Aussie mum turns ‘hobby’ into millions
ANNEKE Van den Broek developed her entrepreneurial streak early, after breeding mice and selling them to her local pet shop for 40c each when she was just six years old.
The Sydney mum of two went on to forge a successful career in marketing - but her love of animals and business never left her.
And in 2008, she decided to do something about it.
That year, petcare company Rufus and Coco was born.
For the next two years, the company did well, selling a variety of pet items including vitamins, grooming products and accessories through pet stores.
But in 2010, the business really started to take off thanks to a lucrative deal with supermarket giant Woolworths, and then Coles.
By 2014, Rufus and Coco was turning over $12 million in Coles and Woolworths alone - but today, the company sells more than 1.3 million products each year, and 2.5 every minute.
Around 2800 orders are shipped each month, and Rufus and Coco is now the largest Australian grocery brand within the pet accessories category, with an 18 per cent share of the pet accessories category within Woolworths.
Products are available in nine countries around the world, including Canada, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, America and Australia, and the brand will soon launch its grooming range into 1459 PetSmart stores across North America.
Ms van den Broek said when the company first launched, it was competing with heavyweights Mars and Nestle before taking Australia - and the world - by storm.
"I always wanted to own my own business ever since I was a little girl … but Rufus and Coco has exceeded all my expectations," she told news.com.au.
She said the idea for the company evolved after she noticed a gap in the market, and that she was thrilled she had been able to turn her "hobby" into a career.
"Like many entrepreneurs, I had a handful of ideas I wanted to bring to life and had to really hone in on what I was most passionate about," she said.
"I grew up with rabbits, turtles, mice, cats - pets were already such a huge part of my life.
"Having owned over 40 pets in my life, I noticed there really was a lack of well-branded, fashionable, desirable products people would want to spend on their pets and that's where the idea was born, because I felt there was space in the Australian market."
But Ms van den Broek said the company hadn't been an overnight success, and that the "gamechanging" Woolworths deal came about only after her fourth pitch to the company.
"People say you should do what you love and what you are good at. I had a number of business ideas but when it came down to it I knew I loved animals and that I was great at branding and marketing consumer goods, and it was so important to have that knowledge during the dark hours when things didn't go to plan," she said.
"If you're not doing something you really care about, it's going to be hard to rock up when times get tough."
Today, Rufus and Coco is Australia's most awarded petcare brand, selling a range of products for dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and other small pets including collars and leashes, toys, grooming products, kitty litter, vitamins, training aids and more.
Ms van den Broek said it had always been her mission to make life easier for pets and their owners, both through her products and by campaigning for issues she believed in, such as reducing animal euthanasia by advocating for rental laws to change, making it easier for tenants to own pets.