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How To Build A Killer Pet Brand! An in depth conversation with Boss Nation Brands CEO Basel Nassar

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How To Build A Killer Pet Brand! An in depth conversation with Boss Nation Brands CEO Basel Nassar

See the article here from Woof News

This week, we chatted with Basel “Vasili” Nassar, the founder & CEO of Boss Nation Brands.

Basel Nassar

You’re a serial entrepreneur. Tell us about your time in the CPG space, launching and growing a Greek yogurt company which you ultimately exited.

My previous life, as one might say was focused primarily on developing innovative concepts for the consumer space.  The range of concepts was quite diverse, and afforded myself and my team the ability to innovate first to market concepts, or more specifically, infusing items with probiotics while adding value to a particular segment. Greek Yogurt was undoubtedly the largest and most successful project that I’ve participated in from the ground up. My 20 years of building a CPG brand taught me more about business and the industry as a whole than any other experience/lesson.

One should never start a business while putting too much emphasis on an exit scenario. I’m not saying don’t have an exit plan, moreover, build your business on the notion that you are committed to the process. Opportunity and timing will often dictate the best time to “move on”, and for me, 2010 was that time. I was ready for something new, and wanted to leave Fortune 500, to start something from scratch again, and I did.

How did you go from Greek yogurt to dog treats and what lessons did you learn there that were transferable to dog treats?

Greek Yogurt was only the beginning of our product education. After selling my company in 2010, we had a unique opportunity to stay on with the acquiring group. During my 8 years as the CEO of the refrigerated division, my team and I were exposed to a wide variety of tools, knowledge, and more…. that effectively contributed to our knowledge and mastery of probiotic infusion. Once we acquired this knowledge, we carried out our mission to focus on innovating digestive health solution concepts.

The transition to pet was natural for me, as I’m an avid pet lover, and have always sincerely felt that the connection between pets and humans is closer than one might think. Historically, the pet industry has been dominated by singular “me too” concepts, with only a handful of brands controlling the market. Things have changed, and we are in the forefront of the “premiumization of the pet industry”, as several new highly innovative fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried brands have emerged to disrupt what has been a “ho-hum” offering of products over the years. We feel that both Boss Dog® and Boss Cat® are setting the pace in pet specialty, as we continue to innovate “functional” treats, supplements, and meal systems that support digestive health and more!

One of the first things that stood out to us was your branding which is quite different from most pet brands out there. Why did you decide to go this route?  

When it comes to branding and/or creative design I like to rely on instinct primarily, along with a select group of peers to bounce ideas off of. Both Boss Dog® and Boss Cat® were truly a labor of love, considering that we were motivated to innovate items that would initially support our large family of pets. We wanted to focus on the benefits, a wholesome look and feel, and to showcase all of the pets in our family. Yes, all of the animals on our packaging are either currently at our Boss Ranch or have moved onto another place over the years due to age. Packaging can take many forms depending on the message one is trying to relay. We chose to stay true to our mission statement on day #1, which is to provide offerings that provide the pet owner with a “lifestyle solution” for their pets.

Rampage Jackson

How did the relationship with Rampage Jackson come about?

Interestingly enough we weren’t looking for celebrity endorsement (affiliate marketing), at the time. Rampage was introduced to me through a friend who saw a clear connection between our Boss Tactical® pet gear line, and the image that Rampage portrayed. After meeting him for dinner, we collectively decided to work together on promoting our premium tactical pet gear line and announcing our relationship at Superzoo 2023. The show was a hit, as Rampage was quite the draw, and honestly a great person overall.

Probiotics are hot right now, seems like they’re infused into everything. What do you do that’s unique and what are you doing around consumer education since it’s still relatively new for dogs and cats?

Probiotics are a crucial part of proper digestive health; this fact is considered by many unarguable. The human industry has long since understood the value of digestive benefits for many years now. One of the several things that prompted me to get into the pet industry, was the lack of offerings that included sufficient levels of probiotics. We were determined to take the knowledge that we acquired in CPG, and extend the same value offerings to pets. And we did!

Today, both Boss Dog® and Boss Cat® are being touted by many as the leader in digestive health benefits for pets.  All of our products are “infused” with heavy doses of our probiotic strain, that allow for sufficient levels and survivability versus many other brands. Pet parents will tell us stories often, as to how our products have greatly improved the overall lives of their pets. The most rewarding thing we can receive is a testimonial or review to confirm all of our hard work is and has paid off.

What are the current issues with state level examiners and what do you hope to see happen in the near future?

I’ll start off by saying, that the barriers to entry to the pet industry can be very high for a multitude of reasons. Young companies put everything they have into product development, marketing, customer service, safety, etc…..and any outside stress can wreak havoc on a P&L. The current process of applying for each product innovation at the state level, is not only costly and time-consuming, but ineffective in our opinion.

As a manufacturer, we work very hard to create items that are premium and provide health benefits for our customers. These items all undergo an extensive internal and external regulatory and compliance process. It simply makes it very difficult to create an item that won’t meet some form of objection at the state level. For example, one might submit a new meal system concept for entry into USA pet specialty. In short, 48 states may be completely fine with the concept, packaging, layout, etc….but 2 states object for some “subjective” reasoning. At times it can be as simple as a bolded asterisk, or other. Consequently, we are then forced to update all packaging at great cost, and resubmit to all 50 states once again.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that this process needs some reform. We are happy to say that there has been much discussion on this matter, and we are hopeful a more “universal” process will be put in place soon. I’m a big believer in providing entrepreneurs with a reason to innovate and disrupt the marketplace, and an archaic examination process like we have now only greatly inhibits company progression.

Could you share insights into the research and development process behind crafting innovative flavors and formulations that appeal to pets and their owners?

Most of my insights and motivations for R&D come from collaborative discussions with my sales and marketing teams. I rely heavily on what my colleagues see and hear in the street, and like to take advantage of what the street is asking for, versus what is often for others, a self-indulgent process. I never ask myself what I like, but moreover what the public needs or desires. Extensive research is then put into creating a competitive analysis of the market/segment, analyzing core economics, and ultimately fashioning the concept for a successful entry to market. Sounds simple enough, and I’ll simply say that if it was….everyone would be doing it.

Earlier we asked you about your branding, most people see a format that competitors are using, they see it works, so they copy it (and tweak it) and often find success doing so. What are some advantages to being different? What are the risks?

I’ve always believed in this simple mantra “quality in the cup”, which was a reference from the Greek Yogurt days. It’s actually quite simple. Create quality products, price them correctly, and maintain ongoing consistency….and you always win. Period.  We don’t focus on the risks as much, but more importantly, we focus on the advantages of communicating our passions through our products and packaging.

How do you build a community around your brand?

This is a great question, as there are a variety of opinions on how to create good faith and support from your community. At Boss Nation, We like to give back to our community through retail store support, active pet events, and financially through Boss Nation Cares®, our open-source charitable platform.

Once per month, our marketing team is challenged to find a local, regional, and national charity, rescue, or other to support. I’m very proud of what we do at Boss Nation Cares® and the impact we are making in our communities.

How do you think about entering a market? Let’s say I want to go into dog grooming or invent a new cat litter but have no previous experience in either, what are some initial things I should do to give myself the best chance of success?

Generally, it depends on the industry. For example, I felt that the pet industry was crowded with much of the same “me too” concepts. Therefore, my approach was to look for what I call a narrow segment to make a splash. For me, it was Boss Dog®/Boss Cat® Greek Frozen Yogurt Treats for pets, as I had over 20 years of yogurt experience and it seemed like the most compelling point of entry. Our innovation schedule was and has always been aggressive, despite the several external factors committed to slowing you down, or stopping you.

Bottom line: Do your homework, find the passion, now go and execute on your dreams. I’ve always believed that “life is not about watching the storm pass, but learning how to dance in the rain”. Simple.

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