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Pet Age
 

December 1, 2015

The Pet Age staff is happy to present the winners of our Forty Under 40 awards. Our intention is to honor the up-and-coming movers and shakers of the pet industry. They all share a commitment to the growth of the pet industry, to professional excellence and to the community.

Individuals qualifying for a nomination met selection criteria that included working in the pet industry, possessing significant authority for decision making within a company or organization and being 39 years old or younger at the time of the nomination.

Winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges. The judges were Dana Humphrey, owner and lead publicist, Whitegate PR, Inc.; Kerry Sutherland, principal, K. Sutherland PR; and Linda Cope, global marketing manager, Marshall Pet Products.

The 40 individuals featured here have already had a big impact on the industry despite their young age. We expect them to continue to be leaders in the pet world for a long time to come.

CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners!

 

 

 

JENNIFER BEINKE (28)
Owner, KISS MY MUTT
Santa Barbara, California

Company description: With our design smarts and canine adoration, we’ve crafted striking collars, leashes, harnesses, and accessories for you that are perfect for showing off your pup.

Primary job function: Lead design, manufacturing, sales

Years in industry: 6

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? KISS MY MUTT started with a passion for dogs and a love for design. Being able to bring that passion to work every day was important to me when I started this business six years ago. Whether we’re creating a unique pattern or playing around with fun colorful combinations, we put a fresh spin on typical pet products. I wanted to create something that was light, fun and could make people smile.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I love that I am able to bring my passion for dogs and design to work with me every single day. We know how much you love your dogs; we know they’re a part of your family, because of course our dogs are a part of ours. I believe the KISS MY MUTT product line has become of reflection of who our customers are, and their dogs, too.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Following your passion may not always be enough to find success within the pet industry. There is a lot of competition, just like any other industry, and you must always be one step ahead of your competition to stay relevant.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I studied media, design and art at the University of California Santa Barbara. I started a career in media journalism and decided that entrepreneurship was the path I wanted to take, so KISS MY MUTT began just a few months after graduating from college at the age of 22.

ERIC BITTMAN (34)
CEO and President, WARREN LONDON
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey

Company description: A U.S. manufacturer of natural high-quality dog spa and grooming products

Primary job function: Run all aspects of Warren London

Years in industry: 5

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My love for dogs and animals in general has always had me interested in working in the pet industry. When I got my first dog, Maurice, a Boston terrier, he suffered severe skin issues, which was very tough for my wife and I to watch him go through. We tried so many different products and medicine and not much helped. So I set out to create my own high-quality natural line of products that I knew would get the job done to give my dog that high quality of life.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Innovation is something that is very important to me. I am always trying to think of new products, not just to sell and make money, but products that will be a counted on solution to problems that many dogs face. Our Deep Cleaning Paw Fizz Tablets are an example of our innovative idea that with a paw soak with our tablet will fight fungus, bacteria and yeast, which will result in helping to eliminate paw licking. The e-mails we get from so many customers thanking us for solving a decade long problem make us really happy.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I knew how many companies out there are selling dog shampoos.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? Before I started my own company I was an accountant for many A-list celebrities/musicians.

STEVEN BLUSTEIN (28)
CEO, PRIDEBITES PET PRODUCTS
Austin, Texas

Company description: PrideBites allows pet owners to design, customize and buy beautiful pet products through PrideBites.com.

Primary job function: Directs the company strategy, investor relations and overall pet happiness

Years in industry: 4

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My business partners and I were inspired to create better products for our dogs.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? We believe our biggest contribution is providing more choices for high-quality pet products that are not limited to pre-set or stock designs. In the future, when pet parents everywhere take advantage of having everything unique for their pup, we hope they remember a time when they were forced to buy the same product as everyone else and laugh.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I would have never imagined how much of an impact a pet could make on a family.

KATIRNA BOLDRY (37)
Owner and Designer, BOLD LEAD DESIGNS LLC
Aurora, Colorado

Company description: Bold Lead Designs offers premium quality leather dog leashes, collars, harnesses, and service dog equipment, all artisan crafted in Colorado with a lifetime warranty.

Primary job function: Product design, marketing, sales, customer service and daily business operations

Years in industry: 7

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I’m very proud of my service dog equipment designs and work with the disabled community. Customers often contact us to share how much their new custom leash or harness has changed their lives. Perhaps they are finally able to leash up their dog on their own without assistance, or walk on their own with the help of their service dog because they got the right harness that meets all their needs.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I’m a bit of an outsider. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about the pet industry. I think not having a background in your industry can be an advantage, because you approach things from a unique perspective.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? People always are surprised to learn that my company and the products we make even exist. They are surprised that I actually make things by hand, instead of reselling or outsourcing. They’re stunned to know that not only can I make a living doing this, but have created jobs and successful business around something I am so passionate about.

CAITLYN BOLTON DUDAS (32)
Executive Director, PET INDUSTRY SUSTAINABILITY COALITION
Longmont, Colorado

Company description: The Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition is a nonprofit collaborative exclusively within the pet industry with over 125 members including brands, retailers and suppliers. The Coalition is transforming the industry through sustainable business solutions.

Primary job function: Delivering business tolls, education and collaborative opportunities to proactively address the environmental and social impacts of the pet industry

Years in industry: 3

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I was approached by a very passionate environmentalist who had over 20 years of experience in the pet industry. Chris Bentley formerly of Aspen Pet and “I and love and you” had the vision and the audience from which we could launch the concept of a grassroots Coalition that would help companies simplify the process of moving toward sustainability through delivering tools and resources as well as collaborative opportunities for companies to work together to address those environmental issues too large for single companies to address.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? The Coalition creates a platform for the pet industry to proactively address problems that are increasingly at the forefront of consumers’ minds: Where is it made, what is it made of, and is it made responsibly? We help deliver strategies that help companies address these questions and ensure that their company will endure in the face of consumer doubt, limited affordable resources, employees that crave engagement and labor injustices around the world.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? My career started out with a position guiding high school students into the backcountry of our national parks to hand build trails in areas unreachable by heavy machinery.

JONATHAN BOLTON (35)
Chief Operating Officer, METRO PAWS LLC
Los Angeles, California

Company description: Design, manufacture, distribute, market and sell products while being socially responsible and donating money to no-kill shelters across the country

Primary job function: Sales, marketing and overseeing manufacturing

Years in industry: 8

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? The dog owner. My wife and I realized that there were high-end fashion options for people’s kids but not people’s pups. My wife said she could make cuter dog waste bags, and I said we could make better, more fun, chic ones for the same price point.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Clean design and innovation. We work really hard to change the game. Invest in clean, white, fashion forward packaging and offer our customers something that is not offered at every outlet. We make the only compostable poop bag holder made here in the USA. It costs us a lot to make it, change it, tweak it and a risk to put that on the shelf with low price-point options, but our customers get it and so do our stores.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Politics is huge. We sell to all of our stores direct. The politics and copying of product lines and designs is super disappointing by a select few. I worked for corporate America before working in the pet industry, and it shocks me to this day how amazingly similar two items can be on the shelf.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I used to be a hip-hop deejay. I traveled deejaying and managing and setting up sponsorship packages for Wu Tang records in the 1990s.

VICTORIA BOULDIN (36)
Vice President, PRIMETIME PETZ LLC
Rockwall, Texas

Company description: Primetime Petz manufactures beautiful furniture-quality pet gates and crates. Our goal is to provide superior-quality pet furniture through innovative designs that combine elegance and function.

Primary job function: Provides overall directions and guidance to the operational activities of Primetime Petz

Years in industry: 5

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Out of all the industries that are out there, I believe the pet industry is the best industry in the world. The pet industry is fun, and filled with people who ultimately want the best for animals.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? As a consumer goods manufacturing company that is leveraged more toward high-end products, our success validates the claim that high-end pet is a successful category.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I had known how much fun the pet industry is. I would have joined a long time ago.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? Most people would be surprised to learn that I served in the U.S. Army Reserves for 9 years and served overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. I have a deeply rooted love and appreciation for this great country of freedom and opportunity.

JEFF CAMOSCI (39)
Vice President, Marketing and Sales, PARAGON PET PRODUCTS
Travelers Rest, South Carolina

Company description: Paragon Pet Products is among the most advanced, innovative and forward-thinking manufacturers of dog chews in the world. Headquartered in The Netherlands, it’s our mission to make the healthiest, most fun and highest-quality dog chews.

Primary job function: Creating and developing sales and marketing strategies for the United States, Canada and Mexico

Years in industry: 8

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I was working in sales in a different industry and I saw an ad for an outside sales rep for a small dog food company. I had a dog and thought that would be a great industry to work in and a great fit for my personality and interests.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Without a doubt, the biggest contribution I’ve been able to make is providing education to pet parents and pet specialty retail store associates. With new discoveries and advancements, there is always so much to learn – and it is special when you are in a position to be able to share that knowledge to make life better for pets and the people that love them. As we continue to humanize our pets, we must elevate the quality of solutions that retail partners provide to customers and the communication and education that help pet parents make more informed decisions.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? The industry’s competition creates opportunity and helps makes you better.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I am a big college football fan, and I am slowly working toward my goal of watching a live game at every Division 1 stadium in the county. There are 128 stadiums on this list and I have been to 70. There is something special about the pageantry and the traditions that surround college football.

TIP CAMPBELL NICHOLS (36)
Owner, UGLY PUG PRODUCTIONS
Woodbury, Tennessee

Company description: Pet boarding resort and salon, grooming show producer, speaker, educator, author, consultant

Primary job function: Serves as creative director, chief strategist

Years in industry: 11

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? A drunk driver changed my life in 2001. After working in politics, including being a 2000 staff member for VP Gore, my life changed permanently. My mother, a groomer and speaker, offered to teach me a skill that would allow to me work when I was able after my injuries sustained in the wreck. I have always felt obligated to pay it forward.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I hope that kindness/charity to those in need and education to those who seek it are considered my biggest contributions.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Dogs are easy to read. Humans are much more difficult. But if you win over an owner, you will have a client for life. Too many give up on difficult dogs. Those are some of the most rewarding stories.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I have Asperger’s syndrome. And I recently gave up everything – my show, my salon, my house – to take care of my grandparents. I moved back home to my hometown of Woodbury, Tennessee.

CHLOE DIVITA (38)
Chief of Everything, BLOGPAWS
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania

Company description: BlogPaws vision and mission is to empower pet parenting influencers to amplify their voices, expand their reach and help them monetize their influence, while supporting fellow members’ efforts to give back to the pets we love so much.

Primary job function: Operate and manage all aspects of BlogPaws business

Years in industry: 6

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My passion for seeing all pets thrive helped propel me into the pet industry. When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian … until I learned you had to operate on pets. My end goal is to do things that help all pets everywhere live better lives with homes and love.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? BlogPaws works with both influencers and brands, and our bottom line is to create relationships that help information get to pet parents. Our impact is through our community and supporting everything they do to help all pet parents of the world.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I’m a recovering accountant who ran an accounting company for 10 years before getting into the pet industry.

JOSH FEINKIND (38)
Founder and President, REFINEDKIND PET PRODUCTS
Irvington, New York

Company description: Designer of high-end pet furniture that combines functionality and aesthetics, under the brands The Refined Feline, The Refined Canine, and The Refined Fin

Primary job function: Oversees all operations and new product development

Years in industry: 11

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I’ve always been entrepreneurial, from a snow removal business as a young teenager to a goods exchange website in college. When I formed the idea a decade ago for cat furniture to compliment a home’s modern décor, it was unique to the market. There seemed to be a need and a willingness to pay, which make the foundation for any good business idea. Though I saw the potential, I didn’t expect it grow as it has and become my career.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? When I first started the company the only cat furniture options available were beige shag carpeted eyesores. I believe we were among the first companies to see the opportunity to build something both pets and owners would love. Our products and success inspired others to design aesthetically pleasing towers and beds. While that may have resulted in competition, the true winners are consumers with more options and retailers who can up-sell pet owners.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Don’t rely on factories for quality control.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? Though I own a pet furniture company, I don’t have a pet nor grew up with one. My constant traveling lifestyle would make me a poor pet guardian. Of course I have a love for pets, and one day, when I’m settled, I plan on adopting a kitten and a puppy so they can grow up to be best friends.

TRACIE FLORA (33)
Co-founder and Vice President, MONARCH PET PRODUCTS
Denver, Colorado

Company description: Monarch Pet Products is one of the premier wholesale distributors of natural pet foods and supplies serving independent retailers in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah.

Primary job function: Responsible for the oversight of customer support, inside sales and marketing

Years in industry: 9

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I was inspired by my grandpa, a serial entrepreneur, to join the pet industry and contribute to the well-being of pets. I have been provided a platform to live out this dream and work with amazing people on a daily basis.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Monarch Pet strives to offer only the finest pet foods and products to independent retailers in the Rocky Mountain region. Being able to provide value to other independent vendors and retailers has allowed us to continue to develop the industry throughout our distribution territory.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I knew earlier about the entrepreneurial opportunities that have been created in the pet industry. We are surrounded by many brilliant individuals that continue to revolutionize pet foods.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I grew up on a farm and showed sheep and pigs while part of the 4-H program. This taught me at an early age the importance of work ethic and helped to develop my passion for animals.

ABE GEARY (37)
Principal, PETPAINT
Camamrillo, California

Company description: PetPaint makes all things “fun” for pets, from color sprays to doggie hair extensions.

Primary job function: Bring more people to the PetPaint community

Years in industry: 4

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My dogs would not wear bulky costumes so in trying to find an outfit my dog did not know he was wearing PetPaint was developed. People’s overwhelming reactions to the PetPaint is what sparked the thought this could be a business.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? We brought color to the everyday pet parent. If you want to paint your dog up for Halloween, a birthday party or just a day at the park, you can easily and safely do it with PetPaint.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Retail distribution channels and pricing strategy.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I don’t know what people know about me already so that is hard to say. I’ve eaten dog food and it isn’t that nice, so throw them something good every once in a while.

BRIAN GEORGE (37)
Vice President, Sales, PETRAGEOUS DESIGNS
Burlington, Massachusetts

Company description: PetRageous Designs is a whimsical, functional, outrageous pet product manufacturing company.

Primary job function: Sales and marketing

Years in industry: 9

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? What inspired me to get into the pet industry was the love of animals and the growth of the industry.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My biggest contribution to the pet business is making sure that all products that we sell and develop are 100 percent safe for all animals.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? What I wish I had known earlier is how wonderful all the people are in the industry. And, being a pet lover, how passionate people are.

ANTHONY GIUDICE (39)
Vice President, WERUVA, INC.
Natick, Massachusetts

Company description: Great products for pets, great people that partner at retail with caring, kindness and diligence paid to both pets and their pets

Primary job function: Head of all operations

Years in industry: 26

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Being an aquarium nerd as a child and young adult led me to get my first job as soon as it was legal at the local pet store. I soon learned that there was no other industry I’d rather be in … 26 years later, I still feel the same way, nerdiness and all.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My passion for education runs through our organization. With that said, Weruva conducts hundreds of seminars yearly at retail pet shops (and if you sit next to me on an airplane). When applied, they can lead to healthier animals and cash registers.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? The only position that I would leave this industry for is the starting goalie of the New York Islanders. Since that roster spot is full, I think I’ll be a lifer.

PHIL GOSS (37)
President, UNITED STATES ASSOCIATION OF REPTILE KEEPERS
Lebanon, Indiana

Company description: USARK is a national non-profit advocacy group protecting the freedom of responsible owners to keep reptiles and amphibians at the local, state and federal levels.

Primary job function: Head of all legislative affairs

Years in industry: 18

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Biology and nature, especially animals, were always a driving force for me to become better educated. Without personal interactions with animals at educational outreach programs, pet shops, zoos and private keepers’ homes, my desire to learn would have halted.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? USARK has allowed me the opportunity to provide a voice for responsible owners and keepers of reptile and amphibians, known collectively as herps. Herpetoculture, the keeping of reptiles and amphibians in captivity, is a continuously growing segment of the pet industry. Unfortunately, these animals are severely misunderstood, and even feared, by a large portion of people. USARK is educating legislators and the general public about these amazing animals, while fighting the false propaganda, misinformation, false statistics and bad science provided by anti-pet and animal rights groups. For those unaware, animal rights is a radical movement to end all pets and animal agriculture.

KRISTIE HAMILTON (33)
Director of Sales, IMPERIAL CAT
Morrilton, Arkansas

Company description: From scratching and playing to snacking and grooming, nobody offers more ways to promote the happy, active lifestyle of a feline than Imperial Cat.

Primary job function: Sales and marketing

Years in industry: 7

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Our company was founded by my aunt and uncle in the mid-80’s and continues to be family owned and operated. So, in some ways, you could say that I was born to work in the pet industry. I started working for the company in high school, labeling thousands of catnip bags by hand.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Helping to launch the Imperial Cat brand, and bring high quality, eco-friendly and U.S. made cat products to retailers worldwide. I’ve also helped expand our outreach program for animal shelters/rescues to include our Scratch ‘n Bits, which are pieces of scrap produced during our manufacturing process that have been re-purposed into affordable, cage-sized scratching pads.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I have limited vision in my right eye as a result of cat scratch fever. It’s a relatively common disease carried by cats, and most people infected never even notice. The odds of having a severe case like mine were one in a million.

DANIEL HEREFORD (39)
President, PETS GLOBAL, INC.
Santa Clarita, California

Company description: Pets Global is a premium pet food company committed to healthy dogs and cats with its foods, Zignature and Fussie Cat based in nutritional science.

Primary job function: Oversees all aspects of company

Years in industry: 18

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I fell into the industry through a temporary position and realized quickly that this was the business I wanted to be in. It has a small industry feel, even though it’s a $50 billion industry. The pet industry brings me so much satisfaction because our work is about feeding and supporting pets that bring people nothing but joy.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Providing quality pet food nutrition. Zignature and Fussie Cat focus on a dog’s or cat’s physiology and are finely tuned to meet individual nutritional needs. We understand the emotional attachment pets have to their human companions and we want to extend the time pets and people have together through proper nutrition.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? That it’s such a welcoming business community with great people on all fronts. It’s very satisfying to make a difference with the work we do for dogs and cats.

RYAN HOLDEN SINGER (38)
Founder and CEO, K10 HOLDINGS LLC
New York City, New York

Company description: K-10 is a unique new line of super premium vet-recommended supplements dedicated to the ultimate health and wellness of your pets.

Primary job function: Manage daily operations and oversee product development

Years in industry: 2

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Needless to say I’ve always had a huge love for dogs. I had recognized an overall lack of choice and excitement in the supplement category. It was also evident to me that the category has huge growth potential as more and more owners become educated to the benefits of supplements and a healthy diet.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Providing owners with a line of honest quality products they can trust that directly impacts the overall health and well being of their beloved pet.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? How to weed out bad manufacturers and people who waste your time and money.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? That I used to be a photographer. When I was 22, I lived with the bushmen in Namibia. Fifty-two of my photographs were permanently put in the archives of The Smithsonian Institutes National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

TREVOR JENSEN (35)
Founding Partner, PET INDUSTRY EXPERTS
San Diego, California

Company description: PIE is a company dedicated to helping the pet industry evolve by helping the next generation of pet entrepreneurs.

Primary job function: Help entrepreneurs

Years in industry: 4

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I was hit by a car while walking my dog. The driver left the scene and I sustained pretty severe injuries. I did save my dog though. This led to my first line of pet products, LED dog collars and leashes. I have been involved with many early stage pet companies since that time.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Helping to create Pet Industry Experts with Jim Dougherty and Phil Cooper. We are now able to help pet companies succeed with tools that would not ordinarily be available to them.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I had known how the industry works as a whole. There are many nuances to the pet industry that can be hard to understand. Luckily, treating people well and making genuine friendships goes a long way in the pet industry, so I survived the early learning process.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I never took any formal dog training classes or courses. I just read a few books and was able to teach my dog over 100 commands. She closes doors, turns off the lights, puts things in the trash, cleans up her toys and does all the basic commands as well. It’s really not hard if you understand a dog’s motivation and use positive reinforcement.

JOHN LANCE (33)
Owner, A&E CAGE COMPANY
Burlington, New Jersey

Company description: Leading wholesale distributor for bird cages, toys, java wood and small animal products

Years in industry: 11

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Growing up, I watched my family turn their passions for birds into a profitable business. I took that passion and placed it where I thought the industry was lacking.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? At A&E Cage Company, we offer products that are not only high in quality but have safety features that benefit the overall health of birds. Our goal is to design and sell products that are made of materials that are safe and that enhance the life of birds.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I always have a light on in my house because I am afraid of the dark.

AARON MERRELL (35)
CEO, PLATO PET TREATS
Fresno, California

Company description: High-quality, all-natural pet treat company based in the San Joaquin Valley. Plato prides itself on sourcing local ingredients to create these treats in our own quality-controlled facility.

Primary job function: Oversees all aspects of business

Years in industry: 10

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I grew up in the pet industry; I started working on the production floor of an industry supplier since high school. After college, I saw a huge opportunity and loved the industry, so it was a perfect fit.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I can easily say that my biggest contribution to pet business and to pet owners is the integrity and quality of the products that we have made and continue to make.

What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? What I enjoy most is that it’s centered on love and fun. We bring pets into our homes and make them a part of our family because we cherish the deep connections.

MEG MEYER (36)
Co-founder, THE BEAR & THE RAT
Denver, Colorado

Company description: The Bear & The Rat produces healthful frozen and freeze-dried yogurt treats for dogs.

Primary job function: Manages the growth of the company while planning for the future

Years in industry: 5

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My husband Matt had the idea when he was eight years old; he couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a healthy ice cream for dogs. And 28 years later, we decided to go for it.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? It’s our responsibility to produce high-quality treats that distributors, retailers and pet owners trust. And while we’re at it, we like to have a little bit of fun. We produce frozen and freeze-dried yogurt for dogs. Best not to take ourselves or our brand too seriously.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I love to dance. My first dream was to be a performer in musicals on Broadway. I went to a performing arts high school (like Fame) and studied drama.

MICHELLE O’HOLLAREN (36)
Owner and Designer, SOPHISTICATED PUP
Chicago, Illinois

Company description: Sophisticated Pup is a designer of premium pet products and pet-themed home decor items.

Primary job function: Designer of all pet products

Years in industry: 9

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Sophisticated Pup was born out of the love for my little pug, Penny. She came into my life August 3, 2005, and life hasn’t been the same since. I used to design my own clothes growing up, so designing for her seemed an obvious next step. Creating things and watching my ideas come to life is an important part of my personality.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? What I have always offered is high-quality, handmade items for pets. We offer unique, fashionable designs that are all made in the USA. We offer the boutiques we work exceptional customer service, personal attention, and the ability to provide their customers a unique product they know was designed and manufactured locally

What would people be surprised to learn about you? Some fun facts are that Penny and I appeared with the “Real Housewife of New Jersey” Teresa Guidice in an interview on the Jonathan Brandmeier Show in 2012. We also had our products in the celebrity swag bags at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards. Sophisticated Pup was a top-ten finalist in the 2012 “Martha Stewart American Made Awards” out of over 2,000 nominees, and we were featured in the December 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

ELAN OVADIA (31)
Vice President, Sales, ALL STAR DOGS
Marlboro, New Jersey

Company description: All Star Dogs, a proud U.S. manufacturer, holds the license for over 300 collegiate and professional sports teams. Our extensive catalog includes nearly two dozen styles of pet apparel and accessories for every team.

Primary job function: Heads sales in United States and Canada

Years in industry: 9

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My father. He started the company with my uncle 15 years ago in three storage units and has built it into a healthy growing business. His work ethic and dedication is admirable. He sets a strong example for all our employees – most of all, me. Working with your dad every day is not always a walk in the park, but we challenge each other and make each other better. We strive to improve our business operations a little bit every single day.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I love educating new store owners, giving them the advice they need to be successful. Some have strong retail background, others have virtually none. Their success is dependent on each and every one of us and it feels great to help them. I always invite new retailers to contact me directly if they ever need a vendor recommendation, merchandising advice, or just have a general question that a seasoned industry vet has the answer to. I’ve also paired up many new store owners with existing in-state retailers to be a point of contact and line of communication.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I lived in an apartment building in Manhattan for the last 10 years that didn’t allow pets. I recently relocated back to New Jersey and a dog-friendly building.

JEREMY PETERSEN (27)
Executive Vice President, WILD CALLING PET FOODS/ZOIC PET FOODS
Greeley, Colorado

Company description: Wild Calling Pet Foods is the marketer of a portfolio of luxury dog and cat foods under the brands Wild Calling and Zoic.

Primary job function: Responsible for all aspects of brand development, including execution and strategy, profit and loss management, creative direction, package design, advertising and distribution

Years in industry: 4

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My path toward the pet food industry has largely been a life-long journey. When I was a kid, my dad owned a large pet distribution business in Denver, Colorado.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I feel we are really one of the first pet food brands to market itself as an aspirational brand and to directly and explicitly target millennial consumers at an affordable price-point relative to the target audience.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? The emerging importance of price in the marketing equation. Since our economy hasn’t seen much inflation in the past eight or nine years, there is a unique dynamic occurring where the price of pet food continues to rise at retail, but pet owners do not necessarily have the appetite or disposable income allowance to pay more for pet food.

KATIE PUSATERI (27)
Director of Marketing, COASTAL PET PRODUCTS
Alliance, Ohio

Company description: Coastal Pet Products is committed to enriching the interactions between pets and people by providing high-quality, lifestyle products that support the care and safety of dogs and cats.

Primary job function: All aspects of marketing

Years in industry: 4

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Two of my greatest passions are marketing and pets. The fact that I’m able to combine the two is very rewarding.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I’ve had the opportunity to be part of a team that launched multiple social media platforms and a new website that aim to provide information on how to use our products and tips on responsible pet ownership.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I was a majorette in college and can twirl three batons (at least I used to be able to).

DOUG RATNER (28)
CEO and Founder, I’D RATHER BE WITH MY DOG
Atlanta, Georgia

Company description: A lifestyle brand for people who would rather be with their dog (or cat).

Primary job function: Promoting the brand

Years in industry: 2

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I’ve always been an enormous animal lover, and after I started the clothing side of the business, I knew I had to get into the pet industry somehow and this was an easy step in. Very organic and natural.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? The biggest would be the amount of animals we’ve saved through all the donations we’ve made to various animal rescues and shelters. Also providing the industry with an extremely healthy and affordable dog treat.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I was a professional musician before getting into the pet business.

TARA ROBERTSON (34)
National Director of Sales, CURRENT USA & ECOXOTIC
Vista, California

Company description: Current USA & Ecoxotic provide innovative lighting products in the aquarium and related industries.

Primary job function: Manage customer communication while developing and implement strategies for building the brand; collaborating with product development to produce leading-edge products

Years in industry: 13

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I love to study behavior, both human and animal. I try to understand apprehensions, likings, inherent nature and the ways we react to each other in all settings. What inspires me is in my role as a sales manager trying to understand the psyche of a customer and influence them in a way where they feel like they are making the best decision for both themselves and their business.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Collaborating with product development to develop truly unique and innovative products for the aquarium hobbyist while establishing strong consumer brands and setting an example for the social and environmental responsibilities we have as pet industry manufacturers.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I think most people would be surprised to know that when I do get some time to myself my favorite thing to do is go camping with my dog and not say a word.

BRETT AND CHELSEA SHER (TWINS) (28)
Co-founders and Co-owners, AGAINST THE GRAIN PET FOOD
Wheeling, Illinois

Company description: Evolutionary, revolutionary, next generation superfoods for the eco-conscious pet parent.

Primary job function: Running the company, building the brand

Years in industry: 8

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Our parents worked in family businesses for 20-plus years before they took ownership of Evangers together. They grew Evanger’s from a small regional business to a worldwide brand. Their dedication and hard work to achieve their own success was an inspiration to us, and a big reason why we wanted to run and devote ourselves to our own company.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? We have been able to deliver unique foods that are unparalleled in the industry to fussy dogs and cats.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? You have to sell a lot of pet food to pay your generous parents back for the loan that got you started.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? Our parents were gymnasts and all five of their kids were competitive state gymnasts. Now, Chelsea takes a picture in front of an iconic landmark doing a cartwheel everywhere she travels, and you can follow her at @cartwheelextreme on Instagram.

JARED SHLAGER (24)
CEO, BOSTON TREAT HOUSE
Boynton Beach, Florida

Company description: Boston Treat House is an empire that creates some of the healthiest and most innovative dog treat brands on the market.

Primary job function: To start, build and grow innovative brands of healthy dog treats

Years in industry: 18

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Getting involved with the manufacturing of dog treats has inspired me to provide the industry with the some of the healthiest ingredients in existence. Not only do I hope that my innovation makes animals healthier, but I hope that someday my innovation changes the world.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I created the first and only pomegranate dog treat brand on the market, where every unique flavor contains real pomegranates. Studies have shown that pomegranates are very nutritious and beneficial to good health in many ways.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I knew how long it took to build a brand of dog treats. Time is money, but more importantly, innovation will not wait for anyone.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I believe that most people would be surprised to learn that I entered this industry when I was 6 years old. Growing up, I was mentored by a lot of well-respected businessmen and women. It surprises most people that I have almost two decades worth of experience, yet I am only 24 years old. I was also honored with the first Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award this year. I was invited to the cabinet and was given the award by Governor Rick Scott.

JENNIFER SKELLEY (34)
Associate Director of Communications and Public Relations, AMERICAN PET PRODUCTS ASSOCIATION
Greenwich, Connecticut

Company description: APPA is a trade association for pet product manufacturers. Its mission is to promote, develop and advance pet ownership and the pet products industry.

Primary job function: Overseeing all communications and public relations programs for the company

Years in industry: 12

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Even though I had been a pet owner my whole life, I had no idea that this was a multibillion dollar industry. I was intrigued and wanted to be part of something I experienced personally, but could also learn so much from on a professional level.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? The work I’ve done with APPA has led to the creation of our company’s public awareness campaign, Pets Add Life, which promotes the joys and benefits of responsible pet ownership to the public.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Everyone I encounter in this industry seems to be driven by a genuine love of pets. You don’t find that kind of inspiration in any other industry.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I had planned to become a psychologist but instead found myself drawn to the communications and marketing fields once I was in college.

LEA SMITH (28)
Marketing Manager, QT DOG, LLC
Dallas, Texas

Company description: QT Dog, LLC is a pet manufacturer located in Dallas, Texas, operating since 1997. Manufacturing and selling all natural chews and treats, raised feeders and stainless steel bowls and buckets.

Primary job function: Both marketing and day-to-day functions

Years in industry: 1

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My family has been a part of the pet industry since I was 10 and I have grown up with it always around me.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I think having the opportunity to grow up in this industry and then step out of it has been my biggest help. I have had the ability to really look at things from the pet owner’s perspective.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I grew up taking ballet and danced for 14 years, even in the “Nutcracker” with the Russian Ballet.

NEIL SMITH (29)
Key Accounts Manager, MIDWEST HOMES FOR PETS
Muncie, Indiana

Company description: MidWest Homes for Pets designs and manufactures a variety of containment products and accessories for dogs, cats, birds and small animals.

Primary job function: Work with key account customers in the pet industry

Years in industry: 5

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I grew up with multiple pets and thought it would be a rewarding experience to make a career in an industry that I am passionate about.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Educating and working with customers about responsible pet ownership and practices.

J. NICOLE SMITH (33)
Owner and Director, DANE + DANE STUDIOS
Twickenham, United Kingdom

Company description: dane + dane is a boutique creative studio with a decade of experience growing pet brands through focused marketing strategies, emotive pet photography and clean, elegant design.

Primary job function: Director of studio

Years in industry: 10

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Like many petpreneurs, I was inspired by my dog. I was 22, she was a Great Dane puppy, and from the instant I met her, I knew my life, career and sleeping arrangements would never be the same.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I think my great gift is the ability to quickly understand, interpret and make tangible that which my clients can’t quite verbalize. My experience in so many aspects of pet business: as a dog owner, dogpreneur, visual artist, author, journalist, salesperson, retail shop owner, consultant and dog marketing expert allows me to always have the big picture in mind.

What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I had known how easy it is to reach out to fellow business owners – how similar all of our needs, concerns and victories are and how open most people are to connecting.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? My first animal passion was horses. As a child I would get the Sunday paper, circle the classified ads of all the horses I wanted, then set about drawing them fancy expansive stables and barns.

TRAVIS SMITH (32)
Warehouse and Sales Manager, BRAKE-FAST
Dallas, Texas

Company description: Manufacturer of premium dog chews and treats, and stainless steel bowls and buckets.

Primary job function: Sales and marketing manager

Years in industry: 3

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? There was a job opening so I guess I lucked into it.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My good looks and southern accent.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I was a college tennis player at the University of Hawaii.

MARIE SVET (35)
Principal, ORGANIC OSCAR
San Diego, California

Company description: Pet grooming products manufacturing and distribution; now, pet treats and food distribution

Primary job function: Entrepreneur

Years in industry: 5

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? The desire and passion to make a difference for people and their pets. I have two loving dogs who taught me so much by loving me so unconditionally.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? The biggest contribution would be to be provide holistic alternatives to regular products and be the proof that you can live a healthy and holistic lifestyle at an affordable price.

COURTNEY TAYLOR (29)
Director of Customer Care and Marketing, IN CLOVER
Boulder, Colorado

Company description: In Clover creates innovative pet supplements through hands-on, research-based formulation for fast, noticeable results, allowing pets to live healthier, more vibrant lives.

Primary job function: Providing strategic coaching, training and sales support for existing and new customers

Years in industry: 3

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? As a child, I had several pets, including guinea pigs, ferrets, a gecko, cats and a dog, and I adored riding horses. This early love of animals evolved into a rich curiosity and a passion for animal welfare. I studied animal science and business at Colorado State University before launching my career path into the animal industry.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Every day, I guide pet retailers through ever-changing landscape of pet supplementation. I serve as a trusted advisor to retail owners and employees, helping them get beyond puffery to understand the science behind ingredients and formulation.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? Some people may be surprised to learn that I was a cowgirl in the truest sense of the word. I started young horses, competed in the rodeo circuit and chased maverick cattle across the prairie to return them to the herd. It was hard work that built character and somehow proved to be both thankless and rewarding at the same time.

REBECCA TOMALA (39)
Vice President, Client Services, MATRIX PARTNERS
Chicago, Illinois

Company description: Matrix Partners is an award-winning brand strategy and communications firm specializing in pet product advertising, public relations, design and strategy.

Primary job function: Design efficacious marketing campaigns that successfully create and launch new pet brands and grow established ones.

Years in industry: 11

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My tenacious love of animals. Marc Anthony once said, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” And I genuinely love what I do. I love my clients, I love being the channel to help get pet brands from the manufacturer, to the distributor, to store shelves, into the hands of loving pet parents.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Helping the little guys prevail. Working at a mid-size, family-owned company, we tend to attract small to mid-sized pet companies. Many of these firms are also family-owned or independently held businesses. The companies we represent share the same philosophies as we do, they are very dedicated to our industry and looking to provide solutions to keep pets healthy. With the recent changes in our industry, it can be a challenge to break through the clutter. My role as a marketer is to define a unique selling point and relay that point to potential customers in an engaging and meaningful way.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? I am a proud vegetarian whose first client at a national advertising agency was a meat manufacturer for human consumption.

IAN WEISS (39)
Vice President, Sales, ARLEE PET PRODUCTS
New York City, New York

Company description: Arlee Pet Products is the pet supply division of Arlee Home Fashions, a 40-year-old, family owned and operated home decor company

Primary job function: Oversee product development and sales

Years in industry: 21

What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I have always had a love for animals. I grew up collecting every type of pet that could fit in my New York City apartment and spent much of my high school and college life working in retail pet stores. I had so much fun working in that field that it seemed to make sense that I should go to vet school but soon found that the pet supply industry offered far more opportunity for me

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Throughout my career, I have been extremely fortunate to have some very smart people advising me. These mentors have each taught me valuable lessons in specific areas of the industry as well as how to be a better person to do business with overall. My biggest contribution is to pass these learnings on to both my customers and co-workers.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? My background is quite diverse when it comes to animal husbandry. I’m not just well versed on the needs of companion animals. I also hold certifications in farm and laboratory animal care.

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