Even a Pandemic Couldn't Stop This Founder's Pet-Friendly Mission
Even a Pandemic Couldn't Stop This Founder's Pet-Friendly Mission

By Entrepreneur Partner Studio Staff

Like many pet owners, Claudia Montoya would do anything for her furry friend, a 4-year-old German Shepard named Chicca. But after trying several big-name pet food brands and doing research, she was less than impressed with the ways those companies source their ingredients.

With a professional background in finance, Montoya made it her personal mission to learn everything she could about animal biology and the pet food industry. Last June—during the height of the Covid-19 health crisis—Montoya and her family put their learnings to practice, opening Miss Kibble’s Natural Pet Supplies®, an all-natural pet supply store in Bristow, Va.

“We vow to raise pet health awareness by having in-depth conversations with pet parents regarding pet food ingredients, the importance of their sourcing, why labels matter, and deceiving marketing practices,” Montoya says.

Before officially starting up, Montoya’s landlord had requirements and Montoya had specific insurance-coverage questions. She worked closely with Anita Sadlack, her State Farm agent, to determine the business’s needs and to create a policy that provides the necessary coverage and protection. “I love to see that twinkle in a person’s eye when they discuss their business plans and dreams,” Sadlack says. “By understanding where they are at today and where they want to be, I can customize their insurance to fit the stage of their business life cycle.”

So far, things are going even better than expected. Montoya recently opened a second Miss Kibble’s Natural Pet Supplies® location in Gainesville, Va.

Here, Montoya talks about following her passion and bucking the odds by launching a business during the pandemic.

How did you become passionate about pet health?

Montoya: I became so passionate the day I welcomed my little girl home. I want her to live a long healthy life, so I started asking myself, what can I do to be proactive? I am an advocate for feeding complete and balanced fresh foods to our pets.

At Miss Kibbles, you will find products that meet our safety and health criteria. No corn, no wheat, no soy, and no questionable ingredients from unknown sources. I do not settle for “globally sourced.” If I wouldn’t apply it or feed it to my dog, I can guarantee you will not find it at our stores.

What was it like starting a business amid a global health crisis?

Montoya: It was quite an experience. We had to deal with permit delays, product shortages and recruiting challenges, to name a few. On a positive note, our landlord was kind to work with us during the pandemic. No one wanted to come out and shop. Pet retail businesses were considered essential, so we had no choice than to proceed with the opening. We had to innovate and adapt to our pet parents’ needs by offering curbside pickup, home delivery, and enhance our online shopping platform.

How has Miss Kibbles benefitted from working with State Farm?

Montoya: As a small-business owner, you want to do it all and you think you know it all. Meeting Anita was a perfect match. Not only did we share same cultural roots, but she was very thorough with asking questions and assessing my business needs. Partnering with a local agent I can relate to, whom I can call or text with questions, makes me sleep better at night.

How did State Farm assist in preparing you for expanding to a second location?

Montoya: The demand for frozen, raw, and gently cooked foods has spiked in the last six months which means we had to acquire new equipment to meet demand. It is important to review your policy and adjust accordingly.

Last year, fellow retail members were impacted by a hurricane in Texas and storms in Tennessee. Lots of inventory was lost due to the power outages. This is something I discussed with Anita to help me in the event of a storm. It has been a comfort to me that I know I have a real partner in business. She’s a small-business owner herself who can help manage the risk so that I can focus on my passion!

Where do you see the all-natural pet food/supply industry in the coming years?

Montoya: I believe we are making a statement and can see pet retail stores expanding their fresh food aisles. I also see retailers changing their training model and focusing on staff understanding why buying fresh foods is a better choice for our pets.

What does the future have in store for Miss Kibbles?

Montoya: My role is to raise awareness within my networks, my community, my state, and over social media. I am not afraid to speak up and have uncomfortable conversations. We all want our pets to live forever, then let’s do it together and share with one another. People do not want to be fooled, and it is in our hands to teach our next generation to do better for our pets. I want my son to look back and say mom followed her purpose. I would love to see a Miss Kibbles in every major city in the U.S.

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