Our last instalment of Tomorrow’s Leaders featured the online revision platform Synap and this month we’re speaking to Katie McDermott and Jane Yates about their all veggie food start-up, Not Dogs. We spoke to Katie and Jane about their start-up story, winning the UK’s largest ever seed funding search competition and how they created delicious meaty hot dogs without the meat.
What’s the story of Not Dogs in a nutshell?
Katie – After years spent in the PR world, I met Jane, she changed my life with one mind map, we left the security of a known career path and stepped into the unknown world of business, apps, and of course Not Dogs.
Jane – I happily got a job in PR straight out of university. It quickly came apparent to me how important social media was becoming for brands, so I formed my own role there managing the social media for clients. Being at that agency led to me meeting Katie and setting up our own social media consultancy ‘doing what we knew, to do what we wanted’ (we have millions of crazy business ideas but thought we’d start there first!). From there we created Not Dogs alongside our consultancy, but it soon took over and became our full-time focus.
What has been your proudest career moment so far?
Katie – As ambitious as this sounds, I’m still looking for it. I am incredibly proud of every day that Jane and I keep pushing forward even when it’s felt hopeless… and can look back on the boundaries we have broken and the adventures we’ve had while contemplating a new one is going to be a good moment.
Jane – This is a tough one as there have been so many highs (alongside the lows of course). It’s probably that first day we arrived at Not Dogs’ first mini-festival with me towing the food truck and Katie backing me in! To serve Not Dogs for the first time from our carefully branded truck on that sunny Sunday and to see all the delighted faces made me very proud that something we created had this effect on people.
Tea or coffee?
Katie – I can speak for both Jane and I when I say coffee, coffee and more coffee! Although not for me past 4pm.
Which everyday item can you not live without?
Katie – I mean she is not an everyday item so I’m cheating slightly, but Jane! She keeps me questioned, organised, motivated, inspired and uplifted and I love that busy energetic brain of hers. She is a perfect mix of magic and madness and Not Dogs wouldn’t be half of what it is without her, in fact without her I would never have started a vegetarian food truck because it was all so mad…so she might not be an everyday item to anyone else, but in my world she is vital.
Jane – Unfortunately I’d have to say my iPhone. I have a love-hate relationship with it… it keeps me connected to my family and friends when I am so busy I have no time to physically see anyone, but I can also get consumed with it and see it as a negative thing. I’m trying to rectify this by reducing my time on social media (I love Instagram and Pinterest but have come off Facebook) and turning on ‘do not disturb’ at night as checking work tasks is not productive for a good night’s sleep!
What is your top tip for a productive day?
Katie – Mull it over first. This really works for me. I try very hard to think things through before I respond (unless it’s very exciting or totally positive). I find even if I have written something that sometimes when you leave something and give it a little room, further thoughts can come along that can enhance your thinking, move you to make a solid decision and allow you to speak from a place of balance. I feel so much more productive having accomplished things from a grounded point of view than letting the day or others run me.
Jane – My perfect morning is a slow start. When I rush around in the morning I find I have much less productivity throughout the day so instead of switching on my phone I get my diary out and write my to-do list for the day with an espresso first. This helps me clear my mind and makes me see what ‘productive’ actually means for me on that particular day.
Who is your business role model and why?
Katie – For me there are so many wonderful and successful business leaders, but when it comes down to it there is nothing more special than hearing from people who are in business right now, building companies from scratch, trying to change people’s perceptions or introduce a new concept or brand that they totally believe in. We regularly go to The Well To Do Founder Series and it’s incredibly rewarding to hear from the panellists and resonate with the highs, lows, sacrifices, and inevitable funny moments in their journeys.
Jane – Kristina Karlsson, the founder of international stationery brand Kikki.K. I first discovered Kikki.K when I was in my favourite city in the world, Melbourne a good few years ago. I have always loved stationery and books (thanks dad!) so walking into the beautifully designed Kikki.K store was like a dream. All the stationery is exactly how I would design it myself – almost like it’s out of my brain too! Having been so enamoured with it I did a lot of research into Kristina and find her passion, honesty and vision so inspiring.
How do you switch off?
Katie – Only in the surroundings of my family – they lift me up and they make me laugh and I always feel being in the company of people you hold very dear to your heart puts everything else into perspective.
Jane – Yoga. I adore it! I have a little ‘sanctuary’ space at home with my yoga mat, twinkly lights, candles and crystals. Yoga with Adrienne is the best thing on YouTube – I enjoy home practice rather than classes – I’m addicted to her!
What advice would you give to an aspiring start-up company?
Katie – Stay Naive! People often say ‘I have a great idea but I’m not very business-minded’ and it’s so sad to hear! The best way to be is naive to the journey ahead, it’s your best possible chance of pushing yourself to do the best job you can do when you have to learn it yourself.
Jane – Go for it! If you don’t try, you’ll never know and for me, that’s worse than failing. Research, research, research so you have all the knowledge you can and keep going! No successful company would have been successful if they gave up at the first hurdle.
What will the future bring for Not Dogs?
Katie – I hope we help steer Not Dogs to become a household brand, a positive contribution, a name loved by many all around the world and support it to catapult meat-free fast food to the masses.
Jane – My dream, along with Katie’s above thoughts, is to see Not Dogs everywhere so that more people can move away from traditional fast food, improve their health, look after the environment and end unnecessary harm to animals.
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