Australia Markets closed

The pet industry in Australia is worth more than $12.2 billion – and these startups are gaining a lot of attention

Kassia Byrnes

Business Insider has partnered with CGU Insurance to help rescue Australia's lost ambition.  »

Finding success in a new business relies heavily on the ability to fill a gap in the market that enough people need or want, and with consumers spending $12.2 billion on the Australian pet industry annually according to a report by Animal Medicines Australia (AMA), this could definitely be a good market to try and find some holes in.

This is something startup DOMUTS has discovered. Thea Mendes founded the business, which bakes dog-friendly donut treats, after her son Marcus noticed a gap in the market.

"[Marcus] was helping me on my donut stall at our local markets and he wanted to give a customer’s dog a nibble on a chocolate donut but I told him he couldn’t," explains Mendes.

"That evening Marcus started to research ingredients that dogs could eat ... the next weekend we whipped up a batch of donuts to gauge interest and it’s safe to say they were a hit with the dogs – they were all gone in less than 10 minutes."

After demand for the DOMUTS grew a lot faster than Mendes could keep up with, forcing the business to be put on hold, she turned to CGU Insurance to get her ambitions back on track. Besides small business insurance, they provided a business advisor, marketing aid and food technologist to perfect the product and take it from market stalls to large-batch - all so she could re-launch with a bang.



View this video at Business Insider



When CGU Insurance put the call out, Thea knew this was her moment.

"When I saw the opportunity to apply for the CGU business grant, it was a light bulb moment," said Mendes. "I indeed did need help and I finally felt relieved that maybe someone could help me scale DOMUTS."

Starting your own business is a pretty common dream, but last year alone 424,144 registered ABNs died after the owners failed to get their startups off the ground, according to Australian Government data.

Below are four more pet-related startups who have already found success and are tapping into the hot pet industry.

1. CarePod

During a move to Singapore with her dog, Jenny Pan realised that airlines were still using the same pet transportation crates they'd been using since the 1970s. This is why the Australian started up CarePod, a new-age crate to let your pooch travel in comfort.

According to an interview with Smart Company, after taking her idea to the U.S.A. and then Germany in hopes of getting some professional help with the redesign, Pan ended up working with a German engineering consultant who’d worked with large, ambitious companies like Mercedes-Benz.

The result was a brand new pod featuring several layers of protective walls to prevent bumps, dimmed lighting to help reduce the pet's stress levels, a built-in water supply and the ability for the pod to self-regulate temperature.

Now Pan is working on partnerships with major airlines across the world, including a locked-down partnership with US airline, Delta.

2. Mad Paws

Pet-sitting was not a new idea when the brain behind Mad Paws, Alexis Soulopoulos, offered to look after a friend's dog a few years ago. As a Belgium local studying in Sydney, he was just missing playing with his own.

Yet, since launching his pet minding and dog walking startup (with fellow founders Jan Pacas, Rolf Weber, Justus Hammer and Bjorn Behrendt) in 2014, the company tripled its growth last year.

There are now over 15,000 approved sitters and dog walkers and 300,000 pets across Australia signed up to the site. As for their revenue? It's also tripled every year since it launched.

As of last year, Mad Paws also raised $5 million in funding from several investors like Qantas - who also partnered with the company to offer Frequent Fliers discounts when booking a petsitter through their platform - and Airtasker CEO and co-founder Tim Fung - who also joined the board.

3. CannPal

Medical cannabis use has been a pretty hot topic in the human world, but startup CannPal founder and managing director Layton Mills saw a need for pets to have access to the same treatment when he thought of the business.

Why was there a need? Our pets suffer from serious diseases like cancer and arthritis too. In the U.S.A. alone, around 6 million dogs and about the same number of cats are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to the Animal Cancer Foundation. Arthritis is also common in dogs, and considered to be almost identical to that found in humans.

This is why the Sydney-based pharmatech company develops plant-based, scientifically-backed therapeutic products specifically for pets, with a focus on cannabinoids (the pharmaceutical ingredients from the cannabis plant).

One year after kicking off, CannPal was ASX listed, with part of the money made going towards funding the research and development of their pharmaceuticals. They also got big-name team members on board, like Dr. Kate Adams, co-owner of Bondi Vet Hospital.

4. Scratch Pet Food

Big-name pet food companies are losing the trust of their consumers after multiple health issues and dog deaths, making way for startups to get into the pet food section of the industry, which is worth $2.2 billion on its own. This is exactly what Melbourne-based startup Scratch Pet Food has done.

In fact, the company is in such high demand that founders Mike Halligan and Doug Spiegelhauer had a waiting list of 400 before they launched last year, and even continue to have a waitlist to this day.

To avoid keeping up with pressures from big retailers, Scratch Pet Food only sells direct to its customers via a subscription. That way they take what would have been the large retail price mark-up and put that back into high-quality ingredients.

Thanks to this unique relationship with their customers, they can also offer personalised feeding guides for each dog and personalised boxes. Combined with their commitment to keeping the recipe completely transparent, they're building that trust big companies lost.

Ignite your ambition today and apply for a CGU Insurance Ambition Grant HERE.

CGU Insuring Ambition.