Interview with Terri Rockovich, Co-founder of Jinx

Empowering Pet Parents Through Innovation


In the ever-growing pet food industry, finding the perfect brand that caters to the diverse needs of our furry best friends can be a daunting task. However, Terri Rockovich, co-founder of Jinx, embarked on a mission to solve the frustrations experienced by pet parents everywhere. Inspired by her own struggles in finding a brand that worked for her dogs, Terri set out to create a company that would revolutionize the way we think about pet food. I recently sat down with Terri as she shared the story behind Jinx and shed light on the challenges and triumphs she encountered along the way.

The Birth of Jinx

Terri and her co-founders, Michael and Sameer, were all passionate pet parents who noticed a lack of pet food brands that truly worked for their dogs. With dogs of different ages, breeds, and sizes, they set out to find a brand they could stand behind and promote. However, they encountered little transparency in the category and conflicting information from various sources. This led them to embark on a journey to build Jinx, a brand that would address the frustrations faced by pet owners.

A Focus on Digestibility

During their research and conversations with folks across the industry, Terri and her team discovered that dry format diets were widely used for dogs. While they initially considered a refrigerated solution, they realized that dogs' stool quality was a vital indicator of digestibility. They recognized the importance of understanding how nutrients are absorbed and used this knowledge to create a diet that worked for most dogs. By prioritizing the dog's needs and ensuring the food was attractive and healthy, Jinx aimed to provide pet owners with a solution that truly worked.

There are some challenges that come with the pet food industry, including the crowded and noisy nature of the market. Similar to any other CPG category. Standing out among the competition and breaking through the buzzy marketing claims posed significant hurdles. However, Terri emphasized that having a superior product and giving people a reason to believe and more importantly, repurchase, were crucial factors in building a successful brand. Jinx aimed to provide pet owners with a unique and special product that would make a tangible difference in their pets' lives.

Celebrity Endorsements and Fundraising Success

Jinx is one of many brands on the market that have celebrity involvement. Chris Evans, known for superhero roles as Captain America and The Human Torch, not only invested in Jinx but also became a passionate advocate for the brand. The celebrity endorsements generated interest and awareness, helping Jinx expand its reach. Terri also shared their successful fundraising journey, raising a $28 million Series A and $17.85 million in a Series B round. This funding enabled Jinx to invest more in retail launch and promotion, resulting in rapid growth and expansion to over 5500 retail locations nationwide by the end of 2023.

Looking Towards the Future

As Jinx continues to grow, Terri expressed her desire to become a single destination for all things healthy pet food and treats! Their goal is to provide pet owners with convenient and high-quality options, while also focusing on education and subscriptions making it easy as ever to get a product. By leveraging feedback from customers and their community, Jinx plans to enhance and expand their product offerings to meet the evolving needs of pet owners.

Closing Thoughts

Terri's journey with Jinx serves as an inspiring example for CPG brand operators. Through their innovative approach and unwavering commitment to transparency and quality, Jinx is not only revolutionizing the pet food industry but has also established itself as a trusted and respected brand. By understanding the diverse needs of pet parents and addressing the frustrations commonly experienced in the market, Jinx has successfully carved out a unique position for itself.

As a CPG brand, they’ve demonstrated the importance of research and a deep understanding of their target audience. Moreover, Jinx's strategic use of the a DTC model, combined with their ever-expanding retail presence, showcases their ability to adapt to the evolving consumer landscape.

In summary, Jinx's success story is not only a testament to the passion and dedication of its founders but also highlights the potential for CPG brand operators to disrupt and innovate within established industries. By prioritizing transparency, quality, and customer-centricity, brands like Jinx can create meaningful connections with their target audience and redefine industry standards.

Interview Transcript

Nate Rosen: So, to get started why don’t you tell me more about Jinx’s inception.

Terri Rockovich: We were all pet parents, dog owners. And I think that the one thing that we found particularly interesting was just like there's this category that continues to grow and it's huge and there's quite literally hundreds of options. We had, we being myself and my co-founders, Michael and Samir, we had dogs of different ages, breeds, and sizes. We all found it strange that we couldn't stand behind a brand or get excited about a brand or just promote and refer a brand. There was not one brand that was working for any of our dogs.

For different reasons because I had an older rescue, my partners had puppies. But really it was just like, why can't we find anything? Why can't we get excited about anything? And as we do our research, we found there was little transparency in the category from a lot of these major food brands. We also found that it was really hard to find consistent information, so just a ton of conflicting information depending on if you're asking Dr. Google, if you're consulting you're a veterinarian, if your struggle reaches the point where you need to bring on a certified animal nutritionist. Everybody has a different perspective. When you're the consumer and all you want to do is find a food that your dog likes eating and works for your dog's digestive system. It becomes pretty paralyzing to hear so many different opinions and recommendations.

So as we started the journey to build Jinx. And resolve a lot of the frustrations on the pet parent side. We really found out that through these conversations with formulators and scientists and animal nutritionists and manufacturers that at a pretty large scale everyone is feeding dry format diet. So we had been really excited at the prospect of doing something that felt on the cutting edge of innovation through a refrigerated solution, but we all had issues with our dogs processing that type of food. Because dogs can't talk back and let us know what's upsetting their stomachs. Really, the only way to tell is through stool quality. So through their poop.

That is like one of the key measurements that you use when you're doing lab testing and understanding digestibility. So we went into it like not knowing what we wanted to do, but collecting enough data points to let us know that there's a reason all of these experts are using shelf-stable dry format food. A lot of them are kind of customizing it depending on their dog's needs. So adding something if they have a dog with a picky palette supplementing with something that will help with skin and coat, if they have shedding issues, or if they have itching problems. We just spent that first year in 2019 learning so much about the landscape and the options and what was missing. Then set our eyes on building something that solved for the frustrations across education, selecting, ordering, setting up a subscription commerce environment so that we could really enable someone to do a recurring subscription so they didn't have to lug a big bag of dog food home. Then also really shift the mentality around the nutrition philosophy. What is something that can work for most dogs that's attractive to the dog first and foremost, because if it's healthy and the dog doesn't eat it, then it doesn't matter. A lot of the premium options that are made with better ingredients are really suited for dogs that are highly active. Think like dog and training to be in law enforcement, dog and training to be in shows. When you have a dog in your home and they're sleeping 50% of the day, those dogs aren't really burning enough energy to burn off the protein. What happens is when protein can't process it stores as fat and it leads to a really alarming statistic around pet obesity for dogs and cats, which is over 50% of dogs in the US are clinically obese.

So it’s this idea around creating a holistic diet made with ingredients you recognize and you don't have to Google. That's proportionally appropriate for the animal with a bunch of other value propositions around the composition of the diet. This was really how we thought about bringing Jinx into the market and then using the DTC model to have this 360-degree relationship with our customers and our prospective customers. Collect feedback, use that feedback to kind of inform enhancements, modifications, optimizations, and so forth. We spent the first 18 months doing just that proving out product-market fit, and really modifying the diet to be something that felt compelling to the modern-day pet owner.

Those 18 months were crazy because we launched into the height of a pandemic, we didn't see a lot of things coming. We had raised $3.75 million in our seed round in January of 2019, and so we had to be really judicious about spending and making really smart decisions as it related to growth and marketing. We kind of survived those 18 months and then realized that retail was really a bright future as the world started to stabilize. We really initiated conversations with a host of different retailers across the spectrum of brick and mortar. And what we found was. There was really a desire with our big box retail partners to bring in better for them, foods and brands. As we started the fundraising process for our Series A we really started to accelerate these conversations around retail and because we had a lot of those vendor agreements negotiated and closed through that fundraising process, we were able to have a really successful outcome in terms of financing.

We raised $28 million, which is like a pretty big ticket for a Series A stage. It helped us continue to invest in our retail launch and promotion of the brand in physical format. We started 2022 with zero doors. We ended the year with over 2500 and starting 2024 we have over 5500 doors nationwide. With really a lot of potential to continue expansion into 2024 and beyond.

It's been a ride, most surely, but it's been pretty incredible. Not just only to put up some really good numbers from a growth perspective but also to put out a diet that we feel is really appropriate if you have a moderately active dog. To create a nutrition philosophy around a modern lifestyle and then have this product portfolio where you can kind of mix and match products depending on your dog's palette, what they like, what processes easily on their system, and then a more objectively premium to a lot of the brands that you'll find in retail. And again, that's measured through digestibility studies. But we're just really proud of what we're building. I think we continue to set our eyes on expansion because ultimately getting in more homes, getting in more bowls, I think is going to be a really obvious difference for the pet owner. Then once you find your desired retail space, where you want to buy and set up a subscription. We hope it's really going to create a lot of these inconveniences for the pet owner to check one thing off of their to-do list by just like setting up recurring subscriptions. So this big bag of dog food arrives at your doorstep every four weeks, every six weeks. As we continue to launch innovation, it continues to be our desire to become a single destination for all things healthy pet food, healthy pet treats. We really want to own that pantry. So when we think about our roadmap. It's really ownership across categories for all things consumables.

Nate R: Wow. That’s really impressive, it's amazing what you've done in arguably, like a short period of time for a CPG brand. That's a lot of success!

Terri R: Thank you, thank you so much. You know you're starting something. It's a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but I have pretty amazing partners. And so like having someone to lock arms with and navigate what is often an uphill battle and a lot of challenges or a lot of unforeseen challenges. I think is really helpful too.

Nate R: I was looking at your LinkedIn and you’ve had a very impressive career from Modcloth, Casper, to Outdoor Voices. It seems like you're coming into this space relatively fresh, at least in the pet food category, not necessarily consumer brands. What were some sort of specific challenges to the pet food industry that someone from the outside wouldn't necessarily expect? Were there any particularly surprising ones that you came across as you're continuing to scale?

Terri R: Yeah. I mean, I've been an animal lover my entire life. So when I think about just knowing animals really well and finding foods that work for them on a case-by-case basis, I pay attention. I'm one of those pet parents who notices every bump, every lump, every change in stool. I pay a lot of attention. But until we started formalizing our research and working with industry professionals, I didn't realize that there are so many options, but so few that actually work for a lot of dogs.

In that instance, there are a couple of things that were important as we were setting up the core pillars of the brand. Understanding digestibility, especially for animals who can't communicate about it, is really important. Measuring consumption data points gives us a clear sense of the quality of a diet and what nutrients are being absorbed. We learned a lot about formulation, testing, and meeting regulatory guidelines. We also discovered that dogs technically become seniors at six years old, which was something I didn't know. Dogs age a lot faster than humans, and one of our years is equivalent to seven of theirs. But six still feels young. I have a dog that's five and a half and still acts like a puppy. Understanding the scientific and lifestyle aspects on a broader scale allowed us to create something unique and special in a crowded and noisy category. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to stand out among the competition and all the marketing claims and buzzwords. To break through that noise, you have to have something special, and it starts with the product. If you can't compete with a superior product and give people a reason to believe and repurchase, your lifespan as a brand is much shorter.

Nate R: I want to talk quickly about the recent raise. I noticed there were a couple celeb names attached. What made you continue to go that route. I know Chris Evans was involved pretty early on. But I was curious why you decided to go with some even more.

Terri R: We have a celebrity following. When we decide to send product or work with an endorsement partner, there's usually such great reception on the other side of that once we send a big old box of our best-selling SKUs. Chris invested in our Series A and he was an investor before he was an endorsement partner. But similarly, we sent him product and Dodger ate through a bag. And his business manager was like, "What do you guys put in this food?" So I think when you find something that you know your dog loves and enjoys that's better for them, there's usually just this peaked interest. A lot of these relationships have come up organically in the journey that we have with anyone of a high-profile nature that's interested in betting on the brand, the team, and the business. We're so interested in getting them in the mix and then really allowing them to use their platforms and their communities to generate awareness about the brand. The relationship with Chris has formalized over the years. Since Series A, you will now see his face in Walmart and Target on TV commercials and so forth. He's a huge advocate of the brand. At the end of the day, he is a human, and he has a dog. His relationship with his companion is so authentic and special, just like the same relationship we have with our dogs. It's the primary reason we keep continuing to go down this path, creating more innovation, making sure the business is financed, and expanding into strategic distribution channels. We want everyone who has that special relationship with their dog to have the opportunity to access premium food that doesn't cost them a lot of money and doesn't break their wallet every month and so on.

Nate R: I'll just ask one more question since we’re up on time. Outside of your brand, what are the brands in the space do you admire right now? It could be a pet food brand. It could be backpack brand. Could be any other CPG brand.

Terri R: I have a lot actually. I think two of my favorites, specifically in the Pet category where I'm like a happy paying customer is Wild One. Yeah, I like their design-forward approach to accessories and hardware. Your dog has to wear at minimum a collar every single day and I feel like historically the options haven't been great, and if they have been great, then they don't last very long. And I think Wild One is one of the few brands where design and quality intersect. And I think the price is very much so justified because of its long standing nature and overall durability. So, I love Wild One. And then Fable is another really good brand. Again, they have these toys and accessories that have been around for a while, but are presented in a way where. You don't mind leaving them out because they look good and they're very durable. We got a puppy earlier this year and he's a chewer. And so You can't just leave him to find what he wants to munch on next. And so some of these Fable toys have been such a saving grace in our household.

Outside of pet, I’d say Deux is one of my favorite brands. I know Sabina, and I love what she's building. I'm so impressed with how they continue to push forward with some of these explicit SKUs and innovation launches and she's scaling her business in a really impressive way.

I use Brightland olive oil. Nude sticks too. Like I've never been a big makeup person. But, I can really punch up a look in a very short period of time with new sticks. So it's like between what's on my vanity and in my cupboards. I have such a warm spot for all of these DTC brands or all of these brands that are digitally native that are now exploring retail.

Nate R: I feel the same way. I have a lot of my friends, brands. Scattered around my apartment right now. It's fun to see too. I just love knowing the people behind these brands.

Terri R: I’m so glad we have a shared interest in something. And I honestly love. When people ask “Who's your competition,” I'm like if you're a small brand and you are starting something with the intention to disrupt a larger antiquated industry. I'm rooting for you because I understand. We're all locking arms, and we're all kind of striving to put better for you, better for them products into the world. And so I can get behind that. Honestly, a lot of room for a lot of us.

Thank you!

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