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Behind the Scenes: The Chemistry of Passion

Posted: March 25, 2014, 8:50 a.m. EDT

The belief that "they’re more than just pets” fuels Richard Ticktin’s drive to combine a successful formula of healthy companion animals and conscientious business practices.

By Marissa Heflin

Passion is the one word Richard Ticktin, founder and CEO of SynergyLabs, uses to sum up his career in the pet industry.

"That’s what started the business and that’s what keeps us going today,” he said.

Ticktin founded the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company in his garage nearly 20 years ago when he couldn’t find anything to stop the shedding of his two dogs, Samson, a Rottweiler, and Athena, a bull mastiff. The shedding was horrible, he recalled.

"Nothing was available for the average pet owner at a reasonable price,” he said.

Ticktin, a self-described serial entrepreneur with a background in chemistry and business, set out to find his own solution. The result was Shed-X, a nutritional supplement that is still on store shelves today.

Going this route just made sense, according to Ticktin.

SynergyLabs now has about 50 employees and manufactures a variety of animal health and veterinary care products, including shampoos and conditioners, nutritional supplements and gravies, odor neutralizers and medicated sprays, among others. Ticktin’s passion for the company and the pet industry remains strong.

Richard Ticktin
SynergyLabs CEO Richart Ticktin is driven to provide healthful products for companion animals, which "are more than just pets.” 

"Since the beginning I made a promise to consumers to be upfront about our ingredients, the quality of the ingredients and the efficacy of the product,” he said. "We are transparent and open in what we do and how we do it. Our animals are more than just pets, they are family. This concept pushes us to have a path of constant improvement and be the best manufacturer we can be. We push ourselves constantly to find better, safer and more innovative solutions.”

For a relatively young company in this industry, SynergyLabs has more intellectual property than most of its competitors, Ticktin said.

"I think it’s because of how we started,” he added. "We started by looking to solve a problem. It’s still the way we operate today.”

That’s how Dental Fresh, a liquid product that is formulated to eliminate plaque, tartar and odor-causing organisms, came to light.

Ticktin said that he needed something for his dogs’ teeth because he was going broke paying for teeth extractions and the general anesthesia that came along with dental cleanings. On top of that, one of his dogs died under general anesthesia. Ticktin said he remembers thinking there must be a better way.

Dental Fresh is recommended for daily use between veterinary dental cleanings as a way to help clean and whiten teeth, protect gums and improve oral health, according to the company.

Not only is Dental Fresh the company’s most popular product, but it’s also the most copied product, according to Ticktin. Although he doesn’t like other companies capitalizing on his intellectual property and concepts, he sees the copying as a compliment.

"It means that we’re doing something right,” he said.

While SynergyLabs spends the majority of its time on branded product research, development and manufacturing, the company also does contract product manufacturing—where another company comes to SynergyLabs and requests a specified amount of product made with its own formula and packaging—and private label manufacturing—where another company requests SynergyLabs’ product with its own label.

SynergyLabs’ primary focus is product research, not contracts or private labels, Ticktin emphasized.

"[Research and development] has been my passion since I started the business,” he said. "[R&D] is the name of my [motor] boat.”

Ticktin also noted that the company’s fairly new 54,000-square-foot pharmaceutical-grade manufacturing facility passed its U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection on the first round.

New Logo, New Products
SynergyLabs started sporting a new logo this past January, featuring a footprint and paw print along with a leaf.

The new logo, according to Ticktin, retains the company’s core element—the commitment to pets and their owners to produce the best possible product—but now better symbolizes what the company has already done and will continue to do in the future—produce more natural and organic pet products.

"The new SynergyLabs logo is better in tune with our beliefs, mission and slogan: ‘Because they’re more than just pets.’ We listen to the pet community and they’re asking for better, safer and eco-friendly products. This is what we will deliver. So far, we use bottles that are made from recyclable materials, substantially reduced the amount of preservatives across the board, improved our organic ingredients and offered more natural solutions in various lines.”

SynergyLabs launched a new flea and tick product line at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March.

"The reason it is exciting is because we have proven that it is more effective than any other product on the market,” Ticktin said.

The new topical flea and tick product can last 14 weeks with one application, whereas other products currently on the market only last one month, he said.

The product, with formulas for dogs and cats, has been a few years in the making. The long process included clinical trials and gaining U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval, Ticktin noted.

Retailers also can expect a new wound care product to be available mid-year. Ticktin described current wound care products for pets as "old fashioned.”

"I’ve noticed that the human wound care products have improved dramatically over the past decade, and I want to improve dramatically what’s available to our other family members, the furry ones,” Ticktin said.

The new product is clinically proven, with a faster wound heal time and no damage to the surrounding skin, according to Ticktin. The company will release more information as the launch date draws nearer.

Passion for People, Too
Ticktin said there’s nothing he won’t do for a good partner, which is what he prefers to call his customers. For example, last year he had a partner in Thailand who needed training for new employees. So what did he do? He flew to Thailand to train them. He didn’t send someone, Ticktin said.

"I went personally,” he said.

In fact, Ticktin has visited every one of his 20 top partners, which are scattered throughout the world.

"I think our partners appreciated it,” he said. "I really try to put my money where my mouth is.”

SynergyLabs has plans to open six new international markets, including Central America, Mexico and multiple countries in Europe.

Having close ties to the community also is very important—and personal—to Ticktin. Both his sons, ages 7 and 9, are on the autistic spectrum, and SynergyLabs supports Autism Speaks. Other organizations the company supports are the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Cancer Society.

"It’s a part of our culture at SynergyLabs,” Ticktin said. "It’s something that we really believe in.

There’s no one at SynergyLabs who hasn’t been touched by cancer or Alzheimer’s or autism. We just think it’s an important part of being a good citizen.”



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