How a Rescue Dog Inspired the Creation of Mexico's Leading Online Pet Supply Store
Jim Magats, SVP Omni Payments
Over the past year, as shelter-in-place mandates continued, many people saw the increased time spent at home as an opportunity to get a pet. Data shows that during the pandemic, the percentage of pet adoptions grew across many countries, as people spent more time at home and looked for companions. Even for me personally, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my home office with my dogs Vito and Rex.
With the rise in “Pandemic Pets,” pet supply purchases grew significantly and many pet supply businesses, including Mexico-based online pet supply store Croquetero, saw fantastic growth. Through its innovative use of digital technology and dedication to social responsibility, Croquetero achieved triple digit revenue growth in 2020 and doubled the size of its active customer base.
We recently caught up with Gabriel Porteny, Croquetero’s founder and CEO, to hear more about his business, how his life changed when he found Shanti, his beloved rescue dog, and his advice for other entrepreneurs.
Jim Magats: Can you share a bit of background about your business and how you started it?
Gabriel Porteny: I founded Croquetero in 2013, pioneering the pet product online shopping segment in Mexico. We are a digitally-led, direct-to-consumer brand, focused on generating a recurrent customer base. We do this by offering a subscription-based service catered to the size, weight and life stage of our customers’ pets.
After completing an MBA at UNC Chapel Hill, I returned home to Mexico, with the conviction to start a business that would have a positive impact on our society. It was then, when driving on a highway in the middle of nowhere, I found Shanti, a stray dog whose destiny changed when I rescued her and gave her a home. This experience led me to research the stray animal problem, which taught me an incredible incongruity: Although an estimated 70% of total dogs and cats in Mexico are stray, pet retailers make millions every year selling breed animals in their stores.
This inspired me to create a business that could give back, a business that could help give much needed support to independent shelters in need, while also bringing awareness to our community regarding the importance of pet adoption. This is the basis of Croquetero’s mission and its socially responsible program "Tu Mascota Alimenta a Otra Mascota," which generates pet food donations with every purchase made. To date, the program has generated more than 1 million meals in donations to support thousands of rescued dogs and cats that live in more than 20 independent animal shelters in Mexico.
JM: Many people have adopted pets during the pandemic. Have you seen a rising need for pet food and other pet supplies due to this trend? What products are selling the most and how has your personalized service been impacted?
GP: There is no question that the pandemic has caused an increase in people buying or adopting pets. Mexico is a country where around 7 out of 10 homes have a pet. With 20 million dogs and 7 million cats, there are more pets than kids under 9 years of age. Online shopping has become more relevant as a channel, increasing from 5% to 9% of the total retail sales in Mexico. The combination of these developments has caused a new wave of online shoppers looking for all types of products for their pets, with food being the leading category as a recurrent need, but more cross-selling opportunities as the segment becomes more specialized. Customers have become more curious about products across all of our categories, and we've seen an increase in items per order over the last year.
JM: What lessons have you learned over the past year that you're planning on applying to your business moving forward?
GP: Because we carry a catalog of over 5,000 products, I learned the importance of continually training our staff to offer qualified advice on the ideal products for our customers' pets. Today, more than ever, pet owners have the time and interest to provide care for their pets. Thus, they’re asking more questions about the impact that a product will have on their pet's well-being. Going forward, we will continue to strengthen our one-on-one approach to customer service.
In addition, technology has also become a core capability for our company. It has allowed us to scale our personalized approach to doing business and measure the performance of our team even while working from home. We will continue to rely heavily on technological developments to ensure operating issues are detected early on and to enable our business as an attractive employer for the growing segment of job seekers looking for home office opportunities.
And of course, we will continue leveraging PayPal’s trusted payment and commerce tools that give customers more choice, and makes the payment experience easier.
JM: Can you share how PayPal has helped your business?
GP: PayPal has been a key partner to our business from day one. In our early stages, PayPal was already an identified brand that provided the trust needed for our customers to complete transactions on our site. Today, we work hand-in-hand with PayPal's Customer Success Team to jointly provide unique offers to its customer base. We are fully integrated with PayPal's payment processing solutions and use conversion driving tools like PayPal Checkout. And PayPal is crucial to our successful checkout user experience strategy. Furthermore, in a country where payment fraud is a constant threat to any online shopper, being able to count on PayPal Seller Protection gives us peace of mind and allows us to process orders like no other payment processing partner does.
JM: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or people looking to start their own business?
GP: Know that the road will almost never be easy. Make sure you identify your weaknesses early on so that you have the foresight to surround yourself with friends, advisors, partners or team members that complement your skillset and that you can listen and learn from.