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Name: Ann-Marie Fleming

Business: Dog Quality Enterprises, Inc., senior dog products

Industry: E-Commerce 

Location: British Columbia, Canada

Reason for starting: I started Dog Quality to help improve the quality of life for older dogs. Having dogs myself who were seniors I found it very challenging and at times heart breaking to see them struggling with mobility and incontinence issues. Knowing their minds were willing but their bodies were not cooperating, I started to seek out solutions that could make their lives easier. Finding the right products proved difficult and even when I did find products they were poorly made or ineffective. I knew I could not be the only one looking for ways to help their senior dogs and so Dog Quality was born.

Related: Read about another female entrepreneur working in the pet care industry here. 

How do you define success? I define success on two levels. 1) We are working hard to raise the awareness of our brand and products to the point that pet parents make an instant connection between senior dogs and Dog Quality. We see this connection made more and more on social media when we are mentioned in discussions on senior dogs and we couldn’t be happier. 2) Our sales growth is the second major way that I define success. Is the demand for our products growing? Where is the growth coming from? We recently expanded into the UK to better serve our customers in the United Kingdom and across Europe so seeing growth in those areas is key. It is a clear indicator, not only that people need our products, but also that our products are truly making a difference.

Biggest Success: Looking back I can’t say that there was one big success but rather many small wins along the way that collectively have helped us succeed. Creating high quality products and seeing each product line taking off is amazing validation that we are providing options that make a difference. Seeing our sales growth in triple digits every year for the past 4 years is another success point. Creating relationships within the rescue community through donations to help older dogs in their care has helped us increase our reach and raise awareness for how amazing senior dogs can be and how happy their lives can be with love and the right products. Our expansion into the UK finally happening after 2 years of trying to make it happen has positioned us well for long term growth. All of these milestones build on each other to create one big success.

Related: Why Women are Particularly Good at Going Global 

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our top challenge is cash flow. Our sales continue to grow faster than we can support leading to constant inventory shortages. While we have been able to use our sales to fund our productions, it takes time to build up the funds to cover all of our costs. I cannot say that we have completely addressed this, but we are looking for financing to help ramp up our production volume and the increase in sales we are seeing from our UK distribution is already making a positive impact in helping to generate the necessary funds faster than in the past. In addition we are planning to launch 2 new products this year and 1 early next year which will also help drive more sales bringing in more funds to fuel larger production volumes.

Who is your most important role model? There are many people who I admire and who inspire me and they are always people who built businesses from scratch. It is one thing to run a successful company with money, but a very different thing to build a business from the ground up with limited funds. For this reason Sam Walton, Warren Buffet and Michael Dell stand out as role models in my mind. 

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Edited by The Story Exchange