On Episode 13 of Steve Harvey’s Funderdome, Dr. Joe J. Owens pitched his product, Enjoy-A-Bowl, in the Funderdome. On the show, entrepreneurs pitch in a head-to-head competition to “The Funderdome” (a live studio audience) for the chance to win up to $100K in capital. The pitch that gets the most votes wins the money. Before the winner is announced, both competitors get the chance to “cash out” for a lower sum of money.
Brandon Andrews: How does Enjoy-A-Bowl keep pets safe and satisfied?
Dr. Joe J. Owens: Enjoy-A-Bowl helps keep pets safe and satisfied by its patent-pending bowl design. It’s a three-part feeding system that allows pet owners to entice their pet’s powerful and unique sense of smell to stimulate their appetite. First, the pet owner simply heats up a small piece of table food (poultry, beef, fish, apple pie, etc.) to stimulate the aroma. Next, once the desired aromatic intensity is achieved, the small portion of food is placed into the bottom dish. The top dish is separated by a middle filter that is designed to allow the aroma from the bottom dish to aerate directly into your pet’s veterinary approved diet located in the top dish. Lastly, Bon appétit! In a matter of moments, the routine pet food that your pet has grown bored of is now transformed into a new and exciting meal every time! Enjoy-A-Bowl truly allows you to spoil your pet without all of the harmful side effects of consuming table food.
There is nothing more rewarding than watching your pet enjoy each and every meal while knowing they are out of harm’s way. A pet is only as safe and as satisfied as their pet owner allows them to be. Enjoy-A-Bowl is the innovative solution to pets eating healthy, while simultaneously educating the pet community on the importance of not directly and indirectly feeding pets human food. Enjoy-A-Bowl can ultimately increase the quality of life for all pets worldwide.
Why shouldn’t pets eat human food? How big of a problem is this?
Pets are considered to be family members in many homes across the country. Our pets live indoors (often sleep in the same bed as their owner), ride “shotgun” on car rides, and wear the latest trends in pet accessories. Some pets are even considered “public figures” over social media with millions of followers and endorsements! With all the hype, cute faces, and unconditional love that these pets share throughout the world—it seems pet owners are determined to love them back through human food.
Unfortunately, our tiny counterparts honestly cannot handle human food like we can. Our physical make-ups are way too different. Like people, every pet is different. What works for one pet, might not work for another pet. Feeding pets human food predisposes pets to diabetes, pancreatitis, IBS, gastritis, enteritis, obesity, kidney, liver and heart disease. Although these issues arise most often in smaller pets, these medical conditions will not discriminate and can equally harm larger pets.
This is a huge problem because of the following example of a typical pet household. Pets and people develop relationships of habit. Your smaller dogs (under 30lbs) likes to sit around the house and beg their owner(s) for food. Commercial breaks become team-feeding sessions and before you know it, your “spoiled” pet is refusing to eat his/her routine pet food because there isn’t any human food in it. The owner now decides to mix chicken, steak, etc. with their pet’s meal daily (this is equivalent to ordering an entrée and eating at the buffet every day). The pet appears to be happy and healthy to the owner because they correlate eating their overzealous meal with love and providing their pet with the best food. Huge mistake. One human year is equal to seven pet years (cat/dog).
When pets are fed improperly, their organs are under constant work overload. This often results in vomiting/diarrhea, abdominal pain, and severe discomfort. Poor eating habits have potentially created long-term health issues that the pet and pet owner now have to deal with and often end up in premature euthanasia due to limited owner finances and/or the intense level of pet suffering.
Enjoy-A-Bowl was created to help solve multiple food-related issues between pets and pet owners. As a veterinarian, I am constantly educating pet owners on proper nutrition and healthcare, which is actually a very sensitive subject. Many owners feel obligated to cook for their pets for various reasons and from that, dietary issues can arise acutely or chronically. Even with proper education and preaching until I’m blue in the face, the client doesn’t understand how bad it is until it’s an issue (vomit/diarrhea/overweight/etc.). The “I told you so” scene became way too redundant and I knew there had to be a better way.
How did you develop the product? Did you start with a sketch?
My 7-year-old Australian Shepard mix, Que (pronounced “Q”), inspired the idea one morning while I was eating some left-over pasta for breakfast. Que knows better than to beg me for table food but as he gets older, I’ve noticed him becoming more finicky about eating his routine food. This particular morning, he began to sniff the aroma from my pasta for at least two minutes, as if he were trying to sniff the air long enough to capture the smell directly in his nose. He then went straight over to his routine kibble and ate his food as if he were eating the pasta. The light bulb immediately came on and I started my research and development (R&D) phase.
My initial objective was to establish proof of concept. First, I took two small plastic food storage containers and drilled a series of holes in the bottom of one. Next, I placed some cooked chicken and steak in the bottom container and stacked the container with the holes in the bottom on top of the chicken and steak. Then, I placed Que’s routine kibble in the top container and watched him demolish his food with extreme enjoyment. I tried this several other times with other pets, and realized it even worked extremely well with cats! I tried different genres of food for aromatherapy and recognized the wide range of effective stimulants and how they vary from pet to pet.
Next, the goal was to come up with a suitable design that allows the pet to enjoy the smell without getting to the human food that we are trying to protect them from. I sketched out 10 different variations of the bowl on paper and wrote down 100-200 names. The sketches were then transformed into 3-D CAD designs, which progressed to 3-D printed functional models that converted into BPA-free, plastic injection molded products. Several patents, logos and trademarks later, Enjoy-A-Bowl was created!
How did you feel pitching your business in the Funderdome? How did you prepare for the pitch?
I felt very excited and proud to pitch Enjoy-A-Bowl in the Funderdome! The two producers I worked with were great, and walked me through a lot of the prep work. The crowd was electric and Mr. Steve Harvey truly makes anyone feel comfortable in any setting. Mr. Harvey’s personality is super chill, which helps during the “question and answer” portion of the show. Very funny guy! Since Funderdome is a brand new show and concept, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. There wasn’t any set template to flow from, so I had no choice but to be myself and hope for the best—and I have a pretty big personality.
The entire objective of the Funderdome is to impress the random audience enough for them to vote for you. Your product can be a stick that cures cancer but if the audience doesn’t like you then you won’t get enough votes to win and get your business funded. As I prepared my pitch, I had to make sure that it was engaging, entertaining, educational, simple to understand, and fun. My pitch had to speak to the audience and not at them. I wanted to come off as relatable and not an obnoxious “know it all.”
I practiced in the mirror and pitched it several times to my friends and staff who keep things brutally honest with me. My mindset was, win or lose, your business will get plenty of exposure, branding, and marketing opportunities, along with a great experience. Plus, how often do you get to meet Steve Harvey?!
Give us a post-show update. How do you plan to grow your business in 2017?
During the show, I only had a couple of functional prototypes and was in the process of making strides toward mass production. Since then, I have established tooling connections in China, manufacturing in USA, created BPA-free plastic injection molded products in several different colors for the medium sizes, and have them for retail sale in all three of my veterinary hospitals.
I am currently finalizing my tooling for the small dog size Enjoy-A-Bowl that should be ready for retail in five to seven different colors within the next 45 days. Moving forward, I plan to grow the business in 2017-2018 by introducing two new sizes; the large dog size and the universal cat size Enjoy-A-Bowls. I will also be expanding our aromatherapy sources by designing an aromatherapy fragrance line that will consist of an assortment of popular human food entrée aromas to use instead of actual human food (similar to the K-cup for the Keurig machine).