We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Lunalover and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
As health conscious individuals, we’ve always been mindful of the food we eat. We try to eat local, whole foods that are as fresh as possible. Many years ago it occurred to us that our cats and dogs, who are family to us, also deserved fresh, healthy, real food. It made sense that if they were in the wild and had a choice, they would be eating freshly caught prey and would never in their lifetimes eat the dry, processed foods we had been feeding them. Until then, we had been buying what we thought was the very best dry food on the market. The kind that had meat as the first ingredient, and contained as few byproducts or other evil-sounding ingredients as possible. When we researched raw diets, it just made sense to us to try feeding our cats and dogs some of the commercially available raw foods. After a few weeks on their new diet, we saw noticeable differences in our pets- soft, silky fur, fresher breath and small, odorless poops. We were hooked. We decided to make our own food and invested in a meat grinder so we could make it ourselves using fresh, local meats and vegetables. It seems like just yesterday we were in our kitchen measuring out meats, hoping to not lose a hand in the grinder and figuring out how to make complete and balanced meals for our cats and dog. Once we got good-ish at making food and witnessed our animals thriving, we started sharing our homemade meals with friends and family. We knew there must be other conscientious pet parents out there who wanted real food for their cats and dogs. We believed if we could make it easy and convenient to feed fresh food, they would. From that desire, Rebel Raw was conceived and born.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We started Rebel Raw six years ago, a homemade pet food and e-commerce company. It was a long shot. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing or if it would even work. We decided it was worth trying and in the end, if it didn’t work out, we would at least have food for our pets for a long time. Wanting to keep the initial investment costs low, we bought the minimum amount of equipment necessary to get up and running. We started small, working out of our kitchen, so we could test it out and get a feel for if this was something people wanted. At first, we just made food for friends and family and then we built a website to sell our products to the local Atlanta community. We slowly grew our business over the next several years, working out of our kitchen with a portable meat grinder and adding freezers along the way. In the end, we had a large commercial refrigerator and five freezers lined up along our kitchen wall. It was taking over our house and we had reached the point where we couldn’t expand our business because we hit the capacity to produce and store any more food. Taking the next step was financially risky- leasing a space, build out costs, purchasing commercial equipment and hiring employees. And it was difficult to know exactly what we needed, what costs made sense to incur, and lots of other factors that you just don’t know until you’re in it. We knew we wanted to be close to home, Grant Park, and part of the in-town Atlanta community. That meant a space would be much more expensive but we felt it was worth it over the cost of commuting, both financially and to our souls. We spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to find the right space for our next step. Everything is much more expensive than you want it to be. We tried to get bank loans but banks are not fond of small, family businesses. After a year of looking for a space, in a chance encounter at the box warehouse in the West End, we met someone who had a friend with a space for lease. He said it sounded like it might be what we were looking for. Turns out it was exactly what we had been looking for. It was perfect. It’s never a smooth road. The only road that’s smooth is the safe and easy road and if you’re taking that road, you’re not taking risks. That means you’re following the path someone else has already carved out and you’re missing out on your unique ideas and take on things. You’re also missing out on the learning that comes from failing. For us, we didn’t want to do the same thing that most of the other raw pet food companies do, only offering one size in a big, messy chub of meat. Our whole purpose was to make feeding real food easy and convenient for people so that more cats and dogs can lead healthier and happier lives. So, we had to figure out how to do that. We went through many iterations and spent a lot of money on supplies and equipment we ended up not using. If we had just followed the established model we wouldn’t have the distinctive packaging that we now have and customers love. They tell us all the time how much of a difference it makes and how happy they are with how easy it is. Rebel Raw is an Atlanta based premium pet health brand. Our mission is to make it easy for people to feed their cats and dogs real food. We make a small batch, freshly prepared meals with whole foods. Our food is hand packaged into individual serving sizes and then frozen. We offer delivery to the metro Atlanta area and ship throughout the US. As the consumer market increases for non-processed, all natural food, those same consumers are also purchasing healthier options for their animal companions. By offering pre-portioned meals, subscriptions, and home delivery, we make it simple and easy for people to feed their pets the way nature intended. What sets us apart is our guiding principle of providing exceptional customer experiences. It’s important for us to provide personalized service and make everything easy for our customers. For example, we take a lot of time hand packaging individually sized portions based on the weight of our customers’ cats and dogs so they don’t have to measure out servings. We’re also proud to pay a living wage to our assistants and support many local animal-related charities.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We always take visitors on little walking tours through some of our favorite Atlanta neighborhoods. For example, we take visitors to Cabbagetown- we eat at Petit Chou, or sit outside at Carroll St Cafe, We might grab drinks outside of Milltown Arms Tavern. We’d walk along Wylie St and enjoy the fantastic street art along the CSX wall, the through Krog tunnel, down to Krog St Market. We’d walk through the Cabbagetown neighborhood, which has the cutest houses and check out Flora Fauna, an amazing plant store. We might get on the Beltline then and walk through Reynoldstown, ending up at Muchacho for more food or drinks.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife, Tina has been my biggest supporter.