The Alter State team is back with another extraordinary founder's story. This time, we will go through the journey of Agota Jakutyte, the CEO, Co-founder, and Head Nutritionist at ZENOO. Beautiful dreams to help dogs live better life brought Agota to a life-changing adventure with no signs of stopping.
ZENOO is a personalized RAW food & wellness product service for your pet's well-being conveniently. They deliver customized nutrition plans and share knowledge and support for the ZENOO community, uniting loving dog owners.
Welcome to read how a heart-touching experience sparked the fire that helped develop an international dog RAW food and wellness company - ZENOO. Also, we encourage all dog enthusiasts to check out ZENOO and make your four-legged friend's life healthier and happier.
How did you get where you are in this fantastic business, which helps dogs eat better and live more fulfilling lives? What sparked this whole idea to establish and develop ZENOO?
Well, it was born from our personal experience. 3,5 years ago, I adopted a 9-year old Ellie. Within a few weeks, I noticed that she began to cough and that she couldn't run or even walk. So I took her to our local vet, who said heart-breaking news: Ellie had heart failure, and it will be a stroke of luck if she survives more than a few weeks. Now, just imagine my feeling as a pet parent - I was more than devastated. Still, at that moment, something sparked in my heart, and I decided to fight for her.
I started doing my own research. I reached the world's top leaders in the pet health field, including keto pet sanctuary from California, the University of Helsinki, Canadian mentors, and many more. Even NASA was on my list! Long research hours helped me answer many questions. The statistics were horrific: dog diabetes has risen 900%, only from 2011; around 60% of dogs are obese, and I'm not even mentioned the rapidly decreasing life balance.
After acknowledging the RAW diet concept, I started feeding Ellie with the food dogs are intended to eat in the wild. I also adjusted fitness to make her metabolism just work positively. She began to eat home-made RAW food based on a ketogenic diet, and we're delighted to have Ellie with us today. Although she is a senior dog, Ellie is super healthy and energetic.
After this life-changing adventure with Ellie, I felt responsible for sharing my knowledge with others and helping to save other dogs' lives. I started to speak more and more on social media. Many people began approaching me regarding the wellness practices, recipes, etc. It made me think about designing a high-tech solution that would help all the pet parents by providing them RAW food deliveries and all needed tips to improve their pet wellness. This is how the ZENOO - balanced RAW food subscription service was born.
That's a remarkable story! Was it always that you felt a strong relationship with the animals and their health?
It's a super long story, but I will try to make it short. When I was 18-19 of age, I had a pretty challenging period of my life. Simply speaking - I had depression, and to cope with that, I started to work and volunteer a lot in the dog shelters. Quickly I noticed the terrible smell at dog shelters that even stays in your clothes after staying with dogs for a while. At this point, I found my startup that was making vegan and all-natural dog hygiene products. This was my first big step into the pet health industry.
I've genuinely never thought that I will have a business or something. Never. I mean - never. I always thought of becoming a lawyer because I'm from a "lawyers family," but deep in my heart, I felt it's not my path. Now, we all know why. Animals have always been in my life, and Ellie became my guiding star that sparked my entrepreneurship spirit to work for healthier and happier pet lives.
It's just so incredible. Talking about ZENOO, how can people use your service? And at which stage are you in your company?
It's an inspiring time because we just closed our seed round. Also, it's my first time as well, so I'm so pretty excited about this.
Now, we're generally improving our website and designing things. From the very beginning, we crafted our recipes together with vets and certified nutritionists. Hence, our food contains all the necessary proteins, fats, vitamins & antioxidants from RAW ingredients. ZENOO provides a healthy, personalized, and convenient RAW food subscription service to dog owners. We're also trying to upgrade our RAW food subscription with personalized nutrition, activity, and mental health plans.
Although nutrition is a vital element of the whole dog wellness circle, we noticed more significant dog wellness problems throughout the years of selling RAW dog food. Often, dog owners don't know how to treat their dogs and notice when they are depressed or sick. That's why we want to provide a full range of education to our clients. I'm more than happy because the dog wellness concept kind of always was in my heart. Still, I couldn't make it happen and achieve my dreams without our incredible team.
The dogs' wellness 360 degrees experience sounds beautiful. We also can see you're not alone in this whole company. Can you introduce your co-founders and your long-term vision?
That's right. My co-founder is Mindaugas, a biotechnologist as well as a business development officer in our team. He's more responsible with the business strategy, fundraising, finances, etc.
Our future plans include going into cruelty-free dog food. We actually tried to make it, yet, we're still looking for a perfect combination that could provide high-quality, best possible nutrition and growth to dogs. This is our primary goal. When we met for the first time with Mindaugas, I told him all this range of dog wellness issues, including nutrition, the need for cruelty-free food, activities, and many more. From the very beginning, we understood we first need to build a strong brand and then move to this field, especially to a lab-grown meat concept. Also, Edvinas is our Chief Product Officer, who has a broad range of expertise such as e-commerce, physical products, bank industry, and way more! Now, dog wellness is one of his experience fields. We also understand that all of us are super different. Simultaneously, it makes our team achieve more because we push each other in different ways.
Sounds like a dream team! Moving forward, we want to hear more about the operations. Are you now running in Lithuania? Or what are your future plans?
We launched in Lithuania because we had a problem with freeze-drying technology that is undeveloped in Europe. With this type of issue, we couldn't even produce freeze-dried food. Yet, we wanted to ensure that we are on the right path, so we launched a frozen food.
Our starting selling point was Lithuania because it's challenging to scale a frozen product. And it's just at some point, it's not even scalable. For this reason, we went internationally and started to shift physical, digital products to other European countries.
Alright, so I have a friend who has a puppy and is based in Denmark. What kind of services can she already use on your platform?
First of all, your friend can join our webinar that happens in a couple of weeks. We're going to learn more about the dogs, know nutrition, their nature, and way more. Also, she can try out ZENOO products. We ship to all of European countries, so either you're from London, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen, you can definitely buy our dog food. Lastly, your friend can always reach me on Instagram or other social channels with any pet-wellness-related questions. I'm always here to help with a newborn.
We can't wait to follow your journey on how you scale and help all pet owners live healthier lives. Before we wrap up, what would be your three golden tips for future female entrepreneurs who really want to start a business?
Well, that's a super hard question. Yeah, well, probably. I would say the most important thing I've learned is that ego permanently damages everything. Mindaugas and I experienced this with our previous co-founders, who were ego-driven. Egoism can hardly affect you on a personal and team level. First of all, you have to make sure you're going into business or pursuing other dreams, not because of your ego. Suppose you have ego-based expectations of running a million-dollar company just because of fame or other unfaithful reasons. When you have this type of intention, believe me, everything isn't going to be as expected. In that case, your business won't bring you happiness. Secondly, it's crucial to select the people who are going into the business with you. There are going to be fascinating and challenging times, so try to make sure that your teammates are here for the same reasons as you are. Egoism can eventually break even the most talented team.
Always seek a piece of inspiration. Business brings various feelings and it's essential to always keep the fire sparkling inside you. Although I’m passionate about dog wellness, I always try to grab that additional taste of motivation by listening to motivational talks or reading books. These activities help you keep going further and fulfill the knowledge that lasts forever.
The short but vital tip is to stay true to yourself and others. Don't be afraid to show it to the world!
Million of thanks for the interview, Agota!