Selling healthy dog food around Los Angeles is a business that started from a personal passion for Andrew Kim and his business partner Mark Boonnark. Andrew’s dog became ill during a widespread pet food recall while living in the Bay Area in 2008. Poor quality pet food that kills is a reality. According to a 2013 article on Food Safety News, more than 8,500 dogs and cats in the U.S. died from eating poor quality food the year before the recall that shook Andrew.
Neither Andrew or Mark had experience in retail or in pet food. Andrew was working in research for an equity hedge fund and Mark had an advertising background.
They dug into the matter in ’08 and concluded there was an underserved market of families who would buy better quality food for their dogs that wasn’t available at the large retail outlets like Petco and PetSmart. Sales of dog and cat food continue increasing year after year. Dry dog food sales have climbed from $2 billion in 2000 to about $9 billion in 2013, according to the Pet Food Institute.
Andrew and Mark didn’t want the giant retail model but knew their business would attract a larger volume of buyers than the the highend boutiques who sold specialty products. Today, their business, the Healthy Spot, has six locations around LA and in about seven years they’ve grown from four employees to 160. The business model combines grooming services and doggie day care with products made primarily by local manufacturers.
Andrew and Mark screen them carefully to scrutinize the ingredients and to ensure the operations are run well and sustainable. A small manufacturer who finds space on the Healthy Spot shelves and changes course to serve the large retailers will have to give up their shelf space in Andrew and Mark’s stores.
“At the mass market level, the model forces companies to change ingredients and manufacturing processes,” said Andrew. He noted that most small manufacturers who make the switch usually end up experiencing a product recall.
Growing a business requires making daily decisions and remaining true to the company’s core. Andrew says the Healthy Spot is more than a middleman for selling products and providing award winning dog grooming. “We’re advocates for your pet’s health.” He and Mark want each store to become part of the surrounding community’s social life. Dog owners, and cat owners, are welcome to stop in and tell about the kinds of foods they’d like to see and share any feedback with the employees or with Mark and Andrew who make it a habit to walk the floor space.
Success at the local level has generated interest from communities near and far who want the concept in their neighborhoods. Andrew said vetting opportunities is as important as selecting manufacturers. Choosing the wrong ones can cause a business to grow too fast and strain resources.
The Healthy Spot is doing just fine and plans to keep putting down brick and mortar roots and serving the families and their dogs who have embraced the concept. A detailed interview with Andrew Kim covering his story and the business model is available on the Running a Small Business website.
Or log on to the Healthy Spot’s website for product and service information.