Kim Miller and Michael Frizell are the founders of Paws for Life, a Sydney-based business aiming to change the way consumers purchase pet food.
Paws for Life allows consumers to select and purchase pet food online, which is then delivered to their doorstep, eliminating the need to traipse through supermarkets and lug home heavy bags.
The business launched in beta a few months ago before officially launching the service. Miller and Frizell talk to StartupSmart about creating a canine-inspired concept.
What prompted you to start this business?
Kim: Great companies are founded in down periods. We saw the remnants of the GFC as the opportunity of a lifetime to go and start one of these great companies.
Why did you limit your offering to the pet market?
Kim: Paws for Life is about improving our customer’s lives and giving them back their free time.
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Pet food is a large unsolved problem in Australia, and focuses our team’s expertise on another large unsolved problem in Australia – B2C logistics and warehousing.
How long did you work on the site before the launch?
Kim: We have been working on the idea since January – it has taken a lot of sweat equity to create this opportunity.
We were not willing to go into something on a whim, not willing to be reactive in a market or to chase the latest trend.
We conducted a very thorough review of the pet industry, which is key to our success.
We gained a thorough understanding of the current players, supply chain, the position of B2C logistics in Australia, and how that all comes together with respect to the economics of a start-up business.
What were the biggest challenges?
Michael: Finding information to support our assumptions was challenging. We had to get out there and kick tyres, and sometimes ruffle a few feathers.
This taught me two things: 1) You need to understand that your assumptions about real world situations will be wrong, and 2) 99% of research can’t be done from a desk in an office on the computer – you have to get out there in the real world.
How did you fund the business?
Kim: We put up the seed capital ourselves as we think it’s important for management to have significant skin in the game.
That said, the most significant cost has been the lack of a salary – moving from an investment banking salary to nothing is a massive change and took some getting used to.
It has brought a sharp focus to the business and the success of Paws for Life.
What are your revenue projections for 2011/12?
Michael: Our focus over the next year will be to continue to build best-of-breed infrastructure to ensure our customers get their food as fast as possible.
The key to our business is a custom-built warehousing and logistics platform that is fully integrated with both our frontend website and our logistics partners.
There has been a lot of investment in automating our systems to ensure we can scale efficiently.
The problem in Australia is moving a regular, large parcel from B2C – this was largely unsolved before Paws for Life came along.
James Edwards is our head of technology. He has a PhD in mathematics and degrees in computer science, and is focused on this aspect of the business. His focus has been on solving the B2C logistics problem.
Kim: The other focus is building out a great team. One thing I learned in investment banking was that revenue and profit targets are nice but they are nothing without a great team.
Businesses are really just a group of people all pointing in the right direction, trying to solve a problem.
Our belief is that the right team is crucial – this is why we have team targets, not revenue. We measure how we build our team, how the individuals are progressing and what else they need from the business to achieve their personal and business goals.