Andrew Morrison of Presidio Natural Pet: “There is no question that I have been very fortunate in life”

There is no question that I have been very fortunate in life. I have focused on working to support others and making a positive impact on our planet. I believe we can impact this world one positive action at a time, supporting one person at a time. I feel that the best way I can […]

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There is no question that I have been very fortunate in life. I have focused on working to support others and making a positive impact on our planet. I believe we can impact this world one positive action at a time, supporting one person at a time. I feel that the best way I can contribute to our society is by helping others find happiness and success in life.

As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Morriso nwho lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, their three daughters and their Australian labradoodle, Heidi.

A native Californian, he was born and raised in Sacramento and lived there through high school before attending Boston College in Massachusetts. After graduating from Boston College in 1997, Andrew moved to San Francisco.

Andrew started his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers as an associate in their consumer products practice. After a few years at PWC he left to work in the Bay Area tech industry, only to eventually return to the consumer products world in 2006 joining forces with Alden Mills to run Perfect Fitness. As an owner and CFO, he helped to grow Perfect Fitness (makers of the Perfect Pushup) into INC. Magazine’s 2009 fastest growing consumer company in America. He sold Perfect Fitness in 2011. A few years later, with the focus of improving the health and wellness of pets, Andrew founded Presidio Natural Pet Co in 2015 and Earthly Pet Co in 2019.

Healthy living and physical fitness have always been a core part of his life. When Andrew is not selling pet treats or being a dad, he is probably enjoying the outdoors, running, hiking, skiing or playing golf.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

There is nothing normal about my path to the pet industry and the consumer products space. I studied finance and accounting in college and worked for a large accounting and consulting firm post-graduation. After a few years, I decided to leave the firm and work in finance for a high-growth software company in San Francisco. My chapter in corporate finance lasted a few more years before I realized that I really wanted to build my own business and not report on the happenings of someone else’s business. I realized that I was really missing the “creation” part of an enterprise. I needed more purpose in my professional life. I love to build things and see them grow. For me, that is where I find motivation and drive. In 2006, I joined a fitness startup called Perfect Fitness, as an investor and team member. The original founder and inventor, Alden Mills, was a friend who I had met in a volunteer organization in San Francisco that funds programs to support Bay Area at-risk youth. Over the next 5 years, our team grew Perfect Fitness into one of the top fitness brands in the country, our most popular product being the Perfect Pushup. In 2009, we were the fastest-growing consumer products company in America (INC. Magazine) and we sold the business in 2011. Since my time at Perfect Fitness, I have never left the consumer products world. In 2013, I started working on a line of nutritional pet products that we launched in 2015. Don’t ask me how I got from fitness accessories to dog and cat treats! All I can tell you is health and wellness is important to me and I seem to have migrated from caring for the health and wellness of people to the nutritional health and wellness of pets.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Business is hard; if it were easy, everyone would start one. There are new challenges every day that you have to overcome, some large and some small. When failure is not an option you just keep moving forward and make it happen. Interestingly, the start of the journey is usually the easiest — the business is new and exciting. I have always found the middle to be the most challenging — I think of it like this long valley between two amazing peaks. Things rarely ever go as planned in this valley and it requires great stick-to-itiveness, flexibility and fight to make it to peak on the other side. You have to want it and quitting just isn’t an option.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I have to give credit to my parents for instilling a strong work ethic in me — they led by example. That being said, my drive today comes from my family, both at home and at work. I have an amazing wife, three incredible daughters and the best dog ever; they support me and fuel me. Equally as important is the awesome team that I have the pleasure of working with every day. They drive me to work harder and I consider myself so lucky to be building this special company together with them.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Well, I like to say that “it takes 10 years for an overnight success” and we are just over 5 years into this one. We have a few more years of grit and resilience left but we are well-positioned, and I am very excited about the next 18 to 24 months. Our Earthly Pet brand had a great first year in 2020 and is already seeing growth in 2021 with a couple new products that we launched. Also, we have our cat treat line, Cat Sushi, that has JUST launched at Target. We are going to have a lot of fun this year!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of our first brands was a liquid-based nutritional supplement product line called FetchFuel. There were three products, Active for mobility, Omega for skin and coat, and Belly for digestive support. All three were sold in flexible standup pouches and were great nutritional supplements for dogs. Remember, these are “liquid” supplements. Well, I will never forget showing up to a tradeshow with our Director of Sales and as we zipped open the suitcase that was packed with all the products for our company booth, we both realized something was not right. First, we smelled an unexpected fishiness in the air and then we noticed there was a layer of oil on most of the contents of the suitcase. It was at that moment that Nicole and I realized that at least one of the Omega pouches had broken open and salmon oil had leaked and spread throughout the entire suitcase. Now I don’t know if you have ever tried to clean fish oil off or out of things but it’s not easy! It was an absolute mess.

Needless to say, we eventually found the compromised Omega product, threw it away and then spent an hour wiping down and trying to remove the fish oil and its lingering smell from all the other contents of the suitcase. In the end, I recall it was a successful show for us and we learned two important lessons. One, let’s ensure (triple sure) that our case boxes are designed to safely ship all of our products without any damage to the pouches or leaking; and two, let’s ensure that we are packing these liquid-based products in separate bags or otherwise securing them when they are loose in suitcases. Nicole and I still get a good laugh from of that one!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our TEAM is our secret sauce. It is diverse, intelligent, hardworking and very supportive of each other. We stand together as one unit ready to tackle any opportunity or challenge.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

As much as “balance” is an overused word, it can never be overvalued. There is no question that a strong work ethic and true dedication is critical to succeeding in business, but if it is not balanced out with some downtime you won’t be successful. Either you will fail your business, or you will fail your family and friends. We all need to find a way to decompress and recharge — for me I find balance through exercise and enjoying the outdoors. I love to run, workout, golf, ski, go on a hike or just sit on the beach and enjoy the view, preferably with my wife, daughters and Heidi our Australian labradoodle.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I view life as a collage. There are so many friends, family members and colleagues that have shaped me into who I am today. However, for me there is no substitute for the importance of my childhood and the impact my parents had on me. My mother, through her actions and words, impressed an unwavering attitude of thoughtfulness and care for all people. My father taught me the importance of a job well done. We have all heard it and my father said it in spades, “If you are going to do a job, do it well. Give it your best effort.” I remember so many late nights in Elementary and Middle School working on poster boards or presentations getting every word properly spelled and every detail perfectly glued to the board (obviously this dates my early school years as pre-laptops and PowerPoint). Regardless, my father taught me to take pride in everything that I do.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

There is no question that I have been very fortunate in life. I have focused on working to support others and making a positive impact on our planet. I believe we can impact this world one positive action at a time, supporting one person at a time. I feel that the best way I can contribute to our society is by helping others find happiness and success in life.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Team. “It takes an army” or in our case a small SEAL Team. Going it alone is hard, really hard! And it is so much sweeter to share the journey and the success with others!
  2. Time & Money. It’s going to take 3 times longer and 3 times as much investment as you think.
  3. Flexibility. It is rare that a startup is the same business in the end as when you wrote your business plan in the beginning. Keep an open mind. Find the momentum and go with what is working.
  4. Patience. Things are never as good or as bad as first reported. Whether it is good news or bad news (and in starting a company there is a lot of both) always step back, assess the information you have, gather more data and then make a decision only once you have a fuller picture.
  5. Enjoy “The View.” Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the daily routines in the office, team gatherings and both big and small victories. Don’t forget to take it all in.

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

Rely on your team. Have and build and nurture your support systems.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We have a CARE-based philosophy at Earthly Pet and Presidio Pet (which can be found in one of our partners’ books, Unstoppable Teams), focused on being respectful, thoughtful and supportive of our team members and our business partners in all the ways we interact. Life is too short to not find enjoyment in our everyday living and it is through our actions that we can make the world a better place.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I keep a fairly low profile, but you can find our brands on facebook and Instagram and I do maintain a presence on LinkedIn: @earthlypets, @presidiopet, @catsushitreats, or Linkedin.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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