Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet food and services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Anne Carlson, founder and CEO of Jiminy's, located in Berkeley, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Jiminy’s is truly a unique company. We make sustainable dog food and treats using insect protein. Pet parents concerned about the planet’s dwindling resources and climate change now have the chance to make an impact through the simple act of feeding their pup. When you’re creating a protein, the smaller the animal, the less land and water it needs - and you don’t get much smaller than a cricket. Climate change threatens us all. It’s interesting to me that one of the solutions to this enormous challenge is the tiny insect. To my eyes, they stand tall.
Tell us about yourself
My passion is animals. I’ve always owned dogs and cats – although some might say they’ve owned me – so it was only natural that I’ve gravitated towards the pet industry. When the pet company I worked for moved to Ohio, I stayed put in the Bay Area and looked for my next opportunity. Coincidentally, my daughter Boothe said she didn’t think she wanted to have a child due to climate change and the worsening environment. Since I had hoped to have a grandchild one day, Boothe’s distress gave me a direction and a goal.
Then I read a U.N. study proposing insect protein as a solution to world hunger, and bells went off. I quickly saw the possibilities of using insects as a protein for pets, which led me to create Jiminy’s. Now I wake up every day and know that I’m feeding healthy, nutritious food to thousands of dogs while making a better planet. It’s better than a cup of coffee – although I really like coffee too.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Jiminy’s has managed to change the conversation within the entire pet industry. I’m very proud to know that against all odds, we’re creating momentum towards true sustainability along with the humane treatment of animals. Don’t forget that the pet sector has sales of over 100 billion dollars a year, so it’s hard to have an impact without enormous resources. Well, we don’t have enormous resources. Still, I do know that insect protein reduces methane emissions, and they’re a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2. Jiminy’s success means insect protein is viable, and switching from traditional proteins like cow or chicken to an alternative protein like insects is a realistic path to a better world.
Last year, Jiminy’s won the Best New-To-Market Pet Food and Treats award at SuperZoo. I think it was a signal to the industry that we all must embrace environmental solutions. Pet food and treats need to be tasty and nutritious, of course, but we’ve reached the point where there also needs to be a higher purpose. It’s getting late, and it’s all hands on deck.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Finding time. Time leaks out everywhere. As a pet food manufacturer, you juggle ingredient sourcing, packaging, cooking, storing, transporting, marketing, and sales. Each of those elements takes enormous time and energy. When you’re a small company, you start with 24 hours in a day to get things done. As you grow and the scale of your projects expands, you quickly realize that the clock doesn’t also extend. You still only have 24 hours per day. Finding the right balance and managing your limited time to the greatest efficiency can be really difficult and can take you down if you’re not paying attention. You need to develop good habits from the start.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find a need. What is something that would be useful? Even better – look to fill the need with a sustainable product. The world doesn’t need more plastic, so look hard to find a lane that solves several issues at once. You’ll feel good about your product, and you’ll be making a real difference.
- Take the time to find good people. It sounds simple, but getting the right team is where your company can either take flight or get stuck on the ground. The smarter and more committed your team, the better you’ll be able to manage your successes and failures. I’d hate to think of where Jiminy’s would be without reliable hands ready to take on the challenges that pop up. You’re always planning for contingencies, but there’s a reason why surprises are called surprises.
- Don’t rest on your laurels. If you’re doing well, that’s great, but you can probably do better still. Jiminy’s exists because of sustainability, so we’re always looking for ways to make gains. Early on, we tried a recyclable bag, and it just wasn’t ready – it didn’t hold its shape well, and the printing wasn’t sharp, so we went back to conventional bags. Cut to a couple of years later, and we took another look at the latest recyclable bags and found them outstanding. We’re changing over all our product lines to recyclable packaging. Relentlessness needs to be part of your toolkit.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Remind yourself to enjoy the journey. I love going to the pet trade shows and talking directly to store owners about their experiences with Jiminy’s. Their enthusiasm and feedback are really energizing and a great reminder to me that we’re filling a vital need. Getting too wrapped up in the day-to-day toil and not enjoying some of the moments is like closing your eyes while facing the Grand Canyon. There’s a spectacular view right in front of you – remember to take a long look!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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