Winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges including: Callie Hartzel, national e-commerce sales and marketing manager at Natural Balance Pet Foods, Marci Hickey, vice president of operations at King Management Group, Inc. and Marian Theilson, sales and marketing APPA.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Owner and Artist | Pipsqueak Productions
Achievements: Founding Pipsqueak Productions and building the business into a vibrant provider of pet-themed greeting cards and gifts for pet lovers around the world; licensing her designs to larger companies; lending her artistic talent to raise awareness and funds for humane societies; offering seminars to students at the Fashion Institute of Technology on how to start art-related businesses.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My love for animals, their innocence and their unconditional love.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “To create a website that included every piece of artwork in every product that Pipsqueak offers. This way, pet retailers and pet lovers can see dog breeds, cats, birds, fish and farm animals in a variety of products all in one place.”
What’s your favorite animal? “I really love all animals but I was just watching a documentary on silverback gorillas and all the threatened species. This summer, I am going to incorporate wildlife into the Pipsqueak line. Maybe I can help the foundations by creating a line of art and products to raise funds.”
Dr. Chris Bessent, DVM
CEO | Herbsmith, Inc.
Achievements: Founding Herbsmith to bring healthy supplements to animals, building on the holistic veterinary practice she started in 1988; educating retailers so they have a better understanding of the products they are selling; offering internships for veterinarians interested in holistic medicine; supporting local animal organizations.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “The need and ability of pet parents to be proactive in the care of their pets. We are fortunate to live in a society that values most living beings and has the ability to provide good, wholesome food and supplements to our pets. By being proactive in their care, we can extend the duration and quality of their lives.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “To expand our manufacturing capabilities in meat processing, freeze drying and dry roasting, and in soft-chew extrusion. Making our products in our plant gives me peace of mind that what I promise is true and within my control.”
What was your first paying job? “I worked in a bath boutique selling toilet seats and shower curtains. I learned that people will even return a used toilet seat. Ick!”
Founder and CEO | Wondercide Natural Products
Achievements: Developing safer technology for natural flea and tick control, as well as other natural products for pets and their families; founding Wondercide Natural Products and leading it to consistently high levels of growth; serving on the Austin leadership committee of the Human Rights Campaign and with other organizations; donating time, products and money to dog and cat adoption events.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “Eliminating unnecessary chemical and pesticide exposure for pets and families. There are so many amazing, natural products that average consumers don’t know exist and the big brands, in all categories, spend millions to keep it that way. I want to educate and help people make informed decisions about the safest and most effective options when choosing pet-care products.”
What was your first paying job? “Filing paperwork at a CPA office when I was 12. I learned that it takes longer to make money than it does to spend it. Looking back as an entrepreneur, I’m grateful to have had that experience early on, even if I didn’t appreciate the value of it then.”
Co-Owner | GoToRovers.com
Achievements: Co-founding GoToRovers.com in 2005 to give pet retailers a way to place orders online, any time of day or night; directing a portion of company sales to support K9s For Warriors; supporting a variety of animal organizations, including Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue and Fences for Fido.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “I was living in New York City, working in corporate America and not having fun. I’d just adopted my first greyhound when a new neighborhood pet store opened. I became friendly with the owners and found out they wanted to sell their store. I had a little retail experience from working in family business, and thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it better.’”
What issues need more attention from the pet industry? “It is important for everyone, from industry trade organizations, to sales people, to the actual manufacturers, to give of themselves to help our industry grow and expand. Companies have been blatantly knocking each other off, but I haven’t seen many entrepreneurs come up with brand-new ideas, or take an old idea and ‘build a better mousetrap.’ We need those ideas and brave people to keep the industry fresh.”
Vice President of Marketing | Cardinal Labs aka Cardinal Pet Care
Achievements: Developing the marketing plan for Cardinal brands such as Pet Botanics, Crazy Dog and Viva La Dog Spa; creating website and social media content for Cardinal, as well as managing graphic designers, publicity and advertising companies; promoting Cardinal’s sustainability initiatives, including the installation of solar panels at its California campus.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “Connecting kids and pets. There are so many benefits to kids having pets, if their parents understand being role models and teaching them to love animals. … I’ve seen the difference that pets have made in the lives of children who are lonely, handicapped, sick or fearful. I’ve had a lot of experiences with kids and pets, and they resulted in my writing three children’s books connecting kids and pets and a website that includes ‘232 Reasons Kids Need Pets.’”
What’s your favorite animal? “That’s like asking a mother which child she loves best! Our family has four dogs, two cats, a bunny and three horses. All are adopted, except the horses. They’re all a part of our family, a big part.”
Founder and CEO | Pawtopia, LLC
San Diego, Calif.
Achievements: Founding Pawtopia and guiding the company to become one of San Diego’s largest and most respected dog-training companies; partnering with dog rescues in San Diego to provide free or deeply discounted training to foster dogs; volunteering with the Armed Services YMCA to develop a temperament test for therapy dogs.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “Advocating for the development and implementation of a required and independent certification process for professional dog trainers.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “A major organizational goal of the last year was to focus on the development and job satisfaction of all those involved in the company. By concentrating on the needs of my team members and fine-tuning their skills, Pawtopia has grown stronger.”
What was your first paying job? “At a local sandwich shop. Nothing teaches you to multitask like a lunchtime rush. I also learned the importance of customer service. My boss told me something that I still remember: ‘A customer that is treated like royalty will always come back, even if we make a mistake.’”
Managing Director | MHT Midspan
Achievements: Developing three multimillion-dollar pet companies; tapping her expertise to serve as a consultant to the pet industry, most recently at MHT Midspan, an investment banking firm with a focus on the pet industry; founding a networking group for businesswomen in Denver and Boulder.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “Back in the late 1980s, I had a champion Welsh corgi and would frequent pet stores on a regular basis. This was before Petco and PetSmart and I was underwhelmed by the selection and lack of professionalism of retailers in my area. So when I had to write a business plan for my MBA at Southern Methodist University, I wrote it on a pet store. I ended up raising the requisite funds and opening the store two months before I graduated.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Parrots. They have been scientifically proven to have the intelligence of a three- to five-year-old child, they are very affectionate, they can talk to me, they are beautiful and they live a long time. I have two that I love with all my heart: Murphy, a 21-year-old eclectus, and Lola, a six-year-old Timneh African grey.”
Founder and CEO | Save A Rescue, Inc.
Westlake Village, Calif.
Achievements: Launching Save A Rescue to work with local rescues around the country to boost awareness and increase adoption rates; founding and operating other pet businesses, including a dog-grooming salon and a pet talent agency; inventing and marketing new products, such as a mesh that keeps flies off horses; mentoring women and inner-city high school students on entrepreneurship.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “Being part of the solution to diminish and eliminate the unnecessary euthanasia of more than 10,000 dogs and cats every day in our shelters nationwide.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “Developing my website, www.SaveARescue.org, to help all dog and cat rescues and shelters be more successful.”
Who is your most influential role model? “Sam Simon, for his passion, commitment and ability to help animals in need globally.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Dogs. They live in the present, have amazing abilities that are beyond human capabilities and, given the chance, are totally committed to demonstrating, sharing and improving our lives—if we only listen, see and learn to understand them better.”
Owner and Lead Publicist | Whitegate PR Inc.
Achievements: Founding Whitegate PR in 2007 and ultimately focusing on service to the pet industry; serving as a professor and program facilitator in the pet product marketing department at the Fashion Institute of Technology; developing The Pet Lady” brand and traveling the country to discuss pet trends, tips and events, and to promote pet adoption; volunteering for numerous nonprofits, including a soup kitchen in Manhattan.
What issues need more attention from the pet industry? “Health and wellness. Exercise, eat right and go to the vet!”
Who is your most influential role model? “Janet McCulley, founder and chief marketing officer at Muttropolis, taught me so much about PR and marketing in the pet industry. Her wisdom and guidance have helped me every step of my career. She took a chance on hiring me and gave me so many amazing opportunities to network and excel in the pet industry.”
What was your first paying job? “My first real job was doing PR for a wine startup called Great White Wines, which helped save great white sharks from endangerment.”
What’s your favorite animal? “I love penguins. They sing, they stick together, they swim and they are simply magnificent.”
Achievements: Founding and developing Sidewalk Dog Media, a digital media company that brings together dog owners and pet-friendly businesses in Minnesota; raising money for rescues and shelters and promoting their events and initiatives; supporting other women business owners in her community.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “Finding homes for special needs dogs, so last year, we created an ongoing series called Special Dog Seeks Special Home, appearing on Thursdays on SidewalkDog.com/Blog. It’s one of the most popular things we do, and we’ve helped find homes for many of the dogs we’ve featured.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “To listen to our audience and shift more focus to producing dog-friendly events. Events used to be a marketing expense but given our growth over the past few years, events are now a revenue stream—and they’re so much fun! Next up: building our online store.”
What issues need more attention from the pet industry? “The industry needs to work harder to eradicate puppy and kitten mills.”
What’s your favorite animal? “This feels like a trap. Dogs, of course! They’re adorable, cuddly and the best companion animal anyone could ask for.”
Patricia E. Jones
Founder and President | Paws PR
Achievements: Founding Paws PR, which provides business consulting and communications services to pet-industry and animal-protection nonprofits; securing coverage of animal rescue efforts in the wake of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese tsunami; working previously as a producer for NBC News and as a top executive for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “I am a founding board member of Photographers for Animals, a nonprofit using film and photography to change the world for animals. Visuals are essential to telling a story and my work with this nonprofit enables me to use all my skills to bring awareness to issues in the animal protection world and effect real change.”
What was your first paying job? “I worked in my father’s TV repair store after school as a child, helping with odd jobs around the shop. I learned firsthand the long hours and dedication required to make a small business grow and succeed. Having integrity in business was instilled in me at a very young age and it’s a lesson I am most grateful to have learned early on.”
Founder and CEO
Knots of Fun-Makers of Happy Hands Happy Dog Toys
Achievements: Conceiving a new, domestically manufactured retail product line for dogs and bringing it to stores around the country; working with nonprofits serving people with disabilities to make their own dog toys, enabling the nonprofits to teach skills and raise money.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My pet corgi, Leo. We brought him home when he was 12 weeks old. Pretty soon, he began chewing everything in sight. To save my blankets, sofa and rugs, I began to think of ways to entertain my bundle of energy. Since Leo loved fabric, I knotted some scraps together for a chew toy. Suddenly, my wild and crazy puppy was happily—and quietly—teething. That got me thinking: Maybe other dogs would love the knotted chew toy the way Leo did.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “Instead of working at home, I started working at a small office nearby. Having a dedicated space for my business helps me focus 100 percent of my time on making my dog toys and marketing my products. It’s important to have a space that is inspirational and I have that now.
Founder | Huxley & Kent
Achievements: Serving as a pioneer in the wholesale market for upscale pet products; starting a company, Fox & Hounds Ltd., to supply boutiques with the right mix of products and supplies; co-founding Pet Palette to distribute high-end pet products; launching Huxley & Kent in 2013 as a new line of pet items for the high-end market; developing a program to direct contributions to rescue groups and foster/adoption programs selected by pet retailers.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My beautiful Dalmatian, Zach. In 1996, Zach was just a puppy and I wanted the very best collar that I could find. After much searching, I had a pretty good idea that upscale dog collars really didn’t exist, so it was easy for me to see that this could be something I could do.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “I have decided to take Huxley & Kent in a new direction, with an expansion of products into jackets, sweaters and more toys, and we will make Toy Palette our exclusive distributor.”
Founder, Co-Owner and Vice President of Sales
Dog is Good, LLC
Los Alamitos, Calif.
Achievements: Co-founding Dog is Good, which develops pet-themed products and gifts; implementing systems and processes that have helped the business grow; supporting a range of charities, including many that serve military veterans
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “It was at a continuing education conference for dog trainers that the concept for Dog is Good began to evolve. During one of the breaks, I searched the exhibitor hall for a personal gift item that captured my sincere love of dogs. While I truly did love my Dalmatian, I could not bring myself to purchase the only gift item I could find: a standard T-shirt with a photo of a Dalmatian and the statement, ‘I love my Dalmatian.’ Realizing there was no brand producing stylish apparel and gift items with messages that resonated with serious dog lovers, I decided to take advantage of this really big niche and co-founded Dog is Good with my husband, Jon Kurtz.”
What is something you are totally passionate about? “Both our corporate giving program and my focus on continuing education to support professional growth and personal well-being.”
Chief Marketing Officer | Phillips Pet Food & Supplies
Achievements: Building up and managing one of the pet industry’s largest sales and marketing teams; becoming a sought-after expert on marketing in the pet industry; developing innovative ways to help independent retailers compete and thrive; serving on the board of Easton’s State Theater.
Who is your most influential role model? “I was very fortunate to have a very driven businesswoman as a role model and branch manager when I was in my second year at Xerox Corp. Those were the days when it really was a man’s world. My attention was drawn to her personality, presentations, passion, focus, commitment and results. With those, male or female, you will rise. In 2001, Anne Mulcahy became the CEO of Xerox.”
What was your first paying job? “In high school and college, I was a waitress. It taught me to anticipate customer needs. In those days, it was simply making sure steak sauce or ketchup arrived before the meal was delivered and got cold. Today, it is much more complicated but the idea of really engaging and considering customers’ needs when choosing new products, programs and communications and more is key.”
Vice President of Marketing | PetMatrix
Saddle Brook, N.J.
Achievements: Developing and working on a series of pet products at 8 In 1 Pet Products and then at United Pet Group; leading marketing efforts for PetMatrix, which since 2011 has been selling SmartBones, a patented rawhide dog chew; volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters and directing corporate philanthropic efforts to animal shelters.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “The need for innovative products that address key pet parent and pet needs.”
What issues need more attention from the pet industry? “Today’s concern about foreign-made products. A lot of companies use non-U.S.-based manufacturing facilities that follow very strict U.S. quality control protocols and standards. These facilities are being penalized for the carelessness of the less-regulated foreign manufacturing facilities.”
What was your first paying job? “I started out in the toy industry with Hasbro and Mattel. It encouraged me to think outside the box and be creative, since we needed to think like a kid.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Dogs. They love people back, unconditionally.”
General Manager | Scarlett
Achievements: Helping boost sales for Scarlett by expanding and managing the pet food company’s distribution network and creating new packaging designs for the grocery channel; as an executive at the pet retailer Cutter’s Mill, establishing a partnership with the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to enable customer donations to the nonprofit.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “I have always strived to mentor others, particularly women, with whom I have worked in the past 25 years. People are any company’s key asset. The more successful employees are able to be, the more successful the company will be.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “To join Scarlett Premium Pet Foods. It was a leap moving from the retail side of the business to the manufacturing side. The first thing I learned is that you are not as popular! My retail background has proven to be an asset on this side of the business, as I understand the needs of the retailer, which has been helpful in packaging design, R&D, marketing and sales training.”
Teri Payne Jones
Founder | Espree Pet Products
Achievements: Founding Espree in 1989 to bring natural pet products to the professional grooming market; continuing to develop innovative products over the years and working to ensure they are widely available at the retail level; devoting personal time every week to mentoring women in her community.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My grandparents bred and showed horses in southern Illinois, and I spent many summers there helping with the animals. My parents were in the cosmetics business from 1976 to 1985, and during that time, I helped with all aspects of the business. A combination of the two was pet grooming products. I could combine my passion for animals with the business knowledge I had picked up.”
Who is your most influential role model? “My grandmother. She was an entrepreneur and an animal lover. I was her shadow during my childhood summers. She was a business owner and a landowner, and the master of the then-Southern Illinois Open Fox Hunt, with a whole group of fox hounds to manage. She was decisive and compassionate and had a big impact on me.”
Owner, CEO and Designer
Nina Ottosson Treat Puzzle Games & Toys
Achievements: Creating innovative puzzle games for dogs and working hard to raise awareness of the importance of mental stimulation for dogs, as well as cats and other pets; designing more than 30 different activity games and toys for dogs; working with zoos in Sweden, the U.S. and the United Kingdom to enrich the environment for animals.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “I am very interested in dogs and how they see and do things, and their mental capacity. And I am totally and completely passionate about mental stimulation of dogs and developing products for that purpose. Nothing is more fun than seeing the dogs test a new product for the first time.”
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “To switch the material in the wooden games to a certified eco-friendly material. This is important for both the dogs’ well-being and for the environment.”
What was your first paying job? “As a kid, I picked strawberries to make money for a new bike. By hard work and perseverance, you can affect your life and future and have the possibility to do what you want to do.”
Founder and CEO | The Honest Kitchen
San Diego, Calif.
Achievements: Creating an innovative line of dehydrated, complete and balanced whole foods for pets and founding The Honest Kitchen; helping to define and solidify the alternative food category pioneered by The Honest Kitchen; sharing her nutrition expertise in articles, interviews and seminars; launching Pawlanthropy, The Honest Kitchen’s charitable arm.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “I’ve always had a deep love of animals, and am also really passionate about good food. I grew up in rural England where we grew a lot of our own food in our garden. … I’m also very passionate about the issue of GMOs in our food supply. We work hard to ensure our products remain free of genetically modified ingredients.”
What was your first paying job? “As a waitress at our local village pub in England. Working in the service industry is one of the most important and character-building things that a young person can do. It’s a fast-paced environment where there are lots of things going on at the same time and the most important responsibility is to go above and beyond to ensure every customer has what they need and is totally happy.”
President and Product Developer | In Clover, Inc.
Achievements: Founding In Clover to research the physiology of healthy animals as a way to develop and market new solutions for chronic health conditions in pets; launching a university study into natural joint care and developing a patented product, Connectin, based on the findings; providing employment opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities; donating to organizations that help abused or abandoned animals.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “In 2005, I reached out to a nonprofit, Imagine!, and proposed a plan to bring jobs to disabled adults. … The program has been a resounding success. In the last 10 years, In Clover has employed over 50 disabled people at our facility. They work with us to help animals by handcrafting sample packages, compiling materials and so much more. They inspire us every day to achieve new possibilities and to look at adversity as opportunity.”
What issues need more attention from the pet industry? “I would like to see more focus on transparency in our ingredient selections, product quality and clear communication to consumers. If a product is clinically tested, that should mean the actual product was tested in a university study, using good laboratory practices and placebo controls.”
President and CEO | Dr. Harvey’s
Atlantic Highlands, N.J.
Achievements: Taking over the business side of Dr. Harvey’s in 1998 and managing the pet food company’s growth ever since; reinvigorating the brand in the early 2000s by repackaging products, launching a new website and embracing social media; co-founding a holistic health program for people and writing a book on the subject; spearheading a project to support foster dogs at a shelter in Bayonne, N.J.
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “To apply for and receive USDA organic certification for several of the products that Dr. Harvey’s manufactures. We have used organic ingredients for over 30 years.”
Who is your most influential role model? “My mother. She taught me to dream big and to never settle for second best. She encouraged me to do all that I wanted to do and never suggested that I could not do something because I was a girl. She also taught me patience and kindness. Instilling these two virtues is perhaps the greatest gift that a mother can give a child and her lessons have had a profound impact on my life.”
Principal | Propel Communications
Achievements: Applying her skills in communications and public relations to serve clients in the pet industry; founding Propel Communications in 2008 and working both with companies and with nonprofit ventures, including the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition; volunteering for a range of nonprofits, including Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Arizona Humane Society.
What is something you are totally passionate about? “Giving back to and celebrating the incredible benefits that pets add to our lives and being good stewards of our planet. Each day, whether through a partnership introduction or helping launch a product innovation to market, I work hard to be an advocate, a team player and key influencer to all those that share my goal of helping make life better for pets and the people who love them.”
What was your first paying job? “Summer camp counselor with at-risk youth. I learned the values of teamwork and leadership and being grateful for everything that I have. I also learned that when presented with challenges and opportunities, the human spirit steps up and answers the call. It’s something universal inside all of us.”
Partner and Co-CEO
Achievements: Starting with Planet Dog in 1998 and helping the pet products company grow, while remaining committed to its roots in sustainability and philanthropy; overseeing Planet Dog Wholesale and the Planet Dog company store; taking a leadership role in Maine’s business community; co-chairing efforts in Portland, Maine, to reclaim land for recreational use.
What is the best decision you’ve made in the last year? “I have put more resources and focus into Planet Dog’s social and environmental sustainability programs and practices. After surveying the company, it became clear that my team feels passionately about working for a sustainable business that positively affects the world and community around them. … Together, as a company, we realize that if we are socially and environmentally sustainable, we will earn the profit needed to continue to grow and succeed.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Obviously, I love dogs and all the extraordinary things that dogs do for us. But I also love elephants. Elephants always stay together in large groups, they love and protect their own, they are intelligent and they show genuine emotion. They are big and beautiful and happy and are just extraordinary and inspiring creatures.”
Founder and CEO | Ark Naturals Products for Pets
Achievements: Founding Ark Naturals Products for Pets in 1996 and guiding it to become one of the pet industry’s leading providers of natural products; bringing innovation to the dental health category by introducing a brushless toothpaste product; donating products to animal organizations around the U.S.; assisting local shelters in finding parents for rescue dogs.
What are the best decisions you’ve made in the last year? “Launching Gray Muzzle, products that are formulated for the needs of senior pets; and hiring and training new people that can increase our ability to educate. It’s really a no-brainer: Consumers don’t go out of their way to purchase the ‘wrong’ products. … It happens because it’s really hard to access information.”
Who is your most influential role model? “My father. When I was growing up, he never let me ask him or another grownup to give me the answers. He said the hard way is the right way and you learn more by doing it yourself. He forced me to research, research, research, way before the advent of computers, Google, etc. It took forever to get to an answer but I sure knew a lot more than other kids.”