When Trauma Sparks a Business Idea
Julie Hunter, owner, Bend Pet Express
It’s heart wrenching when you notice something is wrong with your pet. The most difficult part is not fully understanding what’s happening; how sick they actually are and the pain they are experiencing. I had one of those moments late one night in 1993 – an event that ultimately motivated me to start Bend Pet Express out of my garage. On that infamous night, I had to rush my dog, CJ, to my good friend and Veterinarian Dean Bolinger as he had a blood disorder which caused anemic symptoms. It turned out that he actually had a severe allergic reaction to the additives that are commonly found in grocery store pet food.
It seems like a lucky outcome…it was a lucky outcome. But before then, I had no idea that I was hurting CJ. On the contrary, I actually thought I was feeding CJ the best food available. I’d fed him a well-known brand for years…since he was a puppy…because I trusted the brand. I had no idea how bad it was for him, but it was so detrimental that Dean told me I’d never be able to feed my dog grocery store food again. This wasn’t because my dog had special allergies, or an illness, but because the food was literally causing all of CJ’s health problems.
Knowledge about pet food additives has certainly grown since 1993, and people are paying attention, but the lack of education is still more widespread than many would believe. Back then, it wasn’t unusual to purchase pet food brands without thinking about the ingredients and effects, but the pet food industry has changed dramatically, just as it has for people. High-quality food has been a process of getting back to the basics: Raw, naturally prepared, nutrient-rich and whole foods.
Armed with my newfound awareness, but without any clinical background in pet nutrition, I took the hi-tech approach, and dove in…and just started selling high quality pet food out of my garage. I sold the best that was available at the time for animals, and delivered it to my customers. Since then, my pet-friendly start-up has grown into a sizable business with two retail locations, an online store, popular annual events, and consistent ‘best pet retailer’ awards in the Bend area.
Expanding even further, we have formed solid partnerships with our distributors including NutriSource pet food company. Just as in our personal lives, finding a connection that you feel closely resembles your own feelings and philosophy is scarce. Adding onto that the desire to work with locally-minded organizations and even better, with one that honors family is downright impossible.
Fortunately for us, NutriSource was one of those rare connections…being family-owned for 3 generations nearly mirrored my own 2+ decade commitment to BPE, and NutriSource’s baseline pledge to support local businesses was a huge added plus. Ultimately, the fact that their approach to providing the best pet food possible was in complete alignment with our mission made the connection a no-brainer.
The fact that we believe in and carry Nutrisource…will even further cement Bend Pet Express, with NutriSource right by our side, as a trusted community resource for all animals AND their owners. Our shared goal is simple, and that is not only to feed your pet, but to ensure they are eating the most nutritious food so they stay healthy and vibrant for a very long time.