Thank You

Two years ago, almost to the day, I was offered the opportunity to be the editor of Pet Age. As the second employee hired under the new ownership, I was given the amazing opportunity to rebuild a brand, create a new editorial direction and work with, and learn from, one of the best in the pet industry, Craig Rexford, a.k.a., The Mayor of Petsville.

It has not been easy.

Working with our talented design team to create a new look, building a reputable list of freelance writers, many of whom are pet experts, developing a team of editors and sales staff who professionally complement each other’s talents and, of course, who could forget being yelled at during a reptile breeders conference about how trade publications ignore them, while being there to make sure we were not doing just that.

All the late nights, thousands of miles traveled by plane and car, weekends spent in educational sessions learning about LED lighting for corals or Friday night dates interrupted because of breaking news that had to get up on the web—it was all worth it, because we had a commitment to the pet industry.

The pet industry has become like a second home for me. I am proud to say that some of the people who I consider close friends and who have influenced me both professionally and personally are people who I have met while working in the pet industry. Those relationships are what have helped me succeed in this position, and, in turn, has allowed me to deliver the best content possible to you, the reader.

It is with great sadness that I announce this is my last issue as the editor of Pet Age. However, I am very excited for all the future plans and programs on the horizon for Pet Age.

We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes on changes for 2015. These new sections, events and advertising opportunities are going to help move the industry forward and keep our commitment to being your number one source for everything related to the pet industry.

WPA’s Future Support of PIJAC at Risk

In a press release issued late Monday night the World Pet Association released a pointed statement about the recent hiring of Ed Sayres as the newly appointed president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

The statement read:

“The World Pet Association (WPA) and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) have worked in tandem for over four decades in an effort to ensure pets are available and well-taken care of by their owners and the industry as a whole. Recent actions by the PIJAC Board have WPA concerned that PIJAC may be at a crossroads with WPA’s mission. As an association, WPA is committed to facilitating quality interactions between pet suppliers and pet owners, as well as providing educational opportunities to create healthier, happier pets and a more productive pet industry.

Out of respect for their relationship and the great work PIJAC has done in the past, WPA will honor its 2014 funding commitment; however, future partnership in 2015 and beyond will be reconsidered as events unfold. WPA wants to ensure they are supporting efforts aligned with their goal to further the well-being of live animals as well as the pet industry as a whole.

Impact of Coral Regulations; New Aquatic Products at MACNA

MACNA 2014, held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, brought together retailers, manufacturers and hobbyists for a weekend of all things aquatics, including new products and educational seminars.

Julian Sprung, the owner of Two Little Fishies, led what was arguably the most important discussion at MACNA — the listing of corals on the Endangered Species Act.

“This is serious,” he told the crowd. “We really are talking about the potential loss of our hobby. Coral species listed as threatened will be illegal to posses, trade or sell.”

Sprung emphasized that not only will it impact the aquatics industry, but also hamper the reef restorations that are happening across the globe and require coral to be grown and taken care of in an aquarium.

“Wild collection is part of reef conservation,” he explained.  “Will there be a MACNA in a few years? I don’t know.”

Marshall Meyers, a senior advisor to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council,  warned attendees that there would likely be a lawsuit filed over the Aug. 28 decision by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to add 20 new coral species to the list of those protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“This is just the beginning of what is going to be a long ordeal,” said Meyers.

He, along with Chris Burner, of Quality Marine, explained this has an impact on other industries as well.

“The next month to two years, will be very interesting,” said Meyers, who encouraged people to visit the marine section of PIJAC‘s website for more information and to learn more about the situation.



Meanwhile, a host of manufacturers launched, or showcased new products at MACNA, including Jellyflap, the first all inclusive desktop jellyfish tank with overflow from Jellyfish Art.

The aquarium features an internal filtration system that uses mechanical and biological filtering with a built in pump and 3 color changing LED lights for nearly infinite customization. The retail box includes everything to get started. All the customer has to do is add water.

Once the tank is set up, retailers have the option of having the jellyfish shipped to the store, so it gets the customer back in the door, or the jellyfish can be shipped right to the customers house.

Cold Water Marine Aquatics, a livestock supplier, teamed up with several other companies to offer retailers whole tank packages that include tanks, stands, supplements and lights for cold water.

 Fluval showcased a host of new products including an App that will soon make controlling tank lighting possible from anywhere in the world.


Their new Evo 5, is a 5 gallon nano marine aquarium that comes with a filter, touch LED lights with four day/night settings and hidden filtration. It also comes in a 12 gallon size, and sold as the Evo 12. It does have a larger compartment for the protein skimmer.

Most impressive, might just be their limited edition Fluval Edge 800 Blue Edition. Expected to be brought to market in March, the item will be sold as a complete set up and features among other things, a feeding compartment and performance LED with WiFi technology.

A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the Coral Restoration Foundation.


On the food end of things, Hikari showcased their new Coralific Delite  and Coral Gumbo.

The Coral Gumbo is a variety of different sea creatures put together into a frozen cube, while the Coralific Delite is touted for it’s ability to both broadcast, or target, feed, giving owner, maxim feeding flexibility.


Kickstarting Ideas

I am always coming up with new ideas. Ask any of my close friends about this and they will likely roll their eyes, and make a face. I can’t tell you the number of times they have gotten an email from me that starts out with, “I have this idea.”

Actually, you could just ask my boss the next time you see him. Almost every time Craig sees me, I have this new idea or project we should do for the magazine.

Some of them are good ideas, others are pretty bad, but they all come down to one problem – money. Or, more specifically the lack of it.

Pet product entrepreneurs are solving that problem by turning to crowd funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which is why we decided to talk about it as this month’s cover story. You might be wondering why this would matter to you, an independent retail store. Well, the answer is opportunity.

It is the chance to offer your customers something completely different that they can’t get anywhere else. You can even create marketing campaigns around it. The words, “limited-edition” or “be the first to have” always create good buzz.

On a

different note, September means that summer is over and the holidays are approaching. If you haven’t already, now is a perfect time to start ordering holiday pet items.

When you do this, don’t forget to order pet items for people, too, such as pet-inspired wine charms, note cards, mugs and more. Need some more suggestions? Stacy Mantle talks about stocking products for cat lovers in her trends and products story in this issue.

Then, in your holidays ads remind people they can not only pick up their regular items like food and treats, but they can also stop into your store to do all their holiday shopping for their favorite pet lover.

Committed to Better Nutrition

We recently spoke with Daniel Hereford, president and founder of Pets Global, Inc. about why he started the company and how he has seen the pet industry change over the past 17 years.

Michelle: Tell me about Pets Global.

Dan: Pets Global was founded in 2010 with the intent to bring consumers a pet food that would meet their pets’ nutrition needs and also be palatable and affordable.

We continue to have this focus, but we also are always developing new goals. We rely on consumer feedback to come up with new formulas.

Michelle: You started in the industry in 1997. How have you seen it change over the years?

Dan: In the last 17 years I have seen pet foods evolve from good formulas to great formulas. The perception of our pets has evolved as well. They are no longer viewed as just pets, they are viewed as our pet children and us their pet parents.

The love and friendship of our four-legged companions is unconditional. Think about this; when a dog or a cat is put in a kennel for a few hours and then you let them out they are happy to see you, be with you and love you the same.
How would you feel if the roles were reversed and you were left in the kennel for a few hours by your spouse or friend? This fact alone shows the love they have for us is unconditional.

They say we are trying to humanize our dogs and cats, but I think the evolution of our industry and our four-legged companions is teaching us how to be better pet parents and kinder people.

Michelle: Explain the uniqueness of your food cans.

Dan: At Pets Global we are working hard to bring consumers what they are asking for. At one point consumers wanted grain-free pet foods at a fair price. Now they can go on the internet and research anything and they will not settle until they find what they want.

So to help set our products apart we developed our Zignature dog foods to be low glycemic, potato free, grain free and also chicken free. Our Zignature cans are also guar gum and carrageenan free.
Most of our dog foods are single animal protein as well.

Fussie Cat is not just another little can of some random cat food pate. It is nicely shredded chicken or flaky chunky tuna, hand packed in a human consumable manufacturing plant, with an enticing topper. Fussie Cat has to be one of the most palatable cat foods there is. Don’t take my word for it go try some today.

Michelle: What’s a typical day like for you?

Dan: A typical day at Pets Global is potato and grain free. What I mean is, we as a company try to practice what we preach (feed our pets). I notice when I took my potato consumption down to zero and reduced my grain consumption I lost 30 pounds of fat in 60 days.

So, all of us at Pets Global try our best to eat a low-glycemic diet like we feed our pets with Zignature and Fussie Cat Pet Foods.

On another note Pets Global is a family-owned and operated business. We are all very hands on with the day-to-day operations. Most everyone here is from the pet industry with 10 to 25 years in this industry.

Helping Pets Live Healthier Lives

We recently sat down with Ward Johnson, owner and president of Sojos, to talk about how the company got started and what it’s like working in the pet industry.

Michelle: Tell me a little about Sojos.

Ward: Sojos has been around since 1985. Our first products were pre-mixes that people add to meat to create their own fresh, home-prepared meals.

These products are still popular today, though in the last decade we’ve introduced complete diets containing freeze-dried raw meat in the bag, which is helping to take wholesome foods with real ingredients to the mainstream.

Michelle: One of your tag lines is “raw made easy.” How does Sojos live up to that?

Ward: Because our Sojos Complete is made with unprocessed ingredients, our customers can know that their dogs are getting the naturally-occurring enzymes and nutrients found in raw, human-quality ingredients.

And, because they simply add water to rehydrate Sojos, there’s none of the mess or difficulties that people normally associate with feeding a raw diet.

Michelle: What is a typical day like for you?

Ward: Busy, busy, busy.

There’s never a dull moment when you own a company that’s growing as fast as Sojos is. It can be a little crazy at times, but it’s a fun, dynamic work environment that has an energy all its own.

Michelle: What’s the best part about working in the pet industry?

Ward: When you see the changes that occur when a dog or cat is transitioned to a raw diet — it’s simply amazing. Pets bring joy to our lives, and it’s incredibly rewarding being able to give back to our four-legged friends that give so much to us.

Mini Me Pups Pet Boutique Nails Retail Tourism Marketing

I travel a decent amount for business and pleasure. When I can, I try to take my dog, Toby, with me, but sometimes it’s just not feasible, yet, I still always feel guilty.

Blame it on the humanization of pets. We want them to be experiencing the same fun times we are.

Pet retail stores in tourist areas can capitalize on this guilt, but many times don’t, or they don’t do it well. They might have a pet t-shirt, leash or treat with the name of the location they are at, but they either don’t use the correct marketing to draw tourists in, or only have limited options.

This was not the case with Mini Me Pups Pet Boutique in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. While the store is nestled in the downstairs of a beautiful old building right on the main drag, this image caught my eye while walking down the sidewalk.


I thought to myself, “They nailed this.” Then, I took a stroll inside. Not only did they nail the marketing aspect of it, they blew it out of the park.

The treats they were alluding to were the same treats pet owners were likely enjoying themselves on a vacation in that particular area — camping, smores and hiking mountain trails. Now, they could bring a little bit of their vacation fun back for their pets to enjoy.


I was impressed with the thought that went into this. In addition, they also serve their regular customers well by offering  practical items like leashes, collars and toys.

One thing that also stood out, but unfortunately, the photo didn’t come out, was they were not all about dogs. They had a special section of the store dedicated to cats.  Such a clever idea, as most small stores like that tend to focus on just dogs.

Whole Pet NW Holds First Open House

Talk to Joe Aschoft for more than a minute and you will learn he is passionate about helping small businesses.  This could be because he, himself, owns one, and takes it very seriously. 

“We are not only feeding dogs, but we are also feeding families,” said the owner of Whole Pet NW Distributing. “We are people focused on people. I love to know the faces of our customers.”

Aschoft, who acquired the 20-year-old company in 2012, after working his way up to management, employs eight people and distributes 20 brands in three states — Washington, Oregon and Idaho — plus just expanded into Northern California.


They recently held their first open house at their Vancouver, Wash. warehouse.

He explained his “breed” is going extinct.

“A lot of the smaller independents distributors are out of business or being bought up by the larger ones,” he said.

His personalized service is something that was appealing to Kevin Claypool, who has owned Free Range Eco Naturals for the last 10 years.

“They have more personal interactions with their customers and can provide more of a personalized service to the smaller retailers,” said Claypool during the open house.

Although it was their first open house, Aschoft said he already has plans for next year, and intends to make it a yearly event.





Central Pet Puts Emphasis on Aquatics

As part of a strategic growth plan, Central Pet is making more of a commitment to aquatics.

To accomplish this, the pet product distributor  added 10 more aquatic vendors at their recent Northeast Show in Connecticut, extended more aquatic lines and increased their customer service resources in the aquatics division.

“We are trying to focus on strengthening our aquatics offerings,” explained Kevin Kurz, director of purchasing – east for Central Pet. “We are seeing a gap in the marketplace that didn’t exist before and we want to be their home.”



Kurz explained this hasn’t impacted any of their other divisions and that the company wants to be a “full-line pet distributor.”

Another reason the company is bolstering the commitment to their aquatics customer service is that they are seeing a shift in the type of aquatic products being purchased from fresh water to salt water.

“It was about 90 percent fresh water and 10 percent salt,” he said. “Now, we are seeing about 80 percent fresh and 20 percent salt. Kids used to want goldfish, now it’s Nemo.”

Because of this, the technical information associated with these products are more skill-intensive.

“It’s more chemicals, it’s more elements,” he explained. “It becomes more technical.”



Photos: Central Pet Northeast Open House

PHOTOS: Whole Pet NW Distributing Open House

Debunking Myths About Women’s Conferences

Despite knowing my best female friend since I was in fifth grade, I grew up around mostly boys. They were like my brothers, and well, the only kids my age who lived on the street.

When I heard about Women in the Pet Industry Network, I wanted to join, but was honestly a little apprehensive when it came to going to their conference. It was a great story to cover, but personally, I was afraid it was going to be a lot of estrogen. And, if past experiences with similar groups were any indication, it was not going to be a favorable situation.

Boy, was I wrong.

I have never been to a conference where so many people, whether it be men or women, were willing to share their business and life experiences — and not in a bragging way, but instead to help others. It was truly impressive, surprising and, quite frankly, refreshing.

We all hear people like Sheryl Sandberg spout off about “leaning in” and supporting each other, and while I want to believe in what she’s selling, I just can’t relate to her.

However, the Women in the Pet Industry Network conference business executives were relatable.


Listening to their business struggles, like budget restrictions, or trying to find the time to update their social media channels, I get it, because I’m dealing with those same issues running Pet Age on a daily basis. It was inspiring and encouraging to hear their stories.

These women are role models for other women in business.

From Dorothy Hunter’s, owner of Paw’s Natural Pet Emporium, tenacity and confidence to Elena Volnova’s, of Dog’s Fashion Spa, no-nonsense perspective on the pet industry.

Hearing how Amber Kirsten-Smit met her husband and together started Furlocity and having a pet-friendly workplace is an important part of their strategy to hire and retain, as she would say “rock-star employees.”

Being blown away by how Teresa Rhyne used her experience with her dog’s cancer to get through her own diagnosis, right as she was opening her own law firm. And, then turned the whole experience into a New York Times best-seller.

Learning more about financial planning for business in a one-hour seminar given by Julie Johnson then I learned when I worked in financial media.

Having a conversation at dinner with Camlyn Miller-Stevens to find out there is a distributor open house going on in the area, and within a hour, her getting me an invite.

And, likely one of the most interesting conversations I had was with a very unlikely person — my counterpart at a competing trade publication, Ellyce Rothrock, the editor-in-chief of Pet Product News. Sharing stories about our lives and not getting stuck on industry jargon led to a conversation about my dilemma of whether or not to sell my house. Her perspective was much appreciated.

These are not connections and conversations you can have at places like Global, or BlogPaws, or an open house. In those environments the pressure to get the story, or make the sale, is overwhelming. At a conference like Women in the Pet Industry Network, whether you are  a groomer or an author, you are all coming together to learn how to make yourself, and your business, better — it’s an even playing field.


PHOTOS: Women in the Pet Industry Gather for Business Conference

Making Connections

One of the things that makes my job fun is the chance to meet so many amazing people.

This includes retailers, manufacturers, public relations firms, the various associations that work on behalf of the pet industry, as well the consumers who are buying the products we write about.

I love learning about someone’s business, hearing about how they got started, understanding the challenges they are trying to overcome, brainstorming ideas to better the industry and really connecting with them.

It helps us shape our editorial coverage, as we try to help you run your business.

This is why one of my favorite features we do is “Crash Your Store,” where we stop by a random retail store, take a few photos and write about them. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to speak with the owner, like we did a few months ago at Sloppy Kisses in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

But other times, since we don’t want to interrupt the business, we just write about our experience in the store and surprise them with a fun article. This was the case recently with The Dog Park in Alexandria, Va.

What each of those visits had in common is that I, of course, purchased something for my dog while there. The first being a New York Yankees jersey, and the other being a New York Yankees dog collar.

Both were licensed products that immediately caught my eye, because I wanted to get Toby something that reflected my love of baseball. That brings me to this month’s cover story on licensed products.

Consumers look for these types of products for their pets to show their personal style, brand loyalty and to give their pet the same quality products they use themselves. It’s nice to be able to offer this to customers.


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