Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Laura Simonson, founder, and CEO, of Virchew, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Virchew is the realization of a vision that came to me well over a decade ago. In fact, I have been researching plant-based diets for dogs since 1989! That may seem like forever, but when you know something is right, you just never lose focus. We are the first producer of plant-based, dehydrated meals for dogs that are supported by veterinary nutrition programs. Our customers are people from all walks of life. From those with their first dog to those who are living with seniors but the one thing they all have in common is wanting the best health for their furry companions.
Many of our initial market test customer groups were people living vegan or plant-based; however, we created Virchew with the focus of offering therapeutic plant-based foods to provide solutions for problems associated with animal-product-based diets. Food sensitivities and allergies such as skin and GI issues are the most common ailments we hear at Virchew from new customers seeking relief for their dogs. We're now growing a customer base that includes people and veterinarian partners seeking these solutions, and it's very exciting to see the successful, life-changing results.
Tell us about yourself
For as long as I can remember, I've had a deep desire to create a business that stands for doing the right thing using powerful, plant-based foods as life-changing solutions. I just didn't know it would be to dish up foods for my favorite animal - dogs! I have had a very fulfilling, entrepreneurial business path. My business background includes 30-years of success in real estate (sales, marketing, and management), business development, venture capital, event production, and communications.
My interest in health and nutrition really began over 20-years-ago in Calgary when I created, financed, and managed the first health and lifestyle studio of its kind. It was a one-stop-shop that offered life-changing programs in personal development, fitness, nutrition, and meditation. I had a knack and passion for predicting trends in natural health, fitness, plant-based diets, which led to the development of Virchew.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Financing and launching Virchew through the power of people! Our shareholder base is comprised of over 75 people who share the same values as our founding and management team. We launched in 2020 and, in 2021, in conjunction with a dynamic online sales platform and direct-to-consumer business model, we launched a brick-and-mortar location in Vancouver's pet-friendly, trendy Kitsilano that we call the 'Virchew HQ.' It is the center of the Virchew world - housing admin, production, displays, a sample shop, customer visiting areas, our fantastic team, and professional consultants. I am pleased that Virchew HQ is so welcoming that it is becoming a neighbourhood meeting place!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Definitely learning to walk before you run! When you have a spark that becomes a concept that grows quickly into a product and then launches as a business, the temptation is there to want to move forward quickly. To satisfy everyone everywhere is impossible, but that is the feeling that you have. I am always looking at the pace of Virchew to ensure that every step of the way builds into the next. It's crucial to not fall for the belief that there 'is a race.' There isn't. Knowing this and without racing, I endeavor to ensure that no opportunity is overlooked and that the Virchew Crew is heard and valued. My personal and professional motto is to "Always do the right thing," which is the foundation supporting our Virchew vision.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- If you do not have a business vision that wakes you up at night and you're obsessed with its creation, do not start it.
- If you are creating the business because you feel you have no choice (this is actually necessary) or because you intend to create something incredibly beautiful and extraordinary - you will be fueled for every daily action and challenge.
- You have to be brutally honest with yourself - how much are you really willing to put into the business to make it successful? All of your time, money, and resources? Are you willing to be vulnerable and sometimes feel as though you are all alone but will continue to climb anyway? Then you will grow a business that will supercharge your soul.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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