Inna Shekhtman, Red Dog Deli Raw Food Company Inc., Vancouver
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 Inc.is 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 12,500 sq. ft. food manufacturing facility in Port Coquitlam, 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 have your WEC loans enabled you to do in your business?
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 other services has Women’s Enterprise Centre provided you with and how have these services helped you?
A. WEC organizes many very valuable events and training sessions. While I haven’t been able to attend as many of them as I would like to, I find the ones I did attend to be incredibly useful. Even if they cover a subject that I am comfortable with, I find that I always take something away that I can apply to my business. Furthermore, I find going to events organized by WEC is always very inspiring for me because I meet so many other motivated and inspiring women, which I find very inspirational.
Q. What personal lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur?
A. The biggest lessons I have learned is that you are only as good as your team. It doesn’t matter how smart or competent you are, you cannot do everything. So a huge part of building a successful business is building a team around you that shares your vision, has a great attitude and has the skills to execute that vision. And the other thing I learned is that once that team is in place, as a leader, I need to trust them to do their jobs and not micromanage them. Delegation was something I have struggled with but I realized that it is the most important skill that I need to master so my team can thrive.
The other thing I learned is that as an entrepreneur it is important to have mentors that can support you and help you navigate the challenges you face as a business owner. As an owner of a business, you are often alone and taking most of the risk – its very important to have someone who you can talk to, vent to, and someone that you know has your back when you are in a tough spot.
Q. What are your major successes? At what point did you feel you had achieved success?
A. In the past year, my company has undergone many changes including getting an investor, moving to a new larger facility, redefining our brand look and message, setting up a board of directors, and much more.
In many ways it felt like we were starting all over from the beginning, reviewing every aspect of the business to make sure it served for our future growth. There were also a lot of changes in my team. The first year, these changes felt chaotic, scary and while we were busy and getting a lot done, it didn’t feel like success.
One thing I realized is that while we were implementing changes, the team I had in place at the time was not really excited about these changes and the direction we were going and that had a huge impact on the energy of the business. Even though we had moved mountains, it didn’t feel like a win because nobody other than me was celebrating.
In the past 6 months, my team has gone through a transformation and the attitude of the new team members has completely transformed the energy of the company and is aligned with my growth goals. With this new energy, the business has really started to grow and transform in the past 4-6 months and it is feeling like a huge win! I feel like while we still have a steep road to climb and many challenges to overcome, they no longer feel insurmountable.
Some major successes I feel are worth mentioning in this period were:
- Completing the build of the new facility in March 2017
- Completing rebranding for the company in 2018
- Positioning the company successful for co-packing opportunities
- Hitting our sales targets for 3 months in a row (Oct-Dec 2018)
- Improving energy of the team
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 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:
- help pets live longer and healthier lives
- 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