Rebel Raw featured in VoyageATL

Jan 9, 2019

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matt Lunalover.

Matt, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
We started Rebel Raw four years ago, homemade pet food and e-commerce company. It was a long shot. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing or if it would even work. We decided it was worth trying and in the end, if it didn’t work out, we would at least have food for our pets for a long time.

Wanting to keep the initial investment costs low, we bought the minimum amount of equipment necessary to get up and running. We started small, working out of our kitchen, so we could test it out and get a feel for if this was something people wanted. At first, we just made food for friends and family and then we built a website to sell our products to the local Atlanta community.

We slowly grew our business over the next four years, working out of our kitchen with a portable meat grinder and adding freezers along the way. In the end, we had a large commercial refrigerator and five freezers lined up along our kitchen wall. It was taking over our house and we had reached the point where we couldn’t expand our business because we hit the capacity to produce and store any more food.

Taking the next step was financially risky- leasing a space, build out costs, purchasing commercial equipment and hiring employees. And it was difficult to know exactly what we needed, what costs made sense to incur, and lots of other factors that you just don’t know until you’re in it. We knew we wanted to be close to home, Grant Park, and part of the in-town Atlanta community. That meant a space would be much more expensive but we felt it was worth it over the cost of commuting, both financially and to our souls.

We spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to find the right space for our next step. Everything is much more expensive than you want it to be. We tried to get bank loans but banks are not fond of small, family businesses. After a year of looking for a space, in a chance encounter at the box warehouse in the West End, we met someone who had a friend with a space for lease. He said it sounded like it might be what we were looking for. Turns out it was exactly what we had been looking for.

Just a few months ago we moved out of our house and into a commercial space that we built out for our processing facility. We went from doing everything ourselves – meat grinding, packaging, delivering, website build and design, and everything that comes with running a food processing and online business – to today, a processing facility in Mechanicsville with four assistants.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s never a smooth road. The only road that’s smooth is the safe and easy road and if you’re taking that road, you’re not taking risks. That means you’re following the path someone else has already carved out and you’re missing out on your unique ideas and take on things. You’re also missing out on the learning that comes from failing.

For us, we didn’t want to do the same thing that most of the other raw pet food companies do, only offering one size in a big, messy chub of meat. Our whole purpose was to make feeding real food easy and convenient for people so that more cats and dogs can lead healthier and happier lives. So, we had to figure out how to do that. We went through many iterations and spent a lot of money on supplies and equipment we ended up not using. If we had just followed the established model we wouldn’t have the distinctive packaging that we now have and customers love. They tell us all the time how much of a difference it makes and how happy they are with how easy it is.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Rebel Raw – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Rebel Raw is an Atlanta based premium pet health brand. Our mission is to make it easy for people to feed their cats and dogs real food. We make a small batch, freshly prepared meals with whole foods. Our food is hand packaged into individual serving sizes and then frozen. We offer delivery to the metro Atlanta area and ship to the 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, we make it simple and easy for people to feed their pets the way nature intended.

Rebel Raw operates in the rapidly growing raw food segment of pet foods. All food is prepared fresh weekly with human-grade meats and produce. All ingredients are sourced from restaurant suppliers, local farms, or other human food purveyors and USDA inspected. Our food can be ordered directly through the Rebel Raw website.

What sets us apart is our guiding principle of providing exceptional customer experiences. It’s important for us to provide personalized service and make everything easy for our customers. For example, we take a lot of time hand packaging individually sized portions based on the weight of our customers’ cats and dogs so they don’t have to measure out servings. We’re also proud to pay a living wage to our assistance and support many local animal-related charities.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
A vacation? We are going through the biggest change we’ve experienced so far which is getting our facility up and running. There have been many long days and nights. We are looking forward to everything being a smooth running operation where we have the right people in place and then we can take a nice, long vacation.