$500 million and counting

How Wag Tantrum is helping people get aware of their dog food.

In conversation with Barbara Marshall

In this episode of Ecommerce Experts Talk, Marc Bishop interviewed Barbara Marshall, who is the founder of an online platform which teaches and helps people gain awareness about their dog food. Barbara reveals how she got inspired, what were the initial challenges she faced and how she uses digital marketing strategies to upkeep her Ecommerce business. Watch now for some profound insights.

Hi everyone. Welcome to another episode of WytPod, the online community for e-commerce business owners and entrepreneurs. And today we have the owner of Wag Tantrums. Her name is Barbara Marshall. Barbara, thanks a lot for joining us today. How are you?

Oh, I’m great. I’m just thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me.

Thanks a lot for coming. All right, cool. So let's jump right into it. What inspired you to get into the dog food business?

Well, you know, it’s unfortunate, it’s a tail that everybody has. I got a dog that was sick and there was nobody making food that could help my dog. And unfortunately, I got very involved in, you know, kind of what was going into my dog’s food. I have a medical background. I’m in medical sales forever. And I did a lot of start-up companies and I travel a lot. So I had some downtime with the computer and I started researching why my dog wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t doing well. And I had access to a lot of physicians as well in the animal lab simply just because of what I did. And it really came down to I was, you know, my dog should have been sick. I was feeding her poorly as the industry is feeding them poorly. It’s very disappointing to me that we have an industry that’s allowed these standards to go so low. And, you know, I clearly started the company because I wanted to help my dog. But really what it boils down to is we need to disrupt an industry that’s been cruising on cruise control. It’s a $50 billion industry. And they don’t use good products. They don’t use good proteins. They just use feed great meals to feed your dogs. And it’s really it’s not good for them. We even have Dr Lippert did a study with over 500 dogs, and he found out that if you feed your dogs, humans, great food, you get almost 33 months more life out of your dog than you can if you feed it. Kibble, that’s three years. That’s huge. I mean, it’s just there’s not a lot of science out there because the industry that can afford to do the studies is not going to do studies that aren’t going to be positive for them. But the few studies that we have coming out are great and it’s really shining a light on an industry that’s pretty much let down.

Our dogs now really, like this resonates with me because, you know, I had to personally change my own nutrition to stay alive. I think a lot of people have gone through that and there is a lot of increased awareness and focus on, you know, our nutrition as human beings. And I think we all have our best interests at heart for our dogs. But as you mentioned, there are fewer studies. If you go on YouTube, you can't turn around without seeing five videos about nutrition for yourself, but not so much for the moment. You're right.

Yeah, it’s amazing to me. And what’s interesting is, you know, nobody likes to think of it this way, but really, you know, back in the day, we used these dogs to do all our animal studies. We used them for cancer drugs. We use them for antibiotics, we use them for makeup. We use dogs to test products on because if they’re going to react to something or something’s going to help them, their genetic makeup is close enough to ours that we know it will most likely help a human, too. So if something’s bad for a human, maybe it’s bad. It’s going to be bad for the dog. It’s not a big leap to make if you really sit down and think about it.

Pretty much dogs eat the same food as humans. With a few exceptions, obviously, like chocolate and stuff like that, I am sure people know about. But yeah, I mean, it does it. As you said, grains are bad for humans and bad for dogs at the same time, right?

No. Grains are not bad for dogs. Actually, grains are very good for dogs. It’s important for your cardiovascular health that they have grains. And there’s this big push. Humans don’t like grains. So now there’s a big push for not to feed your dog grains. Well, there are some there are presence studies going on right now. There actually have been reported deaths to the FDA on grain-free dog foods that may have caused cardiomyopathy and killed some dogs because of the lack of grains. It’s very important to have grains in your dog’s food unless they’re really allergic to it. We don’t want to feed our dogs exactly as we feed ourselves. If we actually feed ourselves well. Like you’re. You follow the pyramid properly. You can feed your dog the same thing you’re eating. But humans have a tendency to go off on fad diets. And, you know, it might work for you, but it’s probably not going to work for your dog. So taking a grain away from your dog is not going to work. What happens is you see a lot of dogs that are allergic to grains and commercial foods. It’s because they’re using cheap, poor substitutes for grain. There’s a lot of corn in there, a lot of filler, which the dog doesn’t need. When we talk about grains for dogs, we want to talk about really whole grains like quinoa, you know, barley, brown rice, you know, really healthy grains. We don’t want the cheap grains that are just used as fillers. That’s not good for them. But good, healthy grains are perfect for them.

All good stuff that helps me personally. I appreciate that. So now you decided to sell quality dog food and you realized that you needed to sell it online, I guess, to increase your reach. So can you explain some of the challenges that you face when you open your eCommerce store and how you overcame them?

Yeah, some of the biggest challenges that we face really is getting to the right customer. Our customer typically is not on social media. If they are, they’re looking. You’re following their kids or their grandkids. They’re not using social media to shop. They’re certainly not using social media to tell them what to buy. They’re educated. They typically have disposable income. Their dog is their life. They could be like, you know, they’re empty nesters. Typically, our buyer is female. She’s the decision maker in the home for this side of the product. And it’s hard to it’s very hard to reach that person because that person is not, you know, on Instagram. And like I said, if they are on Instagram, they’re only looking for their kids or their grandkids. So you have tried to reach these people in a different way. And that’s very challenging because they’re not social media savvy. And they don’t want to be social media savvy. And we get that. So it’s just it’s really a grind trying to find that customer. Its email campaigns help a lot. Obviously, having a presence on Facebook helps and presenting on Instagram helps. We do a lot of word of mouth, which is great, but it’s really it’s hard if we’re having. It’s difficult to find that customer. What I found is that younger customers will typically not necessarily put themselves in debt, but they will spend a little bit more money on themselves than they’re going on their dog. For instance, I had when Afterpay came out, I had a friend of mine install Afterpay on her website and she sells a skincare cream which is actually drunk elephant. And when they put Afterpay on there, they had this incredible increase in seven days in their sales. We put a version of Afterpay on and no one’s ever used it in two years because our customer does it. Does it need to buy their food in instalments and the customer who’s using Afterpay is probably not quite ready for us yet? They might like to use this. They may use this one day, but they’re just not ready yet.

All right. Great answers. You already answered a couple of my other questions. But can you tell me what separates your dog food from the competition?

Organic, We are the only truly organic human-grade dog food on the market. There is no one else that’s organic. And we. We get our protein from. Good, high-quality sources. We spend the money on protein to get your protein up. For instance, you can go in on a lot of our competitors in the way you are supposed~ to list your ingredients by law is the most so if you have 10 pounds of beef, you should lose beef. If you have 8 pounds of vegetables, your vegetables will be next and so on. And you go down. If you go in and you look at these ingredients list and you read it, you’re always going to see there’s going to be beef in our competitors, but then two or three key ingredients down, you’re going to see liver or chicken, liver, whatever, whatever the protein is, they’re not they’re using cheaper cuts of protein to get their protein levels up to where they need to be. We don’t do that. We use like if it’s chicken, we’re not throwing chicken livers in. We’re not throwing chicken hearts and we’re just using the organic chicken breast to get your protein where it is. So it’s truly human, right? Inedible. The others are truly human. Great and edible too. I’m just not a chicken liver fan or chicken heart fan, so that’s why we don’t use what I consider are truly edible where I don’t consider the others truly edible but ours, you truly can eat and it is truly organic. And we’re not adding on a cheaper protein to get our protein levels where it needs to be. We’re spending the money upfront to get good quality protein.

It was great to hear. You know, that really resonates with me. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I love my dog quite a bit. I mean, when you're describing your market, apart from being a female, that I'm pretty much your target market.

And you love I mean, you love your dog. It’s yeah. It’s the only thing that really likes you at the end of the day.

That's right. Unconditional love, you know? Yeah. I guess maybe if.

You had a bad day. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about anything. They just love you.

Must be a very rewarding line of work to be in. So really.

It is. You know, it really is. I’ve always been in some type of health care, but it’s nice to try to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Well said. Well said. Barbara, thanks very much for being with us today. Really appreciate it. Contact details are in the description, and all the best.

Thank you. I appreciate it. It was fun. Thank you.

Same here. Thanks a lot, Barbara.





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