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Five Questions with Lucy Postins, CEO of Honest Kitchen

Posted: September 27, 2010, 2:45 p.m.

I was lucky enough to sit down with the incredibly creative and successful founder of Honest Kitchen, Lucy Postins. She offered unique insight into why the company has become one of the top natural dog food brands in the U.S.

When, why and how did you start Honest Kitchen?
"The company was founded in 2002. I was working as a pet nutritionist and doing product development for another dog food company. Then when I got my first puppy, my beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback. I started making homemade meals from scratch. I ended up with a kitchen covered in broccoli and blood. So I started wondering, ‘How can I make something quick and fresh?’ This is how the idea for the dehydrated food came about. My first recipe--Verve--is still one of our top-selling items.
"The name is meant to reflect my commitment to the integrity of the product--that it is honestly made with nothing but the finest, human-grade ingredients in a human-grade food facility."

How do you differentiate your product from your competition?
"The fact that all of our food is human-grade is our biggest differentiator. As far I know, we are the only one making food right alongside human products. Our customers know there is nothing in their product they couldn’t eat themselves. My two children will come to the office and go start munching on the ingredients that go into the food--I’ll bet that doesn’t happen at many other dog food companies.
"Our dehydration separates it from conventional kibble. Every ingredient we use is a whole-food ingredient. I believe our customers really enjoy the fact that they can see what’s in the food. "

What advice would you give a new entrepreneur in the pet industry?
"I am a huge list maker; I rely heavily on them. Whether it is the Task function in Outlook or a more sophisticated CRM database, I highly recommend keeping a detail list of tasks and staying on deadline to the best of your ability.
"Always stay true to your roots and have a cohesive set of values. Don’t make decisions strictly based on the bottom line. If you do the right thing, the money will follow. For example, when we decided to switch to free-range chicken, we ate the extra cost incurred because we so strongly believed in the concept.”

Do you think that being a woman has made a difference--either positive or negative--in the growth and operation of your company?
"I know this may sound a bit cliché, but my passion really does drive my business. The majority of Honest Kitchen’s customers are women, and I believe women like to support women in business. I am my customer. When I formulate a product, I use my own preferences as a benchmark.”

What’s next for Honest Kitchen?
"We are getting ready to launch our newest fish-flavored recipe, Zeal. Then our next focus will be on exotic meats--venison or buffalo--which will round out our product line up. We put a high emphasis on social networking--giving consumers opportunities to give feedback. Zeal was customer driven--they gave us the feedback through social media outlets such as Facebook and customer surveys.
"We would like to make our food more organic and more Fair Trade oriented; and focus on education and help pet owners connect between the importance of good food and a pet’s health.
"My ultimate goal? To have my own animal sanctuary in Southern California.”

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