A winner has been crowned in the 2018 Innovation Showdown. Originally created in 2017 by the Petco Foundation and The Jackson Galaxy Project, the competition is modeled after the ABC show “Shark Tank.” But instead of having a financial return on investment as the ultimate goal, The Innovation Showdown’s mission is to have a lifesaving return on investment—to save the lives of more animals in need.
This year’s winner was Front Street Animal Shelter, which was awarded a $250,000 grant. The runners-up were St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center and Hearts Speak, which won $60,000 and $40,000, respectively. The three finalists were chosen from a pool of 226 entries and gave their final presentations at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Animal Care Expo on May 16.
“We are extremely excited and grateful to the Petco Foundation and the other leading animal welfare organizations for coming together and awarding us with a very generous investment to fund our idea to help us save more animals,” said Bobby Mann, communications manager at Sacramento, California’s Front Street Animal Shelter, whose group presented an idea to help lost pets find their way back home.
Not only did these groups compete for funding for their life-saving ideas, but they also hoped to get feedback on their ideas from some of the nation’s top animal welfare experts. The judging panel consisted of: Susanne Kogut (the Petco Foundation), Jackson Galaxy (The Jackson Galaxy Project), Jodi Buckman (ASPCA), Julie Castle (Best Friends Animal Society), Mary Ippoliti-Smith (Maddie’s Fund), Aimee Gilbreath (Michelson Found Animals Foundation) and Christy Counts (WaterShed Animal Fund). The showdown was hosted by Katie Lisnik from the (HSUS).
“Front Street Animal Shelter won because they pitched a new innovative approach to address a nationwide issue—the number of lost pets in shelters being returned to their owners is extremely low,” explained Susanne Kogut, the executive director of the Petco Foundation. “They presented an approach of using text messages that have a high open rate to help pet parents navigate how to find their pets, coupled with the simple idea of blanketing a community with magnets that provide the number to text for help. Front Street Animal Shelter was already on a path to success with the text messaging system completed, and they impressed the judges with their swift, quick-witted but thoughtful responses to questions. In the end, the judges believed that if Front Street Animal Shelter proves this concept, their innovative idea could easily be implemented in other communities and have a significant lifesaving impact for animals in our country.”
Mann said that Front Street Animal Shelter’s next step is to spread the word about its text message system.
“The next step of the process for our idea is to hyper saturate our community with marketing tools that will include sending out a promotional refrigerator magnet printed in English and Spanish to 191,000 households in our local neighborhoods, utilizing social media as well as capitalizing on media opportunities and being supported by our 2,000 volunteers to help push it out,” he explained.
According to Mann, Front Street Animal Shelter also hopes that its win “will inspire others to also think ‘outside of the litter box’ to help save more animals.”