Disrupting a Dog’s Dinner: The Scratch Story | #056

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EP 56
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

A strategic thinker with creative passion, Mike helps to grow and build brands, digital products & eCommerce channels with a unique blend of technology, storytelling, design and data experience. He is the co-founder of Scratch, Australia’s fastest-growing direct to consumer pet company. Thousands of dogs around Australia lick their Scratch bowl clean and enjoy healthier food, made fresher on subscription without all the retail markups along the way. Mike speaks on eCommerce, brand and the subscription economy.

You can contact Mike at LinkedIn

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Mike Halligan, Co-founder of Australia’s self proclaimed “best dog food” brand, Scratch.  Mike  has a long history helping grow Australian eCommerce brands and took the leap into his own venture when his dog got sick. Determined to reinvent the world of dog food, Scratch was born.  In this chat, Mike discusses their subscription-only business model,  why they’re not trying to be the biggest dog food company in Australia and how Mick Fanning and his best friend are big fans.

…knowing what we weren’t, what we didn’t want to do and what we were happy not being, allowed us to optimize for certain things

Mike Halligan

Questions answered in this episode include
  • What was wrong with the dog food industry that you felt you needed to fix?
  • How have you set up your CRM?
  • How did Mick Fanning end up investing in the business?

For the love of…dogs

I grew up with dogs and then maybe three years ago, really tuned in as my dog was unfortunately, getting really sick in her last six months of life.  So I really tuned into how dodgy a lot of the dog food is, how misleading it is, how basically impossible it was to tell how healthy food was for someone. And as humans, we’ve got choice, we can make decisions. But we’ve also got variety in our diets.  With a dog, if you’re feeding something unhealthy or even unbalanced, that kind of adds up over time, day in, day out.  And you don’t know it. And there’s an industry set up for you not to be able to know it very easily.

It just didn’t sit right with me. So I ended up quitting my job. And I said, alright I’m going to try to take on the dog food industry, which is like Mars and Nestle and just a few small companies like that!

Cancer in particular within dogs is so rife, let alone all the skin conditions and stomach conditions that so many dogs are just plagued with throughout their whole life and the anxiety that dogs have and blood sugar swings and all sorts of things. There’s a lot of room to be feeding dogs better.

Subscription model keeps it simple

A lot of the decisions we made early on were about simplicity. How do we make it as simple as possible?  So we started with the classic B2C thing of one recipe.  This is the best version of whatever…insert product.  But for the website too it was like subscribe or not?  A lot of it is about because us as a brand and us as a team and what we care about and how we are geared, essentially how do we do the best thing by the dog?

And so that is to get less people in that we can service amazingly well. And so we will give all customers a follow-up phone call a few weeks in. You know, if you increase the scale, if let’s say we had two or three times more new customers a month, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the things that make the business run and make retention so high and make dogs ultimately healthier and the customer really looked after. So we sort of optimized for that.  We also said early on, we’re not trying to be the biggest dog food company in Australia. And so knowing what we weren’t, what we didn’t want to do and what we were happy not being,  allowed us to optimize for certain things.

 The whole thing’s based around having a relationship from the start. And we wanted the website to signify this is from us to you. And we’re here from the get go to understand your dog, to make sure they’re fed right.

Give them something personalised and your customers will do some of the marketing for you

We know we’ve got a product that can do a really good product experience once it arrives. Box of Scratch arrives. The packaging looks good. It looks sort of Instagrammable, even though it’s a cardboard box.  Even a dog food, honestly it’s the least sexy thing in the world, but we still get thousands and thousands of new customers each week who are posting photos of their dog next to their box with a personalized sticker that we put on every box saying, hey Max welcome, welcome to Scratch, enjoy your new food or something like that.

And people love having that personalized thing. So that ends up coming back with a lot of organic and direct traffic from people who have seen us.  Over a good two and a half years we’ve been doing it, thousands of thousands of people have posted photos of their dog with a box of dog food.

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