Profile of a WINner: Emily LagasseI recently sat down with one of The Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab’s participants, Emily Lagasse M’15 to discuss her business, FedWell pet foods. Emily was recently named the winner of the 2013 Female Entrepreneurship Challenge at the Annual Women’s Business Conference.
Tell me about your business idea.
FedWell brings home-cooked, preservative-free dog food to market in a convenient format. Unlike traditional dog food that is made from poor quality ingredients and is heavily processed, FedWell takes homecooked recipes and bakes them at low temperatures to preserve nutrients. Our food is made from the highest quality ingredients, is grain, soy, corn and GMO free and is also free of synthetic materials (like added vitamins and minerals).
When was your light bulb moment?
After adopting my dog while serving in the Peace Corps in Africa and bringing him back to America, I noticed that he began to suffer from a host of medical issues from the common packaged dog food that was on the market. Finally, when I was at a loss of what to do to rectify the situation, I was sitting down with my boyfriend at a coffee shop and saw a flyer for learning to cook for your dog. Since I’m very conscious of what I eat and put in my body, I wanted to do the same for my dog. So, I started to take classes on how to cook for my pup and realized that if I can bring home cooked recipes to the masses, I can make a real impact with canine health.
What drew you to the WIN Lab?
I was drawn to the WIN Lab by the opportunity to work with other female Babson students (undergrad and graduate), like-minded people and to have a support system while launching FedWell.
What do you think the future of women entrepreneurship looks like?
Until the WIN Lab, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet and get to know too many other women entrepreneurs. That said, when I was recently at the Female Entrepreneurship Challenge, I was competing against nine other women entrepreneurs. I was blown away with how educated and passionate these women were and felt like, if this is the future of women entrepreneurship, we’re all set.
Who is your “shero”?
Kris Carr. She is a health and wellness advocate and entrepreneur. Kris was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and after going into remission, she is now spreading awareness and education about health and wellness. She is making a huge impact and is an amazing role model.
What has you jumping out of bed in the morning?
I love to meet new people and love the fact that each day is different and I am able to learn something new. Especially in recent weeks, I am really excited to get my product on the shelves.
What’s one thing that could help take your business to the next level?
Education and awareness are my biggest need. I am constantly approached by people who are interested in healthy food for their dog, but educating the public and making them aware of what their dogs are eating is most important.
What’s your greatest thing that you’ve gotten out of the WIN Lab?
For me, it’s the support and backing, not only from colleagues, but also from the WIN members, as well as the Entrepreneurs in Residence. At WIN, there is always someone I can talk to, share ideas and work together with. The best part is knowing that I have the support of other women, that they have my back and are willing to help when challenges arise as well as to celebrate when I have successes.
Do you have advice for other aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Many women tend to be perfectionists and want to do everything themselves. In addition, we dream of starting large successful business and get discouraged when this doesn’t come right away. Start small, get your product to market as quickly and cheaply as possible (without damaging your brand) and learn and grow from there. Of course I dream of having a nationally distributed pet food line one day, but I am starting with small packaging, in small stores at farmers markets, etc. My advice is to start small and not to get discouraged.
Created by Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL), WIN Lab is a year-long residency program for women students that accelerates the entrepreneurial path from ideation to prototype. Learn more about WIN Lab.