Caring And Curious: A Conversation With Founder Kate McCarron
As with many inspiring success stories, necessity was the mother of invention when it came to Portland Pet Food Company. Or, to be more exact, Kate McCarron was the mother of the invention. Her love for her own dog, along with her natural curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit, has resulted in the company’s remarkable success. So in honor of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Kate and asked her to share the some of her insights around pet ownership and following a dream with great purpose.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what led you to start Portland Pet Food.
KATE: Well, it was really out of necessity, to feed an elderly dog who was not thriving. She had given up on commercial dog food and was a very picky eater to begin with. So I started cooking, Rosie started eating, and she started to regain weight and grow a shinier coat. She lived for another two and a half years. So I thought it would be important to start this company to share the benefits of an all natural diet of human-grade food with other dogs and their owners.
Q: When you started looking into other brands and what is in traditional pet food, what were you really surprised to learn?
KATE: I was really surprised to learn about the lack of nutrition. The ingredients were not great and supplementation was needed for the poor quality of ingredients. I had no idea that rendered animals were used in pet food. I also found out that many of the ingredients were sourced offshore.
Q: How long has Portland Pet Food Company been around?
KATE: The idea came in February of 2014 when I started cooking for Rosie. I started out with a fresh, frozen product. And that was sold initially at farmers markets and pet specialty stores, and then into natural grocery stores. I also created the Portland Brew Biscuit with several local breweries to offer a sustainable product and work within our community. We go over on the brewing days and collect the barley and turn it into scrumptious treats, mixing it with all natural peanut butter and then either beef broth, pumpkin, or bacon.
Q: What would you say is the biggest benefit of owning your own business?
KATE: The biggest benefit is the ability to be creative and actually develop something that you really believe in and and see it through from the formulation of the product, all the way to getting it on the shelf. There's a lot of headaches and it’s very, very demanding. You have to be ready to work 24/7. But in the end you are pursuing your passion, which is very rewarding.
Q: Your family is very involved in the company. Do you feel like that's changed your family dynamic at all?
KATE: We're a family that’s done a lot together. We were fortunate, through our other business, to be able to bring our two youngest children, Matt and Maggie, with us on many trips. They were around our first business, but they've been actually involved with the development of Portland Pet Food Company. They say now they’ve really seen what it takes to run a business and how much you really need to sacrifice, especially during a startup time to keep it going. There's hurdles each day that you need to get over, but in the end, it's very rewarding to create a business and to watch it grow.
Q: What would you say has been the most surprising thing that you've learned throughout owning this business?
KATE: I think there needs to be a lot more education about nutrition and pet food for the consumer. I was surprised about the lack of transparency and poor natural nutrition in pet food.
I’ve also learned how important it is to have people around you who you trust and to hire people who know things better than you do. We’ve been fortunate to have great advisors and a dedicated team that's helped this company grow.
Q: I think you also touched on something really important with how little people actually know about what their dog eats.
KATE: I was there too, until I saw the benefits of what Portland Pet Food did for Rosie. And now that I'm in the pet food industry, we’re not really pet food anymore, we’re human food for dogs.
Q: Do you think that owning a business has changed who you are as a person?
KATE: I think it's it's forced me a little bit out of my comfort zone. I was pretty shy growing up, but I've learned that it's important to network and not be afraid to ask for help . Be inquisitive and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no stupid questions and you never know what you will learn.
Q: What advice would you give to other budding entrepreneurs who might be on the fence about starting their own business?
KATE: I would say, be fearless. Go ahead and don't be afraid to fail. Ask questions and listen. Pursue your dreams. There's a support network of people around that are more than willing to help you, as long as you ask.
Q: What’s in store for Portland Pet Food?
KATE: We are looking at this year at continuing to expand natural grocery as well as pet food specialty and grow our distribution. And five years from now, I hope that we will be in every household and also exporting to several countries. We’re ready to export to Canada, South Korea, China and we're looking at distribution in Japan. We're very, very excited.
See for yourself why Portland Pet Food has changed the way so many caring pet owners feed their dogs.
Please note: At Portland Pet Food Company, we offer a variety of natural, healthy dog food toppings and natural, healthy dog treats, including gluten-free options. Our dog food toppings and treats are great for senior dogs and dogs who are picky eaters. Use our dog food subscription service, and you’ll never have to worry about ordering!