I recently got back from the Global Pet Expo, and it occurred to me that I have never written a true How I Built This about Scout & Zoe’s. It’s something I am asked about a lot, but I’ve never formally written it down. I have explained the why all the time, “ I f#¢king love dogs.” But more precisely, it all started with something one of my fur babies needed.
My beautiful and wonderful German Shepherd, Zoe, developed allergies around six months old. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t find non-irritative chews or treats for my seriously allergic pup. So, I became obsessed – researching and seeking products she could enjoy that wouldn't irritate her tummy or skin.
Insert Antler Chews. I found a local source for antlers and tried them out. They ended up being a big hit with both Zoe and Scout. Success!
From there, I gave Antler Chews to several friends and they all raved about them. Once I figured out dogs really loved them, that’s when my marketing degree kicked in, “How can I help dog parents who are in the same boat as me and grow this into a business?”
It only took me two weeks from idea, to branded product, to ready to sell. I funded it right out of my pocket.
Other than hiring a great graphic designer and a bit of product advice, I did everything on my own. I sourced the antlers, found a printer, figured out how I wanted it packaged and marketed, and priced it based on how much would I pay (while also keeping an eye on costs and margins).
My passion for helping dogs drove me to work day and night to figure it out and bring Scout & Zoe’s to life. I have never been so driven to do anything. I stayed up writing, developing and basically having a brain download on steroids for two weeks. I couldn't rest until I had everything out of my head and into my hands.
My first sale was at the Deer & Turkey Expo during the Boat Sport & Travel Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, February 11, 2010. It was a medium antler chew, and I still have that $15.
It only took those first two weeks for me to feel like Scout & Zoe's was real. But, if you ask my hubby, he will tell you it became real when I fulfilled two initial orders from Whole Foods and Home Goods. I had to hand carry every single carton of Antler Chews to the semi myself. It was a very cold November day, but I was determined to fulfill those orders.
Eleven years later, our Nibblet Antler Chews are award winners and we’ve diversified our treats and chews to include a number of different proteins, bakery items and veggie options. We’ve also started offering a line of raw feeding mixes. Where I began with the antlers still motivates me, “What can I do for dogs that makes them healthy and happy?”
While figuring out logistics and consistent, responsible sourcing are still some of our biggest challenges, I couldn’t be prouder of the way we operate. My parents instilled helping others in me and my sisters at a very early age, and I have a knack for aligning with companies who share that mission.
The Hopewell Center, who packages our products, is one such company. Friends of ours founded the Hopewell Center decades ago to help their son and many local individuals with intellectual disabilities learn to live life on their own terms. They have been a strategic partner of Scout & Zoe's almost from the very beginning.
If anyone reading this is thinking of starting a business, I’d recommend doing your research. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have a product or service that is uniquely solving a challenge or pain for consumers?
- How will you differentiate your brand, product, or service against competitors?
- Is your intuition leading you? Do you feel driven by your idea? If so, follow it.
It's never too late to bring your dream to life. I was 51 when I started Scout & Zoe's and I have thoroughly enjoyed my second chapter. We are opening new international channels, developing new products and are currently in negotiations for even more strategic relationships that will make a difference in the lives of the pet and the people who love them.