Today we’d like to introduce you to Tina Lunalover.
Tina, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
How did I end up here? I would have never in a million years guessed I’d be calling myself Head Rebel of a homemade pet food company I started. Now that I’m here, it makes sense for me, combining things I love and care about (animals, good food, engaging experiences) with skills I have developed over the years (mostly patience and perseverance). It all started in 2014 when I was trying to figure out how to feed real food to our growing animal family.
I had been feeding my two cats a raw food diet after learning about all of the benefits. It was shockingly obvious, of course these animals who would naturally hunt and eat fresh prey could not possibly be healthy eating dried, processed food that had sat in warehouses and on store shelves for years. I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about raw food until then and how nutritionally superior it is. After I switched them to raw food, the positive improvements were incredible.
The difference a raw food diet makes in the health of cats and dogs is striking. I wanted to make sure other people knew about raw food and the night-and-day difference it makes. I thought about the current raw food market and how disappointed I was with the service and products. Had I not already been a believer and spent many hours educating myself, I might have given up. Once my husband and I added another cat and a rescued pit bull puppy to our family, I decided it was time to make everything myself.
After I started making my pets’ food, I thought a lot about the experience I had wanted, and couldn’t find, as a raw food customer. I was looking for personal, attentive service and a raw food diet that were easy to understand and feed. And I started thinking, maybe I should start a business where customers can get that kind of experience. After many sleepless nights and many hours of trying to figure out if it was a viable business idea, of which I was never 100% sure, I decided to go for it. I started making food for friends and testing different product and packaging ideas on them. My husband and I worked on creating a website where it would be easy, and not overwhelming, to understand and order raw food. Our mission was to build everything around providing an exceptional experience for customers and make it as convenient as possible for people to feed raw food so that more cats and dogs would experience better health and better lives.
We started off with only one product line, chicken, and just a few orders a month. Today it’s almost four years later and Rebel Raw has thirteen product lines and thousands of orders. We are still very much a small business, much more interested in building relationships with our customers and providing quality products and service than in rapid growth. We are continuing to learn, grow and evolve and are excited to be a part of the new Atlanta that is emerging.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There will always be a range of challenges that come with entrepreneurship. Anyone wanting to take that first step into an unknown venture should expect to get incredibly frustrated, angry and about to give up a few (many) times. There’s no guidebook or step-by-step instructions on how to start an ecommerce pet food company, as I imagine there isn’t for most things. And what has worked for other people or businesses, may not be right for you.
I started off knowing and expecting I’d have to figure out a lot along the way. There is just so much you don’t know until you get in it. For example, I knew nothing about meat grinders, packaging, etc. In the very beginning, I had this plan to freeze the food in neat little ice cube trays of different sizes and then vacuum seal every package. I bought hundreds of different types of trays and two commercial vacuum sealers. I thought I could save money by making my own vacuum sealer bags so I bought rolls of uncut bags, a paper cutter and a heat sealer. Well that worked okay when there was just a few orders a week. As more orders came in, it was clear that was way too time consuming and wouldn’t be sustainable. I had to come up with a new packaging plan quickly and that $1000 spent on all of those supplies was gone. Although I hated that I had spent all of that money on equipment I could no longer use, I knew it was more important to move on to a better solution.
There have been lots of instances like that, money and time used for things that just don’t work. It’s important to not get stuck or let down when things don’t go the way you planned. Consider it part of the learning process and an investment in your future success. Don’t be afraid to start something because you haven’t gotten it all figured out.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Rebel Raw – what should we know?
Rebel Raw is an Atlanta based premium pet health brand whose mission is to make it easy for people to feed their cats and dogs real food. Freshly prepared, raw meals made with whole foods are delivered to homes in Atlanta and the surrounding areas and ships to eastern US states. As the consumer market increases for non-processed, all natural food, those same consumers are also purchasing healthier options for their animal companions. By offering pre-portioned meals, subscriptions, and home delivery, Rebel Raw makes it
simple and easy.
Rebel Raw operates in the rapidly growing raw food segment of pet foods. All food is prepared fresh weekly with human-grade meats, produce and fruits. All ingredients are sourced from restaurant suppliers, local farms, or other human food purveyors and USDA inspected. The food is hand packaged and frozen and can be ordered directly through the Rebel Raw website.
What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
Don’t be afraid to start something because you haven’t gotten it all figured out. Be open to learning along the way and trust in yourself. Know that you will make mistakes, do things wrong and want to quit at times. That is all okay and even necessary to grow personally and professionally.