After a career in pharmaceuticals – and a cancer diagnosis within her family – Olga Millman was inspired to embark upon a holistic health journey. As she endeavored to create a new lifestyle for her family, it occurred to her that her beloved pets deserved the same care and effort – which led her to create Vivus Pets. Her dog food company sells plant-based eats that are free of common canine allergens such as wheat, corn, gluten and animal proteins. Today the Vancouver, Canada-based entrepreneur is figuring out how to balance time between being a mother and a CEO, while also working to expand into the U.S. market.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
Our recipes are formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, and decisions around ingredients are based on peer-reviewed science. This ensures that everything about our product positively influences the health and well-being of people’s pets.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Starting as a small online store to being distributed across Canada. Our goal for next year is to enter the U.S. market.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
One of the most pressing obstacles, as a single mom and female entrepreneur, was time management. I had to juggle the responsibilities of childcare with the demands of running a business. To address this, I established a strict schedule that allowed me to allocate specific hours for work, and to intentionally dedicate the rest to quality time with my daughter and furry companions. Additionally, I sought support from family and friends, enabling me to focus on growing my company while ensuring my child’s well-being.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
My dad’s colon cancer diagnosis profoundly impacted my business decisions. It made me recognize the vital importance of a healthy diet – for not only myself, but for everyone in my family. This experience motivated me to collaborate with Dr. Sarah Dodd, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, to create an ethical, trustworthy and superior source of pet nutrition.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Prioritize honesty, transparency, compassion and integrity in every aspect of your business. Build a strong foundation of trust with your team, customers and partners, as it will be the bedrock of your success. Additionally, remain data-driven – decisions rooted in solid information will guide you through the inevitable challenges.
Upholding these values not only fosters a positive office culture, but also establishes a strong reputation that can translate into long-term success and meaningful connections.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
By seeking solace in the beauty of nature and connecting with it through hiking – which often leads to moments of clarity and renewed motivation. And, with meditation, I can center my thoughts and find inner peace.
Who is your most important role model?
My most important role model is my daughter, Abigail. Her resilience and support inspire me to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship. ◼