felt fine. But we wanted to do so many things, I RL or experientially that really kind of started to build this community of dog parents, millennial dog parents and all of that was kind of left aside and you know, I would say it definitely like threw us off a bit because we had spent a year crafting this plan that had all of these really cool marketing ideas that would truly come to life across many platforms in many ways, some of which were kind of experiential, our tactical and some of which were digital and so through that pivot and through figuring out like how to grow our brand with some of these limitations, we really just leaned into what ended up being some silver lining, which was a lot of people having spent so much time at home, decided to grow their families through getting a pet, you know, getting a dog in America.

There was this huge clear the shelters campaign and and the news was very pleasantly broken up with these fantastic stories where shelters were completely empty because families were just opening their homes to homeless past. And so instead of being a new brand trying to create demand, we were really postured to chase that demand. And I think it just had an impact on our business in a way where we were able to acquire customers in a really efficient and effective way through digital advertising tactics, performance marketing and really build a base of like true fans that then became the advocates for, you know, a new brand that they enjoyed their dog enjoyed and and one that they, you know, chose to promote as true fans of the brand. And that kind of leads me to this theory or analogy around like your 1st 1000 customers and it kind of is the essence of the idea is whatever you offer they will buy because they're, you know, they're so loyal and they're true advocates of your brand.

And if you have that base that will truly have this kind of compounding impact on your business and almost an immeasurable halo effect. And so we really use that strategy like let's find the 1st 1000 instead of having this model that's impossible. Like that requires millions of site visitors and millions of customers and millions of dollars in sales. Like let's focus on the actual customer base and then making sure that we threw the director consumer relationship have a continuous feedback loop. So we understand like where the pain points are and the experience from the website, through receiving the products are feeding the product optimizing for those pain points. And then with the next 1000 customers making sure like their NPS scores are even higher. And so that was kind of our mentality in terms of how we wanted to launch, how we wanted to resonate and how I thought about building the business. Mm And how do you actually have that feedback loop? How did you know what you needed to improve on? So it ranged from reading every single product review and conducting some email outreach which in some cases turned into phone calls to speak directly with customers.

So customers who had great experiences, customers who didn't have great experiences. I think that like the biggest issue we actually encountered was just shipping delays based on what was going on in the world and how fast we could get things from our distribution center in the midwest to specifically our coastal customers. But picking up the phone and speaking to someone has so much impact. And it's something that you know, my partners and I kind of became obsessive about, especially within the first six months. And so with that I would say like it was super high touch, especially within our first year of business. And then as we scaled and and the customer base became bigger. We just started doing kind of digital surveys and building in some incentive for people to participate and participate with substance was something that we used as a tactic to kind of collect and sort information and then drive, you know some type of action or identify some type of trend that was kind of emerging from some of that kind of quantitative data.

And so it started high touch. I mean I still read every single review that's left. Um and in some cases like do some personal outrage myself just to better understand why someone's having a reaction to something. But I think it's so important because sometimes it it identifies things that you miss because you're focused on so many things or you're so close to the sun or you're thinking about you know what's going to happen in three months instead of what's happening today. And so it takes on many different forms. But I think it's just so important and so critical to listen to your customers because they often have the answers. Absolutely. And I love that theory of like doing things in the beginning that aren't scalable because usually we're focused on what can be scaled and how to scale and that side of the puzzle. But if you're actually focusing on those like you said hi touch non scalable things. That's where you find the real magic and that kind of special special connection with your, with your customer base. Absolutely. I read that you also introduced a text by service and I was wondering what the impact of that was and kind of if you could just share a little bit about it in general.

Sure. So I think with any highly replenishment business or subscription based business, you think about kind of the recurring experience and in the instance where and like truly this happens to me all of the time. I've got two dogs, one is older, one is 2.5. But I will constantly like go to get them food and realize I'm on the last scoop and then my subscription isn't coming for a week and instead of having to like go to my laptop and find my password and log into my account and pull my delivery forward. We were like, why can't we create these experiences where you can just like text the company or text to the brand and say like I'm going to need this sooner than I expected or another use cases I'm going on vacation. I don't want this big box to come and sit outside of my door for a few days while I'm going to be out of town. So let's pause or let's delay or let's push it back or I have too much food and so you know, I need to pause us indefinitely until we get through this bag and then, and then we'll reorder And so there's all of these use cases that feel so much more seamlessly managed through your cell phone versus having to log into an account.

And so I think the use case was clear. We all wanted a brand that we could use, uh, in a way that felt convenient and easy and obvious. And so we partnered with initialized our lead investor in our seed round because they do so many tech investments to build a private app that is compatible to Shopify. Um, that really allows us to customize the subscription management experience and bring kind of like better access to the pet parent. And it was something that, you know, I actually project managed and oversaw from kind of strategic briefing through identification of dev partner through build and through launch. And I think like even being so close to it as a dog parent, like really made sure the specs were super relevant covered the majority of use cases and ultimately like became a huge value add for someone who wants to manage their subscription through text message system instead of instead of through anything else.

Mm Gosh, as you're saying that I'm like, I can think of examples off the top of my head that I totally want that for one including my contact lens subscription. I always need them like faster than they are arriving and I'm always having to log on and be like, hey, can you ship this out and then like it takes three days and I like that. I need them tomorrow. I'm gonna send them a note and being like, I need this. There's so many things that we need and we don't really have like the right schedule figured out yet. And so being able to push them back or pull them forward, that flexibility is so important. And so it's certainly something we identified with specifically with our dogs food and we just tried to solve for, Yeah, for sure. Love it. You said that you had a marketing plan, a marketing blueprint that kind of got pushed to the back side when Covid happened. And as we're coming out of Covid, I'm wondering if you're going to start bringing these RL experiences into fruition and kind of what that might look like over the coming months or 12 months.

Yes. So absolutely, we're so excited because doing things in person I think is something we're all very eager to do as long as we can create a safe environment where people feel comfortable. Um, and frankly darks can be regulated. But one thing that strikes me as a huge opportunity. Um, specifically for this category is, we've been, you know, choosing food for someone who cannot choose it for themselves. That being our pets. And what happens in a world where you let them choose and what does that look like in terms of trialing and sampling and in store experience and just being able to bring your dog somewhere where they're welcome and where they can socialize and where they can kind of say like I like this better than I like that by way of interest. And so uh interest signal. And so we're really kind of architect ng what that looks like, not even to experiential marketing, but through like a real retail footprint.

And in a world where you know, there's a lot of real estate up for grabs right now, specifically in L. A. We're trying to think through like how to stand up something that feels really interesting to the modern day dark parent that allows them to bring their dog in, effectively choose their food themselves and then, you know, walk away with something that they're proud to kind of carry and they feel really great about because they know it's ultimately, you know, a better nutrition option and it's going to help their dogs thrive. And so we're thinking about things in a very kind of physical experience type of way. And then being able to kind of do all of the fun marketing stuff is really just gravy 100%. How exciting. Love that for you. Where is the business today? What's kind of happening at the moment? How big is the team? What's the current vibe? sure. So we're still very small, we've got 10 full time employees, we have more dogs than humans. Mhm. But I would say that like we are again really like thinking about growth responsibly and that's from customer and sales growth through how we think about the team and not getting ahead of hiring and really only hiring one more at or over capacity.

And so I never want to be in a position as a co founder or an executive where we've made irresponsible hiring decisions and we kind of go through that expansion contraction moment that a lot of startups do. And so we're trying to be entirely intentional about what we need, when we need it, who we hire, what that process looks like from recruiting through orientation. And so we're still super small team, but I would say that the team that we have is one that is full of a players and rock stars, the dog community that we're building um is one where we're so proud to kind of use our own pets as you know, filters and products samplers for what we're building and how it's received. And you know, from the business side, that aspect is one where we've just leaned into the demands that has been created in a category that's booming and growing and this recession proof, I'm really just trying to stay ahead of it in a way where we want to not only compete on the product quality side, but really optimized for experience.

And so we're trying to really, you know, design and execute against an innovation roadmap that feels a little bit different in terms of how people are used to buying food and and how they're used to kind of going through that process. And so the experience is very top of mind for us and then you know the non negotiable is effectively like designing products that are better than what's on shelves today. Mhm. I bet your office with all the dog goes is really fun. It's so much fun and it's crazy and it's chaotic and it's noisy and there's always someone like peon or barking or chasing someone. But I mean that's the type of environment we want to create and really like it lightens the mood so much and it makes going into work, especially like going into work on a long day, just so enjoyable. Oh my God, I bet dogs are the best. I love it. I feel like you're like happy levels would always be just above average because you have dogs so many dogs in the office all the time, So many dogs and it's just like you have to walk them, right?

So my biggest thing is I could be in meetings or on zoom calls from like eight a.m. To eight p.m. But I have to I have to force myself to break to walk my dogs and I don't take my phone with me when I walk my dog. So it's like a real chance to create clarity and space to like think or breathe or enjoy the moment or get some vitamin D or take my dogs to the park and allow them to socialize. Um, so it's so nice because I think it forces you as an entrepreneur just to kind of like one have a companion but then to like enjoy that companion and feel the responsibility to care and connect with them. And you know, that responsibility is, well, we all take very seriously as pet parents but one that I think extends into the community quite nicely. Mm hmm. Absolutely. What is your best piece of advice for women who have a big idea? I feel like I've got a lot of pieces of advice. But yeah, I would say that as women, I think that a lot of times we know what's right.

And so I think I mentioned this earlier, but like I rely on my intuition a lot and I would say that's ranging from small decisions through big decisions. And so I think that we were kind of gifted intuition in a way where if we really kind of oversimplify things, we, we kind of know what's right because it feels right. And so I've always kind of thought about things in a way where again, ranging on kind of the decision barometer if something feels right, I tend to kind of use my gut and lean into it and you know that doesn't mean that you don't make the wrong call sometimes or your judgment is off. But I would just say, you know, use your intuition if you're thinking about an idea if you're making a big decision as it relates to that idea and really don't question yourself because I think when you start thinking about all of the what ifs that could happen, you almost talk yourself out of the thing.

And so it's just like relying on your gut, relying on your intuition and really having confidence that like it will lead you kind of down the right path. I love that. Thanks. We are up to the six quick questions part of the episode. I ask every woman on the show the same six quick questions so that we can look back in like a year or two a year or two's time and pull out any insights or kind of trends that people have mentioned. So, question number one is what's your, why? Why do you do what you do? So I would just say like as a dog parent with trust issues, I'm very committed to imagining and building a brand that I wish existed that's truly anchored in improving dogs lives with purposeful products that they left. And it comes from a very personal place where you know, I take so much pride in having dogs that are well behaved in great companions that I bring virtually everywhere.

And so I'm very motivated and inspired to keep them as healthy and happy as possible. And so it's rooted in a lot of kind of good intention and personal experience. Mm I love that question. Number two is what's been the number one marketing moment for you guys? So I was thinking about this one and I think for me it kind of rolls up to the fact that as a new brand that it is truly kind of launching and and really taking his first steps. I think that 3rd party validation and social proof is so important because why should someone trust you especially with something as important as their darks nutrition. And so getting that really was a top priority and I would say had the biggest impact to our business. What that looks like in practice is kind of distribution through PICO within the first year of being launched, complemented with kind of all of the awards and and kind of credentials that came from really kind of trusted resources within the community.

And so we had kind of done all of the independent testing or third party studies to ensure that we had designed highly process a ble diets that were incredibly appropriate for modern day dogs. And with those scores kind of went to market and ended some heavy distribution through the review sites and all of the pet specialty brands and retailers. And you know, we had some of the most critical kind of review and score the food and we're so happy with the results which you frankly can't control as a brand and you've got, you know, some of these people who are exposed to so much and so their opinion is truly valuable not only to how they perceive and great your product, but then also to the community. And so, um, Dog food Advisor is one of the most reputable Unbiased sites that has super-high criteria in terms of how they judge food.

And we were scored at five stars out of five stars Wagon Rover, two hugely amazing brands within the dog community voted as best cable. Other brand review sites had, had scored the food really highly and I think like it's those validation points that not only get the consumer comfortable with buying through a new brand, but also kind of giving us the confidence to lean into that momentum knowing that we've got not only a product that can compete, but it's like truly superior to most of the options on the shelves. And I think once you start to build that momentum, it really just, it allows you to pop and pop with confidence. And that was important for marketing purposes, for obvious reasons. Yeah, absolutely. I can really see see those playing a really big pot for sure. Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter? So I would say in 2020 it was a clubhouse. So one of our investors had got me into the beta and I would say like I just spent so much time opening the app and jumping into rooms and listening to conversations that kind of, you know, expand a range of topics.

But there are so many brilliant people that are so willing to have really honest and direct conversations and in a world where you know, you couldn't network in the same ways as we did prior to the pandemic. I think it was like such a great socialization tool where I just picked up so much frankly and really kind of just used it to like connect and then also as a substitute to grabbing a coffee with another entrepreneur or, or meeting up for a dinner with another founder or a CMO. And so you know those conversations, I think I received a lot of value from, especially through the pandemic. Mm did I really loved clubhouse. I haven't been on there in a couple of weeks to be honest. I think I turned off my notifications and forgot about it but I popped into so many conversations that I was like, this is amazing. So much value.

It's pretty fantastic. It is pretty fantastic. Question number four is, how do you win the day? What are you doing to keep productive, healthy, happy in terms of daily habits and routines? Um, so, I mean I start every morning by, you know, setting intention and walking my dogs, leaving my phone at my desk and like really just, I would say like easing into my day, but I think what is most manageable for me is almost creating like an abbreviated to do list. And so I think everyone has different styles, but if I were to look at my real to do list and see this like streaming bulleted long expansive list, that's entirely overwhelming and intimidating. I think I would be paralyzed by that. So what I do is I kind of mine it for the three most important things that I think have the highest potential or are time sensitive. And then I pull those three things into an abbreviated to do list and they are my top priorities for the day.

And I don't shut my laptop until I have them done and I usually get through them by early afternoon, mid afternoon and then I'm able to pull like another one in from that long expansive list. And for me it is almost like making things more manageable or more stackable or easier to process. And so I don't feel the need to do everything because that's impossible and there's not enough time in the day. And so that kind of abbreviated to do list is like the, the one thing that keeps me focused, um, and helps me prioritize. Yeah, I really love that. That's a great idea to approach it that way I feel like being overwhelmed with, to do lists is a real thing. It's definitely something I suffer from. And I'm like, oh my God. And then you end up being like, I don't know where to start. I'm going to do none of them. I'm gonna do something else. That's not even on the list. Question number five is if you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it?

Well, I would definitely carve out a portion. I think to take to take our team out for drinks because they're the most deserving of, you know, a reward for kind of like all of all of the time they put in. But I would say going back to kind of like your happiest customers or your 1st 1,002 fans and kind of the essence of that idea. I I would definitely gift the first customers or the customers that continue to come back or the customers with the highest lifetime value and send them things that I know their dogs would enjoy because they're my favorite products. But also like a personalized handwritten note That is really just kind of a nod of appreciation for the opportunity to be in their homes and and be in their cabinets as like the primary nutrition option. And I think that gesture, I know it would make me feel good. But I also can imagine receiving it as a customer and I think that like we're trying to build a brand that is rooted in good intention and is ultimately memorable.

And to me like that strikes me as like a really memorable thing to do. Even if it's that small scale. Mm hmm. Yeah. That's surprising delight moment for sure. Last question question number six is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach? I would say that I embrace it failure and mistakes because they happen so frequently in a startup culture and I think that you know when you're building something and trying to disrupt a really antiquated category you need to try everything And you know the majority of those things don't work and not working typically means like failure and dusting yourself off and standing back up. And I truly think like if you're not doing that, if you're not failing, if you're not making mistakes then you're not taking big enough risks And this is this is an opportunity to take some big risks and make other people in the category feel really uncomfortable by the offering by the speed for which we want to move and by really chasing kind of like this optimization of experience and so you know I've just gotten really comfortable with failure and things being imperfect but putting them into the world and like an M.

V. P. Model and you know really just collecting real data points are real points of feedback and then using that to inform kind of the next generation. Love it. Love it terry. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today and for sharing your story and your learnings. I'm such a fan. Yes, of course. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you. Hey, it's done here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Female Startup Club podcast. If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D. I. Y. Course the ads. M. B. A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way. It might seem like such a small thing, but reviews help others find us. So please do jump on and subscribe, rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network. See you soon. Mhm. Yeah.

Will Smith backed this DTC dog food startup, here’s why. With Jinx Co-Founder Terri Rockovich
Will Smith backed this DTC dog food startup, here’s why. With Jinx Co-Founder Terri Rockovich
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