If you've had the chance to pick up the September 2013 Issue of Pet Age Magazine you'll notice Ark Naturals and Gray Muzzle featured! Pet Age recently sat down with Susan Weiss, Owner/President of Ark Naturals, about her passion for the natural products industry, why it’s become so popular and her advice for others.
Full Story Below:
Back Story | Ark Naturals
A Pioneer of Natural Products
Reference: Pet Age Magazine September 2013 Issue
When Susan Weiss started her business, the word “natural” wasn’t a household saying.
We recently spoke with Susan Weiss, owner of Ark Naturals, about her passion for the natural products industry, why it’s become so popular and her advice for others.
Q: Tell us a little about Ark Naturals.
Weiss: Ark Naturals is solely owned by myself and my husband Jay. We founded the company in 1996, when no one in the United States was interested in natural. Frankly, that was incredibly difficult.
Other companies that tried to introduce pet healthy products are long gone. We persisted and today we are the brand leader in what is still considered a niche category. We are known as a top-shelf line, and it’s not about the prices – it’s about the quality of our formulations.
One of the things that sets us apart is that we have products in two channels of business. The natural product category – i.e. health food stores such as Whole Foods (with Ark – not a human line) and the pet channel.
Our products are formulated by Dr. Nancy Scanlan DVM, the executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and Dr. C. Leigh Broadhurts Ph.D affiliated with the USDA.
Q: How did you start Ark Naturals?
Weiss: We started Ark with all our own money. I had become involved in the natural product industry, and realized that if natural, holistic, herbal, etc… can help with humans wouldn’t they help animals as well. I thought it was a great idea, however, it took years of hard work to convince retailers and consumers that my idea made sense.
Being ahead of the curve is always “dicey”. Seriously when we got an order for $50.00 from a store – we thought we hit the lotto.
We solicited both the natural channels i.e. Whole Foods as well as the pet channel. The pet channel was totally uninterested in what we offered. The natural channel was slightly interested. It took about 8 years for the pet category to give us a nod.
Q: You were one of the pioneers of the holistic wellness and remedy for pets. How have you seen it change?
Weiss: Years ago, when we exhibited at a trade show, we would have to stand in the aisle hoping we could stop a retailer who was walking the aisles to give us a minute of their time. I can’t tell you how many retailers told us, “no one wants natural.”
One of the problems with my category is that it really requires education.
When we started the vast majority of retailers didn’t think anyone would purchase these type of products. Additionally, pet retailers were frightened about the ingredients, how to pronounce them, what they offered.
Fast forward to today, and things have changed: How much a human spends per year on the healthy, well-being and happiness of their pet, the number of pet friendly hotels and it would be impossible to find a retailers, even one with a tony amount of space who does not carry natural products.
I feel that I played a large role in helping retailers understand the potential not only for the health of these for legged guys, but that they had a great opportunity to grow their business.
I take my role as one of the pioneers in the category very seriously. At the end of the day, I always remind my staff, my retailers, etc… that we are dealing with living breathing creatures, and that we need to be super careful about what we recommend and how we educate, because messages delivered, are sometimes mistranslated by the retailers, consumer, etc…
Q: What’s your advice to other women business owners in the pet industry?
Weiss: Here’s my generic advice to young entrepreneurs, success rarely, rarely, rarely, ever happens overnight. Think of your business as running a marathon versus a 100 yard dash. Each of those races requires very different strategy.
Be prepared for failure. Be prepared to lose money initially. Be prepared for ‘no’.
For women, you need to be prepared financially, emotionally and you need to be smarter than everyone including your competitors and every man on the street, because even though we say we believe in equal opportunity, in reality we aren’t there yet.
At the same time, be nice, be honest, look professional, know your business, make friends.
If you’re socializing – keep it very professional, because a guy can make a fool of himself but a woman can’t. If you have a little success don’t let it go to your head.
Images and Story courtesy of Pet Age Magazine.