The next instalment of our new series spotlighting Founders’ Stories. Once a week we’ll talk with an up and coming entrepreneur or leading mind in our industry about their journey so far, sharing failures and successes they’ve learned along the way.
Last week we spoke with Shamash Alidina to teach us the power of mindfulness for entrepreneurs, and for this week’s founder’s story we’re delighted to introduce Henrietta Morrison, founder and gourmet pet food maker at Lily’s Kitchen.
Lily’s Kitchen creates organic, wholesome pet food for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. All recipes contain whole meat, grains, fruit and vegetables, much healthier options for your pets than your average pet food brands.
Henrietta is an experienced entrepreneur. Prior to Lily’s Kitchen, she ran her own publishing company which she’s since sold before discovering her passion for pets’ wellbeing and setting up Lily’s Kitchen in 2008. If you haven’t guessed yet, Lily is her border terrier and Chief Taster for all Henrietta’s recipes. The duo have taken the UK pet food industry by storm, being named the UK’s best pet food company within two months of starting up.
Tell us a little about you and Lily’s Kitchen, how did the idea for creating wholesome pet food come about?
I started the business in my kitchen – or rather in Lily’s! Lily had developed itchy skin and itchy ears and then went off her food completely so I started to cook for her and she recovered within a couple of weeks. I really enjoyed cooking for her, but I did not really have the time to do it and dreamt about being able to have a ‘ready made’ wholesome meal for her that I could dish up and trust that everything in the recipe would be good for her. And so Lily’s Kitchen was born towards the end of 2008, and our products are unique in the world – we are the first company to produce and launch grain-free and meal-free foods and we only use fresh meat and fruits and vegetables along with lovely, specially selected botanical herbs in all of our recipes – no meat meals or fibrous leftovers – just organic, wild and natural food for pets. I am so proud that Lily’s Kitchen has been voted as the UK’s Number One Ethical Pet Food Company since it launched and we are the only company to achieve a 100% score in The Ethical Good Shopping Guide too!
What’s your big dream of what it will one day become?
My big dream is that we will be a viable alternative to the big pet food brands. So many pet owners are in the position that I was in where I didn’t realise I had a choice – I just thought that what was available on the supermarket shelf, was it. We strive to make the best pet food on earth – leaving out all the horrible bits and only including really good nutritious ingredients that really help dogs and cats be healthy inside and out.
Lily is my inspiration! I couldn’t believe how much I adored her from day one. Every time she sees me she greets me as if it’s the first time – excited and happy!
Any lessons learned or pivotal moments along the way?
There have been many pivotal moments – going from Lily and I in the kitchen to our first employee and passing the one phone between us to make calls, to recently recruiting our 24th person. It’s still very much a family feeling in the company and we do have a kitchen table we like to congregate around. My advice to budding entrepreneurs is to start with a bang and stick to your guns. My best decision was sticking with the best ingredients. I started Lily’s Kitchen in November 2008 – the worst time to be launching a premium pet food business, when retailers were pressuring me to sell my products more cheaply due to the economic climate. But in doing this it would have meant having to drastically reduce the quality of ingredients we use to make Lily’s Kitchen products (60% of the food is made up of fresh meat). Instead, I stuck to my guns and it’s paid off. We have witnessed strong growth figures every year and now have £10m of retail sales. Another good decision was growing slowly. The meats in our trays come from 75 different producers, so we have spent a long time working with small organic shops and building up a loyal customer base and are now also available in Waitrose and the Co-operative as well as on Ocado.
What single piece of advice would you give budding entrepreneurs and changemakers?
Put customer service at the heart of what you do. Taking care of our customers is part of our DNA here – we know that as long as our customers are happy with us we will continue to have a growing, flourishing business.