When Donie Yamamoto’s dog Tuxedo suffered from dry, itchy skin, the avid animal lover couldn’t find a product that would give him relief. She soon immersed herself in research to find a solution. “The health of my dogs has always been important to me,” says Yamamoto. “I always think there has to be a natural way.”
When she discovered wild Alaskan salmon oil was helping her dog and stumbled upon a webinar about selling products on Amazon, she soon found herself on a journey that resulted in her owning the oil through her own e-commerce store sold.
Her self-funded e-commerce company Vital Pet Life, which started as a sideline in April 2017, had sales of $ 2.8 million in 2020 with four contractors. She gained recognition along the way. In 2019, Yamamoto was selected as a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow for Outstanding Female Entrepreneurship. And this year Vital Pet Life started a partnership as a supplier to Chewy.
“It was always profitable from the start,” says Yamamoto. “We were lucky to be able to enter a market that I’m passionate about.”
This is how she and her husband Kyle made it into the family business.
As the pet wellness market explodes, Vital Pet Life, an e-commerce store in Los Angeles, has seen sales … [+]
Know when to bet on yourself. Yamamoto, who moved to Los Angeles from the Philippines in 2011, had owned a stationary children’s clothing store in her home country when she started Vital Pet Life. She used what she had learned about retail and manufacturing to make her own fish oil. She and her husband used about $ 20,000 that she borrowed on credit cards to set up.
“We just dared,” she recalls. “When it comes to my business, I am not worried about cash. I feel like if you really have a vision and passion for it,” you can find out. “
Stay resilient. The salmon oil product became successful thanks in part to the company’s advertising on Facebook and Google, and by 2018 it made sense for Yamamoto to take over the business full time. Vital Pet Life soon became a natural shampoo product for dogs and a glucosamine supplement.
Then COVID-19 hit and the company had to deal with supply chain issues. “I had a couple of hurdles when my pumps ran out and I was looking for bottles,” Yamamoto recalls.
Instead of introducing even more products, she began to certify the company’s products to make them more attractive. Their wild Alaskan fish oil product is certified for sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council. “I love dogs and I love animals,” says Yamamoto. “I want to make sure they have the best support.”
Stay in touch with customers. With a small handful of products, Yamamoto needs to make sure they have their finger on the pulse of what customers need to keep their business relevant. “We have regular customers that we talk to all the time and ask, ‘What do you need?’,” She says. These conversations often take place on social media.
The close contact with its fans has helped the company continue to grow and has helped Yamamoto find a whole new career direction. “I always thought I would keep working in the fashion industry,” says Yamamoto. “I love fashion. I love clothing. But the tuxedo piqued my interest in pet wellness.”