The “accidental entrepreneur” is characterize as the person who never expected to be self-employed.
They never imagine themselves as an entrepreneur and in head of a start-up business.
Marie Moody, Founder and President of Stella & Chewy’s, a multi-million dollar pet food company, is perfect example of an accidental entrepreneur.
The story started while she was living in Los Angeles.
Marie adopted Chewy, a rescue dog who was seriously ill.
Following her veterinarian’s instructions, she fed Chewy a homemade diet of raw meats and vegetables.
Chewy’s rapid return to health inspired Marie to learn more about the benefits of feeding less processed, grain-free foods to animals.
The more she learned, the more convinced she was that there were other pet owners like her who would want to feed their pets with high-quality meals.
After moving back to New York City and finding herself between several jobs, she started preparing raw pet food in her Manhattan apartment.
Her two dogs, Stella and Chewy, were early product testers.
Nearly 10 years later, Stella & Chewy’s frozen and freeze-dried raw, natural dog and cat food is available in more than 3,500 retail stores nationwide.
But how did a young, single woman living on the Upper West Side, who didn’t even cook her own meals, manage to develop that idea?
Marie is a real example of accidental entrepreneur which had single-minded determination.
She purchased huge quantities of organic ingredients and several industrial freezers. Production process started in her living room.
Then she had to sell and deliver the food to retailers in New York, all of it without owning a car.
During the development process, Marie attracted the interest of a young Wall Street trader who helped her in her delivery efforts as a part-time job on the side.
“I thought he needed the extra money.” He eventually became her husband, and despite no longer being married, now works as Director of Sales for Stella & Chewy’s.
Expanding the Business
As her operation grew, Marie outsourced the manufacturing to a production facility. That worked well for a while, but it brought on additional challenges.
“Imagine a semi pulling up at 4 a.m. and having to unload it using the residential elevator!”
Besides that, the lack of control over the process bother her.
“The equipment broke down, and the manufacturer wasn’t able to do more flavors”.
Then I wanted prove for organic fruits and vegetables and statements where the meat was sourced from.
“So it became clear to me that if I wanted to grow the business on right way, I have to figure out the manufacturing piece of it.”
In 2007, Marie relocated her family and opened a small manufacturing plant in Muskego, Wisconsin.
Her hometown area is well known for food and beverage manufacturing. Her timing was exquisite.
Suddenly, many pet food businesses were facing product recalls because of ingredients sourced from China.
Pet owners start paying much more attention to where and how their pet food was manufactured. Health and safety for animals became the primary focus.
The ability to control all phases of her raw pet food operation led Marie, to develop an exclusive, patent-pending, food safety procedure called Hydrostatic High Pressure Process (HPP). HPP kills pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella, using high pressure without diminishing the health benefits of raw ingredients.
She claim that “Nobody had ever considered using HPP on a pet food product before it was further processed.” As an accidental entrepreneur this was her unique selling proposition and differentiate her on the market.
Besides she is target as accidental entrepreneur, Marie has implemented some other “non-traditional” activities.
In her female-dominated manufacturing operation 63 % of the employees are woman. And over half of her senior management team is female.
“Our first banker was a woman, and presently our accountant, attorney, and CEO are all women. We really have a lot of women in managing positions and just become part of our culture.”
Traditionally, the control manager position tends to be associated more often with men. Marie seems to incorporate a type of management philosophy that is more “female”.