Diana Scott had spent a career in marketing when she had a lightbulb moment about the food she was buying for her family, versus the food she was feeding her dogs.
For the humans, she insisted on purchasing free-range foods, driven by a fierce opposition to farm animals being kept in cages. "And then one day, I pick up my dog food, and I start to look at the labels and I thought, I don't understand this; it doesn't sound good ... am I inadvertently supporting factory farming by buying pet food that has been made using industrialised animals?"
Ms Scott quickly discovered that pets in Australia were the second largest consumer of factory farmed animals in the country behind humans, who were spending $8 billion a year on pet food.
"We are talking about millions and millions of dogs and cats that are eating the offcuts of industrialised animals. So I thought, this has to change."
I have tapped into something everyone was thinking about - there is a collision between ethics and animal nutrition.Diana Scott
Not long after, Frontier Pets - a finalist in three categories in the 2021 Northern Rivers Regional Business Awards to be presented on Saturday - was founded by Ms Scott with help from her husband Tony Eastwood, and run out of her home office.
She began selling organic freeze-dried dog food - made from meat and vegetables fit for humans and ethically sourced from Australian farmers - in January 2017. At first, production was outsourced, but in six months the business grew 700 per cent and by July Frontier Pets had bought its own production facility at Evans Head.
Its products are made of beef sourced from Our Cow in Casino, pork from Bangalow, and chicken from free-range farms in Western Australia.
"Our fruit and vegetables come from organic farmers everywhere, through Eco-Farms, and we also get free-range eggs from Sunny Queen in Queensland, who've got egg farms everywhere."
Business received a boost in August 2018, when Ms Scott appeared as a contestant on Shark Tank, the television show where a panel of potential investors consider pitches for business ideas and products. While Scott's pitch was not taken up (the sharks missed out on a "huge" opportunity, Ms Scott says), the publicity was golden.
"It was incredible timing, and we got about three months' worth of orders in a 24-hour period," she says.
Frontier Pets now has 26 employees and 20,000 people on its customer database, and the business is still growing fast: last financial year turnover was $4.7 million, up from $85,000 in its first year of operation. In 2020-2021 it produced 80,000 kilograms of dog food, which Ms Scott says will grow to 160,000 kilograms next financial year. Those extra kilos will include the launch of cat food products early next year.
I want to end factory farming, that is my big purpose.Diana Scott
"I have tapped into something everyone was thinking about - there is a collision between ethics and animal nutrition. Some people buy from us because they want to support animal welfare; and some because they want the absolute best for their pet," Ms Scott said.
"And other people are saying, 'I don't want to feed my animal on the misery from another farm animal'. We mollycoddle our pets, we wrap them in doonas, put outfits on them, do everything for them to make them happy and comfortable, and the absolute antithesis of that is a poor chicken or cow or pig who live out their miserable short lives being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.
"I want to end factory farming, that is my big purpose."
Frontier Pets is a finalist in the Excellence in Business and Excellence in Trade, Construction and Manufacturing categories of the regional business awards, while Ms Scott herself has been nominated for Outstanding Business Leader.
"I really do feel honoured," she said. "It's a really lovely recognition."
- The 2021 Northern Rivers Regional Business Awards will be presented on Saturday October 23.