As part of our new careers series, we're meeting the influencers behind the scenes across the pet industry. Recently, we spoke with Suzanne Brock, founder of Nutriment, a growing raw pet food company to find out all about a typical day in her life and the ethos that's helping the brand gain recognition, awards and with that, market share.
Hi Suzanne, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Firstly, congratulations on your successes in 2015, let's go back to the beginning. What led you to develop Nutriment's raw dog food and launch the company?
I have been involved in the raw food industry for a number of years and worked previously for another company. Unfortunately the company I worked for went through a number of drastic changes and no longer had the ethos I believed in. I backed myself to do better and came up with Nutriment. Our aim was to provide an enhanced raw dog food of outstanding quality backed by a knowledgeable and approachable team. I believe we have achieved this aim and I take pride in it every day.
Still a relatively new company, you're growing quite rapidly which is testament to your food and what pet owners think of it. Are you looking forward to 2016?
Yes, it looks to be a very exciting year! We've recently moved into a new state of the art production space to keep up with the growing demand and will spend the year developing new products. We have some fabulous new ranges being launched in the next 2 months.
Sounds intriguing! How big a role has the internet played in growing your business? Do you think you'd have the growth and increasing market share you do without it?
About a third of our business is via our internet shop and the rest is over the telephone or direct to trade. We have an active and fun Facebook page and Twitter account in order to communicate with our customers. At the beginning of our business we were given 5 Stars by the leading online pet food review site allaboutdogfood.co.uk as the first raw food company to receive the honour. It is fair to say that the internet has been instrumental in getting our company name out there.
Nutriment, pictured here with actress Ali Bastian's dog, Molly, for K9 Magazine
Looking to the future, where do you think you'll be in 5 years?
I always knew what I wanted to achieve in our first 3 years in business and despite having a very optimistic business plan, we have been able to meet all our goals. 5 years seems a very long time ahead! If Nutriment can be known as an ethical business producing consistently good food and creating thousands of healthy happy pets then I will be happy. If I still have the same staff then as I have now I will be doubly happy! They are a fantastic bunch!
It's clear to see pets are your passion. Did you grow up around dogs and have you always been a dog owner?
I have had cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and even lizards! I now just have two dogs as the company makes it difficult to commit time to either rescuing a dog or training a puppy. It is very hard as I see so many beautiful dogs every day in our factory shop and I want them all!
Describe your average day in charge at Nutriment, how does it begin?
My day starts when I wake up as I check my diary and emails first thing to see what I have forgotten already! I am a single mum and so the next hour or so is getting my children up and sorted for school. I usually take the dogs round the block before heading off to work with them.
I usually do a walk around the factory and check that we have everything for production that day. Because we produce everything fresh having a steady flow of fresh quality produce is the most important thing and so it is good to check that each day.
I meet in the morning with my Operations Manager, Miriam, about production schedules and staffing issues, with my Trade manager, Ryan for an update and then with Peter who is my other half in life and business to discuss the business in general and any new direction we are considering.
The rest of my day is a blur of emails and bills and calls and product development but I do try to spend part of every day in the main office which also doubles as a shop so that I can see dogs and customers and talk about dogs and dog food which is my favourite thing to do!
I leave work in time to cook dinner at home and spend time with my children. I then usually do emails later in the evening before bed which helps me get a jump on the next day.
Sounds busy! So you're a real family business behind the scenes.
I actually work with both my ‘other half’ and my mother! It has its own challenges as we are all very passionate about the business (some would say consumed!) and so it is really important for us to find a way to put the business away when we spend time together. I am very strict about it but Mum and Peter are not as they like nothing more than to keep the business conversation going!
Peter has had many years in top level sales and running companies and so he approaches things much more professionally and businesslike than I do whereas I am led very much by my heart and emotions. This works well because we have both compromised and consequently we have a strong business model that works well, coupled with a warmth and passion to make sure we put dogs, customers and staff first.
Are you ready for a few quick fire questions, Suzanne?
Let's get started - what three items do you never leave the office without?
My phone, my dogs and an audio book - I find that in the car I drive myself mad thinking about all the things I need to do and not be able to write them down. An audio book is the only thing I have found to shut out work for a little while!
That's interesting! What type of audiobooks do you find most helpful for switching off?
(Laughs) I would love to say I listen to intellectual texts and classic novels but the honest truth is I love nothing more than a good serial killer or crime book! I love Stephen King and have done for all my adult life but pretty much any murder mystery will do. They are excellent for keeping your mind clear as you really have to listen in case you miss an important clue!
Finish the following sentences...
my dogs are...well fed and healthy thanks to the food! They are also lots of fun to have in the office and it makes it feel more like a home having dogs around.
my business is...everything I hoped it would be and a source of great pride. Next to my children it is my greatest achievement.
And finally, 2015 finished on a high for you bagging some coveted industry awards. What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone in your position who has an idea for a business and is deciding whether to take the plunge?
1. Believe in your product
2. Surround yourself with trusted people. Treat them well and put them first
3. Listen. To your staff, to your customers, to your heart, to the people that love you. Not always in that order!
Many thanks Suzanne! Find out more about the ethos behind Nutriment's growing pet food ranges online at Nutriment.co.