Q&A: Building a top table business from a dog’s dinner

This week we talk to Caroline Slade Jacobson, founder of Diamond Bear Dog. Caroline started the venture as a “side gig” while still doing her “proper” job until she realised Diamond Bear Dog was her true passion and she quit her job to put everything into helping dog owners nourish their beloved pets.

ISB: What was the “lightbulb moment” that sparked the idea behind Diamond Bear Dog?

CSJ: One of my gorgeous dogs had been randomly attacked and her immune system broke down. I began to research ways to improve her health, and the more I researched, the more I learnt about the benefits of nutritionally balanced food for dogs.

I’d always cooked for my dogs, but the more I discovered about good nutrition, the more I realised I was making a difference to their health. I was chatting to a friend about it as I was cooking one day; discussing it with someone else was a bit of a lightbulb moment.

I then put an image of the food on Instagram and the response was overwhelming. People started asking for my dog food, and so Diamond Bear Dog was born!

ISB: How did you balance working full-time with running the business in the early days?

CSJ: It was hard. I was managing a high-end furniture store working 40-45 hours a week and then cooking all night, sometimes until two or three in the morning. My customers would regularly send me photos of their dogs with the food and I was so passionate about it that I never wanted to give it up or let them down, so, as hard as it was, I didn’t let the long hours get to me.

ISB: What marketing channels did you focus on to get the message about the business out there?

CSJ: Most of my business comes from word-of-mouth. My customers can tell I love what I do, and I’m sure this is why they’ve been so great at spreading the word! I also use social media; I created a website with a link to my social-media pages for my customers to follow what I’m up to.

ISB: What has been the most important change you have implemented to streamline the running of Diamond Bear Dog?

CSJ: My business kept growing, and I couldn’t keep up with the demand as I was still working full-time. So, I stepped away from my full-time position in retail so that I could give my full focus to Diamond Bear Dog.

Simple technology has been key to staying on top of things. I’m always on the run, from shopping for ingredients to cooking in the kitchen and dropping off deliveries, so I rely entirely on phone apps to manage my business. I use Invoice2go, for instance, to track all my invoices and expenses in the app, as well as manage my clients’ orders and keep track of payments.

ISB: What is your vision for Diamond Bear Dog in five years’ time?

CSJ: My number one priority is to spread the message about good nutrition for pets. I’m in the process of launching a Youtube channel to share my tips and tricks.

Beyond that, I’d love to expand my product range to include cat food, and look at a desserts range for pet birthdays. I’m also currently testing a meal delivery service in conjunction with a local restaurant.

My ultimate goal, though, would be to set up a fully-functioning commercial kitchen so that I can sell my food Australia-wide.

ISB: What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned on your journey you’d pass on to others with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?

CSJ: Walt Disney said that if you can dream it, you can do it. This has always been my mantra.

I was nervous about losing the security of a full-time job and was hesitant to take the risk, however, I love what I do so much that it has all been worth it. So, to those hesitant to take the plunge, I say believe in yourself, trust your instincts and work hard. It will be worth it in the long run!

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