Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry so our viewers can learn who is behind the team of the upcoming and leading businesses, organizations, and non-profits in the industry.
This week we would like to introduce Kat Donatello, Founder of Austin and Kat. With over 15 years as an athlete and business leader in the endurance sports industry, Kat set out in 2014 to create a holistic and all natural product that would help her dogs with their health, well-being and various ailments. What started as a project in her home kitchen in Maine, experimenting with various recipes and CBD oils to create a wellness dog biscuit for her pets, quickly blossomed into a small business that was helping not only her animals, but those of friends, and quickly the public.
Fast forward to October 2016, Austin and Kat launched nationally online and in select veterinary clinics and retail locations. The company has continued to expand to many other channels throughout the country in 2017 with the addition of a commercial baking facility in her new hometown of Seattle.
As a single mother of two daughters, Kat maintains balance in her busy life with her love of the sport and physical activity, while still pushing the limits of a startup in the cannabis industry.
In our interview with Kat, we asked her a variety of questions to gain some insight of launching a business in the cannabis industry. She also shared insightful information and advice that we are excited to share with each of you.
Kat, it is an honor having you as this week’s Entrepreneur of the Week, can you please share with our viewers the story behind Austin and Kat?
KD: In 2014, Austin and Kat, was founded in my home kitchen in Maine. I started baking CBD biscuits to help my aging dog and young pup, never thinking it would become a business. My small kitchen became a hive of activity over the next few months and it smelled delicious as different batches of biscuits cooled. Friends popped over to grab some for their dogs and before long I couldn’t walk through town without someone stopping me, wanting some for their dog.
Based on all the feedback from friends, I knew that the treats were making a positive difference and after some encouragement decided to take a leap of faith and started A&K. In building my brand, it was important to continue doing what worked at home. Thus, my biscuits are made-from-scratch with natural and locally sourced ingredients. Made by hand, in small batches, my team is passionate about using real food, no junk or fillers. A good diet is a key to happy and healthy pets. By striving for consistency, accurate dosing, and independent testing we can ensure the utmost efficacy of our products.
Austin and Kat can be found online and carries two products (with others in the works) for small and large dogs. Currently, we are in a limited number of retail stores and veterinary clinics in Washington, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine.
What is one thing that surprised you about being a cannabis entrepreneur?
KD: I was surprised how open my 86 year old dad was to the industry. He was in law enforcement his entire life, and when we speak about the legalization of cannabis his biggest and most relevant comment has been, “finally we can go after the bad guys, now that marijuana is legal!”
And how about the hardest part about founding and running a startup?
KD: Time management. If I can’t get something done in the allotted time, then I need to rethink what the project is.
Thank you for sharing your journey launching Austin and Kat. Can you please share with our viewers the best piece of advice for those who are looking at launching a business in the industry?
KD: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is a new industry and it’s our job to make sure it gets represented in the best light possible and always hold yourself to the highest of standards.
Being an entrepreneur we are bound to make a few mistakes along the way, what is one mistake that also became one of your biggest learning lessons?
KD: My biggest lesson was learning about the dynamics of relationships when working one on one with someone. Just because you like someone personally doesn’t mean professionally your goals will align. And when you see that, you need to be able to take the emotion out of “breakup.”
Do you have a mentor or role model that you look up to?
KD: Within the cannabis industry there are so many people making strides and advances that no one would have thought possible just a few years ago. All of these innovative people have influenced me.
Here in Washington, Chris Abbott and Tim Moxey, are leading the charge in the legal market through their company Botanica. They have maneuvered and hurdled their way through the industry on a daily basis. I am constantly impressed with how they address the intricacies and challenges of legalization.Their drive to create brands and products within a company that is both successful and responsible is essential to the industry.
Outside of the cannabis industry, Leaders in the endurance sports market have guided and motivated me over the past fifteen years. Single mom, Kristin Mayer of Betty Designs, created a company and a powerful brand. Over the past 5 years, she has taught me how to work day to day through the struggles of a startup company and to create a brand of which to be proud.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most rewarding in your entrepreneurial journey.
KD: Since the launching of Austin and Kat building relationships with my customers has been so important. I have gotten to know their pets and their lifestyle intimately in order to best help my clients. I have received feedback that Austin and Kat have not only changed their pet’s life but our product line has also changed their family’s as well. I am gratified with our ever growing returning customer base.
Now let’s go into self-care. How do you stay balanced?
KD: In the last year, I have spent a great deal of time trying to maintain a balance between work, relationships, family, and my body.
As an Ironman triathlete, I know that physical activity is essential for my emotional well being. So I swim, bike and run, and have even recently taken up barre as an adjunct activity. Running has always been crucial to me and since I am relatively new to Seattle, it’s a great way for me to get outside with Austin to see the city and explore.
It’s also important to try to find time each day to focus on quieting my mind. I try to meditate every day and use an app called HeadSpace. Someone once told me, if you are too busy to meditate for 10 minutes, then you need to meditate for 20. Wise words.
Do you have any books that you are currently reading, that you would like to suggest to our viewers?
KD: Currently, I am reading Tim Ferriss’ “Tools of the Titans.” It’s basically the best of the best, you don’t have to read every page in one sitting, you can take something that applies to you today and read it, and go back weeks later and find something entirely different that applies to your here and now. For pleasure, I always have some fictional escape on my Kindle. Right now, it’s Chris Bohjalian’s “The Sleepwalker.”
We believe as entrepreneurs in the industry, it is our duty to help propel the industry in a positive direction. Please share with our viewers more on how you are making a positive impact in the cannabis industry.
KD: I am committed to educating consumers about what a product like mine can do to aid pets and people. An informed client base is essential for the growth and expansion of cannabis and we in the industry must be teachers about its positive usages.
And for our fellow viewers and entrepreneurs, how can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
KD: It’s important for us all to collaborate and educate whenever possible. Reminding once again to be responsible within the industry and do things safely and with intention.
To learn more about Austin and Kat, you can go to https://www.austinandkat.com/
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