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Small Business: Ex banker starts online healthcare service for pets, Vetty

4 min read

David Walker, founder of subscription-based healthcare service for pets Vetty,talks to Rahul Bhattarai about his online business.

What does your business do?

Vetty is a pet healthcare and nutrition company. We tailor healthcare and nutrition plans to pets based on their specific requirements such as their lifestyle, breed and age.

Customers can select from a range of our plans or they can build their own plans and we deliver it nationwide.

We began in 2019 as a flea and worm subscription service. We have since launched into pet food. We have monthly, three-monthly, or six-monthly Vetty boxes, depending on the product you choose.

The box has medications for flea and worm treatments and treats for pets.

There are around 800,000 dogs and 1.1 million cats in New Zealand and under 30 per cent of these are treated regularly for internal parasites, which is essential to keeping them in good health.

Our products start at $65 every three months depending on the type of plan you chose.

What was the motivation for starting it?

I was a full-time banker and I owned a dog. For me, I found it very overwhelming to get the right treatment product for my dog. So drawing from my own experience I thought of starting a business which would potentially help other pet owners in a similar situation as me.

With the help of a friend and veterinarian we figured out a service that would be helpful to pet owners and designed the software to support our goal, this was the start of Vetty.

A lot of people struggle to give their cats and dogs tablets. We have plans for people with fussy-eating dogs and tailor plans to suit. There isn’t one size fits all and we happily work with customers to find a plan that suits them and their pet.

What’s your background?

I have a mix of farming and rural banking background. I was brought up on a farm in Manawatū so I grew up loving animals.

We moved the business to Tauranga in February last year to be closer to family.

How big is the team today?

We are a team of three and looking to add one more this year as the business is growing quickly.

How was your business affected by Covid-19?

We launched pre-Covid so starting up was business as usual but the Covid-19 lockdown has boosted our online sales.

The downside is that we are seeing prices of wholesale products, freight and raw materials rise considerably, so that has affected the business.

How long has your business been around?

We’ll be three years old in December.

What’s your focus for the remainder of the year?

We have just launched our pet food subscription offering, which has really taken off, so just trying to keep up at the moment. We have our own supplement range launching next year and looking to the Australian market so that is keeping us very busy.

What are your long-term plans, and where do you see the brand in five years?

We want to be a household name in pet healthcare. We are growing our business to serve all areas from pharmacy, nutrition, insurance to booking services and managing all aspects of pet ownership. US has always been a goal of ours but small steps at the moment and we want to get New Zealand right first.

How does your business stand out in comparison to other businesses in the market?

There are very few online subscription-only pet healthcare companies in New Zealand. We stand out as we don’t offer every product, we only offer premium brands with exceptional service. We are taking our time to build our brand trust. This takes time but it is really worth it and important to us.

How are you marketing it?

Primarily digital marketing: social media and Google. We have grown a lot in the past year from word of mouth.

What does the competition look like in this market?

The online pet care space has grown a bit over the past 12 months. Some companies have deep pockets, particularly online pet stores, but it’s about finding a point of difference, knowing your customers and what they value and adding value rather than deferring to discount prices. A lack of value add and businesses tend to defer to discount prices.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking about starting their own business?

I’d say do it, just go for it. But make sure you do plenty of research before taking the leap.

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