Tell us how your career path led you from engineering to the pet industry.
I have always been an entrepreneur. I love creating products and that is why I went into engineering. When my dog’s paws were severely injured, I couldn’t find an over-the-counter solution that helped manage the bandaging treatment at home. I used my background to create our first product, Healers Medical Dog Boots with gauze inserts. They worked so well that I made the decision to take them to market.
I have to say it has been an adventure. My kids always ask me, “Wouldn’t it have been easier just to keep working at Intel or keep working in engineering? Wouldn’t you have made more money that way?” I respond, “Maybe, but I love helping people with their pets and it’s just more fun creating solutions in pet industry.”
Professionally, what makes the pet industry a good fit for you? What do you enjoy the most about working in pet?
It’s the people in the pet industry. I’ve never met an unhappy person at a tradeshow. If you’re in the pet industry, you’re doing it because you are committed to the health of pets and the joy they bring us. Even your competitors are willing to share their stories and give advice to a newcomer. I think that’s what sets this industry apart from others. People just love what they are doing.
For me personally, I have always had a great love for animals so being part of an industry that supports the pets that I care so much about is such a blessing. Where else can you work that brings so much joy?
What aspect or aspects of your personal work ethic have helped you most to become successful?
I have a very strong work ethic. My parents were great examples and instilled this in me. For example, I earned an electrical engineering degree when I had four children in grade school and I was also working part-time. I would never have been able to accomplish all this without a strong work ethic. I also love learning.
My husband used to say going to school was like a hobby. I guess you can look at it that way because a hobby is something you typically have a passion for. For me, it makes life so much more interesting to research and to learn from others, and to help build on people’s strengths. It’s teamwork that makes you successful.
What are some of your career accomplishments you value the most?
Earning my engineering degree as an adult when I had four young children all in grade school. This was a major challenge that I set for myself. I was able to complete it in just four years and went on to earn my MBA right afterwards. Luckily, I was young and had the energy. Accomplishing this challenge in front of my children was a good example of what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. They watched me studying at the kitchen table and saw firsthand how hard you need to work to achieve your goals. My children now have that same work ethic and determination to meet their goals. All of them have very successful careers. It is pretty cool to watch and is why I think this is my biggest accomplishment.
At this point in your career, what are your professional goals, and what opportunities are there in the pet industry to help you achieve them?
My goal is to continue to build on our success and grow the company. I would like to see Healers products in every major retailer. With the rapid growth of the pet wellness market, retailers are looking to add lines like Healers offers. There is so much growth opportunity in the pet space and I am extremely excited to see Healers PetCare become the one-stop shop for OTC pet lines.
What is your advice for pet industry manufacturers who are getting their feet back underneath them following two particularly challenging years?
If you believe in your product and have a passion for it, be persistent. Don’t give up. Stay the course. Build slowly and steadily and success will come. Be patient, believe in yourself and persevere. Many startups give up after just a few years because it’s hard, but if you can keep at it, grow steadily, and build a strong foundation you will reap the reward. For me, the journey has been worth it.
How would you describe the current state of the pet industry?
It’s very strong. It’s grown every year 4-6 percent on average. The pet health space has grown from 10% of the total market to 28 percent in the last 10 years. The pet industry also tends to be recession-proof. Pet parents put their pet needs and their pet’s health above their own.
What are the top 2-3 issues pet manufacturers are currently facing?
Supply Chain: Supply chain is No. 1. It’s getting better but there always seems to be one element in your materials that is challenging to fill. Since some of our components come from overseas, delays in processing through our ports can cause issues. This has caused us to have to keep a higher level of inventory to meet demand.
Digital Media: It seems the algorithm used in digital media is constantly changing. Keeping on top of all these changes between the different platforms can be challenging. You put an ad out and it’s working well, then a social media platform will make a change in their system and your ad doesn’t show up in the targeted feeds. So, it’s critical that we partner with a media company that stays on top of all these changes. Another challenge with Digital media is how do you build your customer relationships. I miss the days when people called and you could have a 2-way conversation. You were able to connect. This is challenging through text and chat.
Staffing: Getting the right people that are a good fit. We are so lucky; I have some of the greatest staff. They’re just awesome.
How is Healers PetCare forging ahead?
One day at a time. We have a great team and offer products that are in high demand. Customers can relate to my story and know we are here to help. We love what we do, and it shows in our products and service. Since we have been at this for 10 years, stores are looking to us for advice on how best to expand their health lines. It’s a great place to be.
What is the role of manufacturers in the pet industry?
The role is to develop products that solve customers’ problems. It’s up to the manufacturer to know your market, know your customers and understand their pain points. Then create high-quality solutions that solve those problems.
What is unique about being a manufacturer in the Health & Wellness category?
Health and Wellness has been an afterthought in retail for a long time. People would look to their veterinarians for solutions but veterinarians don’t typically carry OTC products. In the past retailers saw health and wellness as a pet specialty item. But that has changed. People see pets as people. They want to see high-quality products in their favorite stores, similar to what they can get for themselves. With the shortage of veterinarians and the high cost to see a veterinarian, the demand for OTC pet health lines is just going to grow. After all, pharmacies carry pet meds as a convenience and cost savings, it’s natural for them to carry OTC pet health lines too.
This is an exciting time to be a manufacturer in the pet wellness space. Demand is up. retailers are getting on board and they are looking to us for our expertise. We can really make a difference in the home care of pets.
What was missing from the pet industry that motivated you to design and create safe and effective solutions to treat pets’ injuries? What happened with your own dog that subsequently spurred you to found Healers PetCare?
My dog, Jake, injured all four paws hiking on a hot day. All his pads burned off. The only solution we had was socks and duct tape. After visiting the veterinarian their solution was vet wrap and rolled gauze. This proved to be impossible for an untrained person. The gauze would stick to the wound as it healed, and the vet wrap would wad up. In addition, it was very expensive and wasteful to use this solution. I decided there had to be a better way. I created our own medical dog boots with non-adherent gauze inserts that turn the boot into a bandage. The boots breathed, were washable, and reusable. The gauze had adhesive backing so it stays in place in the boot. Super simple, and so much better for our environment. The veterinarians loved the solution and my pets’ paws healed quickly.
What are some key values and features of Healers PetCare that make you an industry leader?
One of the key values of Healers and what has kept our customers coming back for years is that we always put our customers first. They know through our actions that we really care about them and their pets. I get calls from a pet owner whose senior pet no longer grips slippery surfaces or they start dragging their feet. Their veterinarian will refer them to us. We take the time to listen and work with them to ensure they get the right fitted boot, even customize one if needed, and we won’t stop until we help solve the problem. People love that level of service. They love that they can talk to a real person. They know we are honest in our approach and we truly care. We are here to serve them and to provide the very best in service and products. They appreciate us and who we are as a company.
How does the company continually fill gaps within the Health & Wellness category and address pet owners’ issues with its solutions-based products?
I’ve been working in this industry for over 10 years. I have been designing solutions as an engineer for 30 years. I listen to my customers and make it my mission to help them. My own dogs have been my inspiration and I have dealt with many of the same issues my customers face. My dogs have suffered from severe allergies, they have lost toenails because of an allergic reaction, they have had one ear infection after another. Most of the challenges pet owners face, I have also experienced. So being trained on how to solve problems, we get busy. We work with veterinarians and industry experts to help us create simple, practical, home solutions. Veterinarians love working with us and referring their clients to us. Our solutions enable pet owners to manage basic health issues at home. Retailers recognize Healers as an expert in the field, who offers real solutions for real problems.
What do you attribute to Healers Pet Care’s continued success?
The simplicity of our solutions. The fact we listen and work to solve our customers’ problems. I can’t tell you the long conversations I have with our customers. They love to talk about their beloved pet and I take the time to listen. We put our customers first in everything we do. That is how we build loyalty and grow as a company. We just care.