Small Business Person of the Week: Paul Hunter - Founder, Barking Heads

'Seventy per cent of retailers loved it. The others hated it'

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The Independent Online

“I launched the business in 2008 with two partners. We’d really been inspired by companies such as Innocent and Ella’s Kitchen and we thought you could do the same thing with dog food – that is, offer a product of much higher quality, but also take a marketing approach that was fun.

“I’d previously run my own kennels, where I’d got interested in nutrition for dogs, and then I started working for a pet food supplier; when it got taken over by Mars, I knew the time was right to launch something for myself.

“The most important thing about the product is it is very high quality – we use natural ingredients sourced in Britain and the meat content is very high. But it’s also vital to have something that stands out on the shelf – I did much of my marketing research in the playground at my kids’ primary school, where their friends were sure about which of our designs they liked; that’s the logo we went for in the end.

“At that stage we were ready to pitch to retailers; 70 per cent of them loved it, but the other 30 per cent hated it. That kind of strong response was what we were looking for – this is a crowded market ... [and we needed] to bring out something that was different and would get attention.

“The business has grown very quickly, but we’ve been able to fund it ourselves from the start. We think turnover will be around £9m this year – it’s really exciting. We worked out recently that we’re selling 68 tonnes of pet food every week.”