Sarah Fernando chats with Tubify about leaving a career in science to innovate the pet food industry, and why your furry friends need fresh food, too.
*Enter Sarah Fernando*, a charismatic human who’s big dreams for the pet food industry are already well underway in transforming pets’ health here in Vancouver. Sarah is the compassionate, science-backed brain behind Kafka’s Organic, a pet food company offering a minimally-processed, 100% human-grade, healthy option for pet parents to feed their beloved dogs/cats.
Last week, we strolled through Gastown with a Prado coffee, chatting with Sarah about improving the world of pet food, her experience as a female founder in the pet industry, and the kindness of the Vancouver pet-owner community.
Q: When did you know you wanted to start your own business?
I wanted to start a business for a long time but I was doing my PhD in pathology and lab medicine at UBC. I felt pigeon-holed into this science-type role and never gave myself permission to start a business elsewhere because I was like, “this is so out of my realm!” The PhD was a struggle, and I wanted out. But I knew I had to finish. In all of this mess, had the idea of starting an Italian handbag company. I found a designer, materials, starting creating some designs, and then I lost interest. I got my cat around that time and started making food for him because he wasn’t doing well, health wise. And then I thought, “hey why not do this as a business?” I realized that there were probably more pet owners who would want this.
Q: How do you find the industry you’re in–community-wise?
I love the pet world. The pet community, pet owners, the pets themselves...I love the whole deal. Because of this, I thought, “okay, if I want to start a business, I want to do it in an area that is joyful and fun. And something I also know well.” Having two cats myself, I know about that world.
Q: Who is your current (human) inspiration
Right now? Tara Bosch. (It changes every few months or so). I like the way she’s almost spiritual in her approach to business. I think she spends a lot of time thinking ahead of the big picture. A lot of companies try to do a lot all at once, forgetting the vision. It’s also always nice to see someone doing something like that in the same city as you–proving that it’s possible. She inspired me initially because she’s so young. It made me think “what excuse do I have?”
Q: What has your experience been like as a female in the industry you work in?
Before, I only ever had male bosses. One of the reasons for leaving the science industry was actually that it was very male dominated. I find that women approach problem solving in a bigger picture way rather than only thinking about profit. We ask questions like ‘is this ethical?’ before ‘is this profitable?’
The pet owner community is different. It’s so fun, and it’s an emotionally driven industry rather than logic-driven, so there’s a lot of opportunity to create something fun and creative because that’s what people are open to.
We were left wondering about the message behind the ‘human-grade’ aspect of Kafka’s pet food. Sarah explains it stems from looking at the status quo of pet food and realizing that we humans don’t eat that quality of food–so, why do we feed our pets with it? “I think it needs to exist in the world, this idea of fresh food for pets.” Sarah compares Doritos chips to the limited ‘junk food’ options in the pet food industry. “Imagine if you were limited to eating Doritos as a meal?”
Finally, we asked for Sarah’s #FrozenMoment; her preferred way to indulge in a moment of pause in her busy day.
Tubify is a community-centric brand. Our relationship with this community is how we truly measure our company’s value, and growth. So. we thought –why not interview some of the people who inspire our community impact? And so was born this series, #HumansofYVR.