Today we meet Terri Rockovich (center, above), Co-Founder and CEO of Jinx, a direct to consumer dog food brand. Prior to founding Jinx, Rockovich was at Casper, a direct to consumer mattress company, and served as vice president of acquisition and retention marketing. It was at Casper where she met her co-founders and fellow “dog obsessives” Sameer Mehta (left) and Michael Kim (right). To learn more about Jinx and their extensive nutrition and digestibility testing, click here.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
TR: From my perspective, entrepreneurship means an abundance of hustle that can take shape in many different forms. It values curiosity and orients around problem-solving. It demands creativity and disruptive thinking. It is a path that most people would be crazy to take, which makes it that much more attractive to people who are drawn to a challenge.
How did your company come to be?
TR: Jinx was created because there is a lack of updated dog food brands in the kibble category that were compelling to the pet parent, adapted for the modern dog’s nutritional needs, and available to progressive consumers the way they are used to internet shopping. We focused on optimizing for the ordering, receiving and feeding experiences through a direct-to-consumer model that allows us to engage in high-touch relationships with our customers.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
TR: Our business launched at the end of January 2020 and began scaling into the height of the global pandemic, which was something we didn’t plan for. Fortunately, we are an eCommerce business with national distribution in a food category. Our business continues to benefit from the heightened demand for essentials and the increased online shopping behavior around staple products. The one growth area that we’ve been forced to think more creatively about has been physical retail.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far?
TR: The highlight of my journey so far is hearing about the product feedback. Our success is largely dependent on having a superior product, so listening to success stories and seeing it validated through our retention rates is all of the motivation that I need to keep going.
The darkest moment in our journey has been launching our business amidst a global pandemic. While the business continues to accelerate due to the model and the category, it does force us to work in conditions that we didn’t plan for. Building a culture and a team is so critical to our early success and doing that remotely changes things.
How is your company changing the landscape?
TR: Jinx has taken a more updated approach to our product philosophy. The category is dominated by big CPG which caters its diets to dogs that we can’t necessarily relate to. When you walk down an aisle of pet food, you’ll typically see a wolf gracing the front of a package or a purebred show dog postured to win. The reality is that dogs have evolved, and the closest they get to hunting is chasing flies in the kitchen. They are not carnivores, but instead omnivores. They do not need high protein diets because most of the unused protein stores as fat. They do not need grain-free diets because they require easy to process carbs for sustained energy. A modern dog has a different level of activity and a different lifestyle, which has entirely different nutritional requirements for a complete and balanced diet. Enter Jinx.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
TR: I was advised to only start a business if you can see yourself as a part of that project for a minimum of ten years. It served as a great filter for the many ideas that I considered as I built up the courage to start my own brand. The only thing I wish I did differently was start it sooner. There are so many categories that are dominated by antiquated thinking — which make them ripe for disruption and a fresh perspective.
What is your professional and personal mission statement?
TR: True character is defined by what you do when no one is looking. It’s a way of being that I was taught in my childhood, and it’s stuck with me through decades of operating in personal and professional environments. It also pairs nicely with a much more on-brand credo that states: be the person your dog thinks you are.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
TR: I draw inspiration from being outdoors, more specifically while hiking or swimming with my dogs. I leave my phone inside and take a few hours to myself to disconnect and decompress with company that keeps me happy and safe. Being unplugged gives me just enough time to create space, achieve mental clarity, ignite endorphins and return feeling completely recharged so that I can tackle whatever blocker has presented itself.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
TR: Pet parents take on an enormous responsibility in caring for their animals. They are choosing food for someone who cannot choose it for themselves. If they better understand how to read an ingredient panel or interpret a guaranteed analysis, they can make more informed decisions — all of this is solved with education and transparency. An investment in clean nutrition helps to avoid health complications down the road. Whether they decide to buy Jinx or another premium dog food option, success is when they make a better decision for what they are feeding their pups.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
TR: Building a digitally native brand was the original plan and continues to be our primary focus. We are leaning into that even more so given the current conditions. I believe how we navigate through the global pandemic will create a favorable narrative for ongoing fundraising based on our current growth trajectory.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
TR: My business partners also happen to be my friends. We started with a solid foundation of candor, trust and loyalty. Those are the most important qualities to have in people that you work with closely in an intense and fast-moving environment. Other attributes that strike me as important to consider when building a team include: a measured temperament, different backgrounds and skillsets from you, a good work-ethic, hustle and grace.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
TR: Every day I get up with four eyes staring at me, and almost immediately get showered with kisses once my dogs realize that I’m awake. I lay in bed for about ten minutes after my alarm goes off, and then drag myself into the kitchen to hit the Nespresso button before continuing to build momentum to get out of the front door for the first walk of the day. In that 20 minute stroll, I brace myself for the day ahead with affirmations and positive thoughts. My days are long, so forcing myself to step outside anywhere from 3x-5x per day creates a break to think and breathe and enjoy quiet moments.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
TR: Everyday counts, and every decision has the potential to impact the business. Mounting pressure keeps me motivated, and the desire to build a brand that brings joy into the world keeps me committed to giving 150% of myself.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
TR: I was recently asked what my destination was for my professional aspirations because I tend to hit a milestone and then move the goal line. The truth is, there is no destination. I will never be satisfied with the status quo. I will always be pushing to be better. I’d like my legacy to be a reflection of just that: one of tenacity, realness, and constant evolution.
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