Deborah Meaden on BetterWithPets and barriers to business

Deborah Meaden answers questions on Purina's BetterWithPets initiative and on starting out in business...

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Bryn Glover - Startups
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Do you have a business idea focused on making the most out of the bond between humans and their pets?

Purina has launched BetterWithPets as an initiative to help you.

Purina is working with Ashoka to find new businesses that use the pet, human bond to improve society; just like in other areas, new business is one of the best places to introduce new, creative solutions that can provide positive momentum for both individuals and communities.

This year marks the second time that Purina’s BetterwithPets Prize has been open, and once again, they’re looking for social innovations at both the early and idea-stage that are focused on the powerful benefits that pets can offer. At idea-stage, the competition is specifically aimed at young innovators from 18 to 25 years old

Accessible across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, the 2020 Prize application process opened on the 25th of November and will close on the 28th January 2020. Enter here to have a chance to win.

Deborah Meaden is ambassador for Medical Detection Dogs, one of the finalists of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize in 2019.

Passionate about the powerful role that the pet-human bond can play for both individuals and communities, Meaden spoke to about the competition this year and about starting a business.

Could you tell us a little bit about the competition? What’s the idea, and why are you passionate about it?

The prize is now in its second year and sets out to recognise those inspiring examples of human/animal bond programmes changing lives for the better, to encourage innovation and to celebrate and harness the special relationship between animals and their humans to impact society in a positive way.

“I first heard about the prize through @medicaldetectiondogs, a charity very close to my heart and who received a prize last year. I was delighted to be asked to be involved in a competition which combines the things I hold very dear…innovation, entrepreneurship and of course animals.”

What kind of business might want to apply? Is there anything specific that you’re looking for specifically?

This year there are two new categories, piloted/implemented innovations and ideas stage innovations which will hopefully attract commercial and not for profit organisations but also young Entrepreneurs and Inventors.

“The application process for the Purina BetterwithPets Prize is open until 28 January 2020 and offers social and commercial enterprises, non-profit entities, organisations and young innovators working to harness the special relationship between animals and their humans to impact society in a positive way.”

How did you get involved with Medical Detection Dogs?

My husband Paul and I were fortunate to be invited to watch the Medical Detection Dogs at work and were astounded by the speed and accuracy with which they carried out their detection. It was also clear they were having a thoroughly good time.

“We were then able to meet some of the people whose lives had been changed by these wonderful animals. Anyone who has seen this work will understand how and why I wanted to become engaged. It is important work they do and in an intelligent, constructive way.”

Medical Detection Dogs are one part of a huge (and growing) industry; have you noticed any other trends in the pet market/s since becoming an ambassador for them?

Technology unsurprisingly sits at the top of the list but the important thing is to understand which sectors of technology. Anything associated with health, personal health tracking, diagnosis etc is a great area to get into. Virtual reality in terms of gaming and possibly even travel will become even more mainstream.

“Changes in our diet and the pressures on the planet will drive the need for changes in the food Industry. I also see a shift towards repairing, reusing and recycling particularly in the fashion industry. Lots of Opportunities!”

As a successful business person, what do you see as the biggest barriers to business for modern startups and prospective entrepreneurs?

I think the funding climate in 2020 will be difficult for many sectors and particularly the charity sector. There are still many uncertainties around and people will be more careful with their money. This means charities are going to have to be very clear and smart with their messages.

“This is also why competitions such as Purina BetterWithPets are so important, both in terms of winning a share of the £90,000 prize but also in terms of wider exposure.”

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone starting a business, what would it be?

Work out why your customers love you and whatever you deliver, keep that ethos at your heart. Customers should understand your business personality and behaving outside of that will disrupt the relationship.”

Written by:
Bryn Glover - Startups
Bryn Glover has been Editor of since 2017. Running the site's content strategy, Bryn spends a lot of time speaking to entrepreneurs and preparing for Startups' annual editorial campaigns. Having worked in journalism for just under a decade, Bryn wrote for sites like The Times, Reader's Digest, Independent and Times Higher Education before moving into the small business world.
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