Civil society activists often provide help to stray animals, but can this socially beneficial activity have a business edge to it? Creators of the “Mops Shmops” project, who are taking part in the Biz4all social entrepreneurship school, are convinced that it can. Natalia Bublei and Vitaly Paulahradsky offer home made high-quality healthy dog treats. All the ingredients are certified for human consumption and have a vet’s seal of approval. Natalia and Vitaly plan to send 10% of the profits to support animal rights organizations. When they need to expand their work, the couple will employ people with disabilities.
Biz4all “Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme is organized by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University, with financial support from the European Union.
“Mops Shmops” provokes interest not only with its curious name, but also with its very essence and the underlying idea. In the summer of last year, when Vitaly was browsing through news articles online, he saw that a company called "Poodle Strudel” launched in Moscow, selling cakes (with meat or fish filling) for dogs and cats. "We thought that Minsk had nothing similar to offer, but that there was a steady trend towards healthy eating. If people take note of what they are eating themselves, they are likely to start watching what their pets eat as well”, says Vitaly.
Natalia Bublei (on the left) and Vitaly Paulahradsky (on the right), project "Mops Shmops” at the training Biz4all-2, Minsk, 13-14.01.2018 Photo by: Vitaly Brazousky
Natalia adds: "With our dog desserts, we would like to not just provide the dogs with tasty and healthy food, but also change the way their owners think about dog meals in general. Dogs must not be given food off the table, like sausage, muffins or cheese. Such foods are harmful to the pet’s health. At the same time, the owners, of course, want to pamper their beloved pets, and this is why we conceived "Mops Shmops".
Healthy biscuits and muffins
The primary reason why “Mops Shmops” dog desserts are unique is because they are made of exclusively natural ingredients. The couple purchase all the ingredients in a regular shop and use no chemical additives in the process. Their home-made dog biscuits have a shelf life of a week to a month, depending on dog size, dog breed and the treat components. The menu includes meat biscuits, as well as some veggie options. 100 grams of cookies or a muffin cost about 4 to 5 BYN. The recipes are not standardized, so if your pet prefers some products to others, you can ask the company to add them to the treat.
Healthy dog desserts by “Mops Shmops” Photo: official Facebook page
In September 2017, the team took part in the Social Weekend Hackathon and went through to the final of the main competition, which allowed them to raise funds for the project and make useful new acquaintances. The decision to apply to the Biz4all “Social Entrepreneuship Incubator” was made, as Vitaly and Natalia say, because they wanted to take sales seriously, launch their own online shop and organize a crowdfunding campaign.
Their Biz4all mentor is Masha Charakova, a social entrepreneur from the Netherlands. Natalia describes the experience: “We loved the lean canvas session and the following home assignment. Even though we already had a business plan, the lean canvas helped us take a different look to some of its aspects. At the moment we are conducting polls as part of our home task. We are really looking forward to the session on marketing”.
First “shmops” and then “mops”
|Blinky the Pug and a turkey and cream cheese cupcake by “Mops Shmops” Photo: official Facebook page|
The couple have always cared about the fate of shelter animals. However, last summer, when they started the project, they did not have a dog of their own. Natalia says that she has always dreamt about a large dog, but when a brainstorming exercise gave birth to the name “Mops Shmops” ("mops" means "pug" in Russian), they started to read a lot about the animal and gradually fell in love with it. The first pug, which is now the face of their brand, was Erica. Natalia describes her newly found passion: “Pugs are very different from other dogs in their behaviour, they are their human’s companion in every sense of the word: they are always close to their owner and follow them literally everywhere”.
Crowdfunding: Helping Specific Pugs
A while ago, Vitaly and Natalia had in their care a five-year-old pug called Mozart. When volunteers took the dog away from the breeder, it was in very poor health. “He had troubles with his eyes and nose, so he had to have an operation. At the moment, Mozart is on a special veterinary nutrition regimen, but the biggest problem is that he is missing one leg and needs a prosthetic, which cannot be purchased in Belarus”.
When “Mops Shmops” was launched as a business, one of its main goals was to help other animals at risk. That is why the couple are now thinking about launching their own crowdfunding campaign with a two-fold: sell biscuits on a pre-order basis and thus explore the existing demand, and use part of the profits to buy a prosthetic for Mozard the Pug. In case they still have extra money, it will be used to help other animals in similar situations.
Packaging of the healthy dog biscuits by “Mops Shmops” Photo: official Facebook page
Future plans of “Mops Shmops” include producing dog cakes: they are going to be impressive and slick, but instead of sweets they will consist of meat, vegetables and fish. The street fair season is looming ahead, so Natalia and Vitaly have already established partnerships with events for dog owners, where they will be able to raise brand awareness among the public and check whether healthy dog desserts are actually in demand in Minsk.
Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.