When you have something that the world has never seen or heard before, put it out there. That just might be the one that will not only bring you success but help others as well. Having created such a remarkable product is the founder and president of Happy Again Pet, Anja Skodda. In this episode, Anja shares with us how she came about creating collagen growth supplements for dogs, helping them regain their mobility and live happily again. She discusses what goes into the formula, the common pain points of pets, and the importance of getting into a preventative mindset. While taking us throughout the journey of building her company, Anja then imparts some wisdom on setting yourself apart from the competition. Follow along with Anja’s story of how she turned the heartbreaking challenge of seeing her dog suffer into a business opportunity that helps other pets as well.
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Turn Your Challenge Into A Business Opportunity With Anja Skodda
I am excited and thrilled because I have Anja Skodda. She’s the Creator, Founder and the President of Happy Again Pet. This podcast is all about how someone has an idea, quite often a dream or a concept and they put it out into the world and do something remarkable with it. It’s been brought to my attention that this is who this young lady is. Introduce yourself and tell our readers about you.
I’m Anja. I’m the Founder and CEO of Happy Again Pet. My background is in science. That’s why we started that company.
You’re a scientist. Those of you out there who think you’re nerdy if you’ve got something that people are going to want. You were sharing with me that it started with your dog. Share that story. I would love to hear it.
My dog, Tony, loved to skateboard. He’s a bulldog and that was his biggest passion. He had arthritis in his shoulder and couldn’t skateboard. It broke my heart to see him depressed. I grew cartilage in the lab. I worked in tissue engineering for cartilage. I thought I had to help him with a formulation that I grew the cells back. I gave a formulated Happy Again for him and he was back in a week.
Tony, the English bulldog, is happy and healthy again. He’s out there skateboarding. It’s a skateboarding bulldog with the big heads, but they lunge at you. One time a bulldog was being walked down the street and I asked the owner, “Can I pet?” “No.” I was a good two feet away. I scoot down, get into a little a squat position and that bulldog lunged at me and hit me in the chest.
I love bulldogs. They’re misunderstood. When you found a way for Tony to be happy and healthy again, did that lead to, “I think I’ll start my own company?”
It wasn’t that fast. I formulated it for him, then I tried it on my family. It’s human rights, so I take it myself. The rest of the family does too. Everyone told me that their hip and back got better. We gave it to friends with dogs as well. A woman was calling me one day crying and saying that her dog could stand up again and she could go back to work. That was the day that I thought, “I have to make it available for every dog to help them.”
What exactly is the formulation? Is it something that you mix up or is it kernels? Tell me a little bit about the formulation.
It’s a supplement. It’s a powder that’s mainly based out of hydrolyzed collagen. We have hyaluronic acid, glucosamine and vitamins. It’s the quality and the way we formulated that makes it powerful. There are no added ingredients, but only active ingredients. There is no additives, fillers, preservatives, added flavors. It’s just pure active ingredients.
It not only gets your pet healthier and happier, but it’s also helped before your pet.
It’s preventative as well because the joints start to break down when they’re around two years in size. We don’t see that until they limp and that’s way too late. It’s preventing their joints to degrade. It’s good to start early on and it’s also nice for their coat and skin.
One of the things that I often share here on my podcast is the importance of putting something out into the world that the world has never heard or seen before, fresh, unique and original. That sounds like something that you have. Are there other products like this or do you think you have something that is one of a kind, me only, nothing else like it? Tell me about that.
We’re the only ones. We have two patents filed on it.Don't trust the first promise you get. Click To Tweet
It’s your secret sauce. She’s got the patent. I talk a lot about how important it is to nail down those key, unique features that go into your product that your competition cannot duplicate, imitate and negate. It’s yours. It’s like your thumbprint. It’s like your DNA. You are this brilliant scientist. When you were in the lab coming up with this formulation, how long did it take you?
It is hard to say because my studies and research were over seven years. It led to that formulation, which it wasn’t that long time to mix together because I already worked in that field of growing cartilage. We built 3D in vitro models to avoid animal testing. We regrow cartilage. The biggest protein to regrow in the matrix is collagen. I found the right way to hydrolyze it to make it available for your body and the right source to have the best collagen.
What is your educational background?
It is biotech engineering.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Germany.
Did you go to a college and university there in Germany?
How long have you been on the market and where can people find this if they’re interested?
We partnered with Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer after his dog couldn’t walk. I met him and he tried the supplement. After two weeks, he could run again. He loves the supplement. He’s our partner in the company. We launched last August 2019.
How are you selling it? Is it through retail distribution, online or both?
It’s both. You can get it over our website, HappyAgainPet.com. You can sign up for a subscription, which is the easiest and most affordable way. We’re also on Amazon, Healthy Spot, Chewy.com and Petco.com.
You’re getting distribution. Are you using brokers to get that distribution? Do you have a sales team? How are you getting the products?
This came to us or we got them.
How are your sales? How’s it going?
It’s going well.
Are there some lessons, tips, insights that you think other small business owners, entrepreneurs like yourself, that you have discovered that might be useful to our readers? Any thoughts on that?
Don’t trust the first promise you get. Always vet your business partner and get a lot of opinions, a good round of advisors, especially that is in the field of what you’re working on. Trust your intuition.
One of the things I love about what you’re saying, and I want to acknowledge you for, is that in branding, you always ask yourself, “What’s missing? What’s the problem that’s going unsolve?” What’s the better outcome that you can provide your customers? Are there miracles you can perform where you can reverse something? Can you relieve whoever your target audience from some negative emotion or feeling stressed and worry? What I love about your brand is that you’re doing all of that because you brought Tony back to life. Let me ask you this. How old is Tony?
He is twelve years old.
Is Happy Again for any age and any breed?
Is it just for dogs or cats?
I once had a cat and her name was Kai. She had arthritis and most cats do. This went back many years ago. I wish there was something like that out then. Bravo to you for coming up with something like this. No one but you has it. You’ve got your proprietary secret sauce blend and mix that nobody can duplicate. Are you concerned at all about the big companies, the Ralston Purina and all these others coming in and trying to do what you’re doing?
I think they’re moving much slower than a startup can. We have to be fast and get it out there and help as many dogs as possible before they come.
What you’re also doing is that you have something very unique. I always tell people, when you have a brand, you want to be able to start sentences along the line of, “What makes my brand different is. Unlike other products that you may think are similar to your mind, what I do differently is.” If you had to identify, what is that one thing about Happy Again that sets it apart from other alternatives? A lot of times, your competition is not a direct competitor. It doesn’t have to mean that someone else has this same product. It’s who the consumer thinks can do the same thing. That’s called your indirect competitor. You always want to make sure from a branding standpoint, strategically, that you have positioned your brand in such a way that when people come across your website, for example, they conclude, “Nobody else has this, but Happy Again. I would be out of my natural mind not to buy this brand.” Share your thoughts about that. What is that one thing that allows you to set yourself apart from other alternatives? What would that be?Having the passion and the belief in what you do makes it easy to work every day. Click To Tweet
I would say it’s quality and trust. I couldn’t find anything that could help Tony because all the other supplements that do something for hip and joints use 2 or 3 ingredients that have never been proven scientifically to help, in a very low dosage, with a lot of fillers and issues and it doesn’t work. I think a lot of consumers don’t know to understand what should be in it or what else is added to it that your dog doesn’t need. We have to educate or make it possible for people to have a product that they can trust. The quality is there and there are no lies. We have a scientific background to prove that it works. There is nothing added that they have to be worried about.
There is no additives, no preservatives, nothing bad for your pet.
It’s tested on humans, first, on myself. I thought it would be better that we know that it’s good enough for our pets.
If it’s good enough for us as humans and we do it on our pets, it is good enough for someone else. I love that idea. Let’s talk about online. Are you on Amazon or Walmart? Are you with some of the giants yet?
Not yet, but we talked to them.
What else would you say makes your company special and interesting? The thing about a brand is that you have to be as appealing as possible. I think what’s coming up for me is that you’re giving that dog, Tony, or any pet an experience. It is an amazing, wonderful experience. When I think about a pet that is suffering, as you know better than anyone else, we can often look at them and tell them that they’re suffering. Sometimes you can’t, but because they’re happy dogs. They want to love us. They want to be our companions. I love the fact that you are giving pets an experience like no other. I’m wondering, how would you describe that experience in terms of how Tony or any pet is going to feel?
That comes down to the name. He was happy again because he could get back on his sport. He felt good again. That was my first thought when I saw my dog come back on the skateboard with no issues in his shoulder. That’s what we want to bring to every pet, happiness and happy life without pain.
That should be your brand promise. Is that the promise of your brand? It is my suggestion here. I am a big branding guy. What people buy is the promise of an experience. I like what you said, your pet can be happy again without pain, can live longer, better, joyful, no stress and no anxieties. It’s like you’re going to have the ultimate pet here.
This is remarkable because you reminded me of Steven Jobs. He built Apple around the idea of next-generation technology, next-generation computer products. You have the next generation as a pet product because even the big companies out there, science, diet and all the rest of them, they don’t have something like you have. They like to talk about their formulations. What’s great about their ingredients and formulations if the pets are still getting ill? Can Tony always stay this way? Is there a chance of a relapse? He’s out there on a skateboard. What’s Tony doing on that skateboard?
He has videos out there.
Tony is on YouTube. Does he have his own YouTube channel?
Not yet. There are lots of good skateboarding bulldogs out there. We did a commercial with Skateboard Henny. She’s on YouTube. She’s a big star. We partnered with a skateboard company called Hamboard. She tested all their boards. She is on our supplements for a year and she can skateboard for two hours a day. She’s doing good on that.
Does Tony have followers and fans?
He’s on his way, though. You never know. I’m going to talk about illnesses. In branding, there are two types of buyers. There are pain avoiders and pleasure seekers. Some of the greatest brands on the planet will focus on what is called the pain points that the consumer is dealing with. What are some of the most common pain points when it comes to pets? We talked about arthritis, what else?
Also, hip and joint discomfort. Your dog cannot stand up or has a hard time. When they get up from laying too long, they can’t walk. They cannot walk the stairs. Many of our customers send us videos that their dog is reluctant to walk the stairs because it’s painful. They will always try to chase the ball and get the stick back to the owner because they love that. For us, it’s important for our customers to understand that they have to start to prevent early and not wait until that’s the case. If it is late, then the dog cannot stand up. It’s the best way to prevent it as we do in the human space. Everyone is doing everything for their health, taking supplements, drinking smoothies, not because they’re sick but because they want to prevent them from getting sick. That’s what we were trying to do in the pet space. If you have experienced your dogs suffering from arthritis and cannot get up, it’s heartbreaking. You don’t want your next dog to do the same. You want to prolong that process as long as you can. With Happy Again, as a preventative, it moves that process.
That is important because if you have a preventative mindset as opposed to a reactive mindset, that speaks to how many human beings think, “I’m not going to the dentist until I have a toothache. I’m not going to the mechanic until there’s a problem with my car. I won’t worry about the refrigerator breaking down until it does break down.” That’s interesting because I’m wondering, is your ideal customer the one who is preventative in mindset, but in terms of branding, what are the triggers that are going to cause that pet owner to want a brand like yours? Do you find that you’re attracting more of the preventative person or the reactionary person?
Probably the reactionary.
There’s nothing wrong with that because the way people think is in terms of what their symptoms are, what’s in front of them. If I have a bad cold, I’m coughing, sniffling, have a runny nose, and off I go looking for the best remedy. I’m not thinking, “Should I have got that flu shot? Should I have done something to prevent this?” My hunch though, in terms of your ideal customer is that pet owner who places a high value on their pet, in terms of their longevity and their wellness and the whole nine yards. It’s to make sure that you’re speaking their language. There’s an adage in branding that I’ll share with you. “You never enter a new conversation. You enter into the conversation that’s already inside of someone’s head.”
When you think the way the consumer thinks, what happens is that you’re going to have what’s called know, like, and trust factor. They know the brand. They like the brand. They feel the brand is one that can deliver on what you say. The key here is to make sure that you are using words that you’re connecting with them in terms of their heart. You’ve got such emotional hot buttons that you can push that can get that preventative person. Is there anything else you want to share? Anything that you think we should know about you and your lifestyle? She lives in Venice, California, which is not too far from where I live. I love Venice and all the dogs are there. I go to Venice, I get my eyeglasses in Venice. I’m only three miles from Venice.
Is there anything that you’d like to say, tips, or suggestions? One thing that’s most interesting about you and this is for those of you who are out there, who sometimes may think, “I don’t have what it takes to start my own business.” I’m a scientist, I’m an engineer, I’m an accountant. You have defied the odds. How did you do that? You’re not a mad scientist of course. Most scientists are not thinking about entrepreneurial. Was it just the suffering of Tony that got you to do this? Do you have some advice for the nerds out there and the engineer that all the people who think, “That’s not me?”
My father had his own company so I always wanted to work as an entrepreneur. It’s the passion you need because going through, starting your company, getting out there, getting a product from an idea to on the shelf is a long process. There are a lot of negative paddles. If you have the passion and the belief in what you do, it makes it easy to do this every day. If they’re not in the beginning that many successes until everything is turning positive. If you have that passion and that belief, you can go through this and it’s fun. That is important as an entrepreneur. You cannot come up with an idea because you want to make money. It’s because you believe in this passion what you want to do to change things and that will give you the drive to do anything and have fun with it.You need passion when starting your company because getting a product from an idea to the shelf is a long process. Click To Tweet
I love your values because I’m feeling that you have strong values that drive you to want to take care of pets. There’s something very special about that. It’s angelic in a way about you. Talk about raising capital because for a lot of people, that often delays a lot of startups. Anything you want to share about that whole adventure?
That’s one of the biggest challenges for every startup, especially as a female entrepreneur. There were times when I thought we were not going to make it and it does work out. You have to believe in it and start every day with a new perspective. Maybe one angle didn’t work, but also there’s a good saying of, “No means not now.” You can always revisit and try to go back. If people say no, they don’t want to invest, it doesn’t mean that your idea or your company is not good enough. It doesn’t fit and finding the right capital and the right investor is finding the right partner. It has to fit. It’s not easy.
Are you’re looking for Angel investors or VCs or can you talk about that a little bit?
We have a couple of Angels involved and got into an accelerator as our first institutional investor. We were looking into both VCs and Angels, mostly people that love dogs and passionate about it.
Any tips or suggestions on how to find these Angel investors? Did you find them online or were they referrals or how did you come across?
A lot of it is networking. LA is exceptional in going to great networking events. A lot of people are helpful to introduce you to the right people, but also it’s research on who invested in something similar. Maybe another pet company that has dogs. There are a lot of ways you can find people that might be the right fit. A big mistake is to go to every VC or every Angel group that is maybe specializing in tech and not consumer goods. It has to fit and you have to research before you address that person. It’s always great to have a warm introduction from someone. It’s always better than a cold email.
You are hanging out in the right social circles, the professional circles where someone could say, “I love your concept. I have someone for you to meet that might be interested in backing up or funding your venture.” How many hits or misses did you have with that? Did you find people right off the bat or lots of noes?
It has been a long process, but there are a lot of startup events in LA and around. They are helping people that advise you and introduce you and there’s a good network. Everyone that is in the startup circle will go to those events. There are pitch events where you can practice and maybe someone advises you to. We pitched to many Angel groups as well and it’s always good to pitch and to learn.
What’s great about what you’re saying that is going to give a lot of our readers, entrepreneurs and whatnot hope is that Angel investors are not just interested in high tech. They’re not just interested in something in the medical field or high tech. Here you have something that meets a huge need because there are millions of pet owners out there. I’m curious about the Angel investors who did not see the possibility of this, who said no. Anything you want to share about that?
It’s probably mainly those that don’t like the consumer space or we are not having enough revenue yet. I think it has to trigger a story. We have one Angel that is an athlete and he has a bulldog that had issues. When he tried Happy Again, he said, “I’m investing because it will help my bulldog.” It doesn’t always have to be a special feel. I think that if you have the same passion aligned, it might as well work.
You are off and running. You are scaling up your business. How’s marketing going?
We have a lot of exciting partnerships coming up. We’re doing a big study together with a big media company.
Are you working with an ad agency or a marketing company? Who’s driving your marketing?
We have a small ad agency that manages our ad spend and social media side. We have two outsource agencies to do that and we have an advisor to look over the whole marketing strategy. As a startup, you always have to bootstrap everything and overlook every little part of it all the time. It is easier to work with dogs because many people love them and they help.
We love our dogs. We love our pets. We want them to be around forever, as long as they can. That is what you are helping to make happen. I admire you. I salute you. Anything else you want to share or any parting thoughts?
We want to help pets. Please help them.There's 50 million Americans who suffer from stomach-related modalities. Click To Tweet
We want to have them so let’s help pets. The website is www.HappyAgainPet.com. This is Anja Skodda. She is the Founder, President, a scientist. She’s brilliant and amazing with a heart for pets. Thank you for being here. Until next time, take care.
About Anja Skodda
I’m a biotech scientist – and dog lover – specializing in cartilage tissue engineering. My dog Tony loves to skateboard, and when he couldn’t skate anymore, my heart broke. I had to use my research to help him! I developed Happy Again and within weeks of taking it, Tony was playing and skating again! I shared Happy Again with my friends and now it’s my life mission to help all dogs be healthy and happy!