MIT Graduate, Renaldo Webb disrupted the dog food industry by launching the country’s leading fresh dog food giant PetPlate. PetPlate makes it easy for pet parents to nourish their pets with love by delivering freshly-cooked meals made from wholesome ingredients that do not contain any by-products, rendered meats or preservatives. The meals are designed by a veterinary nutritionist for optimal nutritional balance and are pre-portioned and ready to serve. The company offers a convenient subscription service that automatically ships meals directly to the consumer on a regular basis.
Tammy Gibson: What inspired you to start your business, PetPlate?
Renaldo Webb: I started PetPlate after spending time as a consultant in the pet food industry. I saw the ingredients going into the premium food they were making and how kibbles were made. I felt firsthand the high and intense cooking temperature and process used to make standard dog food. I realized that the company wasn’t helping improve the health and well-being of my pets. That’s when I decided I wanted to feed my pet something better. I started cooking for my dogs to help improve their health. For me, premium dog food was a better option from a healthy and convenient standpoint, and that there were pet parents across the country that probably felt the same way. Based on that, I got enough conviction to quit my job and start biking around New York City delivering dog food.
TG: What was your experience being on Shark Tank?
RW: Being on Shark Tank was a surreal experience. I was on the show in June 2016. The first episode aired in December 2016. At the time, I was trying to raise capital. For African Americans, it’s an unfortunate struggle to capitalize businesses properly to grow and expand. I saw Shark Tank as an opportunity to raise awareness of PetPlate and work with some interesting people.
It was really interesting coming up with a pitch and flying out to Los Angeles. It all happened so fast. I won the pitch competition and appeared on Shark Tank. For 45 minutes, I answered questions about PetPlate with the sharks. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a deal, but we were able to continue to improve and grow the business. The publicity from being on Shark Tank catapulted PetPlate to a premiere position.
Shark Tank invited us back for an update. PetPlate was one of two companies that updated the business even though we didn’t get a deal.
TG: What did you learn from being on Shark Tank?
RW: I learned that I needed to show how the business could scale and grow over time. Thinking of how to build a supply chain, scalable infrastructure that could support rapid growth is what investors are interested in because they need to make returns on their investments.
TG: What makes PetPlate unique and different from the other competitors?
RW: PetPlate is one of the few companies that make a meal plan for your dog. When you go to our website, we have a 2-3 minute quiz to fill out, and that will present you with a meal plan that will let you know exactly how many calories to feed your dog. Each meal plan comes with pre-portion containers that is resealable, microwavable, and recyclable. Each container has two meals worth of food. You feed your dog half the food in the morning and the other half at night.
PetPlate has six amazing flavors, two of them being therapeutic in nature. We also have organic treats and supplements. You can mix and match in any combination you want in terms of the meal plans. We also ship directly to your door.
PetPlate is the most convenient way to feed your dog a high-quality diet. We are in a variety of pet stores across the Chicagoland area, which has been exciting to see the growth in that aspect of our business.
TG: What has been the most challenging and rewarding part of being an African American in the dog food industry?
RW: Bringing a sense of diversity and awareness to what is largely a white male-dominated space. Being an African American in this business has been difficult in the capital-raising process. Less than 1% of all venture capital funds go to African American founders. I have been lucky to have been able to find great partners to help PetPlate continue to grow, scale and invest. But that hasn’t always been easy.
What has been great is being an example of what can happen when you have a good idea, work hard and dedication and commitment to your customers.
TG: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to get into the pet food industry?
RW: Identify a problem that you have and a solution. Are you good enough and convincing enough in your solution to sell it to other people? That’s advice I would give to an entrepreneur in any industry.
TG: Where do you see PetPlate in the future?
RW: In the next 5-10 years, my goal is to raise the awareness of human grade pet food and make PetPlate a household name.
To learn more about PetPlate, go to https://www.petplate.com/
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelHr