THE RAW DOG HAWAIʻI STORY
How we became the company that fosters healing dogs
By Gary Novosel
We were frustrated because our dog was suffering with allergies. We’d spent an awful lot of money on medicines, vet visits, and over the counter shampoos only to have our best friend continue to suffer. Our foods only contain the highest quality, organic and human edible ingredients and we want our customers to have a positive experience with our products - crappy commercial products simply can't help you or your dog.
In addition to providing great products and service, we want to change the way society looks at raw food. There are still vets that preach kibble and prescription, and there is a fear spread towards raw dog food that still lingers in our culture. For instance, the term "raw food" should be "a true evolutionary diet" or "species perfect."
These changes take time, but progress is being made. Recently, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM and others vets have started explaining and evangelizing on YouTube the safety and benefits of a carefully made raw dog food. We can't do this alone, and we need you to help us change beliefs and preconceptions. Connect with us by joining our mailing list, liking us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, share photos on Instagram, by writing a powerful Yelp review, and most importantly – become a Raw Dog!
OUR STORY STARTS HERE
In May of 2012, my wife and I moved to Honolulu. I was several years into feeding my dog raw food and I couldn’t find a locally produced choice. It was shortly after that I combined my passions of dogs and organic foods; I fell in love.
Shortly after that event, I launched Raw Dog Hawaiʻi as a way to use Hawaiʻi’s amazing ingredients and awesome farmers to source our ingredients. We first started off making the food at home using our first website. A few farmers’ markets later I began to share my knowledge about how to heal dogs simply by feeding them a high quality, evolutionary-based diet. Ultimately, the goal was to provide the tools necessary for dog owners to feel confident about healing their own dogs, and I also wanted to end the negative stereotypes about raw food being unsafe or a passing fad.
We continued to improve our products and expand our flavors for several months. It was very rewarding to share my experiences of growing our raw dog food business, and connecting with other individuals who struggled with my same challenges. Hopefully my words helped those dog owners get the basic tools needed to understand why dogs shouldn’t eat dry food and how to see that raw food really is the best prescription.
Raw Dog Hawai’i was very small at this point, but I always had a larger vision for what it could become. Many people would doubt the potential of the company and call it a niche market or a passing fad. They would ask, "what happens when this raw food fad ends?" The simple answer to this question is; "the kibble based and mass produced diets are ending now, and Raw Dog Hawai’i will be leading the charge to a real food for dogs."
Through 2012 and 2013 Raw Dog Hawai’i grew steadily driven by our successes with healing dog allergies. It was toward the end of the year that all the pieces would fall into place that allowed Raw Dog Hawai’i to really grow.
FROM COMMUNITY TO BUSINESS
In early 2013, Honolulu Magazine wrote a small story about us. At the same time Island Dog Magazine ran a feature story on us. We attended the Hawai’i Pet Expo in May of 2013 and the response was crazy. Luckily, we had several friends come with us and without them we would have been crushed at the response
It was because of this event that our customers became a bit crazy about telling everyone they knew about us. We quickly grew from me by my lonesome in a commercial kitchen to a staff of three. We’ve outgrown our kitchen, but we continue to support local farmers and ranchers, hire locally and invest locally. We are still looking for a larger space. I simply couldn’t imagine my life being any more fulfilling.
Raw Dog Hawai’i’s community was moving along as normal, when Honolulu Magazine honored us with the Best of 2014 Award. It caught us so off-guard that we only learned about it from our customers! We were quite humbled.
We bootstrapped the business with a little bit of cash and a credit card. If anyone had told us we were going to be using over 16,000 pounds of chicken every month I’m pretty sure we would have thought them crazy. From that day, the business has grown consistently month over month. We've done it by connecting with our customers and by providing great products and service. We do things the old fashioned way - we buy our inventory locally, listen and respond to our customers, and sell only products we personally believe in and would feed our own family.
I handle the overall business, with Dakota Tatom running our farmers’ markets, Virgil Villamar and his wife running the kitchen, and my wife proof reading, editing, and providing feedback to keep me focused and grounded. Together we form a united and productive team; always on the same page regarding the vision, culture, and outlook of the business.