Tay Sijun and Jane Peh, co-founders of The Woof Agency

The Woof Agency is a pet marketing agency connecting pet influencers to brands for campaign opportunities. They have a global presence across 45 countries, with a key focus in the United States and Singapore. Their clients include Aon Insurance, Dyson, Nextle Purina, Crayola, Skechers etc.

1. What’s your story?

Jane: Before the business, my fiancé and I would send each other profiles of dog accounts over Instagram. We became emotionally attached to these dogs and would purchase their branded merch or rent their Airbnb to play with the pups.

Because of my background in advertising, I saw that as an opportunity where pet influencers can really be the next big thing on social media, and that’s how I started The Woof Agency with my fiancé, who is now also my co-founder.

2. What were some of the obstacles that your company faced during its initial years and how did your team overcome it?

We had no money, no technical knowledge, and no experience in the pet’s business. We lived off our savings and bootstrapped the business, using any free resources we could find in the early days. We did things the unscalable way, relying on excel spreadsheets instead of automating it. My co-founder even self-taught and built a custom platform himself. This was until we hit profitability and had sufficient money to start hiring and recently, have our first CTO onboard.

Navaneeth Sreekandan, CTO of The Woof Agency

3. How does your company separate itself from the competitors?

We focus only on pet influencers — so no humans, even if you have 1M followers on social media. We work with pet influencers across the entire spectrum and not just the really famous ones.

Because word-of-mouth is so powerful when it comes to pet product & service recommendation amongst pet owners, even your everyday social media accounts can be the lead-in for sales.

4. Name 1 most memorable learning experience of your entrepreneurial journey.

We packed goodie bags with pet products (some bought, some sponsored) to gift the first 100 Singapore-based pet influencers we have under our network. It was crazy logistics because we had to ensure their breed (canine vs. feline vs. small animals vs. birds) and their allergies (if any), their mailing address, contact details, etc. In the end, we hand-delivered to their homes as some were too expensive to courier. We also wrote personalized handwritten cards for them, working till 5am every day for 2 weeks leading up to Christmas.

5. What do you think should be the most important characteristic for a startup and its team to possess?

Passion. Amongst the founding team, we love pets and I own a dog with my co-founder. Talking to pet owners, discussing pet products (e.g. I spent an hour talking to a client on the different types of cat litter), learning the pain points of pet ownership etc. I think I luck out to be able to work for my passion, and even our best employee is a pet influencer under our network who wrote in to ask if we were hiring any interns.

It is really important to have a deep passion and not to start a business just because you think you “like” the industry. You need to live it.

6. What are you working on right now that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Millennials are gravitating towards pets and the whole industry is growing so fast, with pet owners demanding and spending so much more on their pets, and this is only the beginning.

We are working on some new features and really re-imagining pet ownership. There’s going to be a whole bunch of cool stuff coming up that is really going to change and shape how pet ownership will be in the next 3–5 years. It has never been a better time to bet on the pet’s industry than now.

7. What is your company’s three-year plan? Any market expansion plan in the pipeline?

Yes, it has always been in the plan to expand beyond the Singapore market and this is definitely in 2020’s pipeline. I think you can expect a lot more than just influencers from us in the next 3 years as we scale beyond being just an “agency”.

8. How does a pet influencer’s marketing strategy differ from that of a human influencer?

Because pet owners are buying products for their pets and not themselves, they tend to demand more and really scrutinize the e.g. ingredient list as opposed to how humans would not really do that for food products they consume. As pets can’t talk and make their own decisions, I feel that pet owners are more cautious about their purchases. For our long-term clients, we do a lot of market research and user feedback to generate key insights to make data-driven decisions that translate into the influencer marketing campaign. We are also doing a lot more storytelling with our campaigns these days instead of blatant product placement, and all these needs data/information when we craft the narrative.

9. What changes do you foresee in the pet influencers industry, both short term and long term?

In the United States, a lot of non-pet related brands (e.g. Toyota, Nike, Crayola) are recognizing the value and high engagement pets bring for their campaigns which gives rise to a much more developed landscape within pet influencers. APAC has always been a little slower and risk-averse when it comes to new trends, but I foresee a lot more brands becoming more receptive to pet influencers. This is especially since millennials are going to be the main workforce in the next decade and a lot of them tend to include pets in their purchase consideration journey.