Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Anneke van den Broek, founder at pet care brand Rufus & Coco.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea
In 2008, I launched a different kind of pet brand – one that offered inspired, trusted and original products. Having owned more than 40 pets in my life, I had struggled myself to find pet care brands that were both fashionable and provided more natural alternatives. I set about developing quality ‘Best of Breed’ products that would make a genuine difference in the lives of pets and their owners.
Rufus & Coco is Australia's most awarded pet care brand, providing well-bred pet care to ensure that pets around the world look good and feel great.
From hamster to horse, the health and beauty range includes vitamins, grooming and cleaning products, fashion and home accessories and award-winning cat litter.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
Rufus & Coco launched as a small Sydney startup, up against the likes of Mars and Nestle who led the market at the time. By providing innovative products with distinct branding, we were able to fill a gap in the market and have continued to find and fill gaps in markets locally and internationally. In 10 years of bringing new pet care solutions to market each and every year, we have won 7 business awards and expanded into 9 different countries. Backing ourselves and persisting has been key. It wasn’t until our fourth pitch to Woolworths that we became a supermarket-stocked brand, with Coles and IGA following soon after. We bring innovative solutions to retailers, and as a result are the only pet accessories grocery brand with positive growth.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?
Risk is real and constant in any small business, and there have been many times of doubt and setbacks along the way.
I take every challenge in my stride and view them as opportunities to grow and improve. As a young child, my Dutch father sat me on the side of the pool. I was afraid to swim without my floaties. He made me repeat, ‘I can do anything if I try’. I repeated it louder and louder until eventually I dove in and swam to the other end. To this day, this maxim has stayed with me and I do truly believe that anything is possible if I try hard enough.
It has proven a challenge at times to manage product sales in nine countries with a small Sydney-based team, but the biggest and most critical challenge has been finding the right team to surround myself with.
Now that I have a team of incredible unicorns – people who truly share Rufus & Coco’s values – together we can tackle any problem that comes our way!
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
We look and sound different … and consumers notice! We know that customers want products for their pets that are packaged as well as products they would buy for themselves, so our stylish product designs, unique colours and simple, customer friendly language sets us apart. Our products are premium quality, using scientifically proven ingredients in the clinically proven doses. The vitamins and grooming products in our range are all made in Australia and our accessories are designed in Australia. In addition to this, we pride ourselves on great service and delivery.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Outlook 365 and Skype. Our team work remotely and across the globe, so having Skype as a communication tool is incredibly valuable.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of business advice I have received came from a mentor who told me to become laser focused, helping me to overcome “shiny penny syndrome”. As an entrepreneur you have so many ideas you want to bring to life and things that can distract you from what you ultimately want to achieve.
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