There are a lot of dogs that are anxious, which typically does not resolve on its own and has long-term health impacts.- Amanda Falconer
What has influenced your career?
I grew up in Sydney and Perth. Dad, a Shell company executive, and Mum, a teacher, very much modelled 'work hard, be productive'. I'm also sure, that somewhere there, I absorbed the 'I can do that' attitude.
What was your pathway?
I was bit of a career late-starter. I chopped and changed at uni, back in the days when you could; I had no idea what I wanted to do. (My medieval French was interesting, and my year of law, useful.) My first real job was as a publicist for indy films. But then, I started a pyjama business, selling to David Jones and others.
What did you learn in your 20-plus years in marketing that helps you in your current role as entrepreneur?
When I ditched my PJs business, I worked my way up in marketing with some of Australia's largest construction materials companies, I learnt how to understand markets, customer needs, spot gaps, position products and brands, and all you do to communicate that. While marketing communications has changed enormously, those strategic fundamentals haven't.
How did Bestie Kitchen begin?
Two events were the catalyst: Firstly, we'd rescued these two little dogs, Alfy and Mondoe, about 14 years before. And while we began feeding them kibble initially, I became more and more uncomfortable feeding them highly processed food out of a bag. But then just feeding them meat wasn't the answer, so that's the initial problem I set out to solve. What gave me the impetus to turn that into a business, was having turned 50 not long before. It was time for a real change. I wanted to do something I cared about, that used all my skills.
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Why were you convinced there was a gap for it in the saturated pet food market?
When I began looking for something I could add to meat to make a human-grade fresh meal that was also complete and balanced, I just couldn't find anything that really did that. I could also see there were lots more pre-made brands, and I thought, let's just target this niche of people who don't want that. But there were other gaps in the market I could see, and they relate to the new range we've been developing with the help of the CSIRO.
What inspired you to develop health gummies for pooches?
Our older dog Mondoe was the inspiration for the gummy chews. He was such a rascally, resilient dog who was my daily companion until he died at 22, just as I started Bestie. I'd seen him affected by cognitive decline in his later years and began researching the beneficial impact of nutraceutical supplements on that, and other conditions. I wanted to create natural products to help and even preventively address that, once I'd launched our initial product.
What evidence backs the need for these products?
The short answer is that dogs and cats are both living longer and they're affected by many of the conditions that arise with ageing, including what's called 'inflammaging'. There are also a lot of dogs that are anxious, which is something that typically does not resolve on its own and has long-term health impacts. Of course, there are drugs and some other nutraceutical supplements on the market that address some of these issues. But what we've done working with a local holistic vet, Dr Kathy Cornack, is create a therapeutic gummy chew and coupled that with a holistic health support app to help people take a multi-pronged approach, because that's often more effective.
How did you developing your products?
The idea of a 'natural medicine' gummy chew for dogs may not seem far-fetched, but developing it commercially has proved more difficult than it looked. I began initially in the kitchen actually, and then with a compounding chemist, and after hitting a brick wall making it scalable and stable, I went to CSIRO. I've been working with them on an R&D project for the last year, under their Kick-Start program. I've also been funded on this by FIAL.
You have recently been awarded federal commercialisation funding, administered by the Federal Government's Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) with a total project commitment of $344,850 and $149,925 provided in co-funding. What will it fund?
The AMGC grant lets us take the IP we've developed over the last year and commercialise it. The funds will be used to establish a manufacturing line and finalise the development of the gummy chews. We'll be doing that at our new location in Mayfield West.
When will you open your manufacturing facility?
We expect to have equipment here and be optimising the process in November. It will still be pilot scale, but the capacity will allow us to grow for the next couple of years at least.
How has the pandemic affected demand for your product?
We've only a brief trading history prior to the pandemic, and while we've been growing, it's been a bit spiky.
Where would you like Bestie to be in five years?
A well-known, trusted and used brand of therapeutic supplements that's making a real difference in the lives of pets and pet parents in Australia and Asian markets.
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