Meet the man who says he’ll bring in almost $50 million this year, and he owes it all to cute pet pics. Every day, Alex Zhardanovsky posts tons of photos of cats and dogs that are almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and generate even more money for his company.
Zhardanovsky uses pooch pics to promote PetFlow.com, a start-up he co-founded to make sure your pet never goes hungry and you never have to lug a heavy bag of dog food home from the grocery store again.
CNBC gave Zhardanovsky 60 seconds to bark his big idea to the Power Pitch panel. Click the video to see his pitch and some of the cute pets that helped his company make millions.
Pet food for thought
One night during a meeting with his business partner, Zhardanovsky told CNBC he got a frantic call from his girlfriend. She told him they were out of pet food and the store was closed.
"For a dog it's just not an option to open the fridge and give them whatever you have," Zhardanovsky said.
And then a light bulb went off. "So I thought there ought to be a really easy-to-use, scheduled delivery service for pet food," he said. "And that's how we came up with PetFlow."
Petflow.com is an online supplier of dog and cat food plus other pet products that allows pet owners to subscribe to automatic pet food deliveries.
"Our customers choose their favorite products, set a delivery schedule from two to 16 weeks, and a box containing their pet's favorite food, toys, and treats appears at their doorstep right when they need it" said Zhardanovsky.
Barking up sales with cute pet pics
The company says it has 100,000 active customers, and Zhardanovsky says it’s growing by 10,000 every month. He projects revenue to hit close to $50 million this year.
Zhardanovsky attributes Petflow.com’s rapid growth to cute pet pics. Every day, the company posts a steady stream of dog and cat pictures to its Facebook page and includes pet photos from its customers in its marketing emails.
"We have a tremendous Facebook presence; we have almost a million fans. Obviously not all of them are customers," Zhardanovsky told CNBC. "We post lots of cute pet pictures every single day. Some contain an ad, some don't, but really building that awareness to our fans has brought a lot of customers to our site."
How successful is the company’s social media strategy? Well the analytic firm Internet Retailer ranked PetFlow.com No. 1 in social commerce. Zhardanovsky said 30 percent of all Web traffic to the company comes from Facebook.
The co-founder faced tough questions from the Power Pitch panel that included cat lover and President of Buzzfeed Jon Steinberg (along with his cat Van), and the founder of Animal Fair magazine Wendy Diamond (and her dog Baby Hope). When Diamond pressed Zhardanovsky on the stiff competition his company faces from behemoths like Amazon, Petco, Petsmart and Wag.com, he responded that his company carries some specialty brands bigger retailers do not sell.
When Steinberg revealed he’d tested the site to purchase cat food for Van and was later emailed PetFlow.com coupons for dog food (Steinberg doesn’t own a dog), Zhardanovsky assured the cat lover that advances in his site’s technology will eliminate that sort of marketing mix up.
“We are not yet profitable as we continue to invest in both our infrastructure and new customer acquisition,” Zhardanovsky told CNBC.
That infrastructure includes two petflow.com warehouses, in New Jersey and in Las Vegas.
Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes. More than $53 billion will be spent on pets this year, $21.26 billion on pet food alone.
Founded in 2010, Petflow has raised $19.5 million. Investors include Lightspeed Venture Partners, friends and the co-founders.
Watch Alex Zhardanovsky's Power Pitch and see how the "Power Pitch" panel voted. On the panel: Wendy Diamond, a "Today Show" contributor and founder of Animal Fair magazine (@wendydiamond); BuzzFeed CEO and President Jon Steinberg (@jonsteinberg); and CNBC host Mandy Drury (@CNBCMandy).
--Additional reporting by Joanna Weinstein and Rider (the Power Pooch)
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