Posted: September 4, 2013, 4:15 p.m. EDT
Stephanie Boone talks about how her dog’s condition drove her to found Wondercide.
By Marissa Heflin
Stephanie Boone founded Wondercide in 2008 shortly after Luna, her then-10-year-old akita-husky mix, experienced seizures, chronic skin issues, and liver and kidney failure. Luna had been treated monthly with a flea and tick product prescribed by veterinarians over the course of her life, according to Boone, and she suspects the dog’s ailments were side effects.
The veterinarian treated Luna with steroids and antibiotics, but Boone said they only seemed to make her worse. Boone said she was advised to euthanize Luna—she was an older dog, had had a good life, and nothing else could be done, Boone recalled being told.
Wondercide owner Stephanie Boone with akita-shepherd mix Luna. Boone said the dog’s health issues led her to found the company. Wondercide
Boone didn’t accept that advice. Instead, she stopped giving the dog topical pest medications and vaccines; fired her home pest control company; eliminated all chemical-based cleaning products, lawn fertilizers and dog shampoos; and went to an organic, low-impact lifestyle.
She said she then began researching pesticide formulations, human and animal health impact studies, regulatory laws and environmental policies. Boone said the "uncomfortable truths lit a fire” in her so powerful she left her career as director of operations of a real estate tax consulting firm and founded Wondercide, which offers a line of natural pest control and holistic care products for pets, people, and indoor and outdoor environments.
Natural Pet Product Merchandiser spoke with Boone about why she launched her business, how the natural pest control market has evolved since then, and what she plans for the future.
NPPM: Wondercide includes more than just products for pets. Was that the original intention?
SB: I wanted to educate people on the toxicity of pesticides.
I wanted to help people make informed decisions and offer a truly effective alternative. The original intention was to keep Luna alive, protected and healthy. It just so happens that the highly effective natural product we developed was also powerful enough to kill and repel hundreds of insects like bed bugs, head lice, mosquitoes, etc. So this one formulation has countless marketable applications.
Once early adopters trusted us to protect their pets, they wanted protection for their children, homes and lawns from pests and pesticides. At the risk of brand confusion and spreading too thin, we chose to offer a full line for pets, people and property.
NPPM: Has the natural pest control market changed since you started the company? What are your thoughts on today’s market?
SB: Consumer demand is the driving force behind what we do. We literally had no budget for sales or marketing efforts in our first four years. Still, we grew almost 100 percent year over year in a bad economy. Our early adopters have proven that word-of-mouth marketing really works if the product does.
Today’s market is driven by consumers who are becoming ever more aware of the harsh chemicals in packaged goods and personal care products. Yet only 2 percent of the pet flea and tick market is natural/organic. We have a very long way to go, and education is the key.
NPPM: Tell me about Wondercide’s newest line.
SB: Evolv Flea & Tick has been our best seller since its inception. The original is cedar scent, and we recently launched cedar with lemongrass. We have two more scents scheduled to roll out in spring 2014.
All of the aromatic essential oils we use are phenol free, making them safe for both dogs and cats.
Location: Austin, Texas
Owner: Stephanie Boone
Number of employees: 8 to 10
Years in business: 5
Areas of distribution/business: USA/International
Annual revenue: Undisclosed; company is privately held
Product/business categories: Pet, home, lawn and garden, and personal care products
Product/business lines: (all lines are natural/organic) pet flea, tick and mosquito, pet ear care, pet skin care, pet supplements, pet chews, pet stain and odor, personal insect repellents, personal skin care, home and lawn pest control.
Our newest innovative product is Fidoplex, a joint and muscle supplement made from eggshell membrane. As an alternative to glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin, Fidoplex is 100 percent soluble, allowing full nutritional uptake, and is safe for cats because it is calcium free.
Luna was unable to walk outside anymore when we started her on this bacon-flavored tablet. Now she climbs on the couch and goes for hikes at 15 years old.
NPPM: There have been a lot of reports regarding a rise in tick populations. How does Wondercide’s natural tick control work? How does its effectiveness compare to chemically based products?
SB: Controlling the environment is very important. Pests come from outside, so if an owner controls the outdoor area to eliminate ticks, pets and people are less likely to get ticks or bring them indoors. If that happens, treating the indoor environment is imperative, too. People cannot simply give their pet a pill or put chemicals on their necks and expect that to eliminate the tick problem.
We receive calls and emails every day from people who are using these traditional control methods, and they just aren’t working for them.
Wondercide offers a three-step approach to protect owners’ pets, homes and lawns. It’s a biological control rather than a chemical control. If ticks are picked up on a hike where one can’t control the environment, Wondercide also will kill the tick when its contacted with spray and prevent an infestation in the home.
NPPM: How does Wondercide differentiate itself from competitors?
SB: Most natural products contain a small percentage of essential oils, a surfactant and 95 percent water. The products don’t have any residual control and most don’t kill the life cycle. Wondercide’s formulation is safe, easy and effective as a repellent, contact kill and environmental control.
NPPM: You "guarantee made in the USA from formulation to fulfillment.” Are customers asking for such guarantees?
SB: People seem to prefer products made in the USA, and we do, too. Customers aren’t asking for a guarantee, but it’s a standard we stand behind. Our products may be priced a bit higher, but all ingredients are sourced from the USA, our packaging doesn’t come from China, and our manufacturing jobs are right here in Austin, Texas. That makes a difference to some in purchasing decisions.
NPPM: I noticed you have a blog covering a lot of info about natural products. Why did you launch it, and has it helped or enhanced your business?
SB: We launched the blog to help educate people and increase online traffic. More than selling products for profit, we want to save lives and improve wellness. Educating people and breaking down information where they are engaged and interested is a challenge.
People often believe products are safe because they are on the market. That is simply untrue. Pesticides are approved for market by the Environmental Protection Agency based on "allowable levels of risk,” not safety. The same is true for food and other packaged goods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The sad truth is, people are busy, and social media is distracting. Oftentimes people don’t know or care about these issues until they have a personal experience like I did. If they want to know more, we want to help guide them.
NPPM: What is on the horizon for Wondercide?
SB: Wondercide continues to expand as market demand dictates. In the past nine months we have tripled our office and manufacturing space, and doubled our staff. We launched 10 products in the past year and plan to focus on sales and marketing expansion instead of product development for the next year or so. <HOME>
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