Thursday, July 14, 2016

Meet Miss Ellie M

Miss Ellie M.
On July 4th, we rescued a 4 month old female Labradoodle puppy. Apparently she was part of litter where a Poodle jumped the fence into the yard where a Labrador lived...but neither dogs were spayed or neutered. Yep, the Poodle got the Lab pregnant and eventually had a litter. Fortunately they made their way to a rescue group who was trying to find a good home for all the puppies. Luckily for us, we were contacted by someone who saw the litter of pups at the rescue group when they were being spayed and neutered by the Lucy Pet Foundation mobile clinic. After contacting the rescue group, I filled out the Adoption application, and went through an interview. A week later this cute little girl came home. We decided to re-name her "Miss Ellie M." 

Miss Ellie and me in the vineyards of Sonoma
Like all puppies, Miss Ellie is happy, so full of life and has seemingly endless amounts of energy. Last weekend we took her on a long drive up to Sonoma in California wine country. She was so good in the car and didn't seem nervous at all during the 7 hour drive.  We checked into the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, which is pet friendly, with beautiful grounds for dogs to explore.

Miss Ellie "Wine Sniffing"

On Sunday we took Miss Ellie wine tasting...most of the wineries are dog friendly so it was no problem to bring her right inside. She charmed the guy who was pouring wine and everyone else who was there. All in all it was a nice long weekend, I'm so glad Ellie enjoyed herself. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cats Incredible Litter: A Unique Insider's View

Throughout my entire professional career, I've always made a point to do what I enjoy, and be associated with companies that I felt reflected my own values. In over 30 years of working I can honestly say I'm proud of the jobs I've held and the companies for whom I've worked. The past 20 years have been within the pet industry in various leadership roles (Pet Care Superstores, Petco, Natural Balance Pet Foods/Big Heart Pet Brands and now Lucy Pet Products). A few years ago I co-founded a consulting practice Zarhill Partners Group which has enabled me to assist a wide range of companies and brands world-wide in the pet industry, as well as in multiple other industries. To this day I continue a leadership capacity for our consulting group which brings me to a very special company called Lucy Pet Products.

I started out serving on the Board of Directors for the Lucy Pet Foundation, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) animal charity whose mission is to help reduce rate of unnecessary euthanasia of dogs and cats in the word. In the USA alone, every week 80,000 dogs and cats are put to sleep due to overpopulation. My exposure to the work of the Lucy Pet Foundation has been educational and rewarding. Our mobile spay and neuter clinic works continuously in local communities, particularly in low-income areas to provide free and low-cost spay and neuter services. The Lucy Pet Foundation wants to expand its reach and help address this issue in communities nationwide and around the world. That's what led to the formation of Lucy Pet Products. We formed this company to develop and market high quality products for dogs and cats where all net proceeds (after operating expenses, interest and taxes) go to help fund the Lucy Pet Foundation. Initially in a consulting role, I was honored to help contribute to the Lucy Pet Products brand, and early products, such as our super premium shampoos and leave-in conditioning sprays and more recently the super premium Cats Incredible clumping clay cat litter. This year I joined Lucy Pet Products as EVP and a partner in this very special company. Our mission is simple- to develop really great quality products, that are made in the USA, and sell them in pet specialty stores with all net of proceeds (after operating expenses, interest and taxes) going to charity.

So what is the "Insider's View" referenced in the title of this blog post? Well, it is because I was personally involved at every step in the development of our Cats Incredible litter. We are a small group of pet lovers...each of us has multiple pets, many rescued from shelters and off the streets too. Dogs, Cats, Birds, even a Pig. At every step of the way in developing Cats Incredible we set out to develop the very best quality, even if it meant at a higher cost, and having to raise the standards in the industry to achieve our goal. We started with extensive testing of virtually every cat litter on the market today in the US pet market. We analyzed many products, from clay based to alternative based materials.

Now is a good time to mention that roughly 17 years ago I was a cat litter buyer at Petco, and had a great deal of experience and knowledge of the litter category. Regardless of my prior knowledge, we started fresh and observed each litter with our own cats. One surprising discovery was that several of the "alternative" litters, in particular the ones made from corn and wheat had some major negatives. Since corn and wheat are food grains, these litter types attract pests easily, but more shockingly tend to "rot" when exposed to moisture and develop mold and high levels of bacteria--even without feces or urine.

We chose to develop Cats Incredible using a super premium form of pure sodium bentonite, from the USA with stringent requirements to protect/preserve the environment. We also learned about the environmental impact of various cat litters. We learned that the alternative corn and wheat litters have a MUCH HIGHER carbon impact to the environment than clay litters. You see, to make corn or wheat litter requires water to grow the grain, then harvesting, followed by cooking, processing and treating. The factory process of those materials also have carbon impacts that collectively far exceed the simple process of extracting sodium bentonite and treating it for use as a cat litter. So, for those of you concerned with the environment, you are much better off using a clay litter than a corn or wheat based litter. I should also mention that after sodium bentonite is extracted (from a very shallow base of soil) the land is restored and reclaimed to be same or better than before the clay layer was extracted. The process literally adds fresh top soil, and plants things like grass, trees, of other vegetation that helps support local wildlife, cattle, birds, etc. So when you look at the true comparison of clay litter versus many of those "alternative" litters, you find that clay is actually better off for the environment. On top of this, sodium bentonite is actually better at managing cat waste, and cats prefer using it.

Perhaps the biggest reason that makes Cats Incredible so vastly superior to any other litter on the market is the inclusion of a patent-pending technology we call Smell Squasher. This technology actually stops ammonia from forming in the litter box, when used as directed. Cat lovers may not realize that ammonia is in their litter box, but they certainly know the bad smell. The unpleasant smell is only half the problem. The real issue is that ammonia can be dangerous and toxic to cats and people too.  Through our studies, I was surprised to learn how high the levels of ammonia reach in the typical cat litter box. It starts building in a few days, and continues to build--even if you scoop regularly. Over the course of 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 days, ammonia levels have the potential to reach 30ppm-- a level the US EPA considers unsafe for humans. Imagine our poor cats breathing in those dangerous ammonia levels every day!

We decided that this technology was essential to utilize in Cats Incredible. We set out on a mission to help cats live healthier lives by educating cat lovers everywhere that they must not allow ammonia to form in their cat litter box at all! After reviewing nearly every other litter on the market, we found that many use heavy perfumes to cover up the smell. Others claim to absorb, neutralize or encapsulate the smell. From my market review, NONE of these actually ever prevent the ammonia from forming in the first place.

As a cat parent myself, I was not aware that ammonia exposure in cats can cause upper respiratory infections, and many other conditions such as vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhea, trembling of limbs, convulsions, dull coat and more. I used to mistake some of these things that my cat Owen was suffering from and just accepted them as "normal cat issues" but they have been tied to the ammonia exposure. Ever since switching to Cats Incredible, the ammonia is gone and he doesn't seem to suffer from as many health issues.

This is why I believe that Cats Incredible truly is the best and healthiest option for cats on the market. I am so proud to have been a part of the development of this truly unique product. Knowing that we will help cats avoid the health issues from ammonia exposure makes me feel good. Not to mention the fact that all net of proceeds (after operating expenses, interest and taxes) going to charity!

So it is with great pride that I write this post, sharing my insider's view of how Cats Incredible litter was developed, and why. We may be a small company and don't have the resources of those huge corporations that make other litters, but we have worked with the best-in class industry partners to develop a world-class cat litter that will help cats live healthier lives.

If you like to support products that make a difference for animals in need, Cats Incredible litter is part of our "Products With a Cause" program. Every purchase will help our mission. Right now, Independent Pet Specialty stores across the USA and Canada are adding Cats Incredible to their stores. Soon, Petco stores nationwide will also carry Cats Incredible. We've also had requests worldwide, so we just started exporting Cats Incredible to Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, S. Korea and many other countries. It is so rewarding to develop a new brand with mission to help cats live healthier lives. Just as it has been throughout my entire career, I am doing things I enjoy with people I like.

If you are a cat lover, check out our Cats Incredible litter. For the sake of your cats health and yours too.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Interzoo Summit 2016

Next week I will be speaking at the bi-annual Interzoo Summit in Nuremberg, Germany. 

The Interzoo Summit addresses the key trends in consumer and communication behaviors that will influence the pet industry, including digitalization and show-rooming. For those of you attending InterzooI hope you will be able to attend this conference.

The summit is geared to top managers and executive board members of pet product companies. Investor groups or those new to the pet industry may also find the conference to be valuable. Pre-register for the summit here from this link.

Pets International's March issue featured a preview of the summit:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Webinar: Launching a Brand: Part II in a series on Creating and Launching a Brand

I was delighted to be invited back by APPA (American Pet Products Association) to develop and present another webinar in their educational series around branding. I'm pleased to be presenting this free webinar "Launching a Brand: Part II in a series on Creating and Launching a Brand " exclusively for #APPA members on April 26, 2016 at 2pm (ET).
So you want to launch a brand? I often tell our clients “You can only launch a new brand for the first time once.” This session will challenge how to think about your brand in context of your organization and the marketplace. Gain insights on how to effectively communicate your brand launch to retailers and distributors. This session is ideal for both new and existing brands. In this free webcast for APPA pet industry professionals you will learn:
  1. Brand Case Study Examples
  2. Insights of Launch Process
  3. Hurdles to Launch
  4. How to Create a Successful Brand
  5. 10 Mission Critical Steps to Launch a Brand
  6. Top 7 Reasons Why Brands Fail
I hope you will join me for this webinar on Tuesday April 26th, it is free to APPA members.
 Zarhill Partners Group is a consulting firm originally founded to assist emerging brands, businesses and start-ups for success in their early years. Our mission is to share and cultivate best-in-class business practices, knowledge and expertise with emerging organizations to ensure their success. We assist brands, companies and organizations with a range of services such as strategic business planning, brand management, retail sales development, e-commerce & digital marketing, international business platforms, and product development innovation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Litter Box Bob Crashes Wedding

If you enjoy fun TV commercials as much as I do, you're in for a chuckle with this brand new ad for Cats Incredible cat litter from my company Lucy Pet Products. If you didn't already know, ALL Profits from Lucy Pet Products (including Cats Incredible cat litter) go to help fund the Lucy Pet Foundation, a registered animal charity. We're having a bit of fun with these commercials to spread the word about a new cat litter that actually stops ammonia from forming in the litter box. It will be revolutionary for the health of cats, and the humans who share their home with a kitty cat. For now check out this TV commercial, and please share it with your friends too!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Winning Combination

Joey, Doc and me at the Dow offices
The following article is in the March issue of Pet Product News, a trade industry magazine for the pet products industry.

A Winning Combination: Sparked by Lucy Pet
Products’ Joey Herrick, a pet industry innovator extraordinaire, four corporations collaborate to revolutionize the cat litter category.

When you’re Joey Herrick and someone high up the pet industry chain asks, “Could you do something innovative in the cat litter department?” the question isn’t so much a challenge as a foregone conclusion that the deed will be done, according to those who know Herrick. 
This is a man who, after retiring from a 30-year tenure as president of Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc., took a handful of months off before investing $1 million of his own money in Lucy Pet Foundation, the charity arm of Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Lucy Pet Products, whose proceeds fund mobile clinics to spay/neuter and vaccinate animals at low or no cost to owners. Who, with one phone call, raised more than $1 million to get a national military dogs monument erected. Who builds impossible yet ultimately impressive Rose Parade floats and mobile wave machines for surfing animals that garner nationwide attention.
Herrick and Lucy Pet Products now are poised to revolutionize the cat litter market with Cats Incredible, thanks to a little help from some very powerful friends.
The story began as many business propositions do: During a casual meal or meeting, an idea was shared with someone who knew somebody who just happened to be in a perfect position to help that very idea come to fruition.
Jim Heim, president of business development for Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Central Garden & Pet Co., a leading producer of pet supplies and one of the nation’s largest pet product distributors, was more than a little interested in what Herrick had to share during lunch one day. 
“I’ve known Joey for 12 years,” said Heim. “He’s probably one of the most innovative guys I know, and I know a lot of innovative people.”
Herrick showed his friend the Cats Incredible packaging, for which he’s filed a worldwide patent. The bright, recyclable bag features a side removable cap and ergonomic side and top handles for ease of carrying and use, and Ricky, a cat rescued from “death row” by Herrick, graces each bag. His tail curls around to create one of the handles. In true Joey Herrick fashion, the focus always is on the animals.
“It’s just a beautiful, extremely functional bag,” Herrick said. “There isn’t another like it out there.”
Heim said, “I have some people you need to meet. You need them and they need you.”
“You couldn’t have scripted this. It’s like someone or something was guiding this. We think it’s a very big thing—a game-changer.”
The meeting was with Lisa Alley-Zarkades, vice president of commercial development, animal wellness for La Mirada, Calif.-based Horn Co., distributor of specialty ingredients and raw materials for use in a variety of industries. Horn co-packs, or toll processes, cat litter as part of its animal wellness division.
“Cat litter always has been a tough category to innovate,” said Alley-Zarkades. “But Jim said he had the perfect packaging partner for us, and we already were partnering with a company that developed a truly unique raw material that will change how litter works.”
Horn’s ace up its sleeve—its partner, The Dow Chemical Company, has patent-pending nontoxic technology that prevents ammonia from developing in the litterbox. It doesn’t simply mask or neutralize the toxic gas; it stops it from forming, according to Andre Argenton, global research and development director for Performance Materials and Chemicals at Dow.
“At Dow, we’re problem solvers,” Argenton said. “Odor control is the No. 1 problem in the cat litter market. We believe we have broken through this problem with a disruptive technology solution for the litter industry that can improve the health of cats and their owners. Cats are important members of many families; our breakthrough technology gives cat owners peace of mind knowing their cat’s litterbox is providing a safe, ammonia-free environment.”
The litter itself is available in two forms, unscented and lightly scented with lavender, and all the cats at Lucy Pet chosen to run the product through its paces accepted it 100 percent, said Herrick.
Before their big meeting at Dow, the presenters were giddy. The trio included Herrick, Karen Halligan, DVM, chief veterinary officer for the Lucy Pet Foundation, and Rick Rockhill, who was Herrick’s senior vice president at Natural Balance and is now executive vice president and partner at Lucy Pet Products.
“We stood out in front of the Dow sign to take a picture,” Herrick said. “I said to Doc Halligan and Rick, ‘You do realize we are going into a $58 billion a year company asking for an exclusive on its new state-of-the-art litter product.’
After the product launch at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., this month, Central Garden & Pet, which, along with General Pet Supply in Milwaukee, has exclusive distributing rights, will have Cats Incredible stocked in its warehouses and ready to go to retailers.
“The end result was phenomenal,” said Herrick. “Dow loved the marketing concept and the packaging, and we got the exclusive. It’s quite an honor for them to believe in what we stand for as a company. They like Lucy Pet Foundation and that Lucy Pet Products funds it. They were impressed that the city of Los Angeles just gave us a multiyear contract to do 10,000 spay and neuters.”
“Joey Herrick and his company, Lucy Pet Products, come from a place of care and compassion,” Argenton said. “Joey wants to solve the ammonia problem that is so dangerous for cats and their owners. And with proceeds going directly to the Lucy Pet Foundation, he intends to have a similarly important positive impact on even larger animal welfare issues. We are proud to be a partner to Joey and Lucy Pet.”
“I think that Joey’s whole mission to come back into the pet industry and give back, and wanting to do the nonprofit and the products to help fund it to really make a difference is exciting, because we’re all trying to figure out how to handle the pet overpopulation problem,” Alley-Zarkades said. “It’s a feel-good opportunity, which is why all of us are so interested.”
Heim acknowledged that while both he and Herrick have a passion to do what’s right for pets, the latter takes the concept to new heights.
“He’s a good guy who really has his heart in the right place,” said Heim. “He’s doing the right thing for animals and for people. It’s a winning combination. You’ve got somebody who will attract consumers because of what he does for the animals, somebody whose heart, soul and mind is in this.
“Innovation that is meaningful always sells,” Heim continued. “And this packaging is unbelievably innovative. It’s really hard to carry litter off the shelf and out of the pet store. With its handles, this is really easy to use.”
After the product launch at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., this month, Central Garden & Pet, which, along with General Pet Supply in Milwaukee, has exclusive distributing rights, will have Cats Incredible stocked in its warehouses and ready to go to retailers.
“I’m really happy that somebody who has meant so much to our industry and gives back so much is going to be extremely successful once again,” said Heim. “This thing is going to be a huge launch and a successful product.”
“You couldn’t have scripted this,” Herrick said. “It’s like someone or something was guiding this. We think it’s a very big thing—a game-changer.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Pet Product News.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Developing a Brand Identity

As co-founder and Managing Partner of Zarhill Partners I frequently lecture and give seminars on various aspects of brand strategy, product development and business planning. Our clients include multiple industries across the U.S. market, the EU and throughout Asia. However, personally my heart remains within the pet industry, which has been my primary focus for over twenty years. 

I was delighted to be invited by the APPA (American Pet Products Association) to present a series of educational webinars around branding. The first webinar, 'Developing a Brand Identity' was extremely well attended, with an impressive cross-section of companies, executives, managers and entrepreneurs. I'm told the presentation will be available online in the archives soon, so if you want to check out my content feel free to do so.

I would like to share a few points from my webinar pertaining to understanding more about your BRAND: 
  • Your brand defines what you stand for, the promises you make, and the personality you wish to project. 
  • Your brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life, and positions you in the mind of consumers.
  • Think of your brand as a living personality that interacts with consumers.
  • Your logo, color scheme and slogan are only creative elements that convey your brand. 
As someone who speaks regularly about brand strategies and platforms, I derive get pleasure from helping new and emerging brands clarify their positioning to be ready for success. If I had to share one piece of advice to anyone building or relaunching a brand, it would be to look outside of your company, your immediate space, and even outside of your industry to seek inspiration and fresh ideas. You may just be surprised at what you learn.

Friday, December 4, 2015

St Louis Arch

I snapped this photo while walking by the Gateway Arch in St Louis, MO this week. I've been here many times but this moment, it struck me as so beautiful. Hope you enjoy the photo as much as I do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Tuesday: All Across Africa

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving back to our communities and charities or causes we care about. One of my clients, All Across Africa is featured on the retail website One Kings Lane for today's #GivingTuesday event. These hand made items make great gifts and give back to help people in Africa. To learn more about All Across Africa, check out their mission:
All Across Africa creates market-driven employment opportunities to improve and empower the lives of rural and poor people across Africa. 

Women in Africa choose to work making baskets and other items by hand, in their local communities. All Across Africa sells these beautiful hand made items here in the USA. Every purchase helps provide income to women in Africa. It is a great organization and I'm proud to have them as a client. Check them out for your holiday gift list. Kudos to One Kings Lane for featuring such a purposeful brand that truly provides opportunities and empowers people to improve their lives. Check out their feature today on One Kings Lane.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Promotion that Benefits Animals in Need

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving....I am in Miami, Florida for the holiday weekend enjoying the beach life for something different this year. Yesterday I had a traditional Thanksgiving feast, and ate way too much turkey. However, I did leave room for apple pie and some See's Candy (no surprise there for my long time readers). Later we went to see the new Peanut's movie, because I've been a Snoopy fan since I was a kid. It totally lived up to my expectations!

Anyway, as part of my pledge to do more for animals this year, here's a great Black Friday Sale that gives back to help animals. Lucy Pet Products is having a Black Friday sale, you can save 20% off everything, site wide, plus get free shipping. There are some terms and conditions, but it is still a fantastic deal.

Lucy Pet Products are all Products with a Cause, because all profits go to support the Lucy Pet Foundation. If you are looking for a unique gift for the dog lover in your life, check out their Black Friday Sale. I'm more than happy to post this here today because animal advocacy is near and dear to my heart, and of course it is not a paid post. Hope you enjoy your weekend, whatever you are doing. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Holiday Pet Gifts With A Cause

Dog Shampoo Gift Baskets from Lucy Pet Products
Now here's a neat gift idea for the dog lover in your life...giftbaskets with dog shampoo and conditioning spray, all wrapped up in a nifty bow. I love stuff like this because it is easy and doesn't take a lot of time to shop. The folks at Lucy Pet Products have assembled these baskets locally in Thousand Oaks, California just in time for the holidays. The baskets have their signature shampoo and conditioners which are made in a solar powered plant in California and are packaged in colorful recyclable metal bottles. 

The best part of these baskets is that they are all "Products With a Cause" so you can make a difference for animals in need. Lucy Pet Products are luxurious shampoos and leave-in conditioners, and all the proceeds support the Lucy Pet Foundation mission of providing free or low-cost spay/neuter, adoption, rescue and vet services in disadvantaged areas. I like how they make it easy to "pay it forward" with your purchase to help pets in need. Check out the full selection of Holiday Gift baskets for Dogs here.

Lucy Pet Products Sampler Pack has 12 trial size bottles
Personally, I like the Blue Lightning Blueberry formula, and The Big Apple Oatmeal one too. They both smell SO good. They also have a sampler pack with all six varieties, which is a perfect way to try all of the different ones to decide which full size ones to go back and buy later.

In full disclosure Lucy Pet Products is one of my clients, but this is not a paid post. I'm happy to share this information because I like the mission of the Lucy Pet Foundation and animal advocacy is one of my personal passions. Thanks for reading and letting me give a personal plug for a cause I really believe in.

Friday, November 13, 2015

'The Road to Happiness* Is Always Under Construction' by Linda Gray

Linda Gray's new book "The Road to Happiness"
A few weeks ago I received my copy of a new book by the lovely and iconic Actress/Producer Linda Gray.  "The Road to Happiness*  Is Always Under Construction" is appropriately titled, as Ms Gray shares anecdotes, stories and advice from her life and storied career. I was delighted to have my own autographed copy, although I can speak first hand as to what a lovely and genuine individual Linda is, truly a gem of a person. Linda is talented, down-to-earth and naturally beautiful as well. 

Linda is very transparent with her story and journey of life; its ups and downs, trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows. The book is packed with advice and lessons to appreciate life.  One of the things I've always appreciated about Linda is that she has always been very genuine and warm, which shines through the pages as you read her book. For sure, Linda Gray is well known for her iconic role as Sue Ellen Ewing on TV's "Dallas", and numerous other TV, film and stage appearances, and appearances on London's West End stage. Linda is also an accomplished Director, former United Nations Ambassador, and is actively involved in many charitable fundraising programs. 

with the lovely Linda Gray 
I've had the pleasure of knowing Linda with some fundraising events with the SAG Foundation for Children, the Steve Chase Awards events, and through one of her films 'Expecting Mary' (which was also released under the title "A Very Mary Christmas"). Linda also was guest on my radio show a few years back. She is a lovely person and so talented too. If you are looking for a great holiday gift, check out Linda's new book, it is available everywhere right now.


This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

It is for entertainment purposes only it, so just lighten up and just enjoy it. Life is short, live in the moment.

As the author, thoughts/views have no affiliation to my clients or business colleagues.