Human on the Inside with The Paw Grocer’s Jenny Richards
We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …
Welcome Jenny, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight! You’re the Founder and CEO of The Paw Grocer – a producer and retailer focussed on improving the health & wellness of pets by using 100% Australian sustainable protein made with the help of embedded blockchain tech! In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your role entail?
Thanks so much for having me! I’m currently the only employee, so my role entails all aspects of the business from procuring the proteins, right through to the sourcing the packaging and logistics. The fun stuff is human facing, such as communicating with our customers or chatting to potential investors and working with contractors to bring my NPD to market. I’m loving every minute.
In parallel to The Paw Grocer, you’ve also run a Boost Juice franchise for 10 years, and prior to that spent almost 10 years in the print media advertising for the likes of titles such as Australian House & Garden, Vogue Australia and Men’s Health. You were also a State Finalist in the Telstra 2022 Best of Business Awards – congrats! How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?
I’ve enjoyed various aspects of each job I’ve ever had, but I’ve definitely found my purpose with The Paw Grocer. I’m on a mission to improve the lives of our furry little friends through nutrition. The further I dive into this sector, the more horrified I am by some of the ingredients and I become more driven to change things by the minute. All of my prior career choices have stood me in great stead to drive this brand forward, and of course I’ve made some fantastic contacts along the way.
Becoming a Best of Business Finalist in the “Championing Health” category was a huge achievement for me as it validated my belief that animal nutrition is every bit as important as human.
Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?
School and uni are many decades in the past for me now! I think that the very basics of marketing still hold true, but obviously social media has turned everything on its head since I studied the subject. When I worked in publishing, we had to be very creative in our thinking to attract new clients, as there were limited opportunities to extend their reach beyond the pages of the magazines. That has helped me to try to think outside the box when coming up with opportunities to get The Paw Grocer brand out into the market.
If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year old self it would be …
Trust your instincts!
Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your workplace right now?
Great question. To me, human skills are everything. I hope that my customers and suppliers all come along with me for the journey of reimagining pet nutrition, and to that end I have to be absolutely authentic in everything I do. I won’t compromise on the quality of my products, and I’m absolutely committed to supporting Aussie farmers along the way. I think that working in the pet sector is a beautiful place to be! Pet parents are rightfully so proud of their fur babies and they love to share and I spend my days getting to know them. It can also be emotionally exhausting as I follow a number of shelters on socials and I find it very upsetting to see what some precious animals are subjected to. Building a community, not just customers, is my key objective as I hope it will ultimately help me to educate pet parents both here and overseas.
Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?
I have only recently realised that I’m incredibly intuitive and I can spot a trend early! If only I’d had confidence in my super power a couple of decades earlier…
And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?
I’m not a naturally confident person and I have been pretty tough on myself over the years with my internal dialogue. Now that I’ve found my passion project, I have an unwavering belief in what I’m doing and where I’m taking the brand, and it feels great.
If you could share one piece of career advice with recent secondary or tertiary graduates, or other individuals keen to start a business like yours, what would it be?
Find something you have a true passion for and do not listen to the nay-sayers, of which there will be many. Be laser focussed on what it is that you’re trying to achieve, and try to find a mentor who has already trodden the path. And please, can we stop talking about the side-hustle? Go large, build a business.
You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?
I’m going to be in this exact position very soon. Honestly, I would always employ someone who is animal obsessed over a candidate who is not. I need to be surrounded by people who truly understand the importance of what I’m trying to achieve. Plus, I’d like them to bring their BFF to the office!
In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”
What’s next on your #learning agenda?
I’m fortunate to have been accepted into the current cohort for Seedlab Australia, and I’m loving it. It’s training and mentoring for startups and SMEs and supported by Woolworths. The calibre of people I’m meeting is mind blowing and so inspiring.
In my spare time, which is basically when I walk the dogs, I listen to podcasts. My current favourites are How I Built This, How I Made It (the Fin Review), The Small Business Big Marketing Podcast, and Seize the Yay. I’m also constantly reading about trends in the human food and health sector looking for my inspiration.