A Coventry-based online pet food vendor is leading the way after its ‘best in show’ performance at the world’s largest dog show.
PetShopBowl UK, based at the University of Warwick’s Binley Innovation Centre, capped a fantastic first year in business by becoming the only online company to be offered its own stall at this year’s Crufts.
The firm, which provides next day delivery on over 1,500 pet food products, was established in January 2010 when 29-year-old Adam Taylor noticed the trouble his mother had with large, heavy bags of food and litter for her two rescue dogs and five cats.
Further research showed that only three per cent of pet food was purchased online and after moving to Binley from London in August, the company continues to grow and grow, to the extent that they caught the eye of the world-renowned dog show – allowing them to secure a rare slot.
“It is extremely difficult to get a spot at Crufts,” said Adam.
“You can’t just apply, it is only when people that had a stand the previous year turn it down that they look for replacements.
“It went really well, we picked up 2,500 online subscribers and developed new sponsorship relationships with numerous brands so we were delighted.
“Originally we worked out of shared office space in London and made deliveries on a scooter but after receiving investment through the Prince’s Trust Business Programme and the Ignite scheme we decided to move up here.
“The location is just perfect as not only do we have everything we need here at the science park, being close to our suppliers and having great facilities, but in fact 14 per cent of all pets in the UK are in the Midlands.
“This has made the move here incredibly successful and we are currently experiencing 50 per cent growth month-on-month.”
The company has been so successful that they are to be the subject of a Financial Times feature discussing how to prosper in a recession.
And Adam believes the recession may even have acted as a blessing in disguise in his case.
“After graduating from University of Warwick with a degree in manufacturing and engineering back in 2006 I worked in finance and consultation before being made redundant,” he added.
“This forced me to follow through with my plans to set up this business.
“The incentive schemes we have been involved in have clearly helped but I think the fact that money is not readily available has persuaded us to be more stringent. For example, not spending lots of money on freebies for Crufts but instead negotiating harder.
“I think that if you can save people money in this period they are likely to stick with you when times get better.
“Also people who have pets are generally older and less internet savvy so we have tried to make it as easy as possible for them with ‘repeat order’ commands.
“We started by catering purely to the disabled and the elderly but our customer base has grown rapidly.”
After seeing the positive effect having a dog had on his father’s health, Adam, and his business partner, Alexandra Tamasan’s ultimate aim is to encourage more people to have pets by ensuring that looking after them is cheaper.
And Penny Robb, centre manager at the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Innovation Centre is in full support of what they are doing.
She said: “They are a real success story for the Ignite programme and show that you can achieve positive results in this difficult financial climate.
“Their business is something a bit different and I think sometimes it is nice to have that level of variety and we will do everything we can to help them sustain their progress. We have a number of satisfied customers here at the science park itself.
“PetShopBowl will receive the benefits of being part of this thriving environment and, if they should need it, our wide range of business support services and facilities that make operating a business much easier.”