Fresh and Delicious Homemade Food for Your (Dog) Child

In February 2022, six early-stage pet care startups joined the Leap Venture Studio accelerator program for a 12-week immersive experience. Throughout the program, the founding teams worked in tandem with a curated team of strategists and designers from R/GA Ventures, and received mentorship from Mars Petcare and Michelson Found Animals on building impactful and scalable businesses. Revisiting yet another successful program, we are excited to feature each of these amazing startups in a special blog series.

Dog Child (Toronto, Canada): Dog Child is remastering what it means to give our pets a home cooked meal by launching a suite of products and an online community to empower pet parents to cook nutrient rich meals at home.

Nicole Marchand, Founder & CEO

What motivated you to build an impactful startup in the pet care space?

Nicole: When I started cooking for my dog, I realized the benefits of feeding fresh whole foods to my pet. If I eat fresh whole foods, why shouldn’t my dog? I started ordering fresh food through online delivery services. But I realized they were really expensive and came packed in bulky plastic. That’s when I decided to start cooking for my dog at home.

When I spoke to my vet, she cautioned me that recipes off the internet can lack essential nutrients. This inspired me to start Dog Child and get into the pet care industry. I wanted to make a difference in pet nutrition. Dogs deserve healthy fresh whole foods just like us. They like a variety of foods and contrary to popular belief, they don’t like eating the same thing every day. Just like I eat different fruits and vegetables that provide me with different nutrients, dogs should too. This is what drives us at Dog Child — empowering dog parents to nourish their dogs with goodness to promote their overall health and happiness.

What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a startup founder and how have you overcome them?

Nicole: The greatest challenge has been issues relating to the supply chain. It’s been a year-and-a-half since I started Dog Child. A lot has changed in the supply chain since then. Consistent sourcing of ingredients at good prices has been a challenge. To overcome these, I had to work hard — I’ve developed relationships, reached out to more suppliers, and tried to find alternative ingredients in some cases, never losing sight of our goal to offer a premium range of pet food products. Despite the challenges, we have officially launched our first product assortment.

What is your biggest take away from the Leap Venture Studio?

Nicole: The Leap accelerator program has been truly transformative for Dog Child. It’s taught me to think bigger and more strategically. The biggest takeaway has been the new network of people and supporters I’ve met thanks to the program.

How has your startup made a difference for pets?

Nicole: Cooking for your dog is not just about feeding them the healthier option, it’s about creating an entirely new ritual and strengthening your bond. When you bake for friends, family or children, it’s not just about the food, it’s about the love that goes into it. In fact, cooking is the sixth love language! It has really changed my relationship around mealtime with my dog. Now, my dog comes up beside me when I’m cooking and there is another level of excitement and joy around mealtime.

What advice would you give to fellow pet care founders who are just starting their journey?

Nicole: My advice would be to really invest in your brand and find out what makes you different from the competitors, and what reinforces your purpose. In the pet space, we looked on every shelf and website to find out what people are doing, making sure that our point of view, and what we had to bring, was unique. Investing in your brand also empowers you to connect at another level with your audience — this helps build your community down the line, which was crucial to us as we were gearing up for our launch.

Tell us about your pet(s)!

Nicole: I have a 3-year-old rescue from Pakistan. Her name is Cricket; she was named after Pakistan’s most popular sport. It’s been an adventure with her and we love her so much! My brand is called Dog Child, because that’s what Cricket is to me. Like many dog parents out there, she is not only a dog to me, but she is also my child.

What is the unique selling proposition (USP) of your company?

Nicole: We are not just selling cooking products for dogs. We have an online community where we share recipes, nutritional advice and how-to-videos, and members can also share their recipes with others. We pride ourselves in being more than just a pet food brand. We are a lifestyle brand.

Dog Child launched on July 14. To explore their range of meal mixes for your pet, visit their website.

Check out Dog Child’s pitch at the Leap Venture Studio Cohort 5 Demo Day that was held on April 28, 2022. If you are interested in connecting with their team, email us at leapventurestudio@gmail.com.

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A smarter world for pets & their people starts here. Partnership between Michelson Found Animals and Kinship, a division of Mars Petcare.