Inna Shekhtman, Red Dog Deli Raw Food Company Inc., Vancouver

Inna Shekhtman

Inna Shekhtman launched Red Dog Deli Raw Food Company Inc. in 2004, with a group of friends whose mission was to give pet owners the tools to make healthier choices for their pets. After her business partners moved away to pursue other endeavours, Inna became the sole owner of the company.

Red Dog Deli Raw Food Company a manufacturer of premium raw diets for dogs and cats and is dedicated to promoting their healthier lives. From a small 600 sq. ft. warehouse on Mitchell Island, BC to a state-of–the-art 7,200 sq. ft. food manufacturing facility in North Vancouver, it has been quite a fascinating growth journey. Red Dog Deli Raw Food Company is now recognised as a leader in the raw pet food industry in British Columbia.

Q. What services has Women’s Enterprise Centre provided you and how have these services helped you?
A. My business had encountered some financial challenges in 2011 and 2012 and our bank was not of much help. WEC recognized our business challenges and helped us with their loan program. WEC has also provided ongoing mentoring support and development opportunities to help me and my team succeed in business.

Q. What inspired you to take the leap and start your own business?
A. My life changed in 2003 when I rescued a 100 lb Irish Wolfhound/Great Dane mix from a local shelter. I named her Adhara (after the star in the Canis Major constellation). While researching on how to best take care of her, I found out the value of feeding my pet a raw food diet. At that time, I also met my business partners who had extensive experience and knowledge about raw food. As I became passionate about creating a healthy raw diet for pets, I wanted to help other pet owners by launching my own business.

Q. What’s the biggest lesson you learned when starting your business?
A. I learned the importance of having the right team and mentors. It doesn’t matter how smart or competent you are, you cannot do everything. Earlier, I used to micro-manage. Now, I appreciate the importance of investing time in building my team and finding the right connections and mentors to help me grow my business.

Q. What are your goals for the business?
A. My goal is to build Red Dog Deli into a national Canadian producer of quality raw and natural food for dogs and cats. My goals are to:

  • improve, evolve and expand our educational initiatives with our retail partners
  • expand our manufacturing capacity
  • work with veterinarians to develop specialty veterinary lines/formulas
  • grow our private label division for retail stores and national chains
  • become certified so that we can move into international markets
  • increase sales to grocery outlets

Q. What is your greatest strength as an entrepreneur?
A. My greatest strength is my ability to stay positive and focused through challenges and hard times, and continually look at doing the right thing in all circumstances.

Q. What personal lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur?
A. Oh! There have been many! My science background provided many skills that could be applied to the business, but I still found myself facing a steep learning curve. I learned a lot of new business skills.

The biggest challenge was learning to build and lead an effective team. I had to learn how to work through difficult situations and communicate effectively to my team. I took time to coach my crew to follow my vision so that I could focus on working on the business instead of in the business. It helped me scale my business effectively.

I also realised how important it is to take some personal time. Last year when I had my first child, I found that the time I spent away on maternity leave actually helped me look at the business with fresh eyes.