Meet the founder of Pawfect Foods

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How did you get into the all-natural dog treat business, Prash?

My career back catalogue has been distinctly blue chip/corporate, working across an array of fast-moving, innovation-hungry sectors, including brewing, spirits, personnel recruitment and communication networks.

Some challenger brand founders push their corporate pasts into the shadows, however for me, working across a variety of sectors, for a number of ‘industry titans,’ not only honed my wider skills set but enabled me to see the manifold opportunities that a quick-thinking underdog brand could generate if it took advantages of a big corporate’s slowly but surely (oil tanker) marketplace mobility.

As a dog owner I had always been a little disillusioned by the current state of the premium/all-natural dog treat offer in the UK; especially when you notice just how far the closely aligned dog food industry has gone to improve its tarnished – ingredient integrity/nutritional worth reputation.

The current dog treats sector is worth £500m (ballpark) of which only 30% resides within the more discerning, clean deck all-natural/grain-free sub-category.  It’s an unfortunate truth however that too many supposedly well-meaning dog snacks still contain uncomfortably high levels of masking salts and sugars, the odd synthetic no-no (colourings, flavourings…..) and not-fit for purpose ingredients.

In an age where humans are splitting into two camps dependent on their ‘healthier living’ beliefs I wanted to create a far-reaching portfolio of simple, back-to-nature treats that were devoid of pointless or unhelpful fillers.

 

Were you nervous after you created your 1st batch?

Any significant investment always brings with it a little nervousness, but at the same time I knew that my team and I were onto something truly special that well-educated marketplace would be receptive to.  Our Himalayan cheese bars are made by seasoned Churpi makers whose families have passed down the ‘unrushed’ making techniques over many centuries.  We’ve deliberately rejected trying to add high-speed technology to a specialist craft that is all about letting nature take its course, from the 35 days each Churpi bar spends drying in the sun to the 28 days it enoys establishing its unmistakable flavours in the smoking sheds.  When you leave nature to do its thing, the end result is often remarkable, which helps explain why we’re so proud of cheese bars madeusing milk from hormone-free herds (yaks and cows) raised in pristine, chemical-free pastures.  

On a similar vein, much of our brand innovation has been created or overseen by accomplished veterinarian and dog nutritionist Dr Veneta Kozhuharova.

 

What were you doing before Pawfect do you think your previous experience contributed to the creation of your business?

Much of my past career was spent analysing different life stages, consumer demographics and specific market needs and creating meaningful/bespoke innovation/launches to fulfil the aforementioned voids.  I think working in FMCG (spirits & brewing) acclimatised me to think on my feet as it’s imperative to know how to move swiftly yet in a structured manner.  I bring certain big company mindsets to the party, thorough research, never skimping on key marketing forums (online, packaging)…. By the same token I can also see how the slow ‘tick boxes’ mindset of big corporates enables well-drilled start-ups and disruptors to move quickly and make hay.

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How do you balance business and your personal life?

Never easy switching totally off when it’s your own personal venture in which you’ve invested a lot of blood, sweat and personal savings, especially when the sector in question is so young and untested and could be received very differently across an array of markets with very distinct (occasionally contradictory) outlooks. 

Of course life becomes a little easier if the family shares the wider vision so from time to time I encourage them to think big, which isn’t too hard as we’re a family of ardent dog enthusiasts.  That said, I’m very mindful that I spend quite enough time at work, (especially when you factor in all the travel) so am pretty ruthless when it comes to cutting down on with time wasting activities & people. 

With production spread across two continents, it’s vital that I surround myself with a team that is both responsible & trustworthy. Having such a reliable team is essential when it comes to delegating responsibilities so I can focus on core initiatives.

I have learnt to leverage technology judiciously and am a committed enthusiast of time-saving tech.  And yet, by the same token appreciate that you can have too much of a good thing so know when to take a technology break (e.g. email blank out days)

I also never lose sight that works providing a better family life (not the other way around) so appreciate that family vacations are far more important than stretching company financial targets. 

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Were there moments when you thought you'd bitten off more than you can chew & how did you get over such moments of doubt?

Not really any moments of doubt! Yes our ambitions are lofty but our soft launch across Europe has gone even better than we anticipated.  Our ‘hero’ range of Himalayan Cheese Chews launched recently inNetherlands followed by Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain & Poland whilst the ink’s now dried on yet further distribution deals in Italy, Germany & France Poland & Denmark with UK joining the fray this September!

The uniqueness of our offering and our willingnesss to customize our range to accommodate different markets has gone down particularly well.  Looking towards our Nature’s Munch offer, the sheer weight of interest has already had us looking at the best ways to expand our freeze drying production capacity.

As for our Doggy Infusions, this is certainly a more acquired/discerning proposition that appeals to real ‘dog nutrition’/cold infusion purists (especially well received in Greece & Holland) where ‘herbal’ infusions are particularly popular among their human fraternity.

I suppose the depth of our offer means we’re not a one trick pony (hound?) which significantly our chances of building a distinct and defendable heartland. In short, so far so good!

What gives a brand longevity?

Having a clear, uncomplicated vision that everyone from employees and customers can buy into.  If you can’t explain what you and don’t stand for in 30 seconds you’re probably missing a trick.  Great brands stay true to their convictions however good or bad things get and whilst any great brand must evolve to stay relevant, there should be a consistent strand of thinking that sits at the very heart of all you do.

Best advice?

It’s a well-worn phrase but nothing says it better than ‘Dare to Dream Big!’  Don’t let risk-adverse individuals dampen your belief and whilst it’s eminently sensible to constantly pick the brains of industry experts, never lose touch with your best hunch.