For dog lovers, one of life’s happiest times is welcoming a new puppy into your family. But for Brett Podolsky, that joy turned into concern when his young Rottweiler, Jada, developed food sensitivities.
“I tried every food on the market, including brands that used terms like ‘organic’ and ‘all natural,’ ” he said. “Finally, my vet recommended that I try home cooking for her, and when I did, all of her symptoms disappeared.”
Podolsky and his then-roommate, Jonathan Regev—also a dog owner—were so struck by Jada’s transformation that they wanted to make a healthy, balanced diet for other dogs. After two years of development, they launched The Farmer’s Dog in July 2016.
Their website, thefarmersdog.com, sums up their mission: “to disrupt the $60 billion pet food industry. Our products are human-quality, personalized and devoid of any marketing fluff (about the only kind of fluff we don’t love).”
It works like this: Customers subscribe by completing an online questionnaire to determine their dogs’ diet based on breed, activity level, age and other factors. The Farmer’s Dog prepares food using human-grade meats, vegetables and added nutrients, pre-portions it in vacuum-sealed packages and ships them on dry ice directly to customers. Gone are the middle men—distributors and retailers—along with mass-produced, highly processed food that’s filled with preservatives for a long shelf life.
Their direct-to-consumer model is similar to that of Dollar Shave Club (razors), the Honest Company (diapers) and Warby Parker (eyeglasses), with a difference: The Farmer’s Dog offers a do-it-yourself option. Consumers who can’t afford to subscribe or who live outside the continental U.S. can get recipes and order nutrient packs to complete them.
“It’s not about money for us,” Podolsky said. “We want you to make your dog healthy, and we’re willing to give you the tools to do that.”
Still, orders are up. Month-over-month sales are increasing 40 to 50 percent. And the company has raised more than $10 million in capital for expansion.
“We’re getting most of our growth organically, by word-of-mouth,” Podolsky said. “Members of our community are seeing the amazing benefits in their dogs and how much easier it makes their lives, and they are telling their friends and family members.”
Word has also spread from Forbes, which named Podolsky and Regev to its “30 Under 30” list, and Uncubed, which called The Farmer’s Dog one of “18 coolest companies to work for in NYC.”
Best of all, Podolsky said, “The success is the result of happy and healthy dogs.”
It’s success he never imagined, growing up in Long Island and later entering Lynn University as a transfer student from Penn State. “I felt I was better in a small-class environment, and I wanted warm weather,” he said. “So, I made the move, and I’m so happy I did. It changed the trajectory of my life.”
Not knowing his professional calling, Podolsky majored in liberal arts and loved the range of his classes, including those taught by professors Jeff Morgan and Erika Grodzki. To this day, he’s grateful to his former academic adviser, Diane DiCerbo. “I couldn’t have done it without her,” he said.
While in college, Podolsky interned a couple of summers at Morgan Stanley, and after graduating from Lynn, he worked at a Boca Raton-based hedge fund by day and as a standup comedian by night. “I loved making people laugh. After every show, I’d get this amazing wave of energy,” he said. But he didn’t see himself working long-term in finance.
Soon, he discovered his true passion while doing what came naturally: taking good care of his dog.
“I got very lucky,” Podolsky said. “I love coming to work every day. You feel like you’re doing something special. How can you not love dogs and want to give them the healthiest life possible?”