In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what's your business?
We are serial entrepreneur brothers, Christopher and Andrew Masanto, who started Petlab Co together. Petlab Co is a direct-to-consumer business that sells pet supplements and is currently the fastest-growing pet company in the USA. I am the operational CEO of Petlab and Andrew currently advises and is working on several blockchain companies in the United States.
Photo: Chris Masanto
What inspired you to create this product?
We both grew up with a family dog named Krystal, who lived until the remarkable age of 18. Dog's don't usually live that long! As Krystal got older, the entire family worked very hard to ensure that she stayed healthy and had a comfortable life — we modified her diet, bought her a pram, fed her human-grade food and much more. We had no idea at that point in time that supplements for dogs could help so much. That was the first "aha" moment.
What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic and how did you pivot to overcome it?
A big challenge was working remotely full-time for the first time. While Andrew lived in the USA and had worked remotely with his blockchain projects, the Petlab team and I worked intensively together in the same office in the UK. When social distancing occurred, that dynamic changed considerably. While working remotely, I found that setting strong, outcome-driven OKRs was very important. We focused on incentivizing people to achieve and be responsible for certain outcomes, rather than tasks. That allowed them to better manage their time and also take responsibility in what was essentially a fully autonomous environment.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
My first piece of advice would be to look carefully at the business you are starting and ask "Does this even need funding?" or "How can we best bootstrap this"? My second piece of advice is that if you really do need funding, then focus on the core elements of the business as you are preparing for the raise, e.g. do you have a unique and defensible product, a proven ability to achieve scale, a strong team, etc. These are the things that are going to make you attractive to investors. If you have the right building blocks, the investors will come looking for you, rather than you looking for them.
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
An entrepreneur is someone who is willing to take a risk in order to make something happen in the world. That "something" may be many things e.g. a vision of colonizing Mars, creating a special Burning Man sculpture, even starting a non-profit. Entrepreneurial drive and ability is built on intelligent risk-taking, problem-solving, creativity and execution and these skills do not relate solely to the objective of creating wealth or money. An entrepreneur is instead anyone who can utilize these skills in the creation of anything great in the world.
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don't?
Many aspiring business owners think they need to be constantly executing. However, getting busy doesn't mean you are getting effective. In the beginning, entrepreneurs should definitely default to "doing", but mainly because execution and iteration may lead to an effective strategy, if an effective strategy has not been fully identified and proven out yet. However, the real trick is for a business owner to choose the right direction and strategy for the company and only then work with his people to execute it. That decision is pivotal to the longer-term outcome of the business.
Related: How This 18-Year-Old High School Student Built a 6-Figure Social Media Consulting Business
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation? Explain how it inspires you.
"Nullius in verba." It means "Take nobody's word for it". This saying resonates because we try to always observe both the system and the assumptions in the system, in order to take action that the masses (or our competition) won't take. This contrarian action/thinking leads us to outsized outcomes.