Jinx’s Sameer Mehta: “It’s all about finding where the customers are and going to them”

Jinx is a D2D — yep, that’s direct-2-dog — brand that sells premium doggie kibble with an emphasis on superfoods and nutrition.

To wit: it’s best selling mix includes salmon, brown rice and sweet potato (or, if you’re feeling seasonal, here’s an apple and pumpkin treat 🎃).

Founded by 3 of the first 14 employees at the DTC sleep company Casper, the LA-based brand officially launched back in February.

We recently spoke with one of Jinx’s co-founders, Sameer Mehta, about his experience of launching a startup during a pandemic, the dog food opportunity and what he learned from working at Casper.

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How big is the dog food opportunity? 

The entire dog food market is $20B, with dry food — where we compete — making up 95% ($19B) while fresh food makes up 5% ($1B).

Owners are crazy about their pets and the entire dog nutrition category is growing. 

Selection of pretty lit looking premium dog food (Source: Jinx)

Why only focus on dogs and not the bigger pet market?

Jinx really wants to focus on one category and do it perfectly. If we expand at all, it will be in the dog category. 

We’re creating a “dog wellness brand”, which can entail other products and services. Think about something like pet insurance. If we are a trusted brand, we could potentially sell that. 

Is this comparable to how Casper has expanded from a mattress brand to a sleep brand? 

Yes, exactly. 

What are the main lessons you learned from Casper?

I’d say there are at least two:

  • Take the brand in a non-traditional route: To stand out in the crowded mattress market, Casper did things that most mattress companies wouldn’t do. We partnered with American Airlines. We had hip hop artists come to launch parties.

    Basically, we wanted to elevate the brand away from just mattresses and invite new people into the space that might not otherwise think very much about it.

  • The importance of the physical experience: The experiential stuff really makes a brand stand out.  A great example was the Napmobile, where we drove around a mobile bus with 6 nap pods to show off the mattress. 
Jinx’s co-founders (L to R): Sameer Mehta, Terri Rockovich, Michael Kim

How have Jinx’s first 7-8 months been going?

We always planned to sell online first before going to retail, so the pandemic didn’t change that. The main part of our launch that quarantine impacted was our experiential activations.

As mentioned, I think experiential is really important. Moving forward, we’ll be doing more stuff with dog parks and even run a dog lab where dogs can come in to taste new flavors.

Looking at performance, we’ve blown past expectations on one key metric — subscriptions. We aimed to have 40% of our customers as subscribers in year 1 and we’re already at 70%.

Once you get a dog hooked to a specific kibble, it’s hard to switch them off of it. 

Is there any famous dog owner you’ve hooked? 

[Cleveland Browns wide receiver] Odell Beckham Jr. feeds his dog Jinx!

OBJ is really consistent with what he puts in his own body (he has a personal chef), so our brand really resonates with him for dog care. 

What have been some keys to success for the launch so far? 

Something we’ve focused on is to go where the customers are. COVID changed a lot of behaviour, so we switched up our approach in a few partnerships: 

  • Postmates: People are obviously ordering online more, so we made sure to get our product on a delivery app.
  • Barry’s Bootcamp: From my time doing Barry’s Bootcamp, I realized that there was crossover between our customers so I reached out to them for a collaboration: a joint workout for dog owners and dogs.
  • Petco: Jinx is the first DTC dog nutrition brand to launch on Petco, the major pet retailer. 

It’s all about finding where the customers are and going to them. 

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Focus on a few things and make sure it’s the best. 

Pre-launch, we wanted to do leashes and collars but decided to just focus on the food and the results have been good.

When people trust you, then you can expand. 

What’s the best book you read in the last 12 months? 

Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One by Emily Heyward.

Do you have a request for a startup? 

Someone needs to make a smart shower where the plumbing is connected to a control. You can pre-heat the water and it could time your showers.

People shower every morning, so it’s a great place to create habits or set cues in the AM for certain tasks.

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