What local business looks like now - Brindle Pet Supplies
Curbside pick-up and home delivery were always key features for Brindle Pet Supplies when Bret Nederlof and Megan Oshust developed their business plan in the Summer of 2019. The market they had planned to enter would shift significantly just a month after they launched, but Bret and Megan have stayed committed to their vision.
Bret Nederlof (Business Administration Diploma, 2011) and Megan Oshust grew up in the small business world, as both grew up in families of independent small business owners. At the same time, these young alumni are adept creatives, digital natives and comfortable social media marketers. Bret has a Business Administration Diploma with a Marketing concentration; Megan started her post-secondary journey at RDC, but went on to receive a Marketing Diploma from NAIT. This unique and shared experience gave them a particular perspective when starting their own small business: bringing the convenience and ease of online shopping to customers who appreciate the sense of community that only local businesses can build.
Brindle Pet Supplies is a natural extension of their passions for pets, animals in need, and community. “We both went to RDC and we both grew up here in Red Deer. We love this city and we want to see it thrive,” says Megan. Brindle is named in honour of Charlie, their past rescue pup, while their newest rescue, Cali, serves as greeter in the brick and mortar storefront to those customers who want to shop in person. Both Bret and Megan volunteer often with Saving Grace Animal Society, doing everything from dog walking to kennel care. “It’s always different, it’s always chaotic and it’s always rewarding, because there are so many animals with different needs. It’s something that we’re very passionate about,” says Bret.
It was with these joint objectives in mind that Bret and Megan created Brindle Pet Supplies. They developed a beautiful and sophisticated website that would create convenient easy shopping for pet parents. They serve their online customers with the same attention to detail that customers appreciate from local, mom-and-pop shops. By using modern tools, they can get to know their pet customers more quickly, and add personal touches like birthday boxes, even for new customers. “The online format gives us the time and space to do these personal touches well, like recording sensitivities and allergies, so that we can make great recommendations, and ensure that Welcome boxes, free samples and treats are something that pets will really enjoy,” says Megan. Into the online store, they built methods of donating food or funds to local animal shelters. As a business, they support fundraising events and activities and Brindle donates 5% of all profits to local shelters and sanctuaries. From nose to tail, Brindle Pet Supplies marries the best of online shopping with the best of locally owned small business.
The challenges Brindle faced during COVID-19, then, were in stark contrast to their competitors. While others were racing to move their business online, Brindle was already there. At the same time, Bret and Megan had designed a business plan which filled a specific gap. “When we came up with the idea, we knew that there were businesses like ours in larger centres, and that it was something that appealed to us as pet owners – online shopping, automated reorders and delivery – but there wasn’t anyone in our area that was really doing this,” says Bret.
In mid-March, when the Governments of Alberta and Canada began recommending self-isolation and discouraging in-person shopping, Brindle was already running a sophisticated online store, offering curbside pick-up and free delivery. What they couldn’t have foreseen was the breadth of competitors who would suddenly prioritize entering the corner of the market that they had identified.
“The COVID emergency situation presented some challenges, but it also helped to change the way that people shop,” says Bret. Local retail landscapes moved online, including many independently owned small businesses, which hadn’t had online presence in the past. “COVID definitely opened people’s eyes to shopping more online, and helped people understand and accept that, just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s not still local. That an online store can still be an independently owned company,” adds Megan. “It’s a very competitive market, but we’re really proud to be one of few independently owned pet supply stores in Red Deer, and to be offering something unique to Central Albertans.”
“I think that growing up in Red Deer, there are many ups and downs because of our key industries like farming and oil and gas. We have an attitude sort of engrained in us, when we’ve grown up here, that there’s going to be ups and downs, you’re going to face challenges, and to just persevere,” says Bret. “I think that’s somewhat engrained in RDC as well, and in getting an education there: at times it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be easy, it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be tough, just keep going.”