Episode 150 – Basel Nassar

Basel Nassar Basel Nassar Basel Nassar is a serial entrepreneur and the two-legged creator of Boss Dog Brand, a line of pet products that promotes gut health through probiotic and prebiotic nutrition. As the creator of one of the most famous people yogurt brands in the world, Basel knows a thing or two about digestive health. One day, after getting out of the human yogurt business, he noticed his dog Kelby, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, would pick at his food and look at him like, “what’s this?” Being knowledgeable about the yogurt business, Basel decided to create a frozen yogurt for his picky pup, who also had some digestive issues. That began the Boss Dog line of products! Part of Boss Dog’s mission is to give back to animal rescues and shelters who work so hard to save lives and make the world a better place for animals. His company recently launched “Boss Dog Cares,” where he has supported more than 20 animal rescues and organizations throughout the world in less than two years. The Seattle-based businessman is the father of two and besides Kelby, Basel has two other dogs, a cat named Franky and a hundred-pound tortoise.
Website: https://bossdogbrand.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bossdogbrand/
“Welcome to the Animal Professionals podcast, where our goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved. This podcast is probably sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free platform designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only place that automates local rides and transports. Now, on with our show!  Hey, Basal. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for having me, Chris. I’m really excited to have you. I mean, after all, you are the Boss Dog, right? So tell us a little bit about you and your story and your journey to get to here. Well, sure, I appreciate you having me. By the way, you guys are doing an amazing job. What you do, it’s just phenomenal. Pure innovation. And looking at some of that has the wherewithal. Compassionate. Curious. So, congratulations to you. That’s awesome. Thank You. Thinking serial entrepreneur. I’ve been mainly in consumer product goods for the last 20 plus years. Mainly culture, dairy and plant-based products. That’s another way of saying yogurt, in that concept. So I had a lot of experience really with digestive health solutions for humans, and so we took that, fast forward 20 years later, I got enough gall to get into the pet food industry, and I must have got advice from a little college friend or something. But I said, why not start with Greek-style frozen yogurt for pets? So we brought a few real talented people out of the woodwork, that understand probiotics, probiotics delivery. And I said, you know, I really want to do something different and interesting, besides all the other great stuff we do. I want to bring innovation with value-added digestive systems for pets and something that I thought was extraordinarily lacking. I think a lot of people are trying to play in that segment. But to really take ownership, be the lead on is what Boss Dog is positioning itself for.So, you know, for me it was just kind of a natural transition to go from, all those years in yogurt consumption. So to just introduce pets, obviously, we’re much bigger than just a Greek Yogurt company, even though it was still a startup. But the overwhelming message is that digestive health  So where did the name Boss Dog come from? I’ll tell you what. Naming wards are always an interesting process for our team. I feel very fortunate to have several members of the team who have been with me for a number of years. So I know a lot of groups and I’m not knocking them. They go out of their way, get big advertising agencies to come in and brand name, and we like to do it a little bit differently. I like to interact with all my team leaders. We like to look at what the vision of the brand is, and we just idea board. And we probably have 300 to 400 names. That we sliced and diced, running through a trademark integrity check. And, you know, after 4 to 5 weeks of work, you have a name, and that’s just where it comes from. Plus I was very big on watching my Kelby, my Rhodesian Ridgeback go from this 12lbs-150 pound monstrosity to what he is today, just a beautiful beast. And he has really inspired me to want to put a good quality product out. And that’s what we’re doing. Nice.  So take me back to the point where you were starting, right? So I mean, obviously you had a background in yogurt. You knew all this. And what would make you just decide, Hey, we need to do this for dogs? I started looking into the governing body, the lack thereof, within the pet industry. We start seeing you know, what’s the governing rule right now for Probiotics? And what we did is we basically said, What’s the application for you here? We’re gonna give it to them in a soft format or getting hard for those, that was just kind of how we got a fashion concept? Then it was, you know, how could we make claims that we could live with and offer the kind of transparency that consumers in an idea as they’re looking at digestive? So that’s, you know, essentially where the concept was born. We wanted an assistant to deliver probiotics. That wasn’t just boring an assembly line, and you can sit there all day and supplement. But just like you and I like to go out for a froyo, I love to sit and watch the three animals sit in the corner and lap up peanut butter and banana or pumpkin spice and cinnamon Greek froyo, you know? So it’s all about just experiencing the product and getting the benefit. I thought, what an easy entry, you know, And then shortly after that it was raw goat milk because we started to learn about inherent benefits of moisture and retention. I said, How could we take this digestive thing to another level? So the brand continues to expand, but yeah, for sure. Greek froyo was the  that got us going and from the marketing standpoint, obviously the Greek guys, creating for over 20 years, I know something about Greek yogurt. And so it was nice.  And nice to see you decided that honestly, if you insert it in the soft format, probably make a little bit more of a mess. So it’s probably a better idea to freeze it. You looked at it in the soft format, I’ll tell you what, any concepts, trying to come out with something similar, good luck. You throw in the back of your Jeep. Like I could throw it in my Jeep. Leave like three empty cups and it’s something that’s not frozen, it’s a bit of a mess. Yeah. Yeah.  One of the things I was reading is that this is all-natural ingredients. I mean, this is human grade stuff. Yeah, actually, all of our products come from pasture to package. So beyond this, the digestive benefit, we really wanted to create something that we knew where the origin was. So our dairy farmer for the cow’s milk comes from a 3rd generation farmer in Central Valley, California. I know where all the milk comes from, every day. The raw milk, same situation,15 miles away. One farmer, pasture to package. So everything we do has a point of origin and then we add the additional values in place that I’ve discussed. But I think that was the most important thing. We didn’t want to just create a product that we thought had one value point. We wanted something that could be a total solution because we knew as the brand expanded, we were gonna be more than just a treat or supplement solution. Because when we start getting into complete meal systems, like we did last September, you really got to get it right, you know, because if you’re making an infusion or digestive claims like we are, you know you want to be able to make sure that those claims will stand up to scrutiny and we’re proud to say that they do, and we work a lot of our retail partners to show them that inhabits.  And that’s where I really think, Boss Dog service stands out. It’s a 360 company. We have an adoption of welfare positions. We have a rescue position. We have a position on brick and mortar support. Independent channel review. Innovation really bucks the kibble and bits trend that we’ve been accustomed to for the last 30-40 years. And so I think that’s really how the brand seems to be resonating today. It’s important to point out everything that the brands accomplished has been under 15 months. So we’ve gone essentially from 0 to 30,000 points of distribution. That’s quite a feat in and of itself. I own a lot of that to our team and really the quality of parts that we bought. People saw a need right away for us that you know, if you see where we are today, with the growth expectations that we have, you’ll recognize it is a household brand in the next five years. I assure you. So tell me a little bit more about the product line because you mentioned a couple of different things that you guys have started to get into. When you look at the timeline, January of 19 was Greek-style frozen yogurt. March of 19 was our raw goat milk, when we added the DHA and Taurean component. September of 19 was complete and balanced freeze-dried meals. So that was our first entry point into a complete meal system. The real challenge there is freeze-dried systems go through or ours at least, most of high-pressure pasteurization and freeze-drying. So to get survivability of probiotics due to functional kill steps was the challenge when we figured out how to do it and it’s doing extremely well.  And then about a month ago, we launched a new innovation called Pro Puffs. Pro Puffs are an ancient grain, low calorie, 2.7 calorie treat. We actually form an ancient grain, a hull made of team lost sorghum and millet, and then you infuse it with protein and 500 million probiotics into a treat. Real cool bacon and cheese or roasted chicken or peanut butter seasoning on the outside. Animals love it and people that love the over treat, cause I think you like to over treat at times, you’re only getting 2.7 calories, plus the digestive habits. That’s the 0 to 12 months for us, Chris. So it’s been a very fast year. And I gotta tell you, the only reason why we slowed down was because its global pandemic. But once this is over, we plan on getting back out on the street, revisiting a lot of new innovation that’s in the pipe, so. Yeah, that’s really cool. To hear the probiotic seems to be the common theme that runs through all your products. Absolutely, yeah,  And so it’s more challenging, obviously, when you have kill step concepts, you know, we’re trying to bring a safer product as we can to the customer. But in others where we’re focusing, for example, on our raw segment solutions. There are no kill steps that you’re getting tremendous growth and survivability. Beyond that, before the DCM crisis, I challenged the team. I said, Hey, this whole DCM thing is quite a phenomenon. We haven’t experienced stuff, something so disruptive like that. I could think of something, maybe soybeans that several years ago, but I said to the team, I said, what can we do? This was before DCM. And what can we do to really add value to our products? And a couple of my top regulatory people added  . And while Boss DOG doesn’t take a position on the DCM And we feel if you’re concerned, we have solutions for you, our raw goat milk has Astoria and it’s been very well received because of again, that was before the DCM hit. The timing was right and again the team that I have were just right on point, in terms of getting formulation, right. You know, we just need to keep getting that right a few more times. We already started with very deep compassion for our causes. And so we tend to spend a lot more money and allocate a lot more research early on, where a lot of companies tend to do it a little bit late, and I’m just a big advocate for if you’re gonna do it and do it right from the beginning, and a lot of times puts a strain on the business. But I have to tell you, it’s the right thing to do.  I want you to talk a little bit more about that, because I do think that something really unique and special about you guys is your dedication to rescues and to veterans and the cause seems to be really important and at the heart of what you do. Animals have no safety net in society, no ways around. And it was years before animals really came into my life. I was a late adopter out of my control. It was 20 years where I wasn’t allowed to have animals. We won’t get into that today. But fast forward now. And you know, like I said, three dogs, a cat, and a tortoise. Since I was young, I’ve always had an attraction to them. And generally finding my best friends over the course of the last 4 to 5 years has been eye-opening for me. And the fact that they don’t have a voice and they don’t have a capacity to speak is what hit me. And then meeting my wife, she’ll say it was just 10 times the animal advocate, that I have a huge heart. She just is, Look, we need to do more, and that’s when we really started to take it up.  It was right out the gate that we went to Pets for Vets. They just said immediately you guys are local, you have a need at the time. You know, I’ll tell you, Chris, it was kind of a local thing. I didn’t understand the industry and understand where the help was needed. And so a lot of it was just education. And as we went, we said, You don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves to one group, or one benefit, that was part of my becoming a social media advocate. I had never really been a sled. I’m looking, going, Well, God, we can help these guys, if you could help these guys and share a lot of things you need to be doing. And so I challenged the team and said, Look, I don’t know what everyone else is doing, but let’s create an open-source charity. We can literally go out every 4-13 weeks, depending on if we’re in a campaign or not, and go out and just help someone in need. You know, last month it was Korean Canine Rescue and what we’re able to help Gina and her team there. So I mean, that’s what Boss Dog does. But it all started with that early compassion I had for animals and, quite frankly, my wife just kicking that in overdrive. Yeah, she just kind of lit the flame that was always there. Interesting.  So now has become kind of a core part of your company culture, it sounds like. And as you know, Mary Tan came onto the team. You know, Mary? I want to say, about a year ago, I went to Mary, and said, Look, I don’t know where we need to be dedicating our time. Mary is just a phenomenal listener. And so she sat and listened to this 20 year serial entrepreneur, with all these big visions and ideas. She said I know where I can help you. And so I think a big part of Mary is helping us identify the message that we want to send. And not only can we help through financial means. A lot of the stuff that we do too, Chris is just, you know, we’ll make it a fun weekend. A lot of people may not get a lot of value. We’ll go down and will get 1000 pets a froyo for the day. Yeah. This is a product that just came off, not stuff that’s expired. This is, why not make a day of it? We’ll leave some coupons to drive customers back to the store, sure we will. But you know, at the end of the day, everyone wins, right? So that’s the kind of stuff that will be spontaneous. But really, it’s an open-source platform that looks for needs. A lot of times people will come to us and they say, Hey, you know, we’ve been seeing what you guys do online. Can we get in the queue? And if so, when and how can you help? We’ll always find a way to help.  I really like that aspect about this is it’s something that I can tell is important to you. And like you said, it may inhibit your growth a little bit. But for the right reasons and for what you want to do. I think you have to do everything for the right. And we understand as a group what it takes to build a brand. And this by no means was the emphasis for us to launch Boss Dog. When we got it, Boss Dog was initially just a digestive health solutions company that’s blossomed into this, Wow, look how much more we can do. And I think a lot of it’s akin to the industry. This industry, by and large, if you’re willing to put yourself out there and I think if you’re willing to, for example, as far as Boss Dog is concerned,  to take the lead on digestive help. People want a list. People are really interested in concepts that are trying to come to market with premium solutions for animals. Like we have premium solutions for humans. You know, we should have options for our pets that give them the same core value. And so that’s where Boss Dog is going to continue to thrive. So I got to figure that the pet industry is very different from the human industry. What lessons have you learned along the way? This is my one, being funny moment, I guess. I had no idea we had to buy as many freezers as we did. Okay. We got into the frozen space right away. Yeah, you know, it’s a competitive set. A lot of the pet food stores are still evolving from dry, nonperishable solutions only, whether it’s treats or daily meals. So you know when you’re looking at what I’m calling the premiumization of the specialty channel, you know it’s not cheap to buy a freezer. These stores are decking the perimeter, their walls of single and double door freezers, I said they’re not cheap. and so to get into that segment, I had to decide I was gonna wait for the stores to evolve and buy their own freezers. I wonder if I could get my three feet of space where we’re gonna go out and, you know, acquire market share. And quite frankly, this was a market share acquisition strategy. You know, we wanted to be first in the segment, and we are. But that was the biggest surprise, I think the idea that we had to buy a lot of our space, but now it’s just really thinking, keeping people excited about what we’re doing because there’s so many new items that come out for pets and staying in front of the retailer and keeping an audience, there seems to be it sounds, but that’s what our “At Your Service team” focuses on.  So I give a huge shout out to Shay Russo, who manages the “At Your Service” team. That’s basically a one-stop shop for retailers or even persons like yourself and say, Hey, we have a specific event that we want to do. We have 1000 dogs that could use a free cup of Froyo. Let’s send out some coupons. So you go to the Boss Dog website. There’s a button that pops is “At Your Service”. You just click on it whether you’re a retailer, a rescue, whomever and you’ll get some support, whether in swag or donation. That’s one more way that we stand out.  That is really cool. So, I’m just kind of curious, it’s only been 15 months. But is this how you thought things would turn out when you started this? If you look back at the concepts that I’ve innovated and the team’s innovated. This one, I gotta say, I was saying earlier. This is probably one of the fastest-growing markets, and I attribute a lot of it, too. I’ve got 37 years of experience. I have a tremendous team behind me, couldn’t do it without my team. And so I think that’s a lot of it. Plus, I took liberty very early on to surround myself with pet people who really understood the industry and I listened to them. But I’ll tell you, Chris, it’s an industry with very high barriers, and we’re committed to keep climbing them. You only probably have surface challenges. I think every business experiences a challenge as an entrepreneur. Using your favorite word of the day, How do you pivot? Overcome the financial gaps, the competitive pressures? The folks that say, You’re not gonna make it? You just push on. And that’s what we do. And our team understands how that gets done. I think better than a lot of groups. And so we’ll just keep going.  Yeah, you know, you said the COVID stuff kind of probably flattened the curve for what you guys were doing. But what’s the future look like? What’s next for you guys? Well, you know, I think a lot of it right now just continues to do what we’re doing. At the store level, the stores are still needing support. A lot of curbside. And so we’re doing everything we can to keep consumers in a safe manner coming to the stores. Because I don’t think any of us wants to see local businesses go out of business. So immediately. We got involved with Lyndon Washing Green. We got this America, and it basically comes in, says for every $20 T-shirt, we give 10 bucks back to local businesses. We’re not an Amazon. We’re not a Google. We’re a small start-up. We’re doing what we can. Okay. And if everybody takes that mentality, I think more of us will come out of this with businesses in half.  And so that’s where I’m moving most of our focus. We have a great network of brand ambassadors, their work for Boss Dog, and they’re obviously all at home now, but they’re calling stores and they’re saying, Hey, you guys need anything to get some additional customer support? Some customer thank-yous. Some of the stores are, you know, leave us alone for a bit, and others are really quite, by and large, are very receptive. I think we’re waiting to see if fires are gonna be coming back out. You know, I think we’re hearing a lot about people potentially not traveling as much. So that’s going to leave a big question mark to the national trade shows. Which to manufacturer or brand builder like me, that’s a venue to showcase the new items. So are you gonna go to the expense of launching another complete meal system, which we had planned for August of this year? And this, a quick teaser, Boss Cat, was coming out. That’s okay from a cat lover myself. That’s good to hear. If you don’t have platforms like that and people aren’t showing up. It’s gonna be hard.  And so we’re focusing on the products that we have, in the market today, and working hard with the team to fill the gaps where we can. Yeah, of course. We have a ton of innovation in the pipes. Stuff that was, like I said, set the launch at Super Zoo 2020. That may still very well happen. So we’re ready to, I think just like most of North America is a lot of pent up energy right now. And I think a ton of people, I think there’s gonna be a huge nostalgia move back to the local business. I know I’m missing my barber, you know, sit down and chat with him for a day. And so there’s just things that I’m hoping we do as good stewards to society, while we’re being safe, you know, obviously, but yeah, that’s what we’re doing now. But when the gates start opening up, people start taking a  , we’ll start ratcheting up on speed. You’ll be there. You’ll be there.  Well, I mean, you’ve had quite a journey over the last 15 months. Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself along the way? Yeah, I still got it. And I’ll tell you what, I don’t say that to sound big-headed, in any way. You do these things, you build brands that you get really passionate about. You understand what I’m talking about in terms of the cost, the passion that you brought to the table and there’s a lot of negatives, but you gotta look through and see the little slivers of positives. And that’s I think, the thing that keeps entrepreneurs going. I still got it. You know? I still love getting out there, talking to people. I’m okay with getting the door slammed in my face. It was like, I think I’ve learned that this is for me. This is my lifestyle. You know, I enjoy going out meeting people, building brands and making costs like that’s something that I validated over the years now as I’m approaching 47. I’ve also learned I have a tremendous team and, you know, I think there’s a lot of people that have achieved great success, that doesn’t recognize the team, and I look back more often than not. A team that surrounds me. I have a lot of very loyal people and you know that’s important to me. Now that’s what I think I have learned.  And then I also learned that you need to bring a lot more money in this industry. Come with deep pockets. I understand. Yeah, we’re doing well and it was getting in turns. The stores were happy with the movement. Consumers are responding. Used to be, they tell you that you’ve achieved some sort of success, if you’re sitting on a park bench or wherever it may be, look over and you see an empty lid. Now it’s you know, how many social media posts you get. So I still look for that cup or lid on the side of the road because it’s, you know, physical validation that the brands out there. But I’m overwhelmed, social support. The people that take time out of their day to tell us about why their animals are doing so much better because they’re consuming our products. That is the victory. That’s what we’ll continue to do.  Obviously, as we move into Boss Cat hopefully here soon, we’ll be able to spread the love to some other animals and then, you know, my wife says we have a tortoise up there so obviously you can get a reptile at some point. We think anyone or any animal could be a Boss Dog.  Well Basel, it has been really great to talk to you. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your stories. Is there anything else you would like to mention before we wrap things up? No, just you know, if there are any rescues that are in need or if you can think of any specific events, where we might be able to help contribute in any way, please let us know. Great. Well, we’ll definitely do that. We’ll link out to your website in the show notes. And thanks again, I appreciate you coming on. It’s great to talk to you. Chris, Thanks.  Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast platform and feel free to leave us a review so we can help even more animals. Also, don’t forget to sign up with Doobert.com to join the tens of thousands of Dooberteers across the country and around the world, helping animals and the organizations working to save them.”
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