When your entire business model is centred around pet sitting and dog walking, then travel grounds to a halt and people are forced to stay at home due to a worldwide pandemic, it’s a “very scary” position to be in, admitted Alexis Soulopoulos, CEO of Mad Paws.
The business was recently unleashed on the Australian Stock Exchange at the end of last month with a valuation of $40 million.
But back in March last year, Mr Soulopoulos was left wondering what was going to happen as inquiries dried up for their services.
The pandemic prompted him to launch an idea he had been sitting on for a while – a food subscription service for pets.
Called The Dinner Bowl, it offers ready made dog meals delivered to doorsteps – and was up and running in just six weeks.
“We thought this is something we always wanted to do and COVID actually sped it up,” he told news.com.au.
“It’s healthy, nutritious food for dogs based on dog’s characteristics, whether they are energetic, overweight, underweight, what do they like, do they have allergies and it’s based on an algorithm that calculates optimal nutrition and delivers to doors.”
Examples of meals include the Pupper-Doodle-Do, which comes with free range mince chicken, carrot, cabbage, minced liver and broccoli or Hopping Mad, a dish that uses wild kangaroo mince.
A detailed survey for the subscription service collects information like the dog’s age, sex, weight, breed, activity level and what they currently eat and a week’s worth of food costs around $35 or more, depending on the size of the dog.
Mr Soulopoulos said Australians are spending more and more each year on their furry friends because of the premiumisation of pets.
“We started with our pet services marketplace but we always wanted to offer more solutions to pet owners. The first step is building our subscription platform for pet food – at the moment we do healthy raw pet food, but we are now looking into offering other pet food options with multiple flavours,” he revealed.
“The big vision is that Mad Paws will be the online pet destination where people can find all the answers. We are building a big content hub.”
Originally from Belgium, Mr Soulopoulos was studying a masters of international management at the University of Sydney when his friend asked him to look after his dog, Honey the Labrador, while he was away on holidays.
It gave him the idea for Mad Paws and a trip to the dog park to survey owners confirmed that a pet sitting service was greatly needed.
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It was launched in 2014, with fellow founders Jan Pacas, Rolf Weber, Justus Hammer and Bjorn Behrendt.
The Sydney-based company’s debut on the ASX followed an initial public offering that secured it $12 million – money that will go towards expansion, including on its food business and pet insurance arm.
The company is also hoping to ride on the pandemic-induced boom in pet ownership – with an estimated 29 million pets in Australia, up by 5 million from just three years ago.
Surprisingly, Mr Soulopoulos doesn’t own a dog yet, although he said his girlfriend are currently doing some pet sitting to see what breed would best suit their household.
With the average age of a CEO in Australia around 47, Mr Soulopoulos is also bucking the trend.
At just 30, he has already been recognised for his business brains winning Young Executive of the year at The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards in 2020. Applications are now open for this year’s Executive of the Year Awards, which celebrate the outstanding contributions made by the CEOs, managing directors and senior management who drive Australia’s leading organisations.