Dog lovers unite! Social enterprise founder Michael McTeigue explains his goal of eliminating the euthanising of all rescue dogs within the next three years, and remortgaging his home to make it happen.
- Business name: SavourLife
- Industry: Pet food
- Number of employees: 7
- Operating since: 2013
- Location: Sydney, NSW
What was your first paid job?
I took the returned videos and entered them into the computer on a Sunday night at the local video store.
What made you get into your current business?
I worked in some large corporations both in the US (which is where I studied) and here at home in Australia. I had been fortunate enough to have some incredibly good jobs and worked with some unbelievably smart people and leaders. I’ve been very lucky.
At some point though, I began to question that career path. Was that going to be my contribution back to society, the sum total of all the opportunities I had worked for throughout my life? About the same time, someone asked me an innocent question about what I would do if I didn’t have to work and I replied, “Help rescue dogs.”
It started me thinking that I could apply all the business experience I had gained to do something better. It was also, selfishly, to look back and think I had done something that mattered with my opportunities. Soon after that, I re-mortgaged our house to start SavourLife!
How did you get your very first customer?
Cold calling. I had no experience or contacts in the industry but believed strongly we had a great proposition. We landed our first order on our first day!
What has been your biggest triumph in business?
We have achieved so much more than I thought was going to be possible. SavourLife is what’s called a social enterprise: a business that exists to help a social cause. We make natural food and treats for dogs and donate 50 per cent of our profits to small, volunteer-run rescue groups.
We’ve set ourselves a massive goal that by the end of 2022, no adoptable dog will be euthanised in Australia. It seems a bit crazy to think we can achieve that, but if you had asked me when I started SavourLife six years ago would we have donated over $1 million and helped more than 6,000 dogs, I would have thought that was crazy too. But here we are, we’ve done that, and now it’s time to aim higher!
Conversely, what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
Like all businesses, we’ve had our uh-oh moments. We had one that very nearly took us under at the start. I didn’t understand packaging printing very well when we started. It made me realise that I had to know everything about our business: Not to do everything in our business, but understand every part enough to ask challenging questions, to get the best result.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t die wondering, “What if...”
Who do you look up to in business and why?
Generally, to other social enterprises. I see the changes to the world that they are creating through their business models. It’s a great movement to be a part of.
What do you do to get away from work?
I walk my two rescue dogs. We have a three-legged Staffy Cross, Missy, and a Labrador, Max. People always want to know Missy’s background, so it’s a great opportunity to tell them how great rescue dogs are and how they can adopt them easily through our new Adopt-A-Dog platform, on the SavourLife website.
What is the best thing you have ever spent money on in your business (and why)?
Our people. Without them we are nothing. They all share a massive belief in what we do, which helps drive the engine of our company.
Name a little-known fact about yourself.
I was a decent enough tennis player to go to university on a tennis scholarship, which is why I ended up in the US. It was an incredible experience!
Main image: Michael is pictured with his wife Kim and two dogs, Missy and Max.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.