Dee Marie, founder of Yogi-Dog: Yogurt for Dogs, has made it possible for dog owners to share their favorite yogurt with their dogs. The Yogurt is lactose and sugar-free with 17 billion CFUs (colony forming units, the standard measurement unit) of probiotics per six-ounce container. The probiotics are beneficial to a dog’s well being, by promoting better gut health and digestion. Now, in over 500 supermarkets and stores including ShopRite and Food City, Yogi-Dog is setting a precedent within the dog food industry.
Marie’s connection to her dogs inspired her to set out to create a product that aids their digestion as a healthy food topper or tasty treat right off the spoon. “Focusing on the dog,” Marie explains, “we didn’t want to add sugar in it because a lot of people give their dogs their yogurt but that has the sugar in it. So, we left the sugar out and also made it lactose-free. Sometimes, just as people, dogs can have lactose intolerance, so we took that out, and then we made it low fat…This is human grade. I eat it every day. We made it really healthy so it would be nothing adverse for dogs.” According to research firm IRI, the pet food industry is estimated at $31.7 billion, and the refrigerated pet food section of the industry hovers around $323 million.
For close to two decades, Marie served as a pilot as a global instructor, a small commuter pilot and for a regional affiliate of US Airways. A back injury forced her into her next career. She transitioned over to commercial real estate. “A pivotal moment was when I discovered that I had a back issue and had to get surgery,” she explains. “That was a pivotal moment. I had to make a decision to either stay there and probably have more back surgeries, or move on and go on to other things. You take what you learn from the past experience and career, and bring it to the next endeavor.”
While in commercial real estate, she met a client that bought space to make yogurt. Two years ago, she visited him at his factory. His yogurt company had been thriving. In passing, she mentioned that he should make yogurt for dogs. He agreed, and they created Yogi-Dog. She explains what she learned from flying that she applies to being an entrepreneur, “As a pilot, you have to be a leader. All the decisions come down to you and the various situations you encounter when you’re up there. I think basically, in entrepreneurship as I do it, you have to find a goal and do everything it takes to stay focused on that goal; make everything happen and not be affected by all the little noises.”
Although Yogi-Dog actively participates in traditional marketing, non-traditional marketing such as the Yogi-Dog Ambassador program and word of mouth have accelerated the brand’s awareness. This year the company launched the Yogi-Dog Rescue Donation Initiative where Yogi-Dog partners with local animal rescues to donate cases of yogurt to the local rescues.
As Marie evolves as an entrepreneur, she offers mentorship to up-and-coming entrepreneurs and offers advice. “I don’t think there’s an age limit on anything,” she comments, “it’s whatever is on your mind. If you think you can do it, whatever age you are, you can do it, but you have to have the drive, discipline, ability and the backing…If you had past careers and you have some money that you can now take and parlay into a business venture, you’re already on the right path.”
Through Marie’s transitions, she’s focused on these essential steps to help her successfully pivot:
- Be driven. Nothing can substitute for a great plan. It helps you remain focused. When you start to feel out of control, you can look back at your plan to refocus your vision and why you started in the first place.
- Develop patience. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes a couple of months or a couple of years. Stay focused and don’t let the white noise affect your decisions or doubt yourself.
- Take the leap. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
“Being an entrepreneur is a good thing and bad thing,” Marie concludes. “It’s more positive for me because I can be in control of my own destiny and life and make the decisions. You have to be focused and disciplined because if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done and then you have no success.”