At first blush, the Dollar Shave Club and the subscription pet wellness market may not appear to have much in common; however, Aaron Shaddy took a deeper dive. Turns out, he was barking up the right tree. The commonalities between the markets served as the genesis for what would become PetFriendly, the Omaha-based subscription service that is redefining the way pet owners buy flea and tick preventives.
“The market sizes of men’s grooming and flea and tick prevention are roughly the same,” said Shaddy, chief executive officer and co-founder. “Both products are lightweight and economical to ship. Flea and tick is dosed on a monthly cadence, but easily forgotten.”
In a monthly subscription service, Shaddy continued, one’s mail carrier becomes the reminder of when it’s time to protect your pet each month.
“This initial product is a perfect fit for a subscription delivery service,” he said. Three years onward from when Shaddy and fellow founder, Chief
Operating Officer Ryan Finstad, signed up PetFriendly’s first customer, the service is poised to double its staff in Omaha in the next year. Additionally, Shaddy noted that the company is positioned to expand into a larger space to accommodate more staff, inventory and fulfillment operations.
At the time of this writing, the company was based at 8616 G St. employed 25 people (and counting).
“The pandemic led to a surge in pet ownership as people found themselves working from home and homeschooling their children, and as they needed the companionship, comfort and smiles pets can bring during a time of uncertainty,” Shaddy said, adding that 70% of U.S. households have a pet at present. “The subscription economy was growing before the pandemic, but the pandemic accelerated the trend toward online delivery and subscription services.”
This confluence of factors, as referenced by Shaddy, is characterized by a subscription economy that is expected to double in size within around four years (by 2025).
“The investment and our plans for future growth align with these market trends,” he added.
The aforementioned investment reflects a Sept. 15 announcement, whereby it was reported that the flea and tick prevention company had closed $6 million in seed funding. An affiliate of McCarthy Capital, the announcement reads, as well as Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund,
Emil Capital Partners and Invest Nebraska led the round.
When asked about what made PetFriendly so attractive to outside investors,
Shaddy referenced its mission: Keeping pets healthy and “their humans” happy. In part, he said they’re distinguishing themselves on the customer service front, as well as with its high level of customization of products.
“We put each pet’s name and photo on the box, and deliveries often include personal notes and other touches,” he said.
Getting a paw up
Shaddy said pet ownership has grown every year for as long as he’s been in the companion animal business. His career started off in the late-1990s with Conagra brands. One of Conagra’s divisions at the time was Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, where Shaddy and Finstad would first work with each other. The duo would go on to partner together for many years before launching PetFriendly.
The “always growing” pet market has coupled with what Shaddy characterizes as the “humanization of pets” to contribute to its keen outlook. After all, that means “there are more consumers spending more money on their pets each year,” he said.
This, combined with trends toward direct-to-consumer subscription business, have made the companion animal “space” attractive to investors for some time, according to Shaddy.
“We’ve self-funded the business to date,” he said. “During that time, we
matured our systems and processes.”
These systems and processes facilitated quick and effective scaling,
according to Shaddy, while balancing the customer service that has defined the business since its inception.
“We decided to raise our first outside investment to fuel faster growth and expansion into other products and services,” he said.
To that end, they are actively hiring for a variety of full-time roles — marketing, social media, customer experience.
“In addition, we’re always looking for part-time ‘boxers,’ the team members who pack our shipments,” Shaddy said.
Once hired, all team members essentially work within the same space on the warehouse floor, with little separation between the warehouse and the office.
PetFriendly’s culture is also defined by its community support. In fact, an early September announcement reads that the company donated 20,000 doses of flea and tick medication to rescue organizations impacted by Hurricane Ida.
Going forward, the company is positioned to dip its metaphorical paws into other products that protect the health and well-being of our furry family members.
“We’re interested in all pet wellness products consumed on a monthly cadence,” Shaddy said. “Our goal is to provide a broad assortment of monthly products, making it easy for pet parents to take the best care of their pets.”