More than ever, people are becoming obsessed with their pets. They are beginning to treat them like children and spoiling them with gourmet foods, clothing, and treats. They are even taking their pets out and about with them when they visit new places, go shopping, or eat out at a restaurant. People’s increased interest in spoiling their pets has created a boom in the pet industry and one person who has benefited from this is entrepreneur Brandon Zavala.
He noticed a gap in the pet market three years ago when he was working in a pet food store. He noticed that there were different types of foods, such as wet and dry, and a range of hard treats for cats and dogs. However, there were no beverage options on the aisles of pet stores, like you would find in a human grocery store.
This got him thinking about why nobody had noticed that there was a gap in the market for drinks designed for pets. He also noticed that the wine culture in the United States is huge and that many wine lovers are also pet owners. This inspired him to start his own company, Apollo Peak, which is named after his eldest cat, Apollo. It is based in Golden, Colorado.
The first product he created was a cat wine called ‘Catbernet’. The product is actually alcohol-free as alcohol is harmful to cats. However, they can get a buzz from drinking the beverage as it contains catnip. He also has another cat wine that is comically named ‘Pinot Meow’.
When he first started the business, he took a huge risk as he did not know if the idea would appeal to people or not. He put $4,000 on a credit card at the beginning of 2015 and begin experimenting with different ingredients to create his first wines. Some of these ingredients included catnip, water, and natural food colorings, one of which was a coloring made from beets that was particularly unsuccessful.
By October 2015, he was finally ready to launch his product and took his first wine to the local pet stores and he immediately began to make sales. At that time, he was still doing everything out of his kitchen.
Following his initial success, he decided to make a bigger marketing push in 2016 and began to contact bigger pet product retailers. One company he became involved with was Meowbox. This company sends out monthly boxes of cat goodies to their subscribers. They ordered 4,000 bottles of wine from Apollo Peak. As he was still working from his apartment at that time, his home was soon overtaken by bottles of Pinot Meow. This led him to rent a small storage space for his products.
Zavala then attracted even more attention to his business when the Huffington Post did a write-up about his business. This prompted producers from ‘Shark Tank’ to contact him about appearing on the series. As a result, Zavala suddenly found himself with a very successful business and he was working nonstop to keep up with the demand.
As his cat wine had been so successful, he began to create wine for dogs followed by beer for dogs. While his cat products predominantly focus on the use of catnip, Zavala had to take a different approach to create products that would appeal to dogs. He knew they liked meat flavors, so his wines and beers were based on chicken and beef stocks. He also used anise seed powder as this is believed to mellow out dogs.
Zavala became so busy that he had to quit his day job at the pet store. While most people were supportive of his entrepreneurial endeavors, there were some that criticized his line of products. They questioned his need to try and make pets more like humans. However, Zavala argued that people have already made pets more like humans and he was simply responding to the demand for products to meet changing attitudes to pets.
The entrepreneur finally gave in to pressure to appear on ‘Shark Tank’ and appeared on the series in an episode which was aired in April 2017, although it was filmed in September 2017. Viewers saw him deliver a successful pitch and receive bids of $100,000 for 20 percent of his company from both Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary. While the former has experience in the pet industry, the latter has experience in the wine industry. Zavala wanted to brand his company as a wine company rather than a pet company, so he decided that O’Leary was the right investor for him.
Following the show, the deal collapsed as O’Leary’s team said that the investment was too high risk as the business was new. Despite the deal collapsing, Zavala’s pitch was still aired in the series. Zavala ramped up production in preparation for an increase in sales and started manufacturing the products from a 2,700-square-foot full-production facility.
However, he had a dream that he wouldn’t need to increase production and decided to continue at the same rate of production. This was a good decision on his part because, although he saw a small increase in sales, it was not significant enough to warrant a huge increase in production.
The business is now so successful that Zavala is making six figures each year and has a range of over 20 products. He is now even considering creating some form of cat and dog cannabis. The strangest thing about his story is that while his younger cat loves his products, the elder cat after which the company is named is not a fan.