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Anya Babbitt is the CEO & Co-Founder of Mella Pet Care, which builds accessible technology and diagnostic products for veterinarians and pet parents.

Five questions with Mella Pet Care

25 November 2020

4 minute read

Mella Pet Care builds accessible technology and diagnostic products for veterinarians and pet parents to better understand and keep track of pet health and to help our pets live longer.

Anya Babbitt is the CEO & Co-founder of Mella Pet Care. Her Shih Tzu mix rescue, Mella, is the namesake for the company. As an entrepreneur, Anya has built and exited multiple startups across industries and her work has been recognised by the United Nations, Forbes, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and more. Her speciality is strategic partnerships, deal closing and team building.

Mella Pet Care builds accessible technology and diagnostic products for veterinarians and pet parents to better understand and keep track of pet health and to help our pets live longer. Co-created with veterinarians, Mella is launching in December 2020 the first ever axillary thermometer, measuring temperature under the foreleg, rather than rectally. It’s smartphone-enabled, AI-assisted, with complementary products in development such as their second product, the Biggie body fat scale to address the 60% of overweight and obese pets, tracking the daily body fat of a pet passively, syncing with activity and diets. Preventative pet medicine is now possible with easy to use data-tracking technology.
 

01. What was the inspiration behind your company?

Our founding team has over a decade experience building innovative medical devices. In 2015, we created a pulse oximeter to use at home and later an infrared thermometer for babies. Growing up on a farm with a love for animals and especially later in life after my puppy Mella fell ill, awakened me to the realisation and necessity of how pet parents and vets need greater access to health tracking tools. We have these tools for humans but why not for pets who are just as much a part of our families. The namesake of our company is my rescue dog, Mella. A month after I rescued her, she developed a bad case of kennel cough, though I didn’t know what it was at the time. When Mella started showing symptoms at first, they were subtle and I couldn’t tell if they were serious enough to call the vet.

At the time there was nothing to use but my observations and judgement to make the call. She was lethargic, not eating, not drinking, and then the cough started. She was incubated in a little pod, like from a series of the Jetsons, for what felt like forever and she almost died. Having a thermometer would have helped to rule out potential symptoms and could have saved both Mella and me from the fear and uncertainty surrounding her condition. Mella absolutely hated going to the vet and getting her rectal temperature taken. I wondered why there still wasn’t a better way to not only take temperature at the vet but do so at home to make monitoring our pets easier and fear free. That’s when I gathered up the same team and set out on our new adventure, Mella Petcare: an ecosystem of technology products that will make monitoring our pets’ health better, and easier for all.

02. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since first developing and launching your startup?

It is our turn to shape the future of pet care with like-minded partners who believe the only way to get there is with innovation and product excellence. With this comes the balance of leadership style when our team is diverse not only culturally but also in experience. We believe ethics and nimble learning agility lead to a high performing team but it does require a diverse leadership style for different people and I’ve had to learn how to pivot on demand to drive results. Being sensitive and intuitive is a must. Part of a team working in the same direction is providing leadership with a dose of Emotional Quotient. People want to feel needed, and to feel that their work counts.

When launching a new enterprise, having purpose and feeling good are imperative - more so than mere financial gain. Part of being a leader is taking the lead to drive vision and purpose. When others see you work hard, committed to the goal and committed to them, they want to follow. This means leading with integrity, courage, decision quality and grit.

03. How has the pandemic impacted your company?

We didn't start the company in 2019 with the expectation that COVID-19 would boost pet ownership to record highs and multiply the use of veterinary telehealth. The pandemic has raised awareness for at home technologies that allow us, as humans, to be more resilient and self-reliant. Accelerated by COVID-19, there is an increased need for smart, connected, affordable tools to help both veterinarians and pet owners track the health of pets and improve clinic workflow efficiency. Mella has adapted to the changing demand from both the veterinary and pet parent markets to provide a much needed tool that caters to the socially distanced world we live in, one that acts as a preventative measure towards disease while empowering the pet parent to more deeply understand and triage the wellness of their pet.

04. Tell us about a role model or mentor who has helped you along your journey.

I strongly identify with the story of Francoise Brougher, the former Chief Operating Officer at Pinterest. I have followed her career from the time she led strategy at Google, her commitment to helping companies scale globally to hitting the glass ceiling at Pinterest. She still made time to coach young leaders on finding a balance between home and work life. I watched with admiration as she dared to expose inequities in the workplace around gender diversity and exclusion at Pinterest, detailed in her essay, The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity. She was willing to share her story publicly to bring awareness and exposure to the patterns of inequities in the tech industry and throughout corporate America. She risked her position to advocate for not only herself, but for other women seeking a healthier, more inclusive work environment to achieve excellent business results. I appreciate her sensibility and candor that it’s not just about bringing more women to the table; it is about recognising patterns and stereotypes within organisations to create a culture where women and men are held to the same standards. Ultimately, it’s a transformation of values regarding how women leaders are viewed and treated. Of course, men need to be just as much a part of this conversation as women.

05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?

I share with other women what my mother, a powerful entrepreneur, shared with me early in life: “Never take no for an answer! No means negotiable or simply not now. Don’t see your femininity as a barrier; see it as an advantage because it is.” Women are the most incredible jugglers in the universe with immeasurable superpowers. Know your limits and hire before you are ready so you can run that much faster that much sooner. We hired our team before we could afford to pay ourselves. It will guide you to start looking at your startup as a real business.
 

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