Prior to starting her own business, she was in the advertising and media space for 5 years working as a suit. Jane Peh, Co-Founder of Pawjourr x The Woof Agency will share with us on her entrepreneurial journey, what motivates her and the challenges she faced in the business.
1. What is unique about the business / company?
We are the market leader in APAC when it comes to pet influencers marketing, with more than 1,600 pet profiles across 45 countries under our network. Because we only work with pet influencers (we have rejected human influencers who wanted to join our network), we are the expert when it comes to pets marketing.
Till date, we have worked with more than 100 pet food brands and a large database of first-party data on pet owners. Because of these, we are able to provide valuable insights that other companies are unable to.
We recently pivoted to expand our business to more than just marketing and pet influencers; right now, we are building Pawjourr.com, which is akin to a Yelp for Pets.
2. How did this business idea come about?
I started the company with my fiancé as we are huge dog lovers. We saw a huge opportunity in the pet space with few competitors and it is a growing industry – in fact, pet spending just crossed USD100 billion in 2019. People are simply crazy about their pets!
With the fact that we are crazy dog owners ourselves also helped a lot and we are super passionate about this space.
3. Why do you choose to do this business?
Other than how it is a huge and growing industry, I feel that the space is greatly neglected – everyone seems to be fanatic about Fintech, but what exactly are we doing for pets?
Initially we started the business out of pure passion but as the company grows, we realised that there are so many things that can be improved about owning a pet, be it the experience, community, time and cost saving etc. It has since evolved to make something for the pet community around the world
4. Describe your typical working day.
I usually start off my day at 1pm by clearing my inbox and replying to emails, following up on proposals, aligning with my team on the social media and marketing strategy for the brand etc.
Every now and then we would have meetings to discuss about the company’s overall direction, goals – what is working and what is not. I will also try to squeeze some time for exercising in the evening after a quick dinner.
Fast forward to 9pm, I will then switch over to focus on my US clients who are 13 hours behind us. Sometimes I will have meetings at 1am the next day or stay up late to make sure timelines are met. I usually end my day at around 3am and start the whole process again.
5. What motivates you?
Happy pet owners.
We have pet owners tagging us and telling us how much they love us through positive Google & Facebook reviews. And basically, knowing through us, they bond with their pets, learn new things about them (what they love, what they dislike) and even meet new online friends.
6. What are the challenges faced in the business?
Finding the right people:
Whilst we do get quite a bit of interest when we hire (maybe because we work with pets), pet can be a pretty emotional business, similar to infant care. We need our employees to have lots of empathy and when conflict arises, understand from the pet owners’ perspective.
To find the right mix of people can be hard for certain business function, especially when they are not pet owners themselves.
Not managing time well:
There are always things to do and the deadline is always yesterday as a startup founder. I am trying to put aside more time for self-improvement (to pick up reading again) and exercising, though it is a working progress for now.
7. When was the last time you faced tough challenges in the business?
As we are doing something very new in the pet space, many VCs are unable to understand the business as opposed to a Fintech company or a company selling POS hardware. Coupled with most VCs being non-pet owners, it is always a difficult conversation to have.
Thankfully, I have my CEO / Co-Founder taking on this part of the business and I can stick to doing what I love – talking to pet owners and clients.
8. What are the mistakes you wish you could avoid in the business?
I would not say these are mistakes but rather learning curves.
Not setting goals / planning:
We used to do a lot of discussion with no SMART metrics in place, and we realised that it was hard for us to measure our progress – for example, simply saying to increase revenue without any plan versus having a goal in mind that can really help to move the needle in our business.
Hiring the wrong people:
People who are not aligned with the company’s goals, the startup environment and no passion on pets. Because with each new hire, we need to onboard them, teach them etc. So, with the wrong hire, the company waste on resources which otherwise can be better spent on the right personnel. That said, this is something we are learning as a company – hire fast and hire right.
9. What is your greatest fear?
Not making something people want.
I guess many startup founders fall in love with the idea instead of the problem, and when a certain level of time and money being invested in the company, it gets very difficult to admit that your business does not have product-market fit because of various reasons, usually the pride or remorse.
10. What is your leadership style?
I believe everyone in the company can contribute and provide a fresh perspective on certain matters or issues. I encourage speaking up and often include interns in important meetings to make them feel personally involved in the projects. Nobody wants to be just treated as a pair of hands.
11. What are the 3 habits / key activities do you think one should cultivate / invest to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
As a startup founder, you often have to wear a lot of hats and there is always a list of things on your to-do plate. With only 24 hours a day, it is really about time management and prioritising what is important etc.
Planning / strategising the next move:
It is important not to do things for the sake of doing things, but to do thing with a purpose; setting metrics for proper tracking, setting aside time every week with the founding team to decide what is next – the direction and the next 3 to 12 month- plan for the company. Such planning can be time-consuming but I believe it is important.
Startup life is like a rollercoaster ride and usually there is no one there to push you. Hence it is important to stay positive and be careful not to burn out.
12. What are the responsibilities of a business owner / entrepreneur?
Building your employees up – helping them to grow as a person and as part of the team. Work for them so that they work for your clients (it will be almost like a cycle).
13. What are the top 3 skills required to be a successful entrepreneur? Elaborate on the 3 points you have chosen.
Similar to what was mentioned before, although it is time-consuming, it is worthwhile to set aside some time each week on strategic thinking, especially what is next.
As a leader, you will need to grow as the business grows, from a level 1 leader to a level 10 leader. That is how you get to attract the level 10 talents.
I feel that it is not just a startup founder thing, but you do need to have resilience in everything you do. But because starting a business can be lonely, require grit and being adaptable becomes even more prevalent and important. For example, the ongoing COVID-19 with the obstacles and lockdowns, how do you move past the challenges and still achieve your goals?
It is only going to get harder and how do you convince yourself to wake up every morning, feeling empowered to continue working on a project that you are unsure if it will be successful or not? There are lots of doubts and naysayers along the way, thus being passionate is vital for entrepreneurs.
All in all, you have to think strategically to grow the business, persevere during difficult times and wake up feeling energetic as you are passionate on what you are building.
14. What has been your most satisfying moment in the business?
Seeing the team grow in size, our clients coming back to us and people coming to us for interviews – like this! Always be humbled by all these opportunities.
15. What is the one advice you will give to someone just starting out?
People think you need lots of money when you start a business, which is not true. We bootstrapped our way during the first year – be creative about solution and google a bit more; tons of free resources out there.
16. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
For his true rags to riches story, and, he is such a visionary man. I did not grow up rich and I am from a lower-income family, so he inspired me a lot, in that you do not have to grow up privileged to succeed in life. He represents “the dream” to many people and I can see why he is able to win the hearts of his employees.
17. How do you manage your personal and working life given the busy schedule?
I will put aside some personal time for myself to unwind and disengage from work. I also try not to work over the weekends unless it is absolutely necessary.
About BlackStorm Consulting
BlackStorm Consulting is a boutique growth consultancy firm that specialises in corporate strategy, profit management and investment management. We mainly serve clients in four sectors: FinTech, Gaming, Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), and manufacturing.