Meet the GirlCrewer #66, Founder of Soopa Barbara Hanly

“The most challenging part of my role is wearing so many different hats and having to learn so many different skills from accounting, logistics, import/export, product development, marketing, sales.”

Barbara Hanley of Soopa dog chews with her dog Lily at Bullock Harbour. Photo: Tony Gavin 13/3/2013

Last week we introduced you a GirlCrew member who worked on bringing out their inner doggy versions of Kate Moss, and we’re keeping the pet theme running this week with a company that looks after their health.

Many pet owners will know that commercial pet food isn’t always the best option for your furry friends, and for Barbara Hanly, of GirlCrew Galway, this quickly became apparent in her previous job. “Whilst working in my previous dog grooming business I was shocked to see so many dogs suffering from commercial pet food related illness such as; obesity, diabetes, chronic itching, skin allergies and in some cases even death.”

This may seem alarming to some of you, but such reactions are more common than you might think and for Barbara it was clear that there was an opportunity to shake the industry up.

“I wanted to offer dog owners a super healthy treat they could give to their dog guilt free that was low calorie, nutritious and also delicious. I knew dogs loved fresh fruit and vegetables so I got to work and after lots of time spent in kitchen and much trials and testing the Soopa chew was born!”

With a high quality product on the market, Soopa has been getting a lot of attention recently. “Soopa’s has generated a buzz thanks to reviews, magazine write ups, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Soopa papaya chews recently featured on ITV This Morning show and won PPRA ‘Best Pet Product’ 2014.” And it would seem that it’s not just the media who love the company, as according to Barbara customers quickly become advocates. “Our customers and retailers are our real brand ambassadors because they know we’re passionate about helping dogs feel super good.”

Made with 100% natural ingredients these new doggy chews might just be what the vet ordered for your four-legged friend. Soopa were keen to create a product that was “bursting with goodness, low calorie, hypoallergenic and with a natural taste dog’s love.” Barbara jokes that her chews are “so good you’ll be tempted to paw them for yourself!”

1. What is the best thing about your role?

I guess receiving emails and letters from happy canine customers especially from dogs that are restricted due to allergies, kidney disease etc. It makes all the hard work worthwhile knowing dogs are enjoying our products and their owners are happy too.

2. What did you find most challenging about it?

The most challenging part of my role is wearing so many different hats and having to learn so many different skills from accounting, logistics, import/export, product development, marketing, sales. I’m incredibly grateful to be now in the position where I’m building a strong and dynamic team of people with these skills and who share my passion. This allows me to focus on product development and overall vision for the company.

3. What is your proudest work related achievement to date?

Soopa products being featured on ITV This Morning! Launching in Wholefoods Market was also a very proud moment as it’s one of my all time favourite stores.

4. What would be your one tip to others who want to get involved in this industry?

Get as much feedback as possible before investing in packaging, machinery, product etc. Start small and test if your product is viable by selling locally, online and at tradeshows. If you can prove your product is viable then go for it!

5. What would be your motto in life, and in work?

Be patient, trust your gut and if you’re stuck keep moving even if it’s small baby steps you’re going in the right direction.

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Soopa Pets, the maker of healthy dog treats, is to add 10 jobs following €400K investment led by the HBAN Food Syndicate



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