By Lara-Sophie Boleslawsky
Photo Courtesy of Naturally Urban Pet Food Delivery
If you’re an animal-lover, this one’s for you. Sitting down and talking to Brian about his recent venture into the pet food industry, I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course our conversation invariably strayed to our pets, nonetheless the real story lies in-between these small pockets of pet-talk.
‘Naturally Urban Pet Food Delivery’ provides free delivery of pet food all throughout Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and Burnaby. It’s simple: pet-owners order their food on the Naturally Urban website and its delivered right to your door. Did I mention it’s free?
I was fascinated to know what prompted Brian to start this business: “The reason I started was, I had my doggy, and we switched her over to raw food. I was an executive at Flight Centre and I used to have to work late and then I would have to run home, get my car, and drive out to the pet store before it closed,” Brian told me, “And I thought, this is so annoying, its such a stress and I thought: ‘There has to be a better way!’”
And so, Naturally Urban was born, with Brian looking to service a need, one undoubtedly shared by many pet owners throughout Metro Vancouver and beyond. “The two markets right now that we are doing well with are seniors and people with disabilities and physical challenges. We love helping them,” Brian shares with me, but emphasizes that the service is available for anybody to use. Convenience is one Naturally Urban’s main functions.
Brian cites his colleague Kris McRonney as an “integral” part of his business. “I mean, my business associate Kris has been with me from day one. Kris does all the deliveries now and the front of the house kind of stuff. He’s been amazing an helpful from the beginning”. To be sure, Brian and Kris are happy to help their customers in any way they can, adding, “If you want, you can give us a call, e-mail us. And we’ll happily take on the order on your behalf, if ordering online isn’t convenient.” Even so, I highly recommend checking out their website. The layout is very user-friendly and it is easy to navigate the menus to check out their great selection of dog and cat foods. Naturally Urban even offers kitty litter! The best part though, is yet to come…
Naturally Urban gives back to the local community by donating 5% of the purchase amount to a local charity of the customers’ choice. “The thought behind it was, why don’t I try to use my business acumen and apply it to a social enterprise,” Brian recalls and remarks that today, “I have a passion for creating a business that is profitable, of course, but that also helps to give back.” Charitable partners that Naturally Urban work frequently with are the BC SPCA, the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue, Paws for Hope, and Backpack Buddies, to name only a few.
However, Brian makes it clear they are always eager to help the local community in any way they can, “We are trying to expand and look into more charities that aren’t pet focused. We’re always looking for more charities to come on board.” Brian sums up his reasoning for giving back, stating that ultimately, “We want to engage the local community with the hope that they support us in their local community and start to bring awareness to us. And then it’s a win-win for all of us; it’s a circle.”
Brian and Kris are ever-present enthusiasts at local charity events. “We don’t just give the check, We love to volunteer at events and to try to engage with the partners. And if they have events they want us to promote, we’re happy to do that,” Brian continues, “We like to have fun.” When asked about the role of community in the business, Brian observed,
“Community is fundamental to our business. It’s all local charities that we work with because we want to support the local community. We want to help our own. Our top selling products are all Canadian products with two of the top three being BC based. We take great pride in pushing the Canadian products over the non-Canadian products. Another of our goals is to have a group of charities that represent our whole community. We’re not there yet, but we are getting there.”
Given Brian and Kris’ amazing attitudes, I was curious to know whether Naturally Urban had faced any challenges getting off the ground. “It’s all a learning experience,” Brian answers sagely, “Probably the hardest thing to start up with was that most of the top selling pet companies didn’t want to work with us. I didn’t have a storefront and a lot of the pet food companies got to where they are because local pet stores would recommend them. Now since I am servicing a very large area, a lot of them were concerned about market share and pricing.” Brian’s acute business sense definitely allowed him to realize that these relationships take time, and he reassured his suppliers that Naturally Urban is not about taking out the competition, its about working in tandem with everyone involved.
Another challenge, Brian recognizes, is to get the business’ name out there. “It’s still a challenge,” Brian remarks, but all of Naturally Urban’s current customers are over-the-moon about their service. “We’re very happy with the reviews we’ve gotten. We have almost 60 five-star reviews. There are not any four-star, they’re all five, which we’re stoked about. Now, it’s all about trying to get the word out there about us and what we do.”
Given Brian’s great business values, I asked him if he had any advice for young entrepreneurs, looking to burst into the scene. Brian was happy to oblige cautioning, “Don’t quit your day job is the number one thing. The reason I started this business was that I knew I could do this, run it while I was working at Flight Centre. The e-commerce platform is so easy to set up and it doesn’t take a lot. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
Brian’s second piece of advice still resonates with me today, “Start your business to solve a problem. But don’t just solve a problem that no one wants solved. For me, I asked, ‘How can you help the community and Mother Earth at the same time?’” Beyond the world of business, I consider Brian’s second piece of advice words to live by. Why not approach your life in the same way? Ask yourself, what can you do? How can you help?
Sitting down with Brian was a remarkable experience. To cap off our conversation, Brian reflects, “It’s exciting to watch a business grow that’s profitable and that can help people at the same time.” Coming out of this interview, I carried with me not just generous cat food samples, but also a new sense of pride for living in a community that is sustained by enterprises such as Naturally Urban.
You can find Naturally Urban (plus tons of their cute animal photos) on Facebook. For more information or to place an order you can visit their website at: http://www.nupetfooddelivery.com