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Pet startups: A guide to growing your environmentally-friendly biz

Pet startups: A guide to growing your environmentally-friendly biz

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Pet startups: A guide to growing your environmentally-friendly biz

Sustainability is a hot topic right now, and to help go beyond the buzz, we tapped Eric J. Adams, CEO and Founder of upcycled pet food brand Dog & Whistle, to share his best tips on how to scale your sustainably-focused business and ways to incorporate more sustainable practices in your startup and day-to-day life.  

First things first: when creating your brand messaging around sustainability, it’s important to consider what sustainability means for your brand and why it is important. “Sustainability for Dog & Whistle helps us embody a holistic approach to pet nutrition and environmental stewardship,” says Eric. “We craft recipes that not only nourish pets, but also help reduce pet owners’ ecological footprint. Our core commitment to sustainability has helped differentiate our product in a crowded market, and also allows us to educate consumers on the power pet food has to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”  

Once you define your brand’s DNA around sustainability, you can then dig deeper into how that informs the core product and messaging. “When I first started Dog & Whistle, it was important to me to prioritize pets over profit. That being said, I bootstrapped the business from the very beginning and I was not prepared for the cost of certifications around upcycled food. These costs at first made me question if the certifications were worth the investment, but led to great rewards,” Eric explains. “Some of those rewards can be reaped by connecting with local trade associations, who can assist founders with state certifications, help connect to resources that help small business owners innovate and secure additional equity.”  

In terms of incorporating sustainability practices into one’s brand, Eric offers these tips:  

  • Source responsibly: Look into sources that will negate your environmental impact. This is a great opportunity to build a trusted team of experts or a company advisory board that will guide you with best-in-class resources to identify the most sustainable components to build your brand.  
  • Implement waste reduction strategies: Recycling and composting within your own business and production is a great way to start out, Eric shares. Packaging is another key component of reducing your footprint says Eric, “while it can be on the pricier side to have environmentally friendly packaging, you’re not polluting landfills with plastics that take thousands of years to break down.”  
  • Educate and engage consumers: Make sure your customer is involved and excited to contribute to the brand’s efforts to create a community and grow organically together.  

Similarly, it’s just as critical to your brand’s success to watch out for common mistakes with sustainability:  

  • Avoid greenwashing: Making false sustainability claims around your practices and product is always a bad idea. The customer cares about sustainability and is not only educated but wants to increase their knowledge around reducing their carbon footprint. “If you are making false claims about your brand, the customer will eventually find out, and when they do, that is detrimental to your brand,” Eric says.  
  • Stay true to your brand: Stay true to your mission and your customers. “If there are certifications, align with those standards and if you’re looking for investors, take on investors that believe in the brand’s mission,” notes Eric.  

For help with avoiding these common pitfalls, there are some great resources for Founders in the food space looking to reduce their ecological impact and effectively scale:  

  • Upcycled Food Association: This is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about the upcycling process.  
  • Refed: This is a good tool for anyone interested in reducing their carbon footprint at home. 
  • Where Food Comes From: This third-party food verification company is a helpful place to start when looking for certifications.  

With sustainability, there is always room for improvement – especially with technology as an effective tool. “I am always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Eric. As for how he’s thinking of next-steps and goals as he continues to scale Dog & Whistle? Roadshow efforts and enhanced marketing, for one. “We are planning to get on the road to visit some key cities to bring them a pop-up food truck experience,” shares Eric. “This will help us educate consumers on the power of pet food, and help bring upcycled food to the forefront of the conversation around pet nutrition.” 

Look for Eric and Dog & Whistle in a city near you this year, and purchase Dog & Whistle products here 

Post topic(s): Business advicePackaging details

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