UTAH SMALL BUSINESS BLOG
With our dog food that is! KetoNatural Pet Foods is our June Business of the Month and not just because owner and founder Daniel Schulof has some of the cutest dogs on the planet. Read our interview with Daniel and how his keto dog food went from just an idea to his successful business below:
UMLF: Tell us about yourself and your background.
Daniel: In a past life I was an attorney at a major international law firm in the city of Atlanta. I began thinking it wasn't the right fit for me right around the time that I got my first dog, a Rottweiler named Kody. Having worked in a high-stress corporate environment for the better part of a decade, I was inspired by an idea popularized by Tim Ferris's bestselling book "The Four Hour Workweek" -- the notion that the Internet economy has made it possible for entrepreneurs to create highly-automated e-commerce micro-businesses, which can serve as a primary means of income (rather than a 9-to-5 job). I thought the idea of working only a few hours a week sounded pretty cool, so I decided to give it a shot. And, since I was so enamored with my new dog, I decided that I'd create a business for dog-owners. My first company, Varsity Pets, was born in the spring of 2011. By the fall it was making enough money to pay me a small but adequate salary. So I quit my job at the law firm on November 1, 2011. I've been in the pet industry ever since.
UMLF: What inspired you to start KetoNatural Pet Foods?
Daniel: I am a pretty anxious and ambitious person. So even though Varsity Pets was a success, in the sense that I was able to pay my bills while only doing a few hours of work a week, all the free time gave me ants in my professional pants, so to speak. So I began a business-related writing project that started small but quickly grew dramatically in scale. Basically I started writing about why so many pets in the United States are too fat. The facts about canine obesity are staggering: more than HALF of the dogs in America are overweight, and being overweight is deadlier for a dog than a lifetime of smoking is for a human being. That didn't make sense to me -- how could so many pet owners be allowing this to happen to their beloved pets? I thought there was more to the story. And I was right. I spent four years researching and writing what would go on to be "Dogs, Dog Food, and Dogma: The Silent Epidemic Killing America's Dogs and the New Science That Could Save Your Best Friend's Life." It was published in the fall of 2016. One of the core theses of the book is that there's a big body of evidence showing that carbohydrates are horrible for canine health -- far worse than most vets were taught in vet school. But kibble products, even the fancy ones, are typically at least 40% carbohydrate. Which is why so many pets in the U.S. are obese. So I decided to create a first-of-its-kind product, a kibble with little or no carbohydrate. KetoNatural Pet Foods is the vehicle for that product.
UMLF: For those who don’t know, why is keto dog food beneficial for our furry friends?
Daniel: There's abundant evidence that dietary carbohydrate does all kinds of nasty things to dogs. It causes blood sugar to spike, it elevates insulin levels, it causes obesity, it's linked to cancer, the list goes on. So a very low-carbohydrate diet is far more healthy than one stuffed with starch, like 99% of kibbles are. It's also much more "natural" for a dog. As part of my book research I lived with the biologists from the Yellowstone Wolf Project. And they explained to me that for 99.9% of the domestic dog's genetic evolution, they ate precisely zero carbohydrate. Their entire diet was made up of animal-based protein and fat. And it's only recently (with the invention of agriculture) that they began consuming huge amounts of starchy carbohydrate. Right around this time, a host of chronic diseases started becoming common among dogs as well. I don't believe that's a coincidence.
UMLF: Every business has its highs and lows. Tell us about a challenge you faced as a small business owner and how you overcame it?
Daniel: Pet owners are often very emotional about their animals and they tend to assume the worst when a new business comes along saying that everything they think they know about their pet's nutritional needs is kinda wrong. So I have found that new customer outreach is often met with skepticism and emotionally-charged negativity, some of it personal. I've had to find ways to live with that. Patience helps, I try to remember that I've been on the other end of these types of conversations too and I have rarely given the benefit of the doubt. But blocking and deleting trolls helps too.
UMLF: How do you believe the Utah Microloan Fund has helped your business?
Daniel: The UMLF has helped us tremendously. In the early stages of the business, before we had any financial track record to speak of, UMLF gave me a chance. And they believed in me enough to invest in our company when most conventional investors wouldn't touch it. Without their faith I legitimately don't think KetoNatural would have gotten off the ground. Even today, several years after executing our loan agreement, UMLF continues to provide us with resources -- I meet with Sara Day literally every week and her ideas and professional network have been vital to our success. I am a major UMLF fan.
UMLF: What’s next for KetoNatural?
Daniel: We closed our first venture capital financing transaction earlier this year. And now we're putting that money to work in a few different ways: expanding our product line, overhauling our website, and bringing on exciting new talent, all while continuing to blast away at the ideological "house of carbs" that legacy kibble companies have constructed to keep veterinarians and pet-owners in the dark about the dangers of carbohydrate consumption.
UMLF: And for fun, if your dogs could talk for one conversation, what would you say to them?
Daniel: I think I'd try to explain that the dogs that appear on our television from time to time aren't real. Kody seems to believe that they're his mortal enemies and he goes ballistic every time he sees them. My home would be a quieter and more peaceful place if my dog didn't think he needed to kill Scooby Doo or whatever.
To follow KetoNatural Pet Foods or to try their products for your furry family, check out their profiles here:
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