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.
Winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges including: Laurie Johnson, Executive Director, Florida Little Dog Rescue; Nancy Hassel, Founder and President, Long Island Pet Professionals; and John Cullen, Principal, Bulldog Marketing & Sales.
The 40 individuals highlighted here have already had a big impact on the industry despite their young age. We expect them to continue to be leaders in the pet world in the years (and decades) to come.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Stephanie Arnold, 39, Senior Vice President of Sales, Nature’s Variety, St. Louis, Mo.
Achievements: Building a sales force to handle the rapid growth of Nature’s Variety, a manufacturer of natural pet food under the Instinct and Prairie brands; leading a team of sales people and brand ambassadors; establishing partnerships with key distributors in the U.S. and Canada; serving on the Petco Vendor Advisory Council; dedicating time to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and other charitable causes.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “The passion. From retail partners to pet parents, everyone is so passionate about providing better lives for our pets. The commitment that I see to improving the lives of pets every day is inspiring.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “I started my career in the baby industry, and I wish I’d realized earlier on how similar the baby and the pet industries really are. Parents, whether of babies or pets, cherish their little ones and only want the best for these important members of their families. It is fun to see the parallels, and think about how we can learn from one industry to help grow the other.”
Daryl Abrams, 35, Founder and CEO, Party Animal Pet Food, West Hollywood, Calif.
Achievements: Launching Party Animal Pet Food to bring quality organic pet food to the market; educating others about organic products; starting an earlier business that focused on designing, licensing and manufacturing pet accessories for top brands; volunteering with the Platelet Disorder Support Association, and taking part in many pet-related charity events.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “After unsuccessfully searching high and low for products that I felt safe feeding to my pets, I was inspired to create Party Animal Pet Food, a company dedicated to producing organic and healthy pet food.”
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “That consumers have become educated about high-quality ingredients in pet food, and want their four-legged children eating as well as they do.”
What was your worst day in the pet industry? “When we first began our company, a retailer that we had specifically manufactured a huge order for canceled the order the day our shipment arrived at their warehouse … This experience truly describes the saying, ‘for every door that closes, another one opens,’ as many larger doors opened shortly after.”
Steve Barber, 34, National Sales Manager, Cloud Star LLC, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Achievements: Sharing his deep knowledge of the pet industry with his colleagues at Cloud Star, a maker of all-natural pet products; lending his entrepreneurial mindset to contribute to the development and marketing of new products.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “The ability to use my business education and experience in a way that would positively impact pets, their guardians and the community.”
What would most people be surprised to know about you? “I enjoy caring for all kinds of pets. My hobbyist days started from an early age, with my parents encouraging me to go ahead and take care of the snake from the backyard, the broken-winged bird and the turtle who found his way into the driveway.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “I have a passion for the service dog community. To see dogs expertly serving those in need, and feeling the satisfaction of both the pet and the person, is so powerful. Directing funds to the organizations responsible for the care and training of service dogs would deeply touch so many lives. I would like to support organizations surrounding assistance dogs for veterans.”
Stephanie Boone, 37, Founder and CEO, Wondercide Natural Products, Austin, Texas
Achievements: Developing natural alternatives to chemical-based pesticides and products used by pets and their families; founding Wondercide to market those alternatives; serving with numerous nonprofits, including the Austin Leadership Committee of the Human Rights Campaign, the Ecological Landscaping Association and Women in the Pet Industry.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “Wondercide was born when my dog, Luna, suffered serious skin issues and seizures, followed by liver and kidney failure. These were side effects from one of the most popular vet-prescribed flea and tick products on the market. Completely distraught, I knew there had to be a better way.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “The pet industry, while well-established, arguably has some antiquated sales and distribution norms that make it challenging to innovate impactful change in a timely manner.”
What would most people be surprised to know about you? “I was an artist and then a real estate tax consultant before founding Wondercide. I knew nothing about chemistry, patent and trademark law, building a brand, developing a website and the pet industry.”
Achievements: Developing and launching more than 500 products for the small animal category; earning awards for many of his product designs; merging and integrating the Pets International product line under the Kaytee brand to create a line of small animal and bird products, including treats, bedding and accessories.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My love of pets. Growing up, I had a parakeet, a cockatiel, a rabbit, two turtles, five aquariums and a pond. I always enjoyed shopping for products to care for my pets at my local pet shop and knew that I wanted to work there as soon as I was old enough.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “When I am able to visit a local pet retailer and observe a consumer purchase a new product that I helped create.”
What’s your favorite animal? “A chinchilla. They make great pets for many reasons, including their unique soft fur and mild temperament. They are very easy to care for, but the biggest reason they are my favorite of all the small animals is because they have such a long lifespan, living 15 to 20 years.”
Marc Cathcart, 38, President, Pure Treats Inc./Marteco Sales & Marketing Group, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec.
Achievements: Leading Pure Treats, which markets and distributes PureBites, a brand of all-natural dog and cat treats; leading Marteco Sales & Marketing Group, a consulting and brokerage agency specializing in the pet industry; recognizing the potential for all-natural dog and cat treats in the early 2000s after a career in consumer packaged goods.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “I love the unique relationships between the products the pet industry offers and the customers they serve. It is unlike anything in packaged goods. The bond between a pet and his or her family is very different than anything I experienced in the past … I love reading all of the reviews, website comments and Facebook posts we get from our loyal customers.”
What would most people be surprised to know about you? “That my wife refuses to get a dog. We have one young son at home, and a second child coming soon, so she won’t entertain the idea. I am counting the days until the kids get older and we outnumber her three to one … I am sure there will be a puppy joining our family at some point.”
Frank Cerullo, 36, CEO, GameWear, Inc., Hoboken, N.J.
Achievements: Launching a line of pet products through his company, GameWear, which makes items from sports-ball leather; building a distribution network that covers North America, as well as parts of Europe and Asia; supporting the Boomer Esiason Foundation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other charities.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “When considering avenues for expansion for our human products, we asked ourselves what consumers are passionate about in the same way they are passionate about sports. We came to the conclusion that the pet industry would be the perfect way to fuse two great passions: our love for pets and our love for sports.”
What would most people be surprised to know about you? “Growing up, I never had any interest in working in business, let alone founding one. I stumbled into what would eventually become GameWear when I cut apart a baseball after a college baseball practice and began to wear it as a necklace. I immediately saw it as a way that people could authentically connect to the sports they love.”
Will Chen, 32, Founder and Managing Director, P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle And You, San Francisco, Calif.
Achievements: Creating stylish and durable designs for pet beds and toys; using eco-friendly materials that integrate into the lifestyles of today’s pet parents; leading development of his company’s identity, from product development to marketing and operations; overseeing the company’s expansion into markets around the world.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “I really love how the majority of customers that we serve, and fellow business owners in the industry, all share a common passion with us and allowed us to forge great friendships. Also, I don’t think anyone will deny that working alongside office dogs every day is pretty awesome.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “I would split the money to support the Petfinder Foundation, which does amazing work to support shelters across the country; the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is a fantastic group that we are already donating to as part of our effort to support animal protection; and Rescue Pledge, an initiative we co-founded to spread awareness on behalf of animals that really need our love.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Pugs, but I definitely love all animals, large, small, old and young.”
Kristy Clark, 32 Owner, Legitimutt, Pompano Beach, Fla.
Achievements: Building on her fashion industry experience to create a line of stylish, functional wear and accessories for pets; delivering American-made goods at competitive prices; founding Legitimutt and guiding it to become a vibrant wholesale business serving accounts worldwide.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “I love that everyone has such a good sense of humor. While it is a serious industry, people tend to really genuinely enjoy what they do and have fun doing it.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “Honestly, how competitive it is. There are so many great companies out there. We are so happy about it, though, as it really makes us strive to be better. It forces you to up the ante. There is no room for mistakes, so being at the top of our game at all times is important.”
What are your favorite animals? “I love all animals. However, I am partial to dogs and horses. I love their loyalty. I try to have the same attitude toward life that these animals display, to be loyal and trustworthy, yet always keep a sense of humor and frivolity.”
Ty Cohen, 28, Director of Design and Technology, Dr. Harvey’s, Atlantic Highlands, N.J.
Achievements: Overseeing the technical needs of Dr. Harvey’s, a manufacturer of organic and all-natural pet foods, treats and grooming aids that was founded by Dr. Harvey Cohen; leading a company rebranding that included a redesign of packaging and collateral material; creating a series of videos for the company’s YouTube channel.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “I find most people in the pet industry to be genuinely good people. Animal lovers are almost always caring people and that makes our industry unique.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “When we launched the Dr. Harvey’s Oracle line of food for dogs and cats. This project was over two years in the making, and became our most successful launch in the history of our company. It was both a creative and a manufacturing challenge that culminated in a very unique and nutritionally superior product line.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “Dr. Harvey’s supports rescue groups, no-kill shelters and groups dedicated to the protection of wildlife. I would continue to support the efforts we have made in the past 30 years.”
David Collado, 31, President, Happy Howie’s, Inc., Detroit, Mich.
Achievements: Taking over leadership in 2011 of Happy Howie’s, which had been struggling, and putting the company on a growth trajectory; bringing a craft approach to dog treats, similar to the way craft brewers approach beer; ramping up the company’s charitable activities over the last two years.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “The competition and the dogs. I find nothing livens up the soul quite like competing against many other brilliant business owners and hanging out around dogs on a regular basis.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “That it was going to be as big as it is today. I would have started a great pet supply distribution company and sold it.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “In early 2012, a distributor was on the verge of dropping our line for poor performance, long lead times and quality problems. After countless phone calls and emails, one day, the distributor decided to give the ‘new and improved’ Happy Howie’s a second chance.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I’m an accountant.”
Colleen Demling, 37, Founder and CEO, Pawtopia, La Jolla, Calif.
Achievements: Launching Pawtopia, which has become one of the larger dog training companies in the San Diego area; developing programs to ensure the company’s results are consistent no matter who is delivering its service; spearheading development of Pawtopia Academy, which is designed to be an online resource for educating dog trainers.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “The amount of pure sweat equity that building this business from the start 10 years ago would take. It is hard work, day in and day out. But I am also truly grateful for all of the many blessings this company has brought to me.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “This year when we were once again voted the Best Dog Training Company in San Diego by our customers.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “Many dogs are relinquished to animal shelters and subsequently put down because of behavior problems. Most of these issues are easily fixed. I would love to start a partnership between shelters and their local trainers so that every dog that is adopted is given a free group class or private training session.”
Matthew Dweck, 31, Founder and President, BH Pet Gear, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Achievements: Founding BH Pet Gear, which specializes in the development and manufacturing of quality pet products and accessories; introducing the calming coat, a kimono-style dog wrap that helps ease a pet’s anxiety; collaborating with retailers and others to create private-label pet gear.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “Our end customers. Pet owners are a great group who truly care and love their pets as members of their own families. Interacting with and getting feedback from our end-users is vital to the successes of our business.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “The day we launched the AKC Calming Coat. There was a lot of time spent in the product’s research and development … It was very important to us that when we launched the product, it would be the most effective anti-anxiety product in the market.”
What’s your favorite animal? “I have had a love for horses since I was a little boy. Horses are strong and confident animals whose trust is earned. There is nothing more astounding than the sound of a galloping horse, the confidence in its strides and its strong innate presence.”
Avrum Elmakis, 35, CEO, Barkworthies, Richmond, Va.
Achievements: Founding TDBBS, the parent company of Barkworthies; overseeing growth at Barkworthies, which offers a selection of all-natural dog treats and chews; developing unique products, such as kangaroo jerky and crocodile bones; serving on the board of the Richmond SPCA, a no-kill shelter that Elmakis also supports through product donations and event sponsorships.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My wife, Lauren, and I were inspired to start a pet treat company because of the love we have for our two pugs, Espy and Sushi. We wanted to provide them natural, healthy treats that didn’t break the bank, but soon realized that they were hard to find.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “I wish I had known how resilient an industry it is. The pet industry has so many knowledgeable professionals, and the market is ever-expanding and constantly evolving.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “Before starting my own business, I was in the financial sales business. The pet industry, compared to the financial industry, is much more relaxed and personable. I truly found my calling in the pet industry.”
Jessica Farina-Morris, 35, Director of Marketing, Phillips Pet Food & Supplies, Easton, Pa.
Achievements: Managing a team of brand managers, graphic designers and other professionals at Phillips Pet Food & Supplies; playing an oversight and strategic management role in the integration of companies acquired by Phillips; developing and implementing programs at Phillips that support the pet specialty channel.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “I love the people and the growth. The industry is dynamic and is going through a lot of changes, which is very exciting.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “I would want to split my money across charities involved with animals, the military, health and wellness, and children’s services.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “If I were not in marketing, I would be a psychologist.”
What’s your favorite animal? “I am a dog lover. I have grown up with large dogs, and love the amount of unconditional love they offer. I remember a magnet that used to hang on the fridge when I was a kid. It said, ‘Dogs love you no matter what.’ There is nothing like the welcome I get from my big yellow Lab, Sophia Butternut Fuzzybutt, when I get home at night.”
Andrea Fischetti, 32, Managing Director, ReelPaws Productions, Chicago, Ill.
Achievements: Founding ReelPaws, a video production company specializing in filming animals; cultivating a client portfolio that includes some of the pet industry’s best-known brands; sharing her knowledge of marketing and video through magazine columns and speaking engagements.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “After adopting my dog, Murray, I became aware of the tremendous potential for the pet industry in video marketing. So, my partner, Alex Mechlin, and I set out to create a company that was responsive and adaptable, and catered to pet industry clients.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “My sense of humor. Although we take our work very seriously, at the end of the day we’re often filming companion animals, and you have to have a sense of humor. Sometimes a cat just won’t cooperate, or despite the best planning in the world, you get there and the dog decides to be afraid of the camera … We have to have patience and figure out a way to work with the animal and get the best end result. We’re not above making weird noises and acting silly.”
What’s your favorite animal? “I really like ducks. They swim gracefully in the water but walk awkwardly on land.”
Nuri Fisher, 33, President and CEO, Piscine Energetics Inc., Vernon, British Columbia
Achievements: Overseeing the growth of Piscine Energetics, a manufacturer of food for aquarium fish and developer of a method for removing mysis shrimp, an invasive species; rebranding the company after purchasing it in 2005; working with environmental regulators in British Columbia to restock native fish species; setting an example of corporate social responsibility in the aquarium and pet trade; founding and building a company called Dr. Fish Aquariums, starting at the age of 15.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “Since I was 5 years old, I have been obsessed with tropical fish and aquariums.”
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “Meeting terrific people and developing tremendous lifelong friendships with industry colleagues and customers I would never have met had I chosen to pursue a career in a different industry.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “The Food Bank. I am a strong follower of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Food is the basic physiological need that too many people take for granted.”
What’s your favorite animal? “My goldendoodle, Roxy.”
Jeff Flora, 33, Founder, President and CEO, Monarch Pet Products, Denver, Colo.
Achievements: Founding Monarch Pet Products, a distributor of natural pet food, supplies and treats, in 2009; contributing to the growth of independent retailers in Colorado and surrounding states; supporting animal shelters and Denver Children’s Hospital, as well as the Tennyson Center, which offers treatment and education to abused, neglected and at-risk children.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “The opportunity to make a difference. This industry has allowed me and my wife, Tracie, to put our entrepreneurial passion to work in an emerging industry where we positively impact the well-being of pets and their owners every day.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “The entrepreneurial opportunities. This industry continues to evolve based on family-owned startup businesses that are formed to revolutionize the overall health of our pets.”
What was your best or worst day in the pet industry? “The companywide celebration of the company’s five-year anniversary.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I qualified for the U.S. bobsled team prior to founding Monarch Pet.”
Rebecca Gadd, 30, President, Gold Paw Series, Clackamas, Ore.
Achievements: Accelerating the growth of Gold Paw Series, a family-owned dog wear company that strives for sustainable manufacturing in the U.S.A.; elevating the brand’s national reputation, and expanding its presence to nearly 600 retailers, up from three when she entered the business eight years ago.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My mom developed home-sewing patterns for dog shirts made out of swimsuit material while she was home with me when I was about 2 years old. That pattern is actually the foundation of our stretch fleece pullovers. So it was really just a matter of time.”
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “It’s a very relaxed and happy industry, at least from what I experience. Everyone is cheerful and easy-going for the most part. I suppose it’s because a lot of the folks have their dogs sitting next to them at work.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “It’s always a great day when a person calls to tell me how much our simple little pullovers have improved their dog’s life and, by extension, their own.”
Tracey Gold, 37, Owner and Founder, Chicago Canine Concierge, Berwyn, Ill.
Achievements: Founding a successful dog-walking and boarding business in Chicago, and then launching Chicago Canine Concierge to help match dog owners with services ranging from pet sitters to groomers to vets; founding the Chicago Area Pet Business Networking Group, which has grown to more than 100 members; volunteering with a range of organizations serving children and animals.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “I have always loved animals, and grew up with dogs. After many years working in retail management, I decided to take the leap to managing a luxury dog day care and boarding facility because I knew I would enjoy working with dogs. I was right.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “Safe Humane Chicago, and a few local rescues that could use some extra funds.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I majored in fashion merchandising and marketing and worked for 12 years in retail before getting into this business. I wanted to be a fashion magazine editor. I wore a suit to work and the latest fashions, jewelry and heels. Now I am always in casual clothes and not exactly the fashionista I once was.”
Dana Humphrey, 31, Owner, Whitegate PR Inc., Woodside, N.Y.
Achievements: Founding Whitegate PR, which focuses on the consumer, professional services and retail industries, including the pet industry; founding Pet News Now, an event in New York City that brings together pet-related businesses and the media; creating other events to showcase the pet industry, including one focused on American-made products; serving as an adjunct professor in the pet product marketing program at Fashion Institute of Technology.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “Back in 2005, I saw that there was a huge opportunity to get into the ‘recession-proof’ pet industry. At the time, I had a beloved pug named Winston, and it seemed like the perfect fit to learn more about senior pet health and use my PR background for something fun and positive.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “It’s not all about the fluff! I would love to work more with exotic pets, such as lizards and birds and other types of pets, versus just cats and dogs.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “I would love to support the Morris Animal Foundation for its invaluable research into canine and feline cancer.”
Alisa Johnson, 26, Co-Founder and President, Dogs on Deployment, Santee, Calif.
Achievements: Creating a foster network for pet owners who are in the military, a service that allows pets to avoid being sent to shelters when their owners are deployed; overseeing the organization’s nationwide growth over the last three years, while simultaneously serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and training to be a pilot.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My ‘soul puppy,’ JD. In 2008, we brought JD into our newly forming family of me and my then-fiancé. He became the center of gravity for our lives. But in 2011, my husband, Shawn, and I were both scheduled to deploy and go on training, and neither of us could care for JD. We were heartbroken. Our immediate family could not help, but a distant relative stepped up to watch JD for six months. We were inspired by our love for our dog to help other military members in similar situations.”
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “The selfless nature of people who love animals is absolutely heartwarming. I was hesitant at first to bring others into the organization as staff, but quickly was set at ease, as the people who joined our organization proved to be caring and admirable.”
Rocky Kanaka, 34, Founder and President, DOG for DOG, Santa Monica, Calif.
Achievements: Launching DOG for DOG, a mission-based company that donates a product to a dog in need for every product it sells; building a chain of pet retail stores, called The Dog Bakery, which recently expanded as a store within a store inside Pet Food Express locations.
What was your best day in the pet industry? “When we won ‘Best New Product’ for DOG for DOG’s DOGSFOOD at the Global Pet Expo. This was a true underdog story that proves retailers want change in the way we help pets. And to have my entire team there to accept the award brought tears to my eyes. They are the ones who deserve this. They work harder and have more passion than anyone I have ever seen.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “I would buy as much food in my warehouse as I could. Because any time you buy a bag of DOG for DOG DOGSFOOD, one is donated to feed a dog in need. It would be like getting $2 million to give.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Any rescue animal. Because more often than not, they save you when you think you are saving them.”
David Krysak, 34, President, H4Legs, Minneapolis, Minn.
Achievements: Tapping his architectural expertise to design and make innovative pet products under the H4Legs brand, including leashes, leggings and a device for carrying waste bags more easily; donating resources to animal rescues and other animal-related organizations.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “Marketing channels are very specific. A roadmap would have been helpful, but if I had one, I never would have been introduced to the great partners that I have met along the way.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “Alzheimer’s research and educational outreach programs for children focused on animal education. I have been fortunate to have been raised with animals my entire life. I think they teach us a lot, and I would love to share it with young children who may not have such an opportunity during adolescence.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I joke that Macky, a red-eared slider, is our chief financial turtle. But truth be told, I have raised him for nearly 20 years. We just had a custom tank commissioned for him in the office. He approved the expense.”
Micah Kohles. 39, Director of Veterinary Science and Outreach, Oxbow Animal Health, Murdock, Neb.
Achievements: Helping Oxbow Animal Health grow from a local pet food company into a national player; sharing his expertise in small animal/exotic pet health and nutrition with audiences around the country; serving on the Nebraska Board of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery; volunteering for animal conservation work in Africa, Central America and Mongolia.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “Frustration. As a practicing veterinarian, I was frustrated to see so many pets that were overweight, being fed poor-quality nutrition and, above all, being cared for by owners who simply didn’t know better. As much as I enjoyed working full time in the clinic setting, I knew I wanted to reach a greater number of people. By reaching out to an audience that included pet store employees, store owners, distributors and others, I knew that I could make a greater difference.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “While there has been significant progress in the development of nonsurgical neutering techniques, there is still a need for products targeted at cats and females. Pet overpopulation is a worldwide issue leading to suffering of many animals and the transmission of infectious and zoonotic diseases.”
Gerrard Larriett, 32, General Manager, Gerrard Larriett Aromatherapy Pet Care, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Achievements: Founding Gerrard Larriett Aromatherapy Pet Care, a provider of all-natural, aromatherapy pet products; starting in his garage in 2012 and expanding the company to reach more than 20 retailers in the U.S. and Canada; serving as vice president of the board for the Bronx Community Pride Center; helping to raise funds for vulnerable animals.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “How difficult it would be to get into big-box retailers. Had we known this, our early PR strategy would have been more focused on B2B, and our sales efforts as well.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “That I graduated from an arts school as a ballet major. My classical ballet training continues to influence my attention to detail in all aspects of life, including business.”
What’s your favorite animal? “My ‘son,’ Dada, a 2-½-year-old miniature poodle. Dada was the first dog I raised from puppyhood by myself. He inspired my line of pet products and continues to inspire me and to give me love every day.”
Stephanie Krol, 36, Public Relations Director, Matrix Partners, Chicago, Ill.
Achievements: Cultivating an expertise in the pet industry; developing marketing and public relations campaigns for leading pet industry players; serving as a media resource on stories about trends in the pet industry; leading a $4 million capital campaign for the Humane Society of Elkhart County.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “I always loved pets. Even when I was a toddler, I was saving feral cats. It came naturally to me. Even though I love public relations, I would always rather be in a room of pets than people.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I’m the first person in my family to go to college, which has made my parents and grandparents so proud over the years. I also made my own way through college, working several jobs and scholarships. I think this was the best gift my parents have ever given me, the gift of a work ethic.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Manatees. I love how peaceful and laidback they are. What great calm energy. When I was a young child, I adopted a manatee from Save the Manatee Club and remember checking my mailbox for updates on Paddy Doyle, the manatee.”
Trevor MacLean, 39, National Director, Sales and Technical Support, Seachem Laboratories Inc., Madison, Ga.
Achievements: Overseeing national sales of Seachem Laboratories products to major distributors and retailers; developing extensive professional and technical knowledge of aquarium products.
What was your best day in the pet industry? “When I opened my first aquarium shop at the age of 19. It was a goal I promised myself I would achieve some day and, miraculously, it happened a lot sooner than I had expected. It provided an incredible learning curve and basis for my career in the pet industry.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “A charitable organization that promotes environmental responsibility and wildlife preservation. Additionally, I would truly enjoy giving to a program that brings back pets into classrooms on a large scale. I would like the chance for children who are less fortunate to be able to have pets at home to view, care for and appreciate.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Dromedary camels. I became fascinated with their odd looks and uncanny behavior while working in a major public zoo. A few years later, I was able to purchase three of them to develop a tourism business, another goal I had set for myself. Now, my youngest camel, Caboo, resides on our Georgia farm with the rest of the menagerie.”
Achievements: Starting Preston Speaks, a pet-related blog narrated in the voice of her dog, a West Highland terrier named Preston; building on the blog to start Preston Media Group, which specializes in online and offline marketing; serving as vice president of business development for BarkWorld Expo, a pet industry conference focused on social media, lifestyle and technology.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “How everyone loves pets and how passionate they are about them. No matter what segment of the industry you look at, everyone is here because they truly care about animals in some way.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “WestieMed, where I volunteer as a board member. This organization awards grants to Westie rescue groups around the world to help them pay t he medical expenses of injured or ill Westies so they can get adopted. These grants allow Westie rescues to provide much-needed care of more severe medical needs without the risk of placing a large financial strain on their resources.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “Before working in the pet industry, my career was in the smokeless tobacco industry where I worked with a company’s senior management team.”
Ben Riggan, 32, Founder and Managing Partner, Paw Pods, LLC, Lake Orion, Mich.
Achievements: Developing a line of eco-friendly burial vessels for pets and launching Paw Pods in 2013; securing 20 distributors for the product, making it available in 30 states; volunteering time and resources to Spectrum Human Resources, a Detroit nonprofit that serves children with mental illness and other challenges.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “I had to euthanize my two springer spaniels and, when I wanted to bury them on our hunting property, they were returned to me in blue garbage bags, or cadaver bags. It was a horrible experience, for many reasons, and I just knew there had to be a more dignified way to honor the loss of a pet.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “There’s no better feeling than getting a letter from one of our customers telling us about how our products helped their family deal with the loss of a pet.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Dogs. I love how faithful dogs are to their owners. I have a goldendoodle named Remy, and I love our time together. He is always in a great mood, happy to see me no matter what kind of day I had.”
Tracey Quillin, 37, Category Manager-Treats SBU, PetSafe, Knoxville, Tenn.
Achievements: Managing a portfolio of pet treat products for PetSafe, whose parent company is Radio Systems Corp.; helping to develop and launch Lickety Stik, an award-winning liquid pet treat for dogs and cats; working on PetSafe’s new treat brand, indigo, which spans multiple categories, including meaty treats, long-lasting chews and dental health.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “The chance to market and develop new products in such a fun and dynamic industry. Also, because of the strong distribution of the PetSafe brand, I valued the opportunity to work with so many great retail partners.”
Yaniv Rosenberg, 31, President, International Pet Group, Las Vegas.
Achievements: Co-founding International Pet Group after a career in the Israeli army; developing and introducing innovative pet products, such as dogPACER treadmills and the Sealy Dog Bed; taking a hands-on approach to management; devoting time to nonprofits that defend whales and serve at-risk youth, among others.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “A combination of two major factors: my love for animals and being an entrepreneur with ideas that can benefit pets and their owners.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans, and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, which aims to stop dolphin slaughter and exploitation around the world.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “Even though our company makes dogPACER treadmills and the Sealy Dog Bed product line, I own a cat. Ketem was adopted about two years ago.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Dolphins. They are one of the most intelligent animals in the world and I have always enjoyed watching them. Dolphins have been known to help other sea animals and humans, as well. I love their intellect and playfulness.”
Kelly Raiser, 39, Co-Founder, Max & Ruffy’s, Arlington, Va.
Achievements: Co-founding Max & Ruffy’s, which builds on years of cooking up homemade treats for his dogs; expanding the company’s sales worldwide; volunteering for a variety of charitable causes, including aid to animals, the homeless and the environment, as well as education and support for the health of sex workers.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “That marketing an edible pet item is basically a double sell. First, you have to appeal to your sales channel, and then you have to appeal to the human customers making the purchase, who, eight times out of 10, prefer not to taste test. It would be a whole lot easier if pets could do the buying.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “All the ‘firsts’ are the best: first recipe, first oven, first package client, first profits, first reviews, first repeat customer, etc.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “Homelessness and animal advocacy. Supporting the causes of the voiceless is so important to me.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “That I have three amazing grandchildren, with more on the way.”
Andy Smit, 39, Founder and CEO, Furlocity, Inc., San Diego, Calif.
Achievements: Founding Furlocity, which makes pet care services and accommodations more accessible to pet parents; overseeing the company’s growth nationwide; creating an option for pet owners to donate to charity when using the company’s service.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “My own pets—Chloe, Eisi, Tebow and Freckles—and my rock, my wife. The pet industry is the most rewarding industry to be in.”
What was your best day in the pet industry? “When we were invited to attend K9s for Warriors Bark Benefit in San Diego last year. Hearing the work that K9s for Warriors has done and continues to do for our veterans suffering from PTSD is absolutely amazing. It really helps put things into perspective and makes me proud to be in an industry that cares so much about the well-being of animals and people.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “The Morris Animal Foundation, Labrador Harbor, Dogs on Deployment and K9s for Warriors.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I speak, read and write Dutch fluently. I was also born in a small country in South America called Suriname.”
Kerry Sutherland, 30, Principal, K. Sutherland PR, Irvine, Calif.
Achievements: Launching K. Sutherland PR in 2012 to specialize in the pet industry; winning work from some of the industry’s leading brands, initiatives and nonprofits; creating a vibrant, dynamic workplace that is focused on client results; serving on the board of Casa de Vida, a nonprofit that aids pregnant young women in the Reno, Nev. area, and supporting other charitable causes.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “The pet industry really chose me. I’ve represented a variety of pet product brands and initiatives over the years, but didn’t expect to continue that work after I launched my own agency in 2012. However, word got around quick that I was off on my own, and in less than two weeks, I started getting calls and referrals from pet product manufacturers, pet media and industry leaders. Honestly, it was incredibly flattering, and I was thrilled to continue my work in such a fun, exciting industry.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I am also a partner in a wine business. Our brand, Speak, is a beautifully delicious Malbec from Argentina that features fashionable quotes on the labels that speak to any occasion.”
Cristen Underwood, 34, Director of Marketing, Quaker Pet Group, LLC, Denver, Colo.
Achievements: Collaborating with the product development team at Quaker Pet Group to develop new product lines; helping the company establish strong consumer brands; expanding the reach of Quaker’s proprietary Guaranteed On Board Program to include new airlines that recognize the company’s process for approving pet carriers on planes; volunteering for a range of charities, including Habitat for Humanity.
What was your best day in the pet industry? “Recently we took a carload of new goDog Bedzzz over to one of our local shelters that had a big intake of dogs over the weekend. The team that operated the shelter was beyond thrilled, as they were able to put new beds in all of the cages for these new dogs. I was so thrilled that we were able to provide a small comfort for so many rescue pups.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “Alzheimer’s research. It is a disease that has affected my family. It is extremely difficult to watch a loved one slip away and be totally powerless to stop the decline.”
What’s your favorite animal? “Dogs. They are eternal optimists. They make us laugh and comfort us in trying times.”
Oscar Tenorio, 32, Product Line Manager, PureLife 4Pets by Vetimed Inc., Weston, Fla.
Achievements: Managing logistical operations and product development activities for PureLife 4Pets, which produces health supplements for cats and dogs; developing and implementing marketing strategies for the company’s sales force; establishing a rigorous quality control process at PureLife; co-founding a natural juice company in South America, LUVALUVA Nectars, with his father.
What do you enjoy most about the pet industry? “One is going to retailers’ events and the other is trade shows. I enjoy meeting new people and their pets at retailers’ events, and I always look forward to the big trade shows where we meet with retailers and distributors. I’m also eager to see all the new products and trends in the industry.”
What’s your favorite animal? “My running partner and best friend, Zizu, a blue Weimaraner. I rescued him at the end of 2005 in New Orleans. His mom was one of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and she was pregnant at the time. He was one of the puppies from that litter. As a good Weim, he has a great hunting spirit and an even greater heart, with a tendency of leaning his entire weight on you just to be petted.”
Elena Volnova, 35, Co-Founder and CEO, Dog Fashion, New York, N.Y.
Achievements: Creating dog care products that blend quality ingredients and exceptional aesthetics; educating dog parents about the importance of hygiene and proper care; establishing a charity of the month program to direct a portion of her company’s online profits to charity.
What inspired you to get into the pet industry? “I have a degree in positive psychology and believe that pet ownership contributes tremendously to our happiness and well-being. Our dream was to create a line of products that would support ‘Quality Life for Dogs’ and give our dogs the care they deserve.”
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? “Programs that bring dogs to courthouses, hospice facilities and hospitals, and that help sick children benefit from interacting with dogs. We need a lot more of that in our lives.”
What’s your favorite animal? “I started favoring dogs after I realized how smart they are. I love cats, but you don’t see them guiding a blind person, helping an autistic child to learn or a sexual abuse victim testify in court. In my ideal world, every dog should have a home and every home should have a dog.”
Erin Terjesen, 37, Principal, Propel Communications, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Achievements: Starting Propel Communications in 2008 to focus on the pet industry and offering her clients a full-service marketing and communications partner; supporting a range of companies and helping them build awareness and engage customers; offering pro bono services to the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, A Fairytale House and Adopt-a-Shelter.com, among other nonprofits and industry startups.
What was your best day in the pet industry? “Every day. Each day brings the opportunity to meet new people, collaborate on special projects that matter, bridge connectivity and celebrate innovation.”
If you had $1 million to give, what cause would you support? “Any cause that trains and supports service animals. With beneficiaries ranging from infants with special needs to seniors, service animals selflessly transform the world one person at a time, offering a cold nose, a warm heart and unconditional love.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I love watching sports and played sports throughout college. It is the values that sports taught me that have carried through and made me the individual I am. Sports is a microcosm of the real world, instilling the values of teamwork, selflessness, goal-setting, winning and losing, success and failure, friendship, discipline and a never-give-up attitude.”
Bryan Woodfill, 33, Vice President of Sales, Petmate, Arlington, Texas.
Achievements: Increasing sales for Petmate and earning promotions that have given him increasing levels of responsibility; leading a team that developed an online portal that allows retailers to place orders around the clock; overseeing design of other new programs, including one to establish direct-to-consumer sales for Petmate, whose products include dog houses, kennels and toys.
What do you wish you had known earlier about the pet industry? “Coming out of college with a business degree, I was ready to take on the world with all of my newfound knowledge. All of the charts and graphs I could create were no doubt helpful tools. But I quickly learned that this is a personal business. It is an industry that people are passionate about, and where we rely on each other to be successful.”
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “As a teenager, I noticed an old car under the carport at my grandfather’s house. It was my great grandmother’s Chevrolet Nova, which she had purchased new in 1962. I talked my grandfather into showing me how it worked, and over the next few years we worked on restoring it. It was my first car, and I still have it.”