I made it… to ‘How I Made it’

For as long as I can remember I have loved the “How I made it” Section of The Sunday Times. It has been a long term goal to get featured, and hopefully go some way to beating the imposter syndrome!!

On Aug 20th I finally made it!!

This is the start of the article:

Guy Blaskey’s daughter Jessie was six months old when a bailiff came to the family home and started taking the TV off the wall to settle a bill that an Italian packaging supplier claimed was outstanding.

Blaskey said he had been taken to court in Italy but was unaware of the matter until the two burly men arrived and started seizing assets, which also included his wife Zoe’s computer.

A call to his lawyer stopped the enforcers. “The bailiff said to me, ‘This is the first time in ten years I’ve had a call from head office saying this is a mistake,’ ” Blaskey recalled.

Although he said he had done nothing wrong, the episode was a wake-up call. He had been running his dog food brand Pooch & Mutt hand-to-mouth since setting it up nearly ten years earlier in 2007. Something had to change and, on the advice of his mentor James Averdieck, founder of dessert brand Gü, he enrolled on Cranfield University’s business growth programme, a 100-day course to help business owners accelerate expansion plans.

It was transformative, said Blaskey, now aged 45. Pooch & Mutt had sales of “between £1 million and £2 million” when he sat the Cranfield course. Since then, listings have followed in Sainsbury’s, Ocado and on Amazon. TV star Stacey Solomon even became a brand ambassador. This year, the company says it will have sales of £19.5 million, and Blaskey recently completed a staggered sale to Czech group Vafo, personally pocketing £11.2 million from the deal.

His success may surprise his teachers at Oakham School in Rutland. “I was a solid B student. Every report I ever got said, ‘He could do really well if he tried.’ ”

After A-levels, he took a gap year before studying French and Italian at Nottingham Trent University. He had set his mind on a career in advertising and worked for a French creative agency in Paris as part of his degree. Afterwards, Blaskey took a job with marketing agency Cunning Stunts, best known for projecting a naked image of TV celebrity Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament in 1999. He stayed for three years, enjoying the London party lifestyle but “not really making any money”.

A stint at another agency, BLM, followed, before he was made redundant during a merger. He was considering his next move when the family dog, Cookie, was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. They decided to treat her with the joint supplements that his mother’s firm, Blue Chip Feed, made for horses. It radically improved Cookie’s condition — and was a light-bulb moment for Blaskey.

His father lent him £20,000 and his mother invested £30,000 for 5 per cent of the business to help him get Pooch & Mutt off the ground. His recipe was based on a reformulated version of the horse supplements and he did everything on a shoestring, building the website himself and designing the packaging. Sales ticked up only slowly, despite an early listing in Pets at Home. “For the first five years, we didn’t get to more than £200,000 in sales.”

He had hoped his mother’s longstanding business making equine supplements would help him stand out, but while it helped build relationships with suppliers, it made no difference to sales, said Blaskey. “We did try to get into equine shops because a lot of people with horses also have dogs, but they just weren’t interested.”

A large part of the early years was spent traipsing up and down the country to trade events and dog shows. “I did Crufts for five years on my own. I made no money, but what you do get is a great understanding of the market and what people want.” Being an owner-manager had its upsides as he was not answerable to outside investors, but it also meant “hard graft”.

One tipping point came in 2012 when Waitrose listed his dog treats. It was followed by another a couple of years later in the form of an introduction to Averdieck, who became involved as an informal adviser. “He taught us how to deal with supermarkets and how to do product development.”

Around the same time, Pooch & Mutt caught the eye of a large pet food maker, which offered to buy it for two times turnover plus an earn-out over three years. “It would have been about £3 million to £4 million,” said Blaskey. But the deal collapsed at the last minute, leaving him saddled with £60,000 in legal fees. Soon after, he took the Cranfield course.

To read the full article visit: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/i-made-a-dogs-dinner-of-my-firm-and-its-been-worth-millions-rv6zgznrs