27 April 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
A huge devotee to animal welfare whose family including her three children have been vegan for more than four years, Co founder Jo Amit assumes the role of Product and Brand Director at HOWND®, an award-winning UK business that has been committed to offering happy hounds ethical, cruelty-free, plant-based pet care products since 2015.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Co-founded with friend and fellow animal lover Mark Hirschel, when the pair’s families met on a winter holiday in 2003, Jo and Mark set out to make the best pet care products in the market without the cost to animal welfare. Known and adored for their 100% fully certified, cruelty-free, all-natural vegan products such as Yup You Stink Shampoo and Banana Facial & Tear Stain Treatment, HOWND is hugely popular with the professional grooming community, who not only use HOWND products on their canine clientele but extol the virtues of the brand to pet owners for continued at-home grooming.
Managing HOWND’s manufacturing programme, which includes a small handful of factories, Jo led HOWND to dip its toe into the dog food and treat space in 2018, when the brand launched their 100% natural plant-based Hemp Wellness Treats. Enthused by its reception and recognising the growing interest in vegan diets for dogs, HOWND started developing plant-based dog food in the summer of 2019. While it’s been some time in the making, Jo now has her sights set on disrupting the pet food market with the launch (earlier this month) of the first product in the range: nutritionally complete and balanced HOWND Plant Powered Superfood.
With as much as 30% of reared livestock destined for pet food and at least 20 times more land required to feed a meat-eating dog than one on a plant-based diet, Jo intends to take the same founding principles that created HOWND and apply them to what she believes is by far, the worst offender in the pet sector to the planet – commercial meat-based dog food. Whether fed to dogs over a few meals a week to aid their overall health or fed on a fully-vegan diet for dog owners forming part of the UK’s 600,000-strong vegan community, HOWND wants to help the planet one doggy meal at a time with its new Superfood.
Jo also manages the development of HOWND’s marketing campaigns, including charitable initiatives and PR activities. Just some of these highlights include viral social brand movie When Harry Met Hero to encourage dog owners to adopt and not ‘shop’ for dogs, which has amassed more than 10 million views on Facebook, and popular canine calendar date and charitable initiative Bring Your Dog To Work Day, which has so far raised tens of thousands of pounds for animal welfare charities All Dogs Matter and Animal Asia since the annual event launched in 2014.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
In 2013, while already working in the pet industry, we discovered there wasn’t any all-natural cruelty free pet care options on the market. One day while researching essential oils for humans to use with our dogs, something clicked: aromatherapy could be used to help keep our customers’ pets healthy! And so our first range of shampoos and body mists were born.
How did you achieve awareness?
We achieved awareness organically for many years. Up until lockdown, I would travel up and down the country to professional grooming events, giving groomers free samples of our shampoos and spa treatments while selling them at show prices. Groomers are extremely vocal on social media, so word-of mouth has helped spread the word about HOWND immensely.
We have always put ethics first and our cruelty free, vegan credentials since day one has helped us gain true customer loyalty and an engaged following on social media.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We had a success in 2019, raising capital for the business from one of Europe’s largest crowd-investing platforms to build our new ecommerce website and hire key team members. The funding also enabled us to develop the first HOWND plant-based Superfood products. It feels like we haven’t taken a breath yet!
What are the key successes?
· Sales for the past 12 months is £830k during a pandemic year, a 60% increase on the 12 months prior
· Expected to reach £2.2m over the next 12 months.
· Our Range is 100% Cruelty Free, Plant Based and PETA Certified
· Hired Key Staff to Fill Finance, Digital, Sales, and Operations Roles
· Recent Broadcast Media Day with National TV and Radio Station Pick-up
· Exporting to 20 countries, sold in all Pets at Homes stores nationwide
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Our business was incorporated in September 2013 as Butch & Bess. Year 1 sales was £90k as we were just finding our feet in the industry. We had a few obstacles to overcome as our pricing strategy wasn’t spot on, and our bottle shape (square) was causing a problem for our contract packers regarding the labelling.
Not knowing if we should persevere or make some changes, we had a trademark infringement case against us from a pet shop. So, taking legal advice we decided to stay out of the courts and agreed to change our brand name which led to HOWND being born in April 2015.
So, two steps back and one step forward saw Year 2 sales slump to £36k as we lost many months of trading and had to create a new brand. But this was actually a blessing in disguise as Pets at Home loved our new range (colourful, simplified, round bottles, excellent labelling, and the right premium price point) and we went directly into all stores six months later.
Year 3 sales shot up to £226k, an increase of 527%. It’s been full steam ahead since then growing the brand and making sure not to make too many more mistakes!
What are your plans now/for the future?
In six years of trading as HOWND, the business has grown from two to a passionate team of eight (plus numerous dog testers and a horse and some cats) and the brand is on target to reach £1.2m of revenue this financial year. The range is currently available nationwide in hundreds of independents and pet retails chains such as Pets at Home, as well as online at DogsLoveHownd.com.
Everything we do at HOWND is rooted in maintaining optimal health in dogs while doing as little harm to the planet as possible. We are animal lovers who make compassionate products and this will always be our focus. New for 2021 is the extension of of our new plant-based dog food, which comes as the vegan pet food industry is gaining momentum, and as the exposure of low-quality, conventional, animal-based, packaged dog food is influencing pet owners to make more considered choices regarding the quality, provenance, health and environmental impact of their dog’s meals.
HOWND Superfood is made from 100% clean ingredients, unlike meat-based diets that contain hormones and toxins. Available exclusively at Dogsloveshownd.com and via a network of international distributors, the new range launches with a delicious Hearty Quinoa & Pumpkin Casserole recipe, which is packed with high quality proteins and 100% clean, prebiotic superfood ingredients such as organic Hemp protein and antioxidant Moringa. Nutritionally complete and balanced, HOWND Plant Powered Superfood can be fed to dogs over a few meals a week to aid their overall health, or fed on a fully-vegan basis for dog owners joining the UK’s 160k vegan dog community. HOWND dry Superfood will be available in 2kg and 10kg end of May.
Contrary to popular belief that dogs are obligate carnivores, dogs are actually biologically omnivorous and can therefore not only survive but thrive on a plant-based diet. A dog’s small intestine makes up 25% of their total gastrointestinal volume, which is consistent to that of omnivores and they also have molars with relatively flat surfaces, enabling them to grind fibrous plant material. Formulated by veterinary and pet food nutritionists, HOWND Plant Powered Superfood is a balanced blend of highly digestible proteins, fats, carbohydrates and essential nutrients, which are as nutritionally complete as any premium meat-based dog food but minus the potential toxins, hormones and antibiotics often associated with such diets. It’s also naturally hypoallergenic, making it a fantastic alternative for four-legged allergy sufferers, and at a time when pet obesity is rife, dog owners will be pleased to know it’s low in fat too!
For HOWND, the launch of its new vegan food range is a natural progression for the brand, which has been dedicated to all things ethical in its pet care and treats ranges for the past six years. For them, plant-based diets for dogs is not just another trend, it is core to their brand values and it’s why they are so passionate about encouraging dog owners to give it a try. As much as 30% of reared livestock is destined for pet food and at least 20 times more land is required to feed a meat-eating dog than one on a plant-based diet, so even a simple switch to a flexitarian doggy diet will make a positive impact on the planet.
We are animal lovers making compassionate products and we are excited about joining the pet food space as a healthy and ethical option for dogs at a time when a microscope is being placed on ingredients and brands more than ever. We have also witnessed a huge increase in consumer awareness of the planet’s fragility and how we can protect it. As our dogs are effectively consumers too, it makes sense that we look at their lifestyle and habits when making efforts to reduce our overall carbon footprint. It’s been some time in the making but now feels the perfect time to launch HOWND Plant Powered Superfood, so pet owners can serve their happy hounds a nutritionally complete meal in the knowledge that with every bowlful served, their furry friend can do their bit for the planet and farmed animals too.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
A staggering number of start-ups fail because there are too many obstacles to overcome. High taxes, fierce competition and poor financial planning have been cited as the most common reasons for these failures with almost 50% failing within the first three years. These statistics show that it is important to plan for both success and failure so you can better navigate your path in life or business!
Successful entrepreneurs are not born, they’re made. They work hard and follow sound advice to build their companies with grit and determination!
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Have passion – Passion is the bedrock of a business and Jo disagrees that money should be your primary concern when starting out in order to make it big. She says, “When you first start up focus on what you’re passionate about rather than just trying to get rich quick because chances are if you do so then most of your decisions will turn into good ones. I’ve always taken the pursuit of success very seriously. For me, it is an opportunity to follow my passion and chase after something that I truly love – not just money. My business partner might disagree with this sentiment but we both make a good team because he has different opinions than I do- and together we tackle any challenge thrown our way! “
Focus on employee happiness. One of my greatest lessons for budding entrepreneurs is to scale up the business as well as the culture. I want to ensure I build a company where my employees are happy doing what they’re doing and proud to work for HOWND. This keeps our customers happy too.
Diversify. “Diversifying your product range is an important way to ensure your brand continues to grow and attract even more new customers, says Jo. “Ambitious brands should always be on the lookout for new target audiences because the market is constantly changing.”
Recruit experts in areas you have little knowledge in. “Entrepreneurs are great generalists (because they have to be) and not necessarily great specialists”. When finances allow, you should recruit experts in areas you lack knowledge. As entrepreneurs, we have to be well versed on all aspects of our business and not just specialised fields that have yielded success for other companies. Hiring more “specialists” in the coming year is our plan to allow us to grow and develop while we maintain a constant understanding of all aspects of the business.
Who is someone who really who inspires you?
Sir David Attenborough – I watched his compassionate documentaries and explorations of the natural world as a child, and so have my own children who are all vegan and environmental activists. Attenborough’s documentary a Life on Our Planet highlighting the precarious state of our fragile Earth I believe will encourage generations to come that collectively we can protect, heal and ‘rewild’ our natural world.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Mahatma Gandhi
“There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance.”
― Dr Jane Goodall
“It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.”
― Nelson Mandela
“No one is too small to make a difference.”
― Greta Thunberg
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“If you will it, it is no dream.” Theodor Herzl
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
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