- Former Goldman Sachs investment bankers Kevin Glynn and David Nolan quit the company to launch a homecooked dog food delivery service.
- They were initially backed by two of their Goldman bosses.
- After raising £1 million in funding in October, last week they announced a further £5 million in investment.
- Their clients include celebrities like “Billions” star Damien Lewis and comedian Katherine Ryan.
27-year-old Kevin Glynn and 31-year-old David Nolan met on the first day on their internships at Goldman Sachs in London and quickly established a “firm friendship.”
Little did they know that that friendship would take them not through the ranks of investment banking, but into the world of home-cooked dog food.
Nolan said that while working on the trading floor, the friends started to think about what their next step could be.
While they toyed with simply moving to a new location, Nolan said: “We knew we wanted to build something on our own.”
The inspiration eventually came in the form of Nolan’s family dog, who was picked up from Battersea Dogs Home seven years ago.
A staffie called “Snowy,” she was found in the snow in north London – and she suffered from “chronic flatulence.”
“She quickly became known for being ‘the farting dog,’ so was renamed ‘Rudy,'” Nolan said.
The family were back and forth to the vets trying to figure out what was causing the problem for about a month. They found that the cause was over-processed pet food, so they started to cook food for the dog themselves.
“It was a basic homemade recipe – one protein, one carb – and Rudy’s problems seemed to drop away,” he said.
The meals includes the likes of minced beef, brown rice, and mixed vegetables.
“I wouldn’t say it was 100% nutritionally balanced and complete, [but] it just worked,” Nolan said.
Fast forward a few years, and Nolan was cooking for both a staffi and a bulldog, but didn’t have time to cook for himself, and was often ordering Deliveroo.
“I started Googling ‘homecooked dog food delivery’ – I thought ‘I would use it, and there must be more people out there,'” he said.
Recipe for success
The friends came up with the idea of Butternut Box – homecooked, delivered meals for dogs – and decided to test it out with friends and family who had dogs to see what the feedback was.
“After a couple of weeks of food we asked for feedback, and the dogs were eating around their old food trying to get to ours,” Nolan said. The food also appeared to be solving problems like “cleaning up loose stools, bad smells, and itching coats.”
The new projects was certainly keeping them busy. “We had a weird situation where we were leaving work on a Friday, cooking dog food Friday night, packing it Saturday, and delivering to the dogs of friends and family,” Nolan said.
However, before Nolan and Glynn quit their jobs, they wanted to make sure their friends and family weren’t just “telling us something we wanted to hear,” so they started working with paying customers and said “more people kept coming.”
“We quit our jobs in February 2016 and launched the website in April,” he said, adding that, believe it or not, their initial funding came from two of their Goldman bosses.
“They obviously knew how we worked, so that kicked us off,” Glynn said.
Counting calories for dogs
The Butternut Box platform uses algorithms to “meet the individual needs of each pet” by asking owners to fill in a 90-second questionnaire about their dog, including details on weight, age, breed, activity level, and allergies etc. The team then works out how many calories a dog needs and tailors a selection of meals – preportioned into one pouch per day – according to the pet’s needs.
“People are confused about how much they should be feeding their dogs,” Glynn said. “People can be switching between different food brands, and dogs end up overweight – half of dogs in the UK are overweight or obsese, and we’re trying to help solve that problem by asking questions to make sure the dog is eating the right amount.”
The meals are made up of 60% fresh meat – like chicken, lamb, and turkey – alongside a mixture of vegetables, lentils, and herbs. In 2017, the pair claim to have cooked 250,000 dog food meals themselves.
Funding the future
In October, the co-founders raised £1 million in seed investment from Passion Capital, who Glynn said “really caught on to what we were trying to do in the industry from a transparency/food standpoint.”
Now, the company has a team of 12 people making the food on the production floor in a 3,500-square-foot factory in Acton…
…and 24 people – 25 if you include their office dog, Stanley – at their new HQ based out of the Huckletree West co-working space in White City.
This is Stanley:
Earlier this week, they closed a £5 million funding round co-led by Literacy Capital and White Star, which has backed companies like One Dollar Shave Club and Freshly.
“The round will allow to us to grow into new products and increase the size of the team to help serve more dogs around the UK,” Glynn told Business Insider.
Cooking for the dogs of celebrities
And it’s not just investors who have shown interest – Butternut Box now has a host of celebrity clients as well.
“We’re massive ‘Billions’ fans, and Damien Lewis is one of our customers,” the guys said, adding that a number of comedians, including Katherine Ryan, have also signed up, and have even showed their support on social media.
“People are always shocked with the smell and look,” Glynn said, adding that the team actually try every batch of food that goes out themselves.
He added: “One customer said her teenage son keeps coming home after a night out and tucking into the food – no problem there.”
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