Dog Treat Subscription Box
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jia Liu, I started What The Dog Likes, a true all-natural dog treat subscription box.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I moved from China to NYC 9 years ago and restarted my career here. I have been involved with helping businesses, especially startups grow, accelerate and expand to the global market for my entire career.
I was working 24/7 at the time and when COVID started, I started to put a pause on what I was doing and focused on rebalancing my life. Then my dog, Maze walked into my life! I believe everything happens in your life for a reason and I know this one is to help me focus on the present, and life/work balance, and enjoy the small things in life.
Maze is a miniature Australian Shepherd and she was 12 weeks old when we first got her. At the time, I’m already very familiar with holistic health and natural food healing concepts because of my childhood background, so we immediately put Maze on a raw diet since day one knowing all the benefits it brings, but I still end up falling into the fancy packaging and delicious terms that big brands use on dog treats not paying attention on what actually goes inside of the bag, quality of the ingredients, and where are these treats were made before gave them to Maze.
Only to find out later that a lot of them are made elsewhere, use rendered meat combined with many additives, and voila! Those are the “bone- shaped” chews and biscuits that look so delicious, and fooled us to think we are giving the best, healthiest treats to our dog because that’s what they “suppose” to eat.
So I start to spend A LOT of time researching good local treat brands that we can trust then I thought, why don’t I put them together in one box, so other dog parents can save their time and KNOWING the treats they get are made with high-quality ingredient, sourced ethically and transparently, with NO additives – then What The Dog Likes was born!
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Because all the brands we work with are small to medium-sized, so there is no large production on each product we sell, which means we can’t put boxes with set items each month like other brands. Because of this restriction, we have made a fully customizable solution, where our customers can select the products they want to go into their box and be able to change things up in each box.
We also offer a pre-build box option which is our What The Dog Likes Box, where based on each dog’s profile, we will completely personalize each box for each dog.
I’m extremely lucky that this community is so welcoming and after our business started, every single one of our customers are nothing but sweet, and give us feedback on helping us to grow. I thank all of them every minute because if it wasn’t because of them, What The Dog Likes wouldn’t exist.
Who is your target market?
We target dog parents who want to boost up their dog’s health by offering all-natural dog treats.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Word of mouth. We encourage our customers, and other dog influencers in the community to share their genuine feedback.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Good product. White glove customer service, and truly CARE about your customers!
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Result driven. I came from a startup background so I’m familiar with the structure and working environment that works for modern companies. We set short, mid and long-term goals and give everyone the authority to go archive their part. Trusting your partners is key.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
QB for inventory management and accounting, it integrates directly with Shopify and exports the data automatically, but you need to map the data correctly from day one otherwise it will be an accounting nightmare.
Monday.com for project management because it’s easy and straightforward when it comes to helping us with keeping open projects on track.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I would still encourage everyone to jump in if you have a good idea, but make sure you plan it out down to details for at least the first year. I didn’t do that so caused us to make several business model changes.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The fulfillment you get every day knowing that you are doing something good for other people is EVERYTHING.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
At the very beginning, you are only a CEO on your business card, that’s it. You are customer service, packer, shipper, accountant, website developer, social media manager, content creator, you name it, and that hat is yours. Other than that, the mood swing ties directly to your end of the day sales number so go figure! 😉 It’s a ride!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Company of One by Paul Jarvis. It helps me to get more insights on how to utilize the limited resources you have when you start a business, and how to “trim the fat” of the business along the way.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I want What The Dog Likes to be the ultimate place to discover quality treats, ALL OF THEM! Like Wholefoods for dogs. Hopefully, we can grow our team to 15 – 20 people by then!