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“I would not have thought that we would be where we are now in terms of sales in such a short time.” – Heidi Maskelyn.
Heidi Maskelyne worked as a lawyer for six years before changing her profession to start her independent online trading company ProDog Raw.
But it was the unfortunate death of their dogs Drago and Phoenix between 2014-15 that became the catalyst for their career change.
“I was devastated,” she recalls.
“I couldn’t understand. I thought I was the most responsible dog owner ever. I believed I gave my boys the best of everything, including the best food. So I went on a mission to find out why. “
Heidi discovered that despite the promises on the package that it was the best quality, the dry food she had been for her beloved dogs may have contributed to their development of cancer.
It was from this experience that she and co-founders Jay and Rid came together to create Prodog Raw on a mission to prevent other dogs from unnecessarily leaving before their time.
Many owners would have mourned and then went back to work at some point, but Heidi said that she felt she owed them a “deep and fitting inheritance” because they had brought so much into her life.
“I was just so passionate (and angry) about what I discovered,” Heidi told Retail Gazette.
“I had an inner drive that felt unstoppable. I just couldn’t sit back and do nothing, my conscience and heart wouldn’t let it.
“I clearly remember the moment I decided to launch ProDog Raw and I will never forget it. I stood in my kitchen, took my kibble bag and read the ingredients. I was horrified.”
As a nutrition freak, Heidi knew from a young age what constitutes a healthy diet.
“It was right in front of me, all these years I had carefully chosen my own diet, but I never really questioned or thought about what I had given my dog with this dry food,” she said.
Heidi explained that most of the ingredients in processed pet food just don’t belong in a dog’s diet or body, and that dogs don’t take it for granted that they “eat those little brown cookies every day of their lives.”
“At that moment I decided that my dogs deserved better. All dogs deserve better, ”she said.
“I found a gaping hole in the market. Fresh, high-quality, species-appropriate, natural dog food – real food for real dogs. I knew I had to turn this negative into a positive.
“I wanted to make a difference and educate as many people as possible about the harm we do to our dogs if we don’t feed them natural foods.”
The difference between the food available at ProDog Raw compared to other pet retailers and dog food brands lies in the knowledge behind the products.
“I like to think that education is what sets us apart from other companies,” explained Heidi.
“Right from the start, it was very important to me to raise awareness and educate people about the benefits of a biologically appropriate, fresh raw food diet and the direct effects on dogs that lead their best lives.”
An average day at ProDog has three goals: to make sure dogs get their dinner, their humans get the best possible customer care, and that more people are educated about the benefits of raw feeding. From the packaging and production teams to customer service to marketing, social media and content creation, this core task leads everyone.
Heidi said the most surprising part of starting the company was the speed at which it grew.
“Although I knew at the beginning of this journey that there was a huge void in the dog food market, I didn’t think we’d be where we are now in terms of sales in such a short amount of time,” she said.
“It is clear that dog owners are becoming more and more savvy.
“Raw feeding has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the pet food industry for decades and we are very excited to be a part of it.”
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on retail thanks to the closure of non-essential retailers as part of various lockdowns. ProDog felt the effects like many others, but only partially because it is primarily an online retailer.
“Our sales have grown exponentially,” she said.
“I know it sounds more like a dream than a challenge, but as any business owner will know, exponential growth is fantastic as long as the infrastructure is in place.
“Fortunately, we had planned to scale in 2020 anyway, so before Covid we took steps to make sure we were ready.
“We had to adapt quickly to keep up with demand while maintaining the standards we set ourselves to deliver the best possible customer experience.”
“The grip we have in production has served us well; it meant we didn’t have food shortages like other companies in the early stages of Covid.
“Spring 2020 was a roller coaster ride, but I am proud to say that we mastered it with flying colors.
“We even won the Lloyds Small Business Award 2020 for the best customer experience.”
As an independent company, ProDog Raw needs to find ways to compete with large companies through constant strategic innovation.
“We always do our best to be one step ahead of the wishes of our customers, to stay up to date with the latest science and to forge long-term collaborations with experts who demonstrate top performance in the field of dog health and nutrition,” said Heidi.
“We invest heavily in maintaining relationships with customers, our team and our partners to ensure we stay scientifically and ethically at the forefront.
“I have and will always put quality before profit and attach great importance to our customers receiving this personal and human touch.”
She added that she was closer to the frontline than most other directors at pet food retailers or companies, which means she often speaks to customers, reads case studies and success stories, and even calls people for advice on feeding.
“All of this means that I know the reality of our business. As an independent, small company, we can move around without bureaucracy and act flexibly, which enables us to react quickly and dynamically, ”said Heidi.
As the retail industry has continued to recover since the last lockdown, Heidi shared her secrets to run an independent and successful online retailer.
“The secret to running a successful business, especially a retail store, is knowing your market inside out and making sure you get excited about your customers, which in our case are the four-legged friends,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges in introducing Prodog Raw was getting it to offer a product that the vast majority of customers didn’t know they needed.
“If I didn’t know the industry inside and out and had no passion for it, I would have given up in the first year,” explained Heidi.
“But my urge to help dogs live their best lives has gotten me through and still drives me to make the best raw dog food and supplements I can.
“Ultimately, it’s my passion; Therefore, no matter how many barriers I face and how many hours I have to put in, I will not stop, and I believe that is the secret of a successful business. “
Providing advice to budding retail entrepreneurs, Heidi said it was of the utmost importance to remain optimistic and believe even when others have doubts.
“You won’t get your way every time, but if your passion is real it will always shine through and eventually it will be recognized and the results will follow,” she said.
“Whenever I have moments of self-doubt, it’s important to remember my passion and why I’m doing everything in the first place – educating people about the importance of diet to a dog’s health and wellbeing.”
“I just say to myself, ‘This is Heidi for the dogs,’ and normally my mindset turns around very quickly; I dust myself off and carry on. “
She added, “When you start a business, you have the highest highs, but of course the lowest lows, and then the negative thoughts and doubts begin to creep in.
“However, my experience has taught me that these moments mostly occur when you are about to turn a corner when something significant happens.
“Stick with it, remember your why, and you’ll see that the hard work pays off.”
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