Pet Age is proud to present the 2016 winners of our Forty Under 40 awards. To qualify for a nomination, the individual had to meet 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.
We honor these up-and-coming movers and shakers as they continue to demonstrate a dedication to the growth of the pet industry, professional excellence and the community. The awardees hail from every facet of the industry and every corner of the U.S. and have already established meaningful careers in the pet market. We look forward to their future contributions.
Beginning her career at age 20, Sarah Barrett was an employee at her father’s feed plant. After attending a pet food extrusion seminar, Barrett had the wisdom and determination to educate herself on the extrusion process in order to expand and sustain her family’s business—all despite others’ doubts based on her age and gender.
Around the same time, Kevin DeWalt was working his way through college and would eventually compile an impressive resume that would lead to his promotion to managing director of the North American division of CASCO Pet by the time he exited his 20s. He’s known for dedicating extra hours to coordinating work between his company’s design, manufacturing, procurement and accounting teams.
At 29, Alyson Brodsky has established herself as a well-known player in the public relations arm of the pet industry, working as a PR account executive at Matrix Partners to maximize brand exposure and guide clients through trade and consumer image-building strategies. She’s demonstrated leadership on projects for The Green Pet Shop, Andis, Gold Paw Series, Caru and Barkworthies, to name just a few.
Barrett, DeWalt and Brodsky’s careers are a few examples of the excellence collected in Pet Age’s Forty Under 40 awards. They and the rest of the awardees represent the hope and drive of the pet industry and hold the key to its evolution.
Winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges: Rebecca Tomala, account supervisor for Matrix Partners; Jeff Camosci, VP of marketing and sales (North America) for Paragon Pet Products; and Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pets Products, Inc.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Sarah Barrett, 30
Partner / Co-Managing Director
Barrett Petfood Innovations
Company description: A family owned pet food extrusion company, specializing in high-meat dog and cat food as well as small animal and bird food.
Primary job function: Manage operations as well as co-manage the company.
Years in industry: 10
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Being a pet owner and animal lover all my life, it was natural for me to want to be a part of the industry. I felt like I could make a different in the pet food industry. When I first started in the industry, it felt like quantity came before quality—I feel like we have changed that. While the quantity manufactures still exist and have their place in the industry, we have created a quality manufacturing facility with small minimum orders and no limits to the level of quality in foods we manufacture. If a customer chooses to use human grade ingredients we will source human grade ingredients. I believe that’s how the industry should be.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My biggest contribution to the industry and pet owners is transparency in the manufacturing process. I feel it’s important for people to know where their pets’ food comes from. Just like human food, I think people should have the right to know where each ingredient is sourced. Pets have such an important role in our lives these days that it’s only natural for us to feel like we want the best for our pets.
James Bascharon, DVM, 37
CEO and Founder
Company description: Vetnique Labs is committed to innovation in animal health. It produces high-quality, all-natural supplements for pets, including its flagship product line, Glandex.
Primary job function: Management, business development and product. development.
Years in industry: 4
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I’ve known since the age of three that I would dedicate my life to helping animals. Growing up, I always knew that I would follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a veterinarian. After working for over 10 years as a vet, I realized that I could increase my impact on the health and well-being of animals through all-natural supplements.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Coming up with a solution for anal gland problems is definitely my biggest contribution to pet owners, their pets and the pet industry (including veterinary medicine). Before Glandex, there was no viable solution for pets with anal gland problems. Glandex is one of those unique products that not only improves the health and well-being of pets, but also makes the lives of pet owners easier.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I renjoy the passion that people have for their pets. There is no doubt that the human-animal bond is very strong and that pets are part of the family. It’s great to be helping pets while also making people happier through our products.
Alan Blake, 39
Yorktown Technologies, LP
Company description: Yorktown Technologies is the developer and owner of GloFish florescent fish. The GloFish category underpins about 10 percent of all ornamental fish industry sales.
Primary job function: Chief Executive Officer
Years in industry: 15
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? In terms of background, the first line of GloFish was created at the National University of Singapore to help detect water toxins. By adding a naturally-derived fluorescence trait to the fish, scientists there hoped to quickly and easily determine when a waterway was contaminated. Like many people who see GloFish today, I was fascinated by the striking brilliance of these fluorescent fish and inspired to share them with the public.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Helping to build the GloFish category over the last 15 years. GloFish owners can now experience the awe-inspiring brilliance of GloFish in ways that were almost beyond our imagination when we first started. Starting from one line of red zebrafish, the GloFish category has grown to 15 lines of GloFish fluorescent fish, with six colors, across three species. In addition, we have nearly 100 GloFish-optimized accessory products to help people really “Experience the Glo!” of our fish.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I’ve had the great fortune to work with many talented and dedicated people across the industry. Many of these industry colleagues have become good friends.
Mike Bober, 38
President and CEO
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)
Company description: PIJAC works to monitor and affect legislation and regulation that promotes responsible pet ownership and animal well-being, fosters environmental stewardship and ensures the availability of pets.
Primary job function: Government affairs.
Years in industry: 3
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? After years of working in politics, I was eager to work on behalf of an industry that has a real and positive impact on people’s lives. I grew up with pets, including a dog, a rabbit and freshwater fish, so I knew firsthand the benefits of the human-animal bond. When the opportunity to help the industry tell its story presented itself, I jumped at the chance.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? The shift in the way our industry views government relations. We don’t just care about animals—we care for them on a daily basis. By helping out industry build relationships with elected officials and regulators before issues ocme up, we’re taking important steps to changing that.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? By far, the best part of the pet industry is the people who make it up and the passion they bring to their jobs. Each and every one of us is in this field because we love animals and we love helping others bring animals into their lives.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? My 13-year-old cocker spaniel, Murphy. He’s been with my wife and me for more than a decade now, and his loyalty and warmth never cease to brighten my day.
Erin Breig, 30
Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique (RPSB),
a division of Rubie’s Costume Co., Inc.
Richmond Hill, New York
Company description: Rubie’s Costume Company is the largest manufacturer, designer and distributor of costumes in the world. RPSB is their pet division that has seen tremendous growth in the past five years.
Primary job function: Directs division operations including sales, production development, marketing and creative design.
Years in industry: 6
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I am a pet lover. When I was still fairly new to Rubie’s, our general manager noticed that we were getting more requests for pet costumes. Because I am “that girl” with pictures of my dog, Lola, everywhere, I was lucky enough to be assigned to a new project which would be a costume line exclusively for pets.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? The ability to put a smile on people’s faces. When we do a photo shoot, the pet parents are so proud of their babies. The photos we put on our Instagram get so many likes because they warm hearts! We have donated costumes to many adoption agencies that have used the costumes as a way to excite and entice the prospective adopters. We also worked with an amazing company, “Dream Fetchers,” that brings dressed-up dogs to different children’s hospitals for an adorable and exciting visit.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I love the pets and the people who I’ve met through the years. I have met so many compassionate people. Everyone in the industry is here to make money, but it’s rare that you meet someone who isn’t giving back to the animals.
Alyson Brodsky, 29
PR Account Executive
Matrix Partners, Ltd.
Company description: Passionate about pets since 1987, Matrix Partners is one of the nation’s only award-winning full-service, independent agencies focusing on pet marketing and communications.
Primary job function: Creating ideas and content for client fact sheets, pitches, press releases and campaigns, as well as executing media outreach, coordinating interviews and securing coverage in a variety of media outlets on behalf of clients.
Years in industry: 1½
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I’ve been an animal lover my whole life and was in the midst of looking for a new public relations job. I happened to come across a posting from Matrix Partners, and I knew right then that this job was meant for me.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I help shape the identity, voice and goals that a brand would like to get out in front of consumers. I build brand awareness among pet parents and provide them with product information and the specific benefits the products offer. I provide a two-way benefit: I help clients showcase their products, and at the same time, educate pet parents on the availability of new and innovate products for their pets’ health and happiness.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? How passionate everybody is about their job and the companies they represent. Everyone has such a positive attitude and they’re always so friendly to work with, which makes my job even more enjoyable.
Jennifer Cao, 26
Co-Founder and Vice President
Company description: ZippyPaws’s mission is to create beautifully designed, high-quality pet products for the modern dog and dog owner.
Primary job function: Direct company strategy, shape company brand image and oversee product development, including creative designing.
Years in industry: 5
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? The idea for ZippyPaws was conceived in 2011 when I was graduating from the University of Southern California as a business student. I was constantly looking for toys for my golden retriever, who loves plush toys. However, I was disappointed in the selection, quality and high prices of dog toys on the market. I knew that with my background in design and unique vision I could create modern products that would resonate with the younger generation of pet parents. After graduation, I started designing toys with unique faces that gave the toys their individual characters.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? As a trend setter of the pet industry, it’s my privilege to help educated dog owners about responsible pet parenting. I strongly believe that dogs are part of the family and it’s a life-long commitment to a strong and healthy relationship. At ZippyPaws, I design products that help strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners, whether they may be interactive toys, leashes or even poo bags. I place an emphasis on making these products beautiful, hassle-free and affordable—my contribution to the pet industry and modern pet parenting.
Matthew Carberry, 34
President and CEO
Company description: Sustainable Aquatics (SA) provides healthy tank-bred marine ornamental fishes to the pet market worldwide.
Primary job function: Process engineering, research, business development.
Years in industry: 10
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? A lifelong love for fish, followed by my father’s encouragement to turn a hobby and passion into a business.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? SA’s work to understand the nutritional needs of marine fishes has led to the development of specialized diets. These advances have been critical to providing proper nutrition for growth, color, reproduction and health.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I enjoy working with new species, learning their unique behaviors and needs and providing appropriate care for their specific requirements. As part of our research at SA, we have the opportunity to work with new fish species while expanding our knowledge of marine ecosystems and the availability of sustainably sourced marine life to the trade.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Starting out more than 10 years ago as a hobby breeder of clownfishes, I had no idea of the size and reach of the marine ornamental industry. Had I been aware of this earlier, it would have influenced the scale-up of SA and increase in production and research into new species.
Donna Cejalvo, 38
Director of Partner Programs
Pets Best Insurance
Company description: Pets Best Insurance offers pet health insurance for cats and dogs.
Primary job function: Oversee strategic marketing partnerships, as well as affiliate, veterinary referral and insurance channel programs.
Years in industry: 8
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I fell into the pet insurance industry by chance after I moved to Boise eight years ago and found Pets Best Insurance. The growth of the industry that has come about through the fact that pets have become an important part of families is what inspires me to stay in this exciting industry.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I’ve seen first-hand from my own experience how important pet insurance is. Not having to worry about how you’re going to pay for your pet’s unexpected, life-saving medical treatment allows you to focus on what’s important. Anyone who is willing to go into debt to pay for their pets’ medical care must have insurance. As such, I measure success by how rapidly the pet insurance industry is growing and getting more pets and pet parents protected. In the time I’ve been with Pets Best, I’ve been able to grow sales in the channels I’m responsible for by 300 percent.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? Every pet industry professional that I work with has such a passion for pets. It makes it easy to come to work every day when you’re surrounded by people who love what they do.
Erin Clemens, 39
Director of New Product Development
Isle of Dogs
Company description: A health and beauty brand that focuses on the inner wellness and outer beauty of pets through superior liquid and consumable products.
Primary job function: Develop and bring to market innovative products to the pet industry.
Years in industry: 10
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Kailas Rao, the owner of Isle of Dogs, is who inspired me to get into the pet industry. Isle of Dogs was just getting started and he warned me that a start-up is not for everyone, but he thought I had what it took to survive the ebb and flow of entrepreneurship. I have been fortunate enough to learn from one of the best as far as growing a company.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I feel that my biggest contribution is to the pet and to the pet owner by providing products that supersede the industry in terms of ingredients, performance and functionality. We have created a meaningful bond between pet parents and their pets by maximizing their pets’ overall health, beauty and well-being—inside and out—with our products. Bringing joy not only to the pet, but also the pet owner.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The pet industry is like one huge family. It is gratifying that throughout the process and diversity there is one common goal to make the pet industry stronger, better and improve the standards for our pets … and have lots of fun doing just that!
Kevin DeWalt, 31
CASCO Pet – North America
Company description: CASCO Pet is the pet retail expert. We design, manufacture and install innovative and beautiful retail habitat and aquatic systems for a whole range of animals.
Primary job function: Oversee and direct our North American business’ performance, strategies and development as dictated by our Board of Directors.
Years in industry: 12
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My family has been intertwined with the pet industry for as long as I can remember. Growing up around and being involved in a pet product manufacturing business from a young age spurred my interest in the industry and its many facets.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Helping pet retailers across the country facilitate the safe keeping and sale of companion animals through the thoughtful and innovative design of our products.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The love and companionship that pets bring to our everyday lives is a special relationship. Knowing that my personal involvement in a way fuels this joy makes working in this industry an enjoyable experience.
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? The best day I’ve had in the pet industry is a reoccurring one: every time we successfully complete an installation and leave our customers with systems they are proud to own is a good day.
Rory Diamond, 37
K9s For Warriors
Ponte Vedra, Florida
Company description: K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for veterans with PTSD. We rescue and train shelter dogs to help our heroes heal from the wounds of war.
Primary job function: Is charged with the executive management of the nonprofit company.
Years in industry: 2
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? In a prior life, I was a lawyer at a big national law firm. K9s For Warriors was my pro-bono project. And I thought to myself, “Why should I only feel good about my work 5 percent of the time?” Service dogs are changing the lives of our warriors, and I wanted to be a part of that every day.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My biggest contribution has been moving the service dog debate and (1) educating as to the damage fake service dogs do to those who are truly needing of them; (2) fighting for federal funding for disabled veterans who need a service dog; (3) funding and directing research to prove service dogs work; and (4) showing our incredible corporate partners how they can be part of the solution.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The passion! You don’t start a pet food company or dog toy manufacturer unless you love your own dog. Everyone I meet loves their pets, loves our service dogs at K9s For Warriors and is thrilled that we use 90 percent rescue dogs. The love for animals is all around. What better people to work with?
Jade Dominique, 34
Vice President of Sales
Chicken Soup for the Soul, Pet
Cos Cob, Connecticut
Company description: Chicken Soup for the Soul is a family-owned and operated global media company that produces a wholesome all-natural pet food for dogs and cats.
Primary job function: Set and implement the strategic direction for sales in North America to ensure growth and new consumer acquisition.
Years in industry: 12
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I have always had a love for pets. Growing up, we always had dogs and/or cats. I knew that I wanted to do something that I was passionate about. I saw a job posting for Nutro and was extremely excited about the opportunity. Not only would I be in an industry that I had a lot of passion around, but I would also be selling a great brand that my parents had fed their pets for years.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? When I started in this industry, there were several key influencers that took me under their wings and helped me to learn and develop in this amazing industry. I would like to think that I have done the same for many people in this industry and that the industry is better because of the talented people in it.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The competition. It’s one of the most exciting industries because it’s always changing and evolving. Companies are always seeking more efficient and sustainable ways to make their products and they are looking for even better performing formulations that help pets to live longer and healthier lives.
Maurice Eida, 36
Vice President of Marketing and E-commerce
BH Pet Gear LLC
Brooklyn, New York
Company description: BH Pet Gear specializes in the design development and manufacturing of quality pet products and accessories. Our product groups include: dog apparel, dog beds, leashes, collars, harnesses, bowls, toys and more.
Primary job function: In charge of developing and implementing a proper marketing and communication strategy within the company. I also oversee BH Pet Gear’s online sales and will be responsible for generating sales through the internet.
Years in industry: 6
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? After over 15 years in jewelry and accessories, I was inspired by the industry’s emotional and personal connection to the products and the animals it loves. It is an industry of caring for our pets and pride in supplying products people get true enjoyment and benefit from.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Even though the pet industry is one of the largest growth categories over the past 10 years, the small, intimate, one-on-one way of doing business still exists. I bring my years of experience in sourcing and merchandising which has allowed BH PET GEAR to build a roster of brands and products covering many categories ranging from licensed apparel and accessories, to USDA organic dog treats. Our goal is to be a multi-faceted company with a wide range of products capable of servicing anyone from a mom and pop pet shop to a large multi-unit national retailer.
Carina Evans, 39
Dog Rocks USA LLC
Lake Worth, Florida
Company description: We are a growing family-run business that brings natural solutions to pet parents.
Primary job function: Directs company sales, marketing, operations and product development. Jack of all trades, master of very few!
Years in industry: 10
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I am passionate about brining natural solutions to pet parents and being a natural and uncomplicated pet parent myself. I saw opportunities for great products and innovation in a market that continues to grow.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Bringing natural products to market as alternatives to chemical ones, nature always holds the key and bringing life back to our roots is as important to me as it should be to our pets.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The people and their pets. It’s a friendly industry which is on the whole receptive to change and innovation. There is no such word as “no” in this world!
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? Who to trust and who not to and to follow my instincts.
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? Best day was when we fired the group of reps we at first entrusted our business to in the States and took it back over ourselves.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? Horses and dogs, they are both man’s best friends!
Joseph Fava, 38
Animal Necessity, LLC
Key Largo, Florida
Company description: We help animals live healthier lives by formulating supplements that incorporate research with high-quality raw materials and strict manufacturing standards.
Primary job function: Listener, Leader, Bus Driver.
Years in industry: 11
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My wife and high school sweetheart always wanted to be a dolphin doctor and now, 22 years later, she is going on her third doctorate degree. She has and always will be my inspiration. We continue to live our dream in South Florida with our 6-year-old son, Joseph, one baby on the way, two poodles, lots of dolphins and the connection to tens of thousands of animals around the world who we are able to support with our health supplements.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Our team is comprised of veterinarians, specialists and dedicated animal lovers, and I am most proud of the brand we’ve built which enables these scientists to contribute their ideas around natural health to an industry that is the most receptive than ever on ways to keep their pets healthy.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? Listening to the stories of families whom we have helped. It puts all of our sacrifice into perspective when we can hear how our products have kept a furry family member healthy. A healthy pet leads to a happy family.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? Definitely a bear because I love to sleep, I get angry when I’m hungry and I can protect the ones I love.
John Flora, 33
Vice President of Operations
Monarch Pet Products
Company description: Pet food distributor.
Primary job function: Oversee warehouse to ensure customer satisfaction.
Years in industry: 8
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My passion and endless love for animals is why I have always desired to be in the pet industry. I strive to always put our pet’s nutrition and well-being first.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My personality. I am very passionate about animals and I feel that comes through when I’m talking to store owners. I bring high energy and fun-loving attitude every day to work.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I enjoy interacting with the people in the pet industry. I love how enthusiastic and passionate people are for the health and well-being of their pets. I share a special bond with these people and their desire to enhance the lives of our pets and to strengthen the bond between them.
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? I thoroughly enjoy our annual Monarch Pet customer appreciation open house. It is an amazing event that brings our manufacturer partners and retailers together. There are so many incredible people with incredible stories.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? My pug, Otis. He truly defines “man’s best friend.” Otis has a way of making even the worst of days great. I have never experienced someone to be so happy to see me every day. I am one lucky dog owner.
Brian Frazier Wright, 27
The Green Pet Shop
Company description: Providing unique, affordable, top-of-the-line eco-friendly products that solve a problem for our pets and our planet.
Primary job function: Head of Creative Development and Marketing Strategies.
Years in industry: 4
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? A love for pets and a love for animals. I grew up with pets my whole life: dogs, cats, turtles, fish—you name it. I have always had a connection to animals and I was excited about the opportunity to create products that will not only help pets, but our environment as well because all of our products are eco-friendly. With that said, another factor that brought me into this business was the ability to grow and develop a company from the ground-up alongside my father. It’s pretty awesome.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I feel our Cool Pet Pads have had the biggest contribution to the pet community and to pet owners. Offering an energy-saving product that allows pets to cool off and escape the heat is not only gratifying, but it can be life saving for pets living in high climate environments. In the coming months, our all-new CBD Pet Care Calming and soothing lotion for pets will also have a big impact on the community. Our culture is finally becoming more open/accepting toward CBD products. Whether it be for cancer symptoms, anxiety, stress, seizures, etc., the health benefits CBD has been tested to offer both animals and people is significant.
Brad Gruber, 34
President and COO
Health Extension Pet Care
Deer Park, N.Y.
Company description: Our family is dedicated to providing independent pet stores with foods they can be proud to sell as their own and pet parents can feel great about feeding.
Primary job function: Working with our team of industry professionals providing strategic direction in building and being the advocates of our brand.
Years in industry: 14
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I worked in a pet store and quickly felt the unique and powerful bond between pet parents and their pets. I developed a passion for holistic nutrition. Being mentored by my father-in-law, I was fortunate to learn that it’s possible to love what you do and at the same time make such an important and strong impact on people’s lives … so I went for it!
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Continual Innovation, not only in product development, but in strategic relationships with our independent retailers. Years ago, I developed a “lifetime” incentive program for pet owners to ensure dogs continually receive the best whole health nutrition they need for a long and healthy life, which to date has helped over 50,000 dogs across the country.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? It’s amazing how much pet parents embrace and love their animals; they truly are members of the family. It’s gratifying being part of an industry where I can help those “unconditionally devoted” family members lead healthier lives.
Brett Hirschberg, 29
MULTIPET INTERNATIONAL, Inc.
Moonachie, New Jersey
Company description: MULTIPET INTERNATIONAL is the premier, award-winning pet products designer/importer in the U.S. Founded in 1995, we have prided our company on the basic principles of putting unique design, superior quality, and fun into the world of pet products.
Primary job function: Manages the development/purchasing of goods and flow of inventory from our factories to MULTIPET, and then from MULTIPET to our mass market customer(s).
Years in industry: 4
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I come from a family of three generations before me who have been in the pet industry, so you can almost say it’s in my blood. I am proud to continue this, as my roots are very important to me.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I feel what makes me an asset to our industry is my ability to always stay resourceful and maintain a strong business sense, but also implement my creativity at the same time. Delivering top quality dog toys is what we do best, so finding that balance enables me to thrive. That and a great support system, of course.
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? I love a good pun.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? My pup, Theo, of course. He’s a schnauzer/poodle mix, so he’s a schnoodle!
Andrew Horn, 33
National Sales Manager
Plato Pet Treats
Company description: At Plato Pet Treats, we manufacture industry leading products using gentle dehydration methods, with only the finest ingredients.
From our home to yours.
Primary job function: Managing national outside sales team, distributor sales and retailer sales objectives.
Years in industry: 12
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My love of animals. I have been fascinated with animals my whole life. I have kept and worked with animals as long as I remember. I am a surfer and an outdoorsman and really value my free time in nature among wildlife. The pet industry provides the opportunity to bring that love into my professional life every day.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Being a leader. I have the opportunity to lead a team of great people who successfully educate our customers about our wonderful products, whom in turn confidently provide them to thousands of consumers.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The people. I truly enjoy the people I get to work with every day. This business is full of passionate people who have dedicated their professional lives to enriching the lives of pets and their owners. It seems that the bar is set higher every year. Better and better products are developed and brought to market, and it is people who drive the standards that we all work to achieve. If it were not for great people, this industry would not be as great as it is.
Alisa Johnson, 28
President and Co-Founder
Dogs on Deployment
Company description: Dogs on Deployment is a national non-profit providing a network for military members to find volunteers willing to board their pets during their service commitments.
Primary job function: To create vision, inspire volunteerism and set tangible goals for the organization to meet in order to effectively achieve our mission of providing military members peace of mind concerning their pet’s care.
Years in industry: 5
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? In 2011, I had just commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps and had to attend six months of training where I would be required to live in the barracks. At the same time, my husband, who served in the U.S. Navy, was scheduled to deploy overseas. Neither of us could care for our beloved dog, JD. We had no immediate friends or family able to help. We looked into professional boarding and found the cost was a small fortune. We were lucky a distant relative heard of our situation and offered to watch our dog for the six-month period. This situation inspired us to create a national network of volunteers available to help service members with their pets during their military commitments, Dogs on Deployment.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? We have connected with animal rescues and shelters across the nation to offer our information to ensure military families cannot only adopt at-risk shelter pets, but also be given resources able to help them if they need it. To date, we have placed over 1,000 military pets in foster care.
Andrew Kim, 37
Founder and CEO
Company description: We provide premium and healthier alternatives to traditional pet supplies and services. Not just a pet store, the lifestyle brand for the modern pet parents.
Primary job function: Inspiring and leading our team to fulfill our mission on a daily basis to change the world, one pet at a time.
Years in industry: 10
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My motivation came when I adopted Maya Pyaari, a shi-tzu mix, in 2007. She came into my life at the time of the paradigm shifting pet food recall of 2007. Many of the foods recommended to me by my vet, friends and colleagues were involved in the recall that killed thousands of pets. After doing my own research, I discovered a lot of great products and innovations taking place in the pet industry that weren’t readily available or under one roof. I wanted to do better for my dog and I knew many others would want to as well. I felt there was an absence in the market that really addressed this desire properly, and thus, the idea for Healthy Spot was born.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? The biggest contribution is the positive impact we have been able to make through Healthy Spot. We have changed lives of our customers through the high quality foods and proper care we provide, donating and giving back to communities and the opportunities we have been able to provide our people. I’m extremely proud that Healthy Spot stands for the positive change that we can make through our business.
Bryan Lowe, 32
JSK Merchandising, Inc. / Finnex
Company description: Manufacturing to the hobbyist’s needs and specializing in the diligent research, development and marketing of aquatic products used worldwide.
Primary job function: Responsible for brand development and company operations, including lead in product design/development, marketing direction and implementation, and overseeing day-to-day operations.
Years in industry: 8
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My passion began when I was young, seeing as my father was an enthusiast himself. With an education background in business, I decided applying business skills to that passion was a goal worth pursuing.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My company has allowed me a unique opportunity to track the concerns of the hobby and start from said concerns to design, manufacture and introduce products currently missing from the industry. The positive feedback received, paired with the awareness and expansion of the hobby our products have assisted in, leaves me satisfied knowing we are at the forefront of moving this hobby forward.
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? Previously a professional dodgeball player for the National Dodgeball Association—The Chicago Vendetta.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? The Kamfa Flowerhorn—they are said to bring luck and prosperity to the businesses or homes that house them.
Christopher Manta, 34
Chief Operating Officer
New York, New York
Company description: K-10+ provides a wide range of solution driven vitamin and supplement products that feature simple, hassle free administration systems.
Primary job function: Since we are two people running the company, we both wear many hats. I have a direct role in all day to day operations including but not limited to managing the supply chain, sales and marketing, finance and accounting.
Years in industry: 5
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My good friend came to some other close friends and me with this idea to create the K-10+ brand. The design and function of the product piqued my interest so much that we started work the next day to develop our initial product line.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I think not coming from the corporate world previously, we bring a different perspective to the pet world. We are not afraid to spend the extra dollars to create the best product possible.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The fact that we are helping animals with our products. Vitamins and supplements should be given daily in addition to a healthy diet.
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? The first Global Pet Expo we attended. It came on the heels of creating the company. Many big companies came to the booth and commented that we were ahead of our time. This validated that we were on to something big.
Tom McCrossen, 32
Redbarn Pet Products
Long Beach, California
Company description: Redbarn Pet Products is a family-owned, USA-based manufacturer of Premium Natural Dog Food, Treats and Chews.
Primary job function: Growing Redbarn’s business with our distributor partners, key accounts and independent storeowners.
Years in industry: 8
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My childhood golden retriever, Sparky, inspired a lifelong love for animals. My family has always had pets. This desire to share the joy that pet ownership brings is what drew me to the pet industry. This industry offered the opportunity to share something I love with great people.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Helping the accounts grow is what fuels my passion. Every account is different. Different regions and markets require product assortment unique to their geographical area. I like working one-on-one with directors and buyers to figure out what set works for their store and developing winning strategies for the brand I represent. Doing my research, keeping a keen awareness of the industry and the segments where I specialize all enable me to give my customers the best possible support. Seeing projects to completion is the greatest reward.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The amazing people are what make this industry great. I don’t think any other industry is comprised of such high-caliber people. We all have the same mission, which is to do what’s best for our pets.
Cory McElroy, 33
Company description: Aquarium Co-Op is a specialty freshwater planted aquatics store with a thriving Youtube channel.
Primary job function: Direct team management, product development and social media producer.
Years in industry: 8
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I felt the aquatics industry was lacking innovation using technology to improve its online presence. At a time when most pet stores barely had a website, other industries were utilizing Facebook, Youtube and other platforms. I decided to use these platforms to my advantage and further the reach in aquatics.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My biggest contribution without a doubt is my Youtube channel. At the time of writing this, I’ve had over 3 million views. Helping hundreds of thousands of people with aquatic information on a daily basis.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I love that an aquarium can bring the family together. It also has so much to teach about the environment. This is why we focus on natural aquariums featuring live plants.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I had known how big of an impact Youtube would have on pet education.
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? The best day I’ve ever had was when we opened the doors of Aquarium Co-Op. Seeing what the public thought of the work we had done the four months prior.
Matt Meyer, 37
The Bear & The Rat
Company description: We make probiotic frozen yogurt for dogs. It’s a healthful, fun treat that includes your best friend with fur in the ice cream ritual.
Primary job function: Manage production, sales and marketing.
Years in industry: 6
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Two things: One, back in the late ’80s, my family would go to the ice cream shop every week, and even back then, our family included our miniature poodle. So Babette would get a cone, too. However, all the sugar and dairy wasn’t great for her digestion. Looking back, I loved that time with my family, but I wanted to develop something that our furry friends could enjoy and digest without issue. Two, moving to Denver, a super dog-friendly town.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Helping draw attention to the freezer space in pet stores. If customers learn about frozen food by buying one of The Bear & The Rat’s frozen products, then we are building value for the entire frozen category. I’m proud of the fact that our frozen yogurt is human-grade and contains billions of live and active probiotic cultures. For pet owners, our biggest contribution is providing a moment of joy with their dog where they can forget about their day and enjoy a treat with their best friend.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I love the passion and enthusiasm. Everyone I’m friends with has a shared love for the industry. It’s always fun and there are many kind, generous people.
Adam Munsterman, 36
Elkhound Ranch Kennels
Kansas City, Missouri
Company description: We are a non-breed restrictive pet care facility specializing in boarding, daycare, grooming and training.
Primary job function: Directs company operations and leads all research and development.
Years in industry: 3
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My wife. Her love for animals is stronger than anyone I know. Because of this, I never doubt the care that we provide our four-legged family members. Together we serve the Lord, and as a team driven by inspiration from God, we are able to provide a family-oriented business with a focus of helping others.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I feel very blessed that we are able to provide job opportunities to those who truly do love animals. Also, it is very gratifying to be there during our customers’ time of need.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? Pets are becoming more accepted as true family members. The industry is constantly changing and providing more business expansion opportunities, thus providing awesome partnership capability, steady employment and an overall stimulation of the economy.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? The demand for proper care and the need for facilities like our own. As we welcome these pets into our homes and with our fast-pace lifestyles, it stands to reason that the demand for this occupation is necessary.
Kyle Polanski, 38
Blue Dog Bakery
Company description: Blue Dog Bakery is a leading provider of premium all natural pet treats.
Primary job function: Sets the company’s strategic direction, oversees operating activities and supports sales and marketing.
Years in industry: 8
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? The opportunity to work with passionate and dedicated business partners and consumers. I can’t imagine anything more fun or rewarding than working with animal lovers and pet parents.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Making healthy, all-natural treats for dogs and supporting the great group of employees at Blue Dog Bakery.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The wonderful people and pets we work and interact with every day. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? How quickly it changes. The pace of change is invigorating and challenging, and it can blow you over if you’re not ready for it. I’ve been hanging on by the seat of my pants on more than one occasion.
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? My worst day was when I found out my dog, Havana, had cancer. She is still doing fairly well, but it’s a hard reality to adjust to.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? Easy—a dog. Man’s best friend.
Matt Price, 34
Senior Director of Marketing
Company description: Tether Tug creates unique and innovative products to keep dogs healthy, happy and entertained!
Primary job function: Directs the company marketing strategy, including social media engagement, customer acquisition and e-commerce optimization.
Years in industry: 5
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I grew up on a farm, so we always had animals running around, and they were just part of the family! I really enjoy helping to build something from the ground up, so when the opportunity came to jump on board with Tether Tug from the start of the company, it was something I couldn’t pass up.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? With our company being so small, we have been able to really get to know our customers (and their dogs!). Chatting with them about how much our toy has changed their dogs’ behavior has been amazing. Many have some type of disability and weren’t able to play with their pup as much as they needed.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? Pet industry people are the very best! Whether it’s talking with other business owners at trade shows, partnering via social media, or out at community events, pet industry people are friendly and outgoing and really care for each other.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? Has to be dogs, of course! A playful dog is one of the best medicinces for a bad day.
Viviana Rivera-Marrero, 37
Certified Pet Fashion Designer
Top Doggie, LLC.
San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico
Company description: Leading pet brand in Puerto Rico, recognized as the “best value brand” for pets. Toy Doggie has the best quality for price in the market.
Primary job function: Directs company operations and product development functions, including creative designing. Responsible for community activities and charitable events.
Years in industry: 6
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I have always been a dog lover since being a child, but it was my beloved chihuahua, Kenny Joe, who inspired me to get into the pet industry! He was so small that even in our tropical weather he needed clothes that I could never find because of his size. I wanted something comfortable and practical, but pretty, fashionable and of good quality that I could wash and reuse without it getting ruined. I started buying his outfits online and getting very nice compliments of him everywhere, so it was when light struck me and Toy Doggie was formed.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Developing a brand and making it available locally, which not only suits the owners’ taste and budget, but also makes the pet feel comfortable. I am highly committed to quality, therefore our goods are made out of superior materials targeting safety, reliability, practical use and comfort. We are the “less is more” type pet brand which design has customer satisfaction as a priority, without the customer having to spend a lot.
Jaime Rowe, 39
Pack Leader & Founder
Ello Pet Supply
What Ridge, Colorado
Company description: Ello Pet Supply is a USA pet product distributor that offers organic and natural treats, USA-made toys and natural wellness supplements.
Primary job function: Inspire, lead and manage the Ello vision and mission for happier and healthier pets.
Years in industry: 8
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? When pets became sick from treats and products not made with integrity, my inspiration became to provide natural, USA-made products for happier and healthier pets.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? We are the only exclusive USA-made pet distributor in the nation. We offer products that give a competitive advantage to pet boutique owners to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. As a result, we are offering healthier alternatives for your pet.
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? After four months of blood, sweat and tears to prepare Ello for business, the best day came when I made the company’s very first sale for $91.50.
If you had $1 million to give, what cause(s) would you support? I would give our local shelters the money to upgrade their facilities and increase the salaries for shelter employees.
What’s your favorite animal? Why? The cheetah. They’re laser focused in accomplishing their goals and nothing deters them. They’re quick, determined and victorious wrapped up in an elegant package.
Elnaz Sarraf, 31
Co-Founder and President
iBaby Labs, Inc.
San Jose, California
Company description: iBaby is an innovator of Wi-Fi smart devices in baby, home, and pet categories. Our products consist of baby video monitors, pet cameras, and air quality and purifier.
Primary job function: Design, Sales, Marketing and Operations.
Years in industry: 5
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I am a pet parent with two beautiful and playful cats. I was always worried about my cats when I had to travel or stay late at work. Therefore, with several years’ experience in the video monitoring industry, I decided to have a product to be able to see my pets and play with them as well. That is why we came up with the idea of our pet monitor Helmet to allow pet parents to see, hear and talk with their furry kid as well as playing laser chase.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? We bring pet parents and their furry babies together no matter where they are in the world. Distance is a thing in the past. Now pet owners can watch their pet on our video camera which has 360º viewing coverage, talk with them, play laser and share the best moments with other pet parents around the world. Our mission is to bring loved ones together, including pets and their owners.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The best part of it is the times that we hire pets to be our brand ambassadors or have casting calls for our pet related advertisements. We see so much excitement when they try to chase the laser that works through our pet camera.
Sara Schrekenhofer, 37
Advertising Manager/Graphic Designer
Leather Brothers, Inc.
Company description: Leather Brothers, Inc. manufacturers high quality pet products and has been family owned and operated since 1976.
Primary job function: Responsible for all Advertising and Marketing. Creative Development: starting from raw ideas to completed new item. I wear many hats!
Years in industry: 15
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My father. He and my uncle established the company 40 years ago. The third generation leather workers began making dog collars and over the years have transformed this unique item into a thriving business. I admire my father’s leadership, dedication and strong work ethic that he learned from his father. With leather craftsmanship running in the family blood, I wanted to carry on the family business to make a difference in the industry and to contribute my talents in Graphic Design and Marketing. I love to see a new line take off from ideas to finished concept.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Growing up in this industry, along with my education, has provided me with the tools, knowledge and wisdom I need in always providing the best products, at great prices, that are made here in the USA.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? Other than my love for dogs and animals, I enjoy the people that I get to work with on a day-to-day basis. The industry is constantly changing and there is always something new.
Sumit Sethi, 39
Hillsborough, New Jersey
Company description: Manufacturers and distributors of pet dishes/feeders and place mats. Our goal is to become a world-renowned company by continuous product development and innovations.
Primary job function: I direct company strategy and run all aspects for a successful business.
Years in industry: 13
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? My love for pets has always had me interested in the pet industry. We want best for our pets.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I am always looking for development of new products. Our efforts are focused toward innovating unique products and new designs for pets in the pet industry by analyzing the latest market trends. We design and sell products that are durable, unique and enhance the life of pet.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The wonderful people in the industry. It’s a big, extended family. And how passionate people are about providing better lives to pets, from retailer to pet parent.
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. There is unconditional love which bonds them together.
What was your best day in the pet industry? When I visit a local pet store and observe a pet parent purchase a product that we designed and created. It brought a smile to his face as they really wanted to see that. It gave me immense pleasure.
Eric Shannon, 39
President and Founder
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Company description: We make the world’s top-rated dog bed, used to enhance quality of life and improve mobility in a dog’s senior years.
Primary job function: Directs company operations, marketing initiatives and manufacturing processes to ensure all company activities are aligned with the mission of enhancing the quality of life for dogs.
Years in industry: 11
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? In 2006, my dog Hank was diagnosed with hip dysplasia as a puppy. Our vet advised that we should get Hank a “good bed.” After being disappointed with the level of quality and support offered by beds found in big box pet stores and at the major online retailers, I decided to get into the dog supply industry by starting my first business, which specialized in identifying and distributing hard-to-find higher end products made by small manufacturers that weren’t offered in big box pet stores. We specialized in dog beds, which is what eventually led to the creation of Big Barker.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I feel like we’ve started the ball rolling on making large-dog owners aware about how important it is for a big dog (and especially an older big dog) to have a supportive bed. It’s a significant quality of life issue, especially considering how the vast majority of large dogs will develop some sort of joint disease during their lives. A high quality bed is probably the only one-time-purchase you can make for your dog that will have a permanent and lasting impact on their comfort and quality of life.
Jaimie Siegel, 36
Concierge Mobile Animal Hospital
Hermosa Beach, California
Company description: Concierge Mobile Animal Hospital is a full-service veterinary facility that visits your home or office to treat dogs and cats.
Primary job function: Veterinarian and owner
Years in industry: 20
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I entered the veterinary field at the age of 16 because of my unrelenting passion for companion animals. I started as a kennel aid and have moved my way up in the field over 20 years. Never once in all this time has my enthusiasm and excitement for animal care and pet medicine faltered.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? I believe my new practice model of concierge, stress-free veterinary medicine is my biggest contribution. Clients and colleagues quickly realize the huge improvement in their pets’ health that can occur by eliminating the stressful event of a traditional veterinary hospital visit. I truly believe this is the direct medicine will take in the future.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? I enjoy being daily witness to the strength of the human-animal bond. There is nothing more touching, nothing that fills your heart more, than witnessing the love between a pet and his human.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? I wish I had realized how stress can hurt animals both mentally and on a biological, physiological level. Compassionate care should be the first thing taught to every animal caretaker or animal advocate.
Pete Stirling, 37
Vice President and COO
Company description: Skout’s Honor provides BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER solutions to everyday pet stain and odor problems with the next generation of green cleaning products.
Primary job function: Operations and Customer Development.
Years in industry: 2
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? I wanted to be involved in something that I loved and surrounded by people who share that passion. Pets have played a powerful roll in shaping my personality and outlook on life, so it seemed natural to pursue a career in an industry that allowed me to be around likeminded people.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? My enthusiasm for and commitment to building a company with people who are similarly focused on making sure our customers get more than just a solution to their problem when they choose Skout’s Honor. The point of purchase is such a unique opportunity to positively affect the world we live in through simple choices. It starts with providing the best possible solution to a problem, but extends to social programs, like our Skout’s Paw Pledge—together with our customers we feed an animal in need with every bottle sold. I think that programs like the Paw Pledge are a powerful mechanism for change and I’m proud to be a part of something so impactful.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? The people. An industry is defined by the personalities it attracts. The pet industry is exceptional when it comes to the level of passion and commitment found in its ranks.
Emily Zampello, 29
Director of Marketing and Branding
Dog Gone Smart Pet Products
Company description: Dog Gone Smart Pet Products is dedicated to bringing you the most innovative pet products in today’s market—products that have been tested and really work!
Primary job function: Works closely with our innovation team to develop and launch new products, oversees the evolution of the Dog Gone Smart brand/sub-brands and develops brand strategies and tactics for promotion in all channels.
Years in industry: 5
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? Dog Gone Smart’s ability to “demonstrate” a dog bed to the pet industry was truly innovation at its best. Their use of technology, innovation and creative marketing strategy instantly caught my attention.
What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the pet industry? Dog Gone Smart strives to bring original, solution-based products to the pet market. My ability to understand the needs of pet owner and assist in developing fun, unique and safe products is an extremely rewarding part of my role. Innovation and consumer value are at the forefront of all product development at DGS.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? Combining my passion for brand strategy and product development with my love for animals, especially dogs. It’s wonderful to be part of such an amazing industry—the people, the state-of-the-art products and our beloved pets. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.