"I’m grateful for the ability to be connected to so many different types of mentors. To be able to talk with people who have such different backgrounds and strengths in areas where I may be weak… To be given the opportunity to reach out to someone who is an expert in that field or industry is really powerful." - Meredith Bennett
|Interviewee:||Meredith Bennett, Founder and CEO|
Artist and craftsman-made goods for cats, dogs, and the people who love them.
Creative Startups: What does creativity mean to you?
Meredith Bennett: I see creativity as an expression of our individuality.
CS: What is your background? Where have you focused your creative energy in the past?
MB: For most of my career, I have lead sales and marketing teams where a lot of my creativity has been focused on things like web design and development, marketing campaigns, writing copy, and that sort of thing. In a different realm of creativity, I’ve found ways to creatively develop business partnerships. When I’m leading teams, I’m finding ways to help my employees share their gifts with the world while assisting them in their growth and encouraging them to be more creative themselves.
CS: What are the key benefits your company offers to customers?
MB: A lot of companies just consider customers to be the people that are purchasing from them, but Devoted Human has a couple of different types of customers. For those that are purchasing through the e-commerce site, we curate these products and help customers find high-end pet related products that are beautiful, high quality, and are made in the United States. There are other places where you might be able to find similar products, but it’s hard to track them down.
My other customers are the artists and craftsmen who are creating the products we’ll be offering on the site. I’m helping them by using my strengths in sales and marketing on a platform where their products are highlighted and showcased. Devoted Human is a way to help artists and customers find each other.
CS: What emotion does your brand ignite in potential customers?
MB: My customers are people who love their animals and see them as family members. This site is a way for them to be able to communicate their love by giving gifts that they can feel good about sharing.
We’re also donating each month to animal rescue organizations so customers can feel good about the purchases that they’re making. They’re contributing to the welfare of other animals as well as their own. I have always been a big fan of the “Buy Local” philosophy, so each purchase also helps an artist. That’s a lot better than giving your money to a corporation that mass produces generic products overseas.
CS: How did you decide on a logo and name?
MB: Originally when I was thinking through this idea, I was focused on cat products because there’s a real hole in the market when it comes to cats. There are tons of dog products out there, but much fewer for cats.
As I looked at it from that angle, I played around with cat-related names like Divine Feline and Le Chat Noir. The more I worked on this project, the more I realized that I wanted to be able to offer products for both cat and dog lovers. I love both cats and dogs as many people do, so I decided I’d create a name that speaks less to the pets and more to the person who is a dedicated animal lover, hence Devoted Human.
I’ve done a lot of branding in my career, so the logo design just kind of came to me. I worked with a graphic designer that turned my chicken scratch idea into a pretty design. I love it – both the logo and the name, and I’m finding it really resonates with people. They love saying they’re a devoted human!
CS: What makes your service stand out from the competition?
MB: As an entrepreneur starting a new business, I think it’s pretty vital to learn about the competitive landscape and to find businesses out there doing something similar to have a better understanding of what the market looks like overall.
I’ve been trying to find companies that are similar to Devoted Human. There are companies like Etsy that sell artist and craftsmen-made goods, but it’s on a completely different scale. Etsy has a challenging search engine. There are so many different types of products on there and there’s a lot of junk you have to sift through to find the good stuff, to be quite honest. What I offer to our customers is a simplified experience where it’s easy to find exceptional pet-related products.
There are also websites focused on specific pet products. For example, in the Albuquerque Creative Startups cohort, there is a wonderful company called GOOOD. They make really cute pet collars and cat tents, but they only sell their own products, not a variety of dog and cat-related items from different vendors.
Another type of similar business is the small local pet shops that carry different products that are cat and dog-related, but I haven’t found anyone who is doing what I’m doing. That’s why I’m so excited about it because I feel like I’m filling a niche, offering American made handcrafted products not just for dogs and cats…but also for the people who love them! I am serving a need that I see is out there.
CS: Is there anything from your experience with the Creative Startups accelerator program that has made an impact on how you think about your brand?
MB: I really enjoyed the program because every week I learned something new. I’ve got an MBA and 20 years in business, so I’ve experienced a lot of things along the way. The thing that’s so exceptional with Creative Startups is that each of the mentors and instructors brings something new to the table because of their unique background and experience.
I was given great advice years ago related to attending seminars, conferences, classes, or other events… Don’t go to it with the goal of taking copious notes while trying to remember and implement everything you learn. Just look for one takeaway— one elegant idea that makes the time well spent. So that’s the way I approached each one of the Creative Startups modules – looking for one useful idea that helped me move the business forward.
CS: What is your company’s mission?
MB: There are basically three elements to my mission: to provide a place where you can easily find beautiful handcrafted cat and dog related products, to offer a platform where artists and artisans are able to help their businesses by reaching a larger audience, and to give back to animal rescue organizations.
CS: What core problem does your product solve and how is it going to make a difference in the industry?
MB: As I mentioned, I have a passion for buying locally especially because I live in Asheville, NC and that is such a huge part of our culture here. I think I was also partially drawn to the town for that reason in the first place. I really enjoy being part of the “Buy Local” community and being able to help the small scale businesses of artists and craftsmen.
I think there is also something really special about using a product that is handcrafted versus something that is mass produced. I’m proud that I’m going to be able to offer a platform where people can find gifts for themselves, their pets, or their animal-loving friends in a fast, efficient manner. Hopefully it will help people figure out holiday and birthday shopping and will help make a lot of people and animals happy.