The Science of Real Pet Nutrition with Anja Skodda

Rad Intelligence for Entrepreneurs Podcast with Jeremy Barnett

Feb 2, 2021 Entrepreneurship, Influencer Marketing

Jeremy Barnett / Host (00:04):

Welcome back, Journey Seekers. We are sitting here with Anja Skodda, CEO and founder of Happy Bond. You have changed your name. Welcome back to RAD Intelligence for Entrepreneurs.

Anja Skodda (00:16):

Thank you. I’m excited to talk to you again about Happy Bond today.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (00:20):

Yes, likewise. Last time, I got a ton of feedback about the dog and this time, we’ve got the dog in the scene, which is super awesome. And I was thinking about having my puppy join us for the show, but literally all my puppy wants to do is chew on my feet and beg me to go outside for a walk. And also it’s funny because last time we did the show, I did not own a dog and now I own a dog, and I think the name change to Happy Bond is as close to genius as you can get. Because I never knew it, I gotta tell you, I didn’t think I was a dog person. And I was texting you, “911” yesterday about, “Hey, we think our dog needs to go to the vet. We want to vet the vets.” So it’s a different experience. It’s been really awesome having her. So thank you, you kind of turned me to the whole dog world. So my wife and I, and my kids, are super grateful for that.

Anja Skodda (01:25):

Oh, thank you. Well see, Fernando is not only a dog, he is part of the team. He is the Chief Tasting Officer.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (01:32):

Nice, nice, I’m sure that’s a title that he wears very intelligently too. That’s great. So let’s just kind of dive right in. I know that you’ve made a decision the last month or so to list on WeFunder. So tell me a little bit about the decision, why you’re listed on WeFunder, and we can talk about what’s new in the business.

Anja Skodda (01:55):

Yeah, sure. So first, I met the WeFunder Head of Business Development, who had a dog that couldn’t walk or had problems with standing up. He tried the product and we talked a little bit, then he got back to me and his dog is a customer now. He’s running again, he’s extremely grateful to get his dog back into the puppy stage. And we talked about this campaign and it really makes sense for us as we have B2C business. So we want our customers to participate and be part of the company because they’re our biggest fans and they can spread the word. And just having the whole WeFunder campaign makes you take part of this and we have the destiny in our own hands so we can decide.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (02:47):

Yeah, so listeners, you know that RAD did a WeFunder campaign. I want to say a couple of things, number one, this is not a dual WeFunder promotion. I love the folks at WeFunder. We’re super grateful to them for how helpful they were with our fundraise. I thought that WeFunder was a good plan and a good idea for you, but at the end of the day, you decided to do it. And a lot of entrepreneurs, you know, shy away from it. Some entrepreneurs are getting more comfortable with it, there’s all sorts of dynamics here. But specific to your brand and company, I think the takeaway from my perspective, is it’s the kind of product that when you use it, if you have a dog, you kind of fall in love with the products. Simple as that. There’s not a lot of salesmanship needed, which is the definition of an awesome brand. So, we went over this a little bit in the last show. Why are your products so awesome? Like what is the real difference between what your products are, what you’re putting out there? And, I mean, there’s a lot of players in this space, so what makes you special and stand out?

Anja Skodda (04:00):

Yeah. Well, first of all, we changed to Happy Bond, not only with the name change, but also to target a much bigger problem in the pet industry. Because we believe as we’re saying “Happy Bond” that this is not an ownership you’ll have here. It’s a relationship. And probably one of the best you will ever have, to be honest. So, it’s such a bond you have with them. So we wanted to change, in the pet industry, that there’s so much marketing and claims out there for products that are not healthy for your pets. And our pets are living longer, but they don’t stay healthy longer. So we want to prevent this problem, that you have more time dealing with diseases with your dog, because then they have a longer lifespan, but the health span is not increasing.

Anja Skodda (04:46):

And that’s what Happy Bond is focused on, as a whole health approach. We do nutritional products. Our Products are different because they’re all human grade, they’re all clean, transparent ingredients. And we’ve really focused on that, there’s a science space and a need for them. We’re not just putting that in because there might be some research somewhere that it might be good. We really do this deep dive in science, as my background is science, if this is a product that will help your dog for something. And we do that with all the products. Our dog food that we’re launching, which is one reason why we’re raising money, is human grade and only has four ingredients. And if you look at any other player with fresh dog food with kibble, the list is normally this long and it doesn’t need to be. It’s the same as when we cook for ourselves.

Anja Skodda (05:37):

So we really focus on the health of the dogs. And why the products are different? It’s because we’re really not taking the normal approach of going to a manufacturer and saying, “We need a hip and joint product.” We develop the products ourself, and finding the right way, and being different. And we just want to give that back to them. I mean, as you experienced now with your dog, they’re giving us so much. They’re giving us the love and emotional support. I mean, during this lockdown, having a dog was just amazing, but what are we doing to them? We giving them really crap food.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (06:13):

Yeah, t’s equivalent of giving them McDonald’s every day versus a good meal. So, there’s so many things that you said there, Anja. For starters, I couldn’t imagine the house without Luna right now. She’s just this real joy. Not just for my wife and I, but for the kids. And we were adamantly not dog people until Luna. So it had to be like the right dog, the right personality. And now she sleeps in our beds and she’s so well-behaved and she’s such a good girl. But my wife, she comes up to me the other day, and she goes, “Jeremy, I have to tell you something.” I went, “Why?” She goes, “I really love Luna, so much more than the cats. Don’t tell anyone.” So I’m just putting it on blast, but there’s just so much involved in the family.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (07:02):

She is very protective over our little ones, which is really cute and kind of funny. And they all have these little quirks to their personality, they’re emotional creatures. And I know a lot of times there’s entrepreneurs that are doing a deal because it’s a good deal or because they’re smart and they figured out something. But I know this is something a little bit more than that, this is something that’s close to your heart. I know that because I speak to you and I understand what you’re doing. And we obviously have a relationship together, I’ve watched you grow. But also you’re heavily involved in the science behind what it is. And I know you’re a scientist and I understand your background there. Maybe you could tell our listeners a little bit about your background, about the science behind it and why that’s so important.

Anja Skodda (07:51):

Yeah. So my background is in biotech engineering. I worked in cartilage tissue engineering, which brings us to the first product line we launched, which is a hip and joint supplement. And it’s based on the research I did in arthritis to rebuild cartilage in the lab. And my dog, Tony, was skateboarding, I think we showed that last time, and he couldn’t skateboard. He had arthritis. So it was more, I never tend to like, “Oh, let’s go into the pet industry.” It was really just helping my dog. And it worked out so well that he was back in a week and we saw the same with humans, because I had tested it on humans to be safe, so that the animals are okay. And they had the same results. So our formulation is now patent pending. It’s very unique and it’s very, very high quality, there’s nothing added. So you will feel that difference. And I think the reason why all our products are different is because they really not made for, “Oh, let’s just bring something on the market to make money.” They are here to help them to experience the new science, because everything else out there is this old science that’s been there for 15 years. And there’s never been research shown that it works. And that’s how many people are burned in that sector as well.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (09:11):

You know, a couple things that I find fascinating about you as a leader, and not just as a leader, but as the CEO and founder, as a woman, you’ve kind of persevered through all the crap and it has not been easy. If you’re listening to this, just know that if you’re going to raise money, you’re going to get 150 no’s, you’re going to get maybe’s. You’re going to get people that tell you yes, that drag it on, that drag it on, that drag it on. And for me, it’s super gratifying to watch what you’re doing right now with the business, for a lot of reasons. Number one, you’re on your way to being a successful company. I could see it, it’s happening. There’s that little bit of momentum that you have that it’s starting to snowball.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (10:00):

I know that you’ve got some meaningful partnerships. One of your partners was Cesar Millan, who’s the dog whisperer. And for those of you that don’t know who he is you can, you can look him up, you can watch his show. I didn’t really know who he was until I got into dogs. And now there’s a show that we watch and like, we literally binged on his show. And it’s hilarious that I didn’t know what a big celebrity he was, in the dog ecosystem. But I think that the fact that you were able to get just a really high quality human being like that, who is really a celebrity in the dog – he genuinely is a dog whisper. I don’t know how else to say it. But the fact that he didn’t just come now, it’s easier to come now, he’s been with you from the very, very early stages. So that, to me, says a lot about you as a leader and as somebody who can be scrappy and kind of figure out things without a lot of budget. And then, unless I’m mistaken, you also have a new partnership that you’re getting ready to release some information on with a big celebrity. And I’m not, am I allowed to talk about that on air?

Anja Skodda (11:11):

Yeah, I think you can.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (11:12):

So you have a deal that you just cut with Halle Berry, who is, if you guys know Halle, she is a pet lover, amongst many other wonderful things. So maybe you could talk a little bit about that, I’m sure our listeners would love to hear.

Anja Skodda (11:26):

Yeah. So I believe in many times that when something aligns for the person, it doesn’t matter if they are celebrities or not. And that was the same with Cesar, as I always followed his vision and how he talks. He literally talks to dogs. I was always really impressed how he does that. And when I met him, I didn’t know that his dog couldn’t walk. So it was really a relationship that started because I could help his dog, and he actually helped us, as well. So, it was great. And since then, he’s supporting the product and all his dogs are taking it. And I always see these big results and Juniors running, chasing the ball. So that is always the moment, that why you’re doing this, this is the result. You can do that every day. It’s amazing. And you can take all that $150 because you know why you’re doing it.

Anja Skodda (12:19):

And that was the same with Halle. She’s a very health conscious person. I mean, she keeps herself in shape. She looks great. She’s training, very conscious about what she eats and the same for her dogs. She has two dogs, they’re great, one is a little younger, but still she’s very interested in and very cautious of what they eat and what she’s giving them. So when we met, we talked a lot about nutrition. And then we decided to create vitamin elixirs that are boosting their health in a natural way, that you can just put over the food, and that’s the products we co-creating together. And it’s just the same thing for us humans or pets. We want to have really clean ingredients and show that they can have a better life and live healthier, to prevent all these troubles that might come when they’re older.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (13:10):

Yeah. That’s a good point. Well, there’s a couple of good points when you started articulating the “why” there that I want to circle. A lot of times, entrepreneurs, you have a product, you have a business, you have something and you kind of have this thing, like, if I could just get so and so to promote it, or if I could just get X, Y influencer to be involved. There’s a lot of value to just having something that’s really, really good. And at the end of the day, if you have something that’s mediocre or something that is just okay, and you get the big name, you might get a little push but that will fizzle. I promise you that. There’s a real architecture, a stable architecture to your brand and products, which is why these people have gotten involved.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (13:57):

It’s not like you have a big check that you can go throw around and say, “Hey, Halle, I’m gonna talk to your agent. We’re going to give you $500,000 to put your name on a product.” This is actually something that you guys are co-collaborating on. Same thing with Cesar, Cesar’s involved in your company. And I think that just speaks a lot about the brand and a lot about the quality of products. There’s the desire for people, that are leaders in the space, to really put high quality things in the ecosystem for pets. And you said something earlier too, these dogs, if you own a dog and you have a good relationship with your animal, they are your support system. You come home or you’re home all the time, they add laughter.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (14:41):

They add joy, they’re emotional animals. When they get in trouble, they literally are so sad, they can’t even believe how sad they are when they get trouble. And there’s so many things, like it teaches the little ones responsibility, teaches you to care for somebody else, if you have little ones in your household, but even for me, it was such a big lesson. Because when Luna was a puppy, we brought her in when she wasn’t finished with her first rounds of shots. And it was so hard. We couldn’t believe it. It was like we had this newborn baby and we were so committed to making it work. And then finally, probably about after about six to eight weeks in, she was potty trained.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (15:27):

We went through the process of hiring a trainer. We were meticulous about it. We took her out all the time and it was really, really hard. And I can’t tell you how much it was. It was just so worth it. Like we would do it again, as a matter of fact, Danielle and I had a conversation last night, she goes, “I think I want to get Luna a friend,” which is like, if you know our family, it’s so funny. So anyways, kudos to you for building a brand that matters, whether you have celebrities involved or not. And I think it’s awesome that they’re helping you get to where you’re going quicker. So you’re going to be launching on WeFunder soon. I think it’s a great idea. I could tell you my own experience with the platform, what’s fantastic.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (16:08):

You’re going to get a lot of customers and I think that’s as important as the fundraiser, if not more important. You’re going to get customers who are buying your product and invest in your business. There’s not a better way to launch and do what you’re doing, so many great things about your product, as well as it’s really easy to understand. Look, if you have an animal, you want your animal to eat healthy, yeah you can dive deep and you can talk about the science behind it. You can also say, “Hey, look, if your product is good and they’re saying it’s good, I’m going to try it. And if it’s good, it works.” And it’s funny, you know Justin, he emailed me before you decided to go on the platform. And his email was like, “What happened to Anja?” And then underneath that was the body and then underneath that was a sentence that said, “Her products kick A-S-S my dog loves them. I’m a customer for life, whether she comes on the platform or not.” So that’s a pretty good endorsement from the folks over there. So I think the stars are aligned there. And you did this whole rebranding thing, the new website looks fantastic. It’s HappyBond.com. Is that correct?

Anja Skodda (17:16):

Yes. And you will get a lot of health span knowledge. So we put a lot of time into giving you free knowledge about your dog’s health and how to keep them healthy with many insights. Not very scientific, easy read, short, and we do a lot of blogs. But we also have there all the tips of Cesar for connection and communication, for keeping your dog’s mind stimulated, socializing them and moving them because that’s as important as the nutrition.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (17:49):

Yeah, Luna gets depressed if she doesn’t go on a walk, if we miss a day, she actually gets depressed. And we were trying to figure out what was wrong with her and then we took her to the park and we played with her for a couple of hours. She was like back to her being herself, you know? So before we wrap up, a couple of things. We’re talking here and if you’re listening to this episode, you’re maybe thinking to yourself like, “Wow, she’s got the most amazing product and I love what she’s doing, it’s going to be successful.” This is one of those companies when you look at it, you can see it, right. And maybe you don’t see the struggle. Maybe you don’t see the calls at nine o’clock at night where we would talk.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (18:32):

And you’re like, I don’t know if I’m going to get there. Like, how am I going to do this? Where’s the next rock that I can un-turn? Maybe you could speak a little bit about that because you’re at a point right now where you got through that, but it was really, really hard. Maybe you could speak a little about that to an entrepreneur that is, you know I always say this, they’re in the muck. They’re trying to figure it out. Maybe you could speak to that person a little bit.

Anja Skodda (19:01):

Yeah. Well, first of all, it’s not easy. I know we always get out there and talk about the journey and, of course, we’re not going to talk only about the bad part, but that’s why I think it’s so important with this journey, that if you decide to create a company and to go through this road, you have to know why you’re doing it. And the purpose is so important. It cannot just be, “I want to make money, let’s find something to do.” It has to be something that is super close to your heart. It has to be passionate. You have to believe in this. And then you can go through all that because there’s so much that will happen along the way. And I think one part of the rebrand was the struggle before, that we had raising money, or even being taken serious with one product.

Anja Skodda (19:51):

And we wanted to always have the bigger vision. But how do you share that with people? How do they understand you? And with Happy Bond, I think we really made clear what the bigger vision is, and that it’s not a product company. It’s really a mission that we want to help dogs and return that favor to them. So it’s just that journey with all this struggle. You have to love what you do because, exactly, those 9:00 PM calls or even getting, sometimes, through the day, because there’s only gonna be problems thrown at you, which is normal. I mean, that’s the startup world. You get a new role every day. You’re not just sending out a podcast, having great conversation. So a lot of struggles. I mean, I think your job is actually everything, overlooking everyone and finding a solution to the problems because the other people won’t do that.

Anja Skodda (20:52):

So if you’re ready for that, I think you just, everyone always told me like, “Hey, this is just a phase.” And it’s kind of the same as having a kid or a dog, there’s bad phases but the phase will go over. Just go through it and fight through it. There’s always a reason for you to have to go through this, and normally, it’s something good. Something good comes out of it and you’ll get that experience you need. So I always said, like, I don’t need all these failures that happened before, but they actually helped, and it’s good that they happened because otherwise I wouldn’t understand. Like, I don’t want to fail now when it’s growing, you have to fail before and then you will understand it’s just a process.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (21:40):

Yeah. You can look at failure, you can quantify it, or you can look at failure and you can say, okay, failure is feedback. And a lot of times, it’s easier to say than do. It’s also kind of hard to see the forest through the trees, so to speak. And I had Henrik Fisker on here a couple of weeks ago. They just did their IPO and they’re doing great. They don’t have their car at market yet, but everybody believes they’re going to. And he had some extreme setbacks in his career, and I said the same thing to him. And here’s a guy who’s going IPO. It’s a $4 billion market cap, you know, puts his legs up, puts his pants on one leg at a time.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (22:26):

And he said, look, man, you just have to persist. You have to see it through, you have to take a step back sometimes, but you have to keep going. And it’s really easy, it’s really easy to punk out. It’s really easy to quit. It’s really easy to throw yourself the pity party. But at the end of everything, look, nobody cares, right? If you’re successful, you’re successful. The second you’re not successful or the business fails or you run out of money or any of those things happen, you’re going to get some people that are bummed out. They lost their money. You’re going to have some issues, but at the end of the day, everybody’s life goes on. So it’s really up to you and it’s lonely and it’s hard because nobody cares as much as you care about your business.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (23:15):

It’s rightfully so, why should they? And being a CEO and being a founder, it’s incredibly rewarding. It’s also very lonely at times. It’s like you have these extreme highs, extreme lows. It’s almost like you’re just kind of signing up to be a complete psychopath, right? Cause it’s all like, it’s every emotion, it’s everything. And it’s like everything possible that could happen, happens. Nothing surprises me. You really get to understand yourself, you get to learn about yourself. And, you know, gosh, I’m proud of you. I’m genuinely, I’m proud of you and I’m excited for what you guys have coming up. And I love the new name. Happy Bond, it’s such a cool name. And your site looks sick. I mean, literally whoever designed your site, oh actually I know who designed your site, but it is A+, the fact that you did that on the budget that you had also speaks wonders about you as a crafty CEO and leader. I just think that what you’ve done with the brand, knowing where your financial circumstances have been, getting the business to where it’s at right now, this is, in my opinion, the very beginning of a very fun ride for you. And I’m super excited for you. So Anja, for our listeners out there that want to get your products, where do they go?

Anja Skodda (24:43):

To HappyBond.com.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (24:45):

Is there any sort of discount code that we have cooking? I mean, come on now, we’ve got RAD Intelligence for Entrepreneurs, listeners. Can we give them a discount code? Can we give them some love?

Anja Skodda (24:55):

Of course we can. But first of all, I’m going to tell you a promotion that we’re doing this month, which is just $1 for signing up with your subscription, because we want to help all dogs and that financial problem’s stopping them from keeping them healthy and they should be trying our products, but just $1.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (25:18):

Well, there you go. That’s actually better than a discount. I mean, everybody can afford a buck and if you can’t afford a buck, you can, you can go get a buck somewhere, somehow. I’m sure of it. So that is awesome, and if people want to get in touch with you, what is it, reach out to you on LinkedIn? They can email you. How do people get in touch with you if they want to reach you?

Anja Skodda (25:38):

Yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (25:42):

And it’s changed over to Happy Bond?

Anja Skodda (25:44):

Happy Bond, yeah.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (25:45):

Awesome, awesome. And if you’re listening to the show, when are you going live on WeFunder? What’s the actual date that you’re going live?

Anja Skodda (25:54):

We’re aiming for the 20th of November.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (25:56):

Aiming for the 20th of November. So that is right around the corner. Very exciting. Anja, we just got some RAD Intelligence for Entrepreneurs with you. Super grateful to you for coming on the show with probably the coolest co-guest that I’ve seen in a very, very long time. And if you’re listening to the show, appreciate you tuning in every Thursday, 10:00 AM, you get some more RAD Intelligence for Entrepreneurs. Anja, appreciate you coming on.

Anja Skodda (26:24):

Thank you so much for having me.

Jeremy Barnett / Host (26:26):

My pleasure.