AUSTIN, TEXAS — The inspiration behind A Pup Above is rooted in a dog mom’s desire to feed her pup the best food possible. For Ruth Stedman Marriott, co-founder and chief executive officer, this meant creating a new brand of gently cooked dog food that would not only benefit her own four-legged family member, but boost the health and happiness of dogs far and wide. Since its inception in 2020, A Pup Above has grown rapidly to offer a full suite of air-dried and fresh meals, all made “by dog parents, for dog parents.”

“Having a great idea is always part of starting a business, but more important is getting the right people, who share your values and mission, to pioneer your business,” she said.

In the following Q&A, Marriott Stedman shares why she believes humanization and transparency are fueling the pet food industry’s — and her human-grade dog food brand’s — future, and imparts advice for her fellow entrepreneurs.


PFP: Tell us about your business or career in the pet industry.

Stedman Marriott: My husband and I founded A Pup Above in 2020 for our pup, Lola Marie. When we got Lola, we didn’t want to feed her kibble due to the high amount of carbohydrates and the highly processed nature of the food. We tried feeding her a raw diet, but she didn’t like it, so that got us cooking for her and wondering why gently cooked food wasn’t something we could find in pet stores in Texas — keep in mind this was back in 2016. We wanted something that Lola would love to eat and that we’d feel good about feeding her. Since we couldn’t find anything that met all our needs, we decided to launch A Pup Above. Fast forward to today, and the business is growing quickly. We’re in 2,000-plus doors and have 18 full-time employees on our journey to change dog food for good.


PFP: What has been your biggest challenge — personal or professional — related to your work in the pet industry?

Stedman Marriott: As outsiders coming into the pet industry, there were certain things we didn’t know that allowed us to do things differently. Not having preconceived ideas about what’s always been done in the industry allowed us to come in eyes wide open and build something we wished was available for ourselves when we first got Lola.


PFP: Tell me about a professional accomplishment in the pet industry that you are proud of.

Stedman Marriott: We are proud of the success we’ve had in growing the gently cooked category and the brand in a short period of time across pet stores. Particularly, we’re extremely grateful for the people who have joined our company and our journey to bring healthier and more transparent food to pups around the country. It takes a village.


PFP: If you could pick the top trends influencing the industry today, which are the most important and why?

Stedman Marriott: For me there are two major trends. No. 1 is the humanization of dogs. This is driving a lot of the push toward fresh food for dogs. Pup parents want to feed their dogs similarly to how they’d feed the rest of their family, resulting in them being more curious about what goes into their dog’s food and wanting less processed options.

No. 2 is transparency. Along with wanting less processed food, dog parents want more transparency in what goes into their dog’s food so they can feel confident they are setting them up to live the longest life possible.


PFP: What advice would you give to young people starting their careers in this industry?

Stedman Marriott:: Having a great idea is always part of starting a business, but more important is getting the right people, who share your values and mission, to pioneer your business. It’s having the right people that will make your vision a successful reality.


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. 

Stedman Marriott: I love both, and I grew up with both. They have very different personalities and levels of independence but are equally great cuddlers.

Ruth Stedman Marriott founded A Pup Above in 2020 with her husband, Javier Marriott. Before starting the brand, Marriott Stedman held various communications, marketing, merchandising and strategy roles with CPG companies including Honeywell and Walmart. She also previously served as a consultant for two startups based in Austin, Texas. Stedman Marriott earned her bachelor’s degrees in international relations and economics from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a Master of Business Administration from the Texas McCombs School of Business.

Continue reading about other female leaders featured in our Women in the Pet Industry series.