LOS ANGELES — Pet supplement shoppers are somewhat of an enigma for the industry at large. These consumers are paying closer attention to product labels, doing more research, and seeking more specific health benefits in products compared to the general pet-owning population. A veterinarian and animal lover at heart, Michelle Dulake, chief executive officer of Fera Pet Organics, recognized this trend as an opportunity to offer consumers holistic supplement formulas with transparency and sustainability in mind.
Although her path from veterinarian to entrepreneur hasn’t always been easy, Dulake shared recent successes for Fera Pet Organics, as well as the end goal of helping keep pets healthy and happy, have certainly been rewarding.
“While entrepreneurship can be challenging, having the perseverance, the determination and the right mindset can help you accomplish incredible things as a woman entrepreneur,” she said.
In the following Q&A, Dulake shares how she co-founded Fera Pet Organics with the help of a dear friend, details challenges and successes seen along the way, and shares her top three pieces of advice for other women leaders.
PFP: Tell us about your business or career in the pet industry.
Dulake: As a veterinarian and pet acupuncturist, I co-founded Fera Pet Organics, a pet supplement brand that crafts effective, clean, and delicious supplements for dogs and cats. Our supplements are made using a unique blend of eastern and western ingredients, which offers a holistic and preventive approach to your pets’ wellbeing. Each of our supplements are tailored to target specific body systems seen in veterinary clinics such as the immune system, skin and coat, digestion, heart, and urinary health.
Our products are manufactured in the United States at FDA-registered, GMP-compliant facilities, and undergo rigorous third-party testing to ensure potency and purity. Moreover, our supplements bear the NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) seal, which guarantees they are made according to industry standards. At Fera Pet Organics, our primary goal is to help keep pets healthy from the inside out, ensuring they can run around free and happy for years to come.
PFP: How did you get your start in the pet industry, and how did that experience lead you to where you are now?
Dulake: I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian ever since I was a little girl. I always had a deep love for animals, especially dogs, which led me to a career in veterinary medicine. In high school, I volunteered at numerous animal hospitals and shelters to gain experience in the field. I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from the University of California, Davis, and worked in research laboratories focusing on understanding how nutrition and bacteria in the gut interact and directly affect the brain and body.
I then attended veterinary school and earned my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. Following veterinary school, I completed an intensive Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. Afterward, I became interested in holistic medicine and pursued acupuncture certification in small animals and graduated from the Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians program sponsored by CVMA, CSU and the OneHealth Scientific Integrative Medicine (SIM) and began practicing acupuncture on dogs and cats.
After building up my clientele in the acupuncture world, I realized that many pet owners wanted more holistic options for their pets. More and more clients would ask me for organic herbs and eastern medicine therapies to supplement with the acupuncture, but I couldn’t find any good options to recommend. Most supplement brands were big corporations that used traditional western medicine ingredients with ineffective dosing and fillers. I wanted more for my patients, so I decided to co-found Fera Pet Organics in 2017 with my friend of over 25 years, Emily Hsu.
We decided to create a clean and natural option for pet owners looking for a holistic approach to their pet’s wellbeing. Each supplement is created with intention and inspired by the medical conditions I would address every day in the veterinary hospital. I custom-formulate each supplement, meaning I am involved from ideation to sourcing ingredients, to visiting and auditing manufacturers, to testing samples, to the launch of each product, and everything in between. I am passionate about providing the most effective and clean supplements to consumers in the simplest way possible. Transparency is the foundation of Fera Pet Organics; we hope that pet owners can trust us to do the hard work for them so they can spend time happily with their pets, knowing they are doing everything they can to keep their pets healthy for as long as possible.
PFP: What has been your biggest challenge — personal or professional — related to your work in the pet industry?
"Women are great at supporting one another, and I'm incredibly grateful for the amazing women in my life who've provided unwavering support as I navigate motherhood and entrepreneurship," Dulake said.
Dulake: My most significant personal challenge has been raising a family while launching a business. Since co-founding Fera in 2017, I’ve been blessed with two adorable daughters, but balancing work and family life has been a constant struggle. Connecting with other female entrepreneurs has been instrumental in my journey, and having a co-founder who is also a mother has been a lifeline. Women are great at supporting one another, and I’m incredibly grateful for the amazing women in my life who’ve provided unwavering support as I navigate motherhood and entrepreneurship.
PFP: Tell me about a professional accomplishment in the pet industry that you are proud of.
Dulake: Our brand was recently acknowledged as an accredited business by the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC), a non-profit organization that champions sustainability efforts in the pet industry. We are honored to be part of the pioneers of this movement and have the opportunity to contribute to significant change. My hope is that sustainability becomes a standard practice in the pet industry, and not just a fad.
PFP: What is top of mind for you and/or your business in the industry right now?
Dulake: We are focusing on our sustainability efforts in our daily decision-making, specifically pertaining to the supply chain (sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, etc.), as well as traceability. We are hoping to have our new website finished this summer, which will allow all of our customers to see where each ingredient is sourced and to see the purity of each raw material.
PFP: If you could pick three trends influencing the industry today, which are the most important and why?
Dulake: The humanization of pets — pets are increasingly viewed as members of the family and are being treated accordingly. This trend has led to a rise in demand for premium pet products, including high-quality foods, luxury accessories, and pet-friendly travel and accommodation options.
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the pet industry. Smart collars, GPS trackers, automated feeders and health monitoring devices are just a few examples of the products that are now available.
Sustainability — consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious and are demanding eco-friendly products. This has led to a rise in demand for sustainable pet products, such as biodegradable poop bags and organic foods, including treats and supplements.
PFP: Just for fun, do you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person? Or, if you have pets of your own, tell us a little bit about them.
Dulake: I am definitely a dog person (but I do love cats). Mainly, I’m a dog person because I love being outdoors and taking my dog, Pippa, on hikes and to the beach, or just walking around town. Pippa was surrendered to a veterinarian and then given to me to foster and eventually adopt. She loves to eat (and happily eats the food my kids drop on the floor) and cuddle. She is the sweetest girl, and I couldn't imagine life without her. She is perfect for our family.
PFP: Any final advice for other women in the pet industry?
Dulake: Build a strong network. Surround yourself with supportive people who can offer guidance, advice, and help you connect with potential customers or partners. Make connections with other women entrepreneurs who are like-minded and can provide support during your journey.
Learn from failure. Failure is part of the journey, and it’s important to learn from your mistakes. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks; instead, see them as opportunities to learn and grow.
Be adaptable. In today’s rapidly changing pet industry, adaptability is key. Stay current with industry trends and be willing to pivot if necessary to stay competitive. Be open to new ideas and approaches, and don't be afraid to take risks.
While entrepreneurship can be challenging, having the perseverance, the determination, and the right mindset can help you accomplish incredible things as a woman entrepreneur.
Michelle Dulake, DVM, chief executive officer of Fera Pet Organics, founded the pet supplement company in 2017. Prior to starting Fera Pet Organics, Dulake served as a veterinarian at various practices across California, including VCA Venice, The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks, Serenity Vet Care in Los Angeles, and Veterinary Medical Center in Studio City. Dulake earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of California in Davis, followed by her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Western University of Health Sciences.
Continue reading about other female leaders featured in our Women in the Pet Industry series.