Community impact and animal care run thick through the veins of many Queenslanders, with startup incubators and training providers popping up all over the place to sprout successful young startups in the area.
One successful startup founder is Brissy local Anna Podolsky, who like many of us, spent many of her favourite times skipping in the sand with her family pet.
In her early teens, Anna was helping the community by developing the gymnastics programs for Brisbane State High School and the Elite Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, growing students to trial schools with a handful of students, to 10x enrolments and taking both to become leading schools in QLD.
Fast forward to 2019, Anna has combined her ability to grow businesses with her passion for pups, challenging outdated corporates and leading the pack by redefining pet food with her vet-approved healthy dog food subscription startup, Lyka.
Want to know how you can turn your passion for pets into a business, too?
Read on, for tips straight from a local founder…
Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?
What drew me into entrepreneurship was the ability to completely shape a company or idea. My career choices are based on impact, and I’ve always wanted to create something that could live beyond me.
Was it hard leaving behind your corporate salary?How did you cope with the changes?
The hardest part about leaving my corporate job was the travel. I had the opportunity to work on any continent while having an operational heavy start-up has tied me to Sydney and Australia. Taking time to adjust to the changes was how I coped.
How would you describe an average day as an entrepreneur?
There is no average day! My main activities during the week are talking to customers, ensuring our kitchen runs smoothly, preparing and meeting with investors, developing new recipes with our vet, building our team, and operational planning. Sometimes, all of those on the same day.
How did you turn your passion for pups into a profitable business? Did you ever feel like giving up?
The business idea came from the health transformation my dog experienced after switching from premium dry food to a homemade diet. I wanted other dogs to experience this and, hence, Lyka was born.
My vision is to reshape the pet food industry, which has been static for over 50 years and is built around a highly processed and unnatural diet.
It is hard work but I have never felt like giving up. I am too passionate about this idea for it to ever cross my mind. Given how challenging running a startup is, it’s important to work on something you truly care about, so that giving up is not an option.
Does your dog go to work with you?
We have just moved to a new office and, yes, she will be coming to work with me. We’re both very excited!
Is your pup camera friendly?
She is quite the opposite! She thinks she is too cool for photos and turns away when we try it.
Why do you think dogs are such a big part of people’s lives?
Because they’re awesome!! Dogs have so much personality, love and happiness – when you get a dog it’s only natural that they connect deeply with you and become so important if your life. Lyka has lived with me for 10 years across 5 countries – I can’t imagine life without her.
There has been a big shift toward bringing dogs to work because of their mental health benefits. What do you think about the “office mental health dog” movement?
I think it’s great if the dog is well-trained and will behave in an office environment. It’s important to get the balance right between the potential productivity distraction vs health benefits. Also, the dog should be comfortable with being inside an office all day – outside dogs might feel stressed by the lack of grass and sun.
Do you see mental health dogs visiting schools in the near future?
I could see that happening, especially given the prevalence of therapy dogs in a place like hospitals and retirement homes already.
How can owners keep their pups in top condition all year round?
Diet – they are what they eat, and a fresh diet packed with wholefoods will nourish their body and create a strong health foundation. A study showed that dogs that eat a homemade diet live on average 3 years longer than those that eat commercial food.
So to help people enjoy those extra years with their puppers, we keep to the homemade process in our kitchen, using locally produced, farm fresh ingredients. Keeping them regularly exercised and mentally stimulated is also important.
What are your top 3 tips for dog owners to keep their dogs healthy?
Feed them a minimally processed diet that you can recognise every ingredient in.
Load up the omega 3s – found in seafood and fish oils – omega 3 promotes decreased inflammation in your dog’s body and which reduces the risk of disease.
Keep them at a healthy weight. It is estimated that 40% of dogs in Australia are overweight. Extra weight puts pressure on their joints and increases risk of arthritis. It also can increase the risk of cancer.
What was your favourite dog beach growing up?
The Spit on the Gold Coast! We used to go there almost every weekend in summer running around and playing in the sun. I miss that beach and I’m sure Lyka does too.
What makes the Lyka brand special?
Lyka puts your dog’s interests first. We believe all dogs have the right to a real food diet – so we prioritise nutrition and freshness over shelf life, which means Lyka is 100% whole foods and does not contain any synthetic ingredients that commercial food must contain.
We use farm fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and prepare the food in a human grade kitchen.
We also provide an individualised service for your dog, where our vet derived algorithm ensures serving sizes are tailored specifically for your pupper – helping to shed those extra kilos where preferable, or maintain an ideal weight with more nourishing real foods. We make regular deliveries to your door at convenient times for you, making Lyka a convenient way of nourishing them with real food.
In Queensland, we’ve been experiencing many rapid, and severe weather changes. What advice do you have to dog owners to help keep immune systems in top condition?
Antioxidants and zinc are great for strengthening your dog’s immune system. Foods such as blueberries (and vegetables in general) are high in antioxidants and foods such as oysters are high in zinc. Added regularly into your dog’s diet, these will be beneficial to the running of their immune system.
What advice to you have to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Follow your heart and start a business that you’re passionate about.
If it’s purely for the money, it’ll be hard to stick at it during the tough times. Running a startup has many ups and downs, and one of the most important things is to try to balance out your emotions and keep focused on your vision.
The message for the rest of us? Even if you think you don’t have time – make some. Want to see more about Lyka? Head to Lyka.com.au