A Record Number of Dogs Were Adopted in 2020. This Entrepreneur is Trying to Help Them Stay With Their Forever Families. The founder of FreshPatch shares how a messy problem with his dog inspired him to create a product that's helping dogs, their owners and animal rescues.
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A record number of dogs were adopted during the pandemic, but many have ended up in shelters. Andrew Feld is the founder of Fresh Patch, a patented real-grass delivery service for dogs. He came up with his idea after his own dog had to adjust from living in a house with a backyard to a condo. FreshPatch.com has been featured on Shark Tank, The Today Show and Oprah. Feld sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss his journey and how he's helping dogs, their owners, and animal rescues.
Jessica Abo: Tell us about FreshPatch.
Andrew Feld: It is very unfortunate, but probably one of the biggest reasons dogs end up in shelters is because of bathroom accidents in their home. So, I wanted to create a product and a service that would solve that problem. That's basically what we do: We ship living grass to dogs across the country so they can go out and relieve themselves on their own schedule.
How did you come up with this idea?
Feld: We actually had a house in L.A. with our own backyard, and we moved to Miami where we had a place with a condo and a balcony. My dog was having accidents in the home. That's when we started bringing real grass in, and that was the trick that alleviated that problem. Then we figured other dog owners would really appreciate a service just like that.
What can pet-owners do to help potty train their dog?
Feld: Dog-owners first need to realize the frequency that their pet needs to go. So, if you have an adult dog, they're going to need to go to the bathroom three to five times a day. But if you have a puppy, you're going to need to let them out two to three times an hour. And most people are not always going to be able to accommodate that schedule. That's why we recommend, if you fall in that category, getting a dog potty. There's several different kinds you can get: you can get pee pads or synthetic grass or real grass, which of course we prefer because it's more intuitive for dogs and it's also easier to maintain for owners. Having an indoor solution like this is good for the times that you're not available to take them out, but by no means is this a substitute for taking your dog out. Dogs should be walked. They should go to the bathroom outside, too. But this is a great product for those times when that's just not an option.
Using praise is really important to you. Tell me more about that.
Feld: Probably the most important thing to do is praise your dog, not scold your dog. If you come home and you find a mess and you punish your dog, or you scold your dog, they're not going to know what they did was wrong. The best that you can do is if your dog lets you know they have to go to the bathroom, if you see them using their dog potty correctly, praise them, give them treats, tell them they're a good dog. Because at the end of the day, the dog is just trying to make you happy.
What hurdles did you have to overcome to bring this idea to market?
Feld: It was a lot harder when I just started out because something like this never really existed. I think getting our boxes made was extremely difficult. I remember calling 25, 30 different corrugated box manufacturers and telling them I wanted a custom box made like this and they just didn't want to invest the time or the resources in this custom product because the volume wasn't there, they didn't know if it was going to be a successful product. So, that was definitely a huge challenge. Today we've got box manufacturers knocking on our door all the time, but that's a different story.
What does volume look like for you now?
Feld: We ship tens of thousands of these a week compared to when I started out, when I was delivering maybe 10 or 20 out of my car.
How does your company give back?
Feld: We give back to lots of local shelters in the Los Angeles area. We donate our grass every week, and it makes it easier for the people working at the shelters. But most importantly, the dogs that are going home to their forever homes are now potty-trained, so they're going to be in a great situation and not making accidents in the home when they get to their new homes.
Given your experience, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Feld: You know, the media right now really glorifies being an entrepreneur, so everyone thinks you're on yachts and airplanes and it's easy and amazing, but starting out with something new is a grind. I would only go down this path if you can't sleep at night because you're thinking about your idea and you can't picture yourself doing anything else, because if you're not going to be able to put 100 percent of yourself into it, it'll be very tough to succeed.