Join us as PetHub's newest partner Pawstruck comes onto Pet Lover Geek to discuss their journey through the pet industry! Lorien interviews founder Kyle Goguen about what products his company offers, the complexities of sourcing materials, and how his company is navigating the modern retail space.
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00:00 Lorien Clemens
Welcome to Pet Lover Geek I'm Lorien Clemons, co-founder and CEO of PetHub and we are super excited to be talking today about treats and chews. Now, the key aspect in my mind, of raising a happy and content doggo, is making sure that they are always occupied; and treats and chews are a core part of that. So treats as you know, they're something that you need to be using for positive training all the time and a really good chew can keep a doggo occupied and calm while you are trying to get stuff done. And I'm sure you've all had that frustration when it comes to shopping for treats and chews for your fur kids that perhaps are really expensive, they're filled with artificial ingredients you didn't even know what the heck that is on the ingredient list, and some of them frankly, are just downright dangerous and would be recommended that you not ever give them, but they're still on the market, so it's really tough when you're going to the pet store or you're online shopping, and you're really not sure like, "what should I do? What is the best treat? What is the best chew kind of thing?" So I'm always looking -- really excited when I come across a new company I can get to explore what they do and I get to try a lot of new things. So I'm really excited about Pawstruck. In fact, they're going to be new partners with PetHub. We like them so much, we met them just this year at Super Zoo, and my Boston Terrior that's sitting right now in my lap. I know you can't see her on the podcast there, but she loves them. She's obsessed with him actually. And I have a bag that I have here at the table. op! she just woke up. The dental chews that we give her every night before she goes to bed -- It's her nighttime toothbrush and she's obsessed with them. So I'm actually going to get one out even though I know it's not her bedtime 'cause I promised her I would since I got the treat out and she's gonna go chew that up and be happy as a clam while I do this so we love 'em. We're really excited to have Pawstruck onboard. Can't wait to share the interview that we're going to do coming up here in a minute with their founder and CEO, we can take a quick break. Stick around, we'll be right back with a brand new episode of Pet Lover Geek.
02:39 Lorien Clemens
Welcome back! Today we are talking with the founder and CEO of Pawstruck, Kyle Goguen, about how his company is tackling the issue of unhealthy and overpriced treats and chews. Super excited to have you on the show today. Welcome Kyle.
02:55 Kyle Goguen
Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to chat with you.
02:59 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, and like I said my dog is obsessed with your treats and chews. Therefore I am obsessed with your treats and chews, and I love the fact that you know they are reasonably priced and healthy, and I think they're great option so I'm super excited to have you on board with us as a PetHub partner, but also to learn more about you. So I want to dive right in and tell us about Pawstruck, you know, who are you? Why should our listeners know about you? Why did you get started? Just give us the 30,000-foot view of Pawstruck.
03:27 Kyle Goguen
Yeah absolutely, happy to. So I started Pawstruck in 2014, pretty much right after graduating from college. Got my engineering degree and then preceded to do nothing with that engineering degree and start a pet treat company selling online. So my parents were surprisingly very supportive of this plan. Taking a step back, the reason for it is I adopted a dog while I was in college and I believe it was junior or senior year. I'm going with senior year, and so you know I was a dog lover my whole life, but first time owning a dog myself and having the full responsibility of owning a dog. So his name is Tyson and I, you know tried to do kind of the the responsible thing and find him good treats and chews and keep him busy and stop him from destroying, you know, all the things in my little dorm there -- my little apartment, you know, went to the store, looked online and kind of realized that what I was looking for wasn't really available or it was like ridiculously expensive on a college students budget. So he was really my inspiration and I started thinking about it a little bit more senior year of college and made the jump when I graduated in 2014. Like I said, so that's a while ago at this point, it's crazy how many years it's been. Times flown by and at this point we still focus on single ingredient primarily, but kind of healthy natural treats and chews generally made out of a single animal body part. We have expanded into other lines of products like supplements and grooming, but kind of all under that same umbrella of trying to be natural and better for you. Or I guess better for your dog rather, and that's kind of what holds the whole collection of products together. Our team has grown quite a bit over the years too, which is fun. We've got a team of about 25 dog lovers, which is great, so we have you know our slack channel. We're constantly sharing awesome photos of the teams' pets and it's a really fun environment, and you know, super fortunate to have been able to build something over the years that's a lot of fun and exciting to go into work every single day. So one other thing to add. I'd make it very clear. So like, we sell directly to the consumer online, so we don't sell into any retail stores. That's not really part of our plan at this point. My first job was selling stuff on eBay, so I've always been like E-commerce through and through, and that's like my specialty, so that's really what we focused on as being able to source the best products and sell it directly to the customers.
05:52 Lorien Clemens
There's a lot to unpack there, and first and foremost, I'll say, gosh I totally know what it's like to like have that degree. I even had a master's degree and I'm not doing anything with that particular degree, although I guess even with you with your engineering degree, I bet you that you find on a day-to-day basis there are things that you're bringing for what you learned into what you're doing. So yeah, like I get that whole thing.
06:13 Kyle Goguen
So I left it out. I also do have my master's so it was very expensive two degrees that I don't actively use. I think to your point, a lot of the problem-solving skills and a lot of like those sort of things can be applied in what I do on a day to day, but technically I probably didn't need the degrees at this point.
06:32 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, but I always say like go to school kids.
06:35 Kyle Goguen
Yeah, at least like have fun, grow up, do it.
06:39 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, yeah it does, it helps you learn how to think. I think that's one of the key things about going to college for sure. So let's dive in though in terms of like you had a lot to say there and I want to make sure that we kind of unpack some of that. So let's talk about you know, your first, you know foray into being a pet parent on your own. The affordability thing is a big deal. You know, there are a lot of pet parents who are super dedicated. They want to be conscientious pet parents. They want to give the very best possible, but you're right, there is some really prohibitively expensive treat options out there. I mean I was just looking just the other day at bully chews, and you know, one big bully chew was like 12 bucks, for one! you know what! So talk about that and how you source your ingredients. I mean, I know that. Let's talk about first of all, how you source your ingredients, and then if you can kind of tie into that, why selling direct to the consumer rather than going to the middleman of distributors or retailers can help you keep your costs down.
07:40 Kyle Goguen
Yeah, absolutely so from a sourcing standpoint. I mean, we don't source anything consumable from China or some of the other countries where you know you might have questions in terms of quality or safety. We primarily focus on domestic sourcing or you know, a lot of our beef is coming from South America, which South America has some of the highest quality beef available. Some other places like Canada, New Zealand, kind of fill in the blank. We look to a lot of different countries to find supply and we have really strict quality requirements as well. We don't just source from anyone. Having such high-quality standards does make it difficult from a pricing standpoint. I'm not gonna lie there like there's a reason why those treats are so expensive. It's because their animal body parts, like they're not cooked up in a lab. They're not as simple as like a biscuit where you can just put a bunch of stuff together and bake it. They're animal body parts, and so there's a limited supply. It's a commodity to some extent, and you want the best possible quality, so you are kind of competing with -- sometimes for human consumption, for pet consumption, like all over the place, you're competing with a lot of different buyers. So it is difficult, I think, where we are able to provide things that are more affordable, I guess to kind of your second part of your question. Because we're direct to consumer, we have a lot of advantages, I guess is where I should start, and you've seen that in the E-commerce world in many different industries like you're able to cut out the middleman in many ways and pass a lot of that savings on to the consumer. But on top of that, a lot of times what I would find initially when I had my dogs, is I'd go to the store and I would buy, you know, whatever, one treat and then my dog would love it. Okay great, I'm going to give one a night. Alright, I want to buy 10, 20, 50 like I'm gonna just buy a bunch of them 'cause I know that my dog loved 'em and there was no like bulk pricing discounts at most of these sort of stores, which I found kind of crazy because you know, obviously, like in my opinion they should be giving me a discount on buying in huge amounts or I would want it to. So I think that was one of our biggest strategies from the get-go is like it saves us as a direct-to-consumer brand, a bunch of money on shipping if you buy bulk, and so we've always had bulk options available. So in addition to trying to kind of cut out wasted spend to give just a lower initial price. If you want to find treats and you want to buy 50 of them, a 100, 250 at a time, you can from us and you'll save a ton of money doing it, and that's what most of our customers -- sometimes they'll try things out in smaller quantities and then they'll bulk up very quickly.
10:06 Lorien Clemens
I think that's kind of key and to your point, you know, we give her those little chews every night and I was just thinking like, this is so funny that you're saying this. I literally ordered twice now from you, and I think each time I bought 2 bags I'm like why am I only buying this small amount? Like I'm giving 'em every night, so that's great and I would like it if you could talk to -- so you mentioned about your sourcing and you're very high quality in terms of what you consider good materials to use for your treats and not. Are there things that make you go, "nope, we're not going to use them." I mean what is that bar that you've set for yourselves as far as things, ingredients, or quality issues that will make you immediately not consider using them.
10:46 Kyle Goguen
Yeah, absolutely. And before I jump into that, I forgot to mention one last thing too. 'cause it reminded me when you said you buy the dental chews and you buy multiples. Another thing we do is offer subscriptions and we give a discount for subscriptions. So you know it's more just our way of incentivizing people to sign up on a regular basis, so we're just passing that on so you can save money. If you don't want to buy in bulk, you could do a regular subscription and get it automatically so, anyways, so your question about sourcing. Yes, the answer is yes. Do we turn people down? All the time really. At times it's tough to determine what's good and bad, but you have to be really strict and kind of hold yourself to the standards that we've outlined, like for in our industry, certain products can be really smelly, for example, so maybe there's nothing wrong with the product, but the human people in the household really do not like the smell. Dogs love it. That's usually not the issue. You need to find high-quality product that has been -- they've taken the right precautions to prevent smells is like one example. You have a lot of stuff with size requirements, and thickness requirements, and shape requirements that a lot of suppliers maybe won't adhere to or won't be able to adhere to. You have to watch out for a lot of bug issues if the supplier and the manufacturer isn't taking the right precautions. So it's really building long-term relationships with these sort of manufacturers and slaughterhouses, and finding companies that you can trust and inspecting them, making sure they're held to certain standards, and auditing things along the way. Like everything that comes into our warehouse, someone is hand-packing that. So if there is an issue, like we'd identify that right away, quarantine that and pull it away and deal with that and likely not work with that supplier again if there was a major issue and they didn't have a good way of preventing it in the future.
12:25 Lorien Clemens
And if you could give some advice to, you know, pet parents that are out there when they are choosing ingredients? Are there things that they should be looking for that kind of give them the clue of like, this is not going to be a good ingredient for my pet? I mean what should they be looking for and what then will they see with yours to know that, yeah I can trust this?
12:44 Kyle Goguen
So I'll preface all this by saying I'm not a vet, so if your dog has specific allergies or you know issues, definitely talk to your vet and get some professional advice. I mean from my standpoint, that's why we focus on generally single ingredient or limited ingredient products. It makes it a lot simpler. I think that was one of my biggest issues when I was first having a dog, was it was not only the price, it was like I would look out there and I'd look at the ingredient panel and it was like I needed a Ph.D. to understand what the heck was in the products. I'd be like Googling it and I still wouldn't know if that's good or bad, and I still do this day probably still don't know. So we focus on things that are, you know, pretty easy to understand. I mean, so we sell a lot of beef jerky, for example. It's simply just made out of a beef muscle, like in our case of our jerky. It's a piece of beef esophagus, which might sound kind of, I don't know, a little bit graphic and gross, but that's part of the industry.
Oh the dogs love them though.
13:40 Kyle Goguen
Yeah dogs love them and it's a piece of the animal that is, you know, just as nutritious as the rest and isn't going to waste, like there's many positive reasons to use that, and really it looks like a piece of beef jerky that in many ways you would buy in the human world. I do not advise any humans eat that -- our dog treats, but that's an example where it's really straightforward. I mean it's a piece of beef, so you get to decide and so it's really just catering it to your dog; like if you get large or small? It's how big is your dog, like are they on a specific diet? Like this is not a meal replacement, like you need to feed your dog food and if your dog is potentially a little bit overweight, like you need to be cognizant of that, and don't give them five pieces of jerky a night if your dog is overweight. So it's like the same sorts of things that you would make logical decisions in your own life, except you know where it's coming from. You know it's natural. You know it's at least good from a quality standpoint, but kind of everything in moderation of course, like it's kind of the best advice I could give I guess.
14:36 Lorien Clemens
Well and you mentioned something just now that I wanna actually definitely point to. So you mentioned that you're using esophagus, for example, for the jerky, and that's using a part of the animal -- part of the cow -- that you know I don't want on my plate. It's not something that's going to be highly sought after in the human world, which kind of brings me to the thing is, what you're doing and a lot of what you guys do over there is about sustainability. So could you talk a little bit about the eco-friendly practices that you have inherently as part of your business?
15:08 Kyle Goguen
Yeah absolutely. So I mean you kind of hit the nail on the head. Most of our products have no or limited kind of human consumption. You would be surprised, like there are a lot of countries that do eat lots of different animal body parts, which in many ways is very respectable because they don't let anything go to waste. There are a lot of outlets for this sort of thing, but like here in the US, yeah, a lot of these body parts aren't being used and it's a great way to use them. Dogs as I'm sure everyone is aware are carnivores and in my opinion and based on my experience of my own dogs, they don't care where that beef came from and it's just as good for them, so I mean that's the primary when you talk like eco-friendly portions of our business, that is a big driver and a focus of ours. Aside from that I mean we are an E-commerce company so we are remote at this point. We do have our warehouse which we kind of have to have because we need to ship product to customers, but outside of that, we don't have a central office so there's no commuting to work, to and from, like we pretty much don't have printers. Everything is digital. It's in the cloud so there's not a lot of waste from that standpoint as well, and that's something that's always been kind of our core focus, both from the eco-friendly standpoint, and also because, in my opinion for an E-commerce business that's kind of the best way to run the business.
16:27 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, it's a cash-efficient way to run your business too, and like you and I were talking about before we started doing the recording, you like PetHub was kind of ready for the pandemic in terms of most of your team is working, you know, already remote. Don't have to have an office space and all that kind of stuff. Talk to us a little bit about why Pawstruck really is different? Why would I choose to do Pawstruck versus any of the other -- 'cause there are other single ingredient kind of things that we can buy online -- but why Pawstruck? What makes you better than everybody else?
17:00 Kyle Goguen
Yeah, I mean that's a great question and it's something that our team talks about all the time. I think first and foremost is our team. I mean we got a growing team of dog owners and dog lovers that know a ton about our products because we only really sell things that we feed our own animals. It's our mission to make it easy and fun for consumers to find products that they're looking for and to give their dog wholesome products for a healthy and happy life; to put it that way. Our customer services is unparalleled. I know there's a lot of pet companies that have decent customer service, but our team is ready and able to tell you exactly what you need or what they would recommend for your dog based on their own experience. I think that's a big separating factor. You can go to some of these online marketplaces for pet products, but if they sell 2000 SKUs they're not going to really know specifically about the treats and chew market; at least in my experience. So we're hyper-focused on that and have kind of the best team around when it comes to that. We have the largest selection of our kind of niche of products in my opinion. If you look at just the variations that we offer in pack size, in length of product, different innovation -- within if you look at bully sticks -- we have all kinds of different kinds. In a store they just couldn't carry that many. It wouldn't make sense. they would have to have two aisles and they wouldn't devote that to that 'cause they gotta carry a bunch of other stuff. We don't carry leashes and bowls 'cause we focus on what we do. We have something for everyone if you are looking for treats and chews.
18:32 Lorien Clemens
Well let's wrap it up with a question that kind of comes out of what you just said. What would you personally recommend as the best product for your dog? Tell me about your dog first and foremost.
18:46 Kyle Goguen
So my dog's a -- my dog we adopted her during the pandemic here, so she was a pandemic puppy and she is a Pitbull and she has so many allergies, and it's crazy, so poor Ella cannot get like any of our products.
19:04 Lorien Clemens
Awh that's terrible!
19:06 Kyle Goguen
Yeah I could give her everything for free. She could have as much as she wanted, but she can't even eat them or she breaks out which I didn't know was even possible.
19:14 Lorien Clemens
That's horrible, so let's switch it to my dog. Okay so I've got a one-year-old Boston Terrior. Let's call her what she is, she's a Boston terror, and she likes to everything in sight and everything on the floor is hers, and she adores chewing, just loves it. So what would you recommend for her?
19:35 Kyle Goguen
Right, so a dog that sounds like an aggressive chewer. Also that you want to keep busy and out of trouble or out of your way, especially if you're working from home or you have other things -- you're trying to cook dinner, fill in the blank -- I think that would be more some of our like longer-lasting chews, so you could look at things like the Himalayan yak chews. You could look at -- collagen sticks are super-super popular and we're going really well. You could look at bully sticks. Those are all great options, and then things like dental chews are a great supplement to that. Dental chews aren't as long-lasting, so that's why I would...
20:09 Lorien Clemens
She inhales them fairly quickly. She loves them!
20:09 Kyle Goguen
Exactly! Those are great for her and keeping those teeth clean, but I think that those are more of like I would put on kind of the treat side, and then the chews are things that can hopefully keep her busy, and we have longer versions, actually like lengthwise I'm talking, so that's an option as well; to give a longer stick that can last hopefully a lot longer. But people always ask, "how long it's gonna last my dog?" I'm like, "I can give you a range or try, but it really depends on your dog and even small dogs if they're really aggressive chewers. Oftentimes they can finish stuff faster than you know a big old Pitbull or something like that."
20:44 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, we have your 6-inch bullies and I think she can polish one of those off in about 30 minutes. She's super aggressive chewer. All right so tell everybody where they can find you.
20:54 Kyle Goguen
Well it's simple, we're all online, so it's just Pawstruck.com. You can check us out there, and you can check out all our products online, and then we'll definitely put together a nice little bundle for the PetHub community and listeners as well. And now that we're a partner, we can offer something fun for the community to try out our products as well.
21:17 Lorien Clemens
Love it. Yeah definitely. If you go to PetHub.com and you join PetHub.com, membership is free, we have perks, and Pawstruck is now part of our perks family, and like Kyle said, there will be some fun special offers that you'll be able to get there. So awesome. Thank you so much for coming on today's podcast, Kyle, and unfortunately, we don't have any more time, but I really love talking with you and chatting about Pawstruck and that we are super excited to have you on board with us here at PetHub.
21:41 Kyle Goguen
Yeah, thank you so much. It's been a lot of fun.
21:43 Lorien Clemens
So if any of you listening want to learn more about Pawstruck, make sure you head on over to their website Pawstruck. That is PAWSTRUCK.com or just visit @Pawstruck at any of your favorite social media platforms or come over to pethub.com and we'll hook you up there too. Thank you for tuning in. I'm Lorien Clemens, this has been Pet Lover Geek powered by PetHub.