Whilst we’re all more aware than ever of what we put into our bodies, can the same be said about the food we give to our pets? Aneisha and Jack Walker spotted a gap in the market after being disappointed with the lack of choice for their dog, Smudge, and cat, Boo. Here, we speak to Aneisha about how they got started, and their hopes for the pet food industry…
Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’? How did the idea for the business come to you?
I’ve always had a love for animals and thought I’d like to work with them in some way. Leaving university my first job was in pet food so that really cemented it for me. There was no light bulb moment but as time went by, and knowing the industry from the inside out, I felt like food for cats and dogs should be better. Eventually, I convinced my husband [Jack] to join arms with me and we took the leap together.
Describe a day-in-the-life running your business…
Every day is very different but I try and build in some routine to keep focussed. I’m up early, so I start with a little yoga and a big mug of tea and bowl of porridge to set me up for the day. A lot of my work is at home and I try to keep to the office so Scrumbles doesn’t take over our home. I can be packing orders in the morning, dealing with suppliers over lunch, calling or visiting customers in the afternoon and updating the accounts in the evening. In between all of that I’ll try and spend some time on social media to engage with our followers and of course make time for Smudge and Boo!
Were there any big ‘pain points’ when you were starting up the business?
We were absolutely determined to make nutritious food that tastes great too, but that’s easier said than done. At times it meant a lot of time looking at poops to measure the digestibility of food and gut health, not something I look back at fondly.
And the highest point so far?
The high point has to be receiving our first repeat order. It took so long to get Scrumbles ready for market, it was a moment of elation when the first repeat order came through with great feedback from pet parents on how their cats and dogs had taken to the food.
Have there been any hurdles along the way, and how did you overcome them?
When we started the brand, we named it Smudge and Friends (after our dog), and for a long time that felt central to our identity. However, when it came to trademarking our name we found that the rights to the name Smudge were owned by a major manufacturer. Ultimately it meant we couldn’t use the name without paying out a huge fee and we were heartbroken. We had spent a lot of money on branding and design work and struggled to imagine another name for the business. Eventually, we had to cut our losses and come up with another name. We love the name Scrumbles and the whole process taught us a good lesson in knowing when to walk away.
Did you get any support along the way, or is there anything you’d recommend to other budding business owners when getting started?
It’s just been my husband and me since the start. It’s hard working starting a business and it really helps to have someone around that can support you and keep you motivated when you come across stumbling blocks. Having a mentor that has experience and can help with objective advice is a very powerful asset and it’s something that has been recommended to us and I’d recommend to anyone looking to start a business. A fresh objective perspective always helps you and we’re hoping to have someone mentor us in the future.
What is the best thing about managing your own company and being your own boss?
Being your own boss means not having to compromise on things that are important to you. We’ve been clear in setting out our values from the start and they guide our business, not some arbitrary targets or deadlines set to please the market.
Has your life changed since starting your own business?
I’ve always worked for other businesses and for the past two years have been developing Scrumbles in all of my spare time, so it’s been a journey, not a step change. But going full time on Scrumbles has absolutely changed my life. It’s hard work but amazing to have more time with Smudge, Boo and my husband, which they all love too. As we’re right at the start of our adventure, it can be intense and does start to take over so I’m constantly reminding myself to schedule some time away from Scrumbles and socialise with friends and family.
We love that your cat and dog, Smudge and Boo, are so involved with the tasting process. How do they feel about being the paws behind the brand; are they loving the limelight and trying lots of tasty food?
Smudge and Boo are big Scrumbles fans so they are very happy to taste test, although they both suffer from FOMO and are always eyeing up one another’s food as if it might be tastier!
Smudge is a people’s dog so she loves the fuss and attention it brings but Boo is a little more reserved. She’s a rescue cat so prefers the people that she knows.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
Don’t stop believing – if you have a good idea and you’ve done the necessary research into your target market and demographic, keep going. It will be tough and initially, there will be more lows than highs but you can do it!
What are you looking to achieve with Scrumbles in the future?
We want to change the industry for the better. More affordable and higher quality nutrition for pets, and a more responsible approach to making the food. We’d also love to bust the many pet food myths that we see brands pedal to support their own interests.
We think it’s great that you donate 10% of your annual profits to animal charities and make efforts to consider your environmental impact. Do you think environmental, sustainability and animal welfare awareness are issues that more companies should give their attention to?
Absolutely! Businesses have a responsibility to give back to the communities and environment in which they thrive. Ultimately, if businesses don’t do the right thing we aren’t going to have a very nice planet to call home. The exciting thing is that more and more shoppers are making more conscious decisions and voicing these challenging bigger brands and businesses to change their ways and accelerate positive change.
Would you say there are any particular qualities needed to run your own business, and what are they?
Resilience, determination and a sense of humour are key. Challenges are inevitable along the way but take them in your stride with a smile on your face and you’ll get there.
And finally, what do you love to do in your spare time – how do you wind down?
Well, I love spending time with Smudge and Boo of course. We travel together when we can and go for long hikes with Smudge. My husband and I both love the outdoors and like nothing more than a weekend spent in the gorgeous Lake District or the Brecon Beacons, and Croydon woods has to get a shout-out too!
Thank you to Aneisha for taking the time to feature in our #StartUpStory series! It was a pleasure to learn more about how they got started, and we’re already smitten with Smudge and Boo (how cute are they?!) We can also attest to the irresistibility of Scrumbles – some of our pets in the office taste-tested and we confirm it got the seal of approval!
If their #StartUpStory has inspired you to delve into the world of business, take a look at our company formation packages here: https://www.companiesmadesimple.com/
If you’d like to find out more about Scrumbles (or just look at the cute photos of cats and dogs) you can check them out in all of the usual places: