This is the seventh installment in an interview series with the 2021 Takeoff Pets cohort. Participating companies are sharing, in their own words, details about their innovative companies. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Takeoff Program Management team. 

Meet Native Pet.

Dan Schaefer, Native Pet CEO and Co-Founder

TT: What’s the one-liner description of Native Pet?

Dan: Native Pet is redefining pet nutrition for a new generation of pet parents.

TT: What inspired you to start Native Pet? What makes what you are doing different from anyone else in the marketplace?

Dan: Our journey as first-time pet parents inspired our journey at Native Pet. WE are the stereotypical millennial pet parents. We first got married and then adopted pups as a precursor to children. Does it get more stereotypical than that? Overnight we became passionate consumers in a segment that was new to us. We are both food news and foodies by nature so, of course, spent far too much time researching what to feed our pups. There were two immediate opportunities that jumped out to us: first, pet food should have simpler cleaner ingredient decks. The marketing is borderline misleading on the front of the pack relative to the ingredients in small print on the back of the pack. Second, pet food products should leverage more functional foods. Humans are engineering their diets for [their own] health outcomes … why shouldn’t we for our pets? We have total control of their diet!

With these two observations in hand, we launched Native Pet. We believed there was an opportunity to make products at the intersection of functional and clean label. As such, we targeted the supplement & nutrition category and set out to innovate. Over the last three years we’ve developed supplemental products that are new & different than what is on the market today. We’ve designed products that harness the natural power in functional food and are effective, clean label, and very tasty. This focus on efficacy & simplicity and our willingness to challenge the status quo have helped us stand out in a crowded space.


TT: How did you decide it was the right time to join an Accelerator? What are you most looking forward to getting out of the Target Takeoff experience?

Dan: The timing couldn’t have been better for the Target Accelerator program. We are a digitally native brand who have grown substantially over the last three years. We’ve focused on Amazon and our DTC site but have always had omnichannel ambition. We want consumers to find our products wherever they shop. We also believe in IRL shopping experiences will make a huge comeback. Furthermore, we are launching 3-5 new products this spring that are ready for the shelf. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of expertise in this arena on our team. As such, retail seemed daunting.

That is why we were so excited to learn about the Target Takeoff program. We are ready to expand into physical stores and are so excited to partner with Target. Our goal is to absorb as much as we can about the retail channel and working with big box retailers. Furthermore, we are excited to learn from the team at Target and our peers in the cohort. Lastly, we are loyal Target customers and believe our brand & product set is a perfect match for the Target customer.

TT: What currently keeps you up at night, as a founder/leader of Native Pet?

Dan: If we are being honest, then our children are mainly to blame for keeping us up at night. In regards to the business, we have this constant feeling that we aren’t moving fast enough. That if we don’t move fast, our opportunity will close, and all of our hard work will be for the naught. This is of course not true but we are so proud of what we built, and so passionate about our products that we want to get it out to the world as fast as possible.

This urgency to grow has led to separate challenges and opportunities. Sustaining quality, scaling our logistics, hiring the right people, building the right team. All our issues we navigate on a day-to-day basis.

Ultimately though, despite all of these challenges, we are having a blast building this business and sleep pretty soundly.

TT: How do you stay motivated through the ups and downs of growing a business?

Dan: Motivation hasn’t been a problem for our team. We are all in on this business and have sacrificed a lot to take it this far. Corporate salaries, many nights & weekends, and plenty of times with our families. We passionate believe in what we are building and that pushes us.

We are also best friends who are building this business together. We grew up together, worked in banking together, and were even groomsmen in each other’s weddings. We are both deeply motivated to not let the other one down. It is one of the best parts of starting a business with one of your best friends.

TT: Fast forward 1 year from now: where do you see your company and your team?

Dan: Our hope is that our new products have been a huge hit; we are scaling nationally across digital and physical channels, and our tram is growing like crazy.

For more information on Native Pet and their products, check out nativepet.com