Let’s get the week started with a new Behind the Biz interview. This is my weekly series where I chat to the founders of new and exciting brands and share their stories with you. If you enjoy discovering new businesses then read on and don’t forget to check out the rest of the series.
In today’s interview I’m chatting with the Zena Deane the co-founder of Huxley Hound.
Please tell us about your business.
Huxley Hound is a step change moment in better-for-you pet snacking, a low fat, vitamin-rich antidote to the unappetizing minefield dominated by over-processed dog nibbles of dubious nutritional worth (low grade meat meal, masking salts and sugars and a plethora of artificial scents, colourings and flavourings).
Huxley Hound is a sumptuous selection of 4 dehydrated veggie snacks (carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroot) that uses fully traceable wonky organic veg sourced primarily from the Great British countryside (sweet potatoes from Spain)
The growth of our business is fuelled by the sad truth that more than 1 in 3 dogs in the UK are clinically obese. In today’s increasingly frantic world too many dogs are not getting either the exercise of well-rounded diets they deserve. Worse than that, many pet owners unwittingly fuel their ‘pet neglect guilt’ by inadvertently pampering their pets with inappropriate ‘junk food’ treats.
Where did the inspiration for Huxley Hound come from?
Mike & I are passionate dachsund owners (Huxley & Rolo) and we became disillusioned by the bland offerings pushed by the wider dog treat sector. We take immense care regarding how we feed our dogs and after much research decided to embrace raw.
What we hadn’t appreciated is that even though veg exists in many brands of premium pet food a canine’s stubborn anatomy is not well-equipped when it comes to breaking down the cellulose that surrounds the all-important vitamins and minerals. By working with the Bio-Science Department at Nottingham University to ascertain the best blend of time and temperature to preserve the nutrients, we created the Huxley Hound formula. Our process nudges all the essential goodies to the surface of our treats, making it much easier for dogs to ingest them
How did you decide upon the name of your business?
Huxley is the proud Brand Ambassador of our range – it doesn’t seem that fame has gone to his head although a recent appearance on Dragon’s Den did demand an extra special grooming session.
What did you do before starting Huxley Hound?
Mike worked in the high end recruitment in the financial sector whilst my background is training.
Did you always plan to set up your own business?
Mike had run his own my business for many years so when I decided to embark on this project we decided that his business head and my dog know-how were ideally matched to forge a successful dog treat range.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
Our biggest challenges have been 3-fold:
Reassuring the trade that we’re not on an ill-judged mission to turn dogs into vegetarians. We are only too aware that dogs are carnivores, however we truly believe that the addition of top notch veg has a pivotal role to play in the crafting of a well-balanced daily diet for dogs.
Upscaling – dehydrating veg is a fine balance of time Vs temperature to ensure maximum taste and nutritional vitality.
Working a tight budget in a highly competitive pet food arena still dominated by cash rich corporates.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
Our Dragon’s Den debut at the end of August has to be up there, especially as we secured offers from both of the two new dragons, dog lover Jenny Campbell and Tej Levlani (we accepted Jenny’s). Our order book has certainly gathered significant momentum since the programme aired.
We also get immense satisfaction from the socially responsible arm of our business having chosen to become a vocal supporter for both Pup Aid and Dogs on the Streets, a fantastic cause which recognises the medical needs and ongoing well-being of those noble, four-legged companions that live on the streets with their homeless human companions.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
Massive – when you have tight marketing budgets this becomes your communication lifeline. (all forums should be actively embraced)
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Stay true to 1st principles, never lose sight of why you began your business in the 1st place. That doesn’t mean refusing to adapt because any brand has to evolve in line with a fast-moving marketplace but NEVER compromise when it comes to core brand values.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
We see 2017/18 as a breakthrough year to take our snacking proposition nationwide. We are already aligned with national pet food providers Fetch & Amazon PLUS a number of the UK’s more discerning independent pet food stockists, however the appealing shelf lives of our treats means that we could accommodate both the major multiples and export arena (we’re already big in Denmark).
We’re particularly proud of our new, vibrant packaging that is a genuine game changer.
Thank you so much to Zena Deane for taking the time to be involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about the Huxley Hound journey. I’m so pleased they had success on Dragon’s Den at the end of August, did you catch them on the show? I look forward to seeing the biz grow throughout the year ahead and I think their new branding looks fantastic.
Zena shares essential advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Staying true to your principles but evolving and adapting to the changing marketplace is very important.
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