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How Rianna Young Is Charting New Paths in the Pet Care Industry

Rianna Young, the Founder and CEO behind Happy Hounds, is redefining the pet care industry.

Rianna’s passion and dedication to her career stems from a personal journey sparked by the resilience of her childhood companion, Angel, a Jack Russell Terrier who was hit by a car and had trouble properly healing. Her heartfelt connection with Angel’s struggles drove her to create Happy Hounds, a venture dedicated to crafting natural hemp products tailored specifically for pets. Rianna’s innovative approach aims not just to alleviate physical discomfort but also to address the emotional needs of our beloved furry friends. Embracing the trials present in pioneering a legal yet evolving market, Rianna remains undeterred by the hurdles she faces, understanding that occasional difficulties are essential to the journey of creating something truly groundbreaking. 

We asked Rianna about the founding story behind Happy Hounds, the one thing she wishes she would have known before starting her company, and what she would tell her younger self if she were to start her entrepreneurial journey over again.

Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Happy Hounds?

My journey to founding Happy Hounds was born out of my own experience with my childhood dog, Angel. She was an intelligent and spunky Jack Russell Terrier who was not afraid of anything. When I was younger, Angel was hit by a car. It left her with physical and emotional scars that would not heal with traditional treatments. As a California native, our veterinarian suggested cannabis to help reduce her anxiety and improve mobility. However, there was nothing dosed or made for dogs on the market then. Today, I have an opportunity to help dogs and cats live fuller lives. Our products are not just dosed but made specifically to the tastes and textures cats and canines crave. 

Happy Hounds currently offers calming full-spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) soft-chews, tinctures, and balms for both dogs and cats. Our products are scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, improve mobility, and supercharge their health and wellness with vitamin e, salmon oil, turmeric, and aloe.

Rianna and Angel

The most meaningful impact we have had on our local community is the work we do with rescues and the feedback we hear from pet parents and retailers. Senior dogs go through a lot. Just like us, pets age and deserve a product for them that they will enjoy. 

In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?

My upbringing in Los Angeles has shaped my understanding of and passion for plant-based alternatives. Prior to starting Happy Hounds, I worked in government and politics, running campaigns and working for elected officials. When starting my own business, I thought, “I should’ve majored in marketing or business management.” However, the work I had done really prepared me to listen to my customers, break down stores by neighborhood and demographics, and develop a clear strategy and message for the company. I thought I was just knocking on doors. But in reality, I was practicing how to pitch a vision for a better future for people and their pets. 

The most impactful lesson has been to really rely on what works. Sometimes the most lucrative avenues are not so outwardly appealing, and some of the shinier opportunities can come at a cost.

I can vouch for many perspectives and enjoy tinkering with ideas to figure out how a product or message can work. Instead of waiting for funding or the right investor, I began selling to independent local retailers, online via e-commerce, and in-person at events and tradeshows to expand brand awareness. My ability to pivot and see an opportunity from multiple angles was key to gaining momentum. 

My curiosity and passion drive me. I am a huge gastronome and pet lover, so figuring out what makes pets tick, taste-wise, is probably the most exciting part of my job. In addition, hearing the feedback from pet owners on how our products have changed their relationship with their dog or their dog’s relationship to certain situations that used to make them anxious or scared keeps me going. 

What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting Happy Hounds?

Prior to starting on this journey, I wish I would have known that not every little duck needs to be in a row to share my business and ideas. It is okay to have bumps in the road and to let it roll off your shoulders. Things are a little bumpy in the beginning, but I believe my relentless comparison to my competition is what has propelled me to present Happy Hounds in a larger light. 

Every day, you learn a new lesson as a first-time business owner. But the most impactful lesson has been to really rely on what works. Sometimes the most lucrative avenues are not so outwardly appealing, and some of the shinier opportunities can come at a cost. 

Listen to your gut and read the data to see where the most impact is being made. 

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Trying to be too nice and agreeable. As women, sometimes we would rather leave a situation nicely than actually receive what we need. I don’t do that anymore. I have realized being nice and holding up your end does not directly translate to others doing so. I have learned that asking to speak with previous clients or current customers is a great way to bring forth better business relationships. Recommendations like those I receive from Dreamers & Doers have been extremely helpful in moving the ball forward in my business. 

What’s the biggest misconception that others have around entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is mostly problem solving and troubleshooting. The biggest misconception is that things will run smoothly because you set them up for success. Many of the challenges I face are around selling a product that contains cannabidiol (CBD) online, a legal substance. Mistakenly, I described what I was selling explicitly and what the product would do for pets. Well, this was a huge mistake. 

Have you struggled with self-doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?

Self-doubt is part of the game. Being my first venture, I always think, “What am I doing? Is this the right way to go?” Looking back at how far I have come and using past experiences to lead the way has helped accelerate my decision making and development. I have not considered giving up, but some days are definitely harder than others. 

Mentors and fellow entrepreneurs are a great resource. Speak to those who have had similar experiences or can provide insight on certain situations.

We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?

I am most proud of our self-distributed expansion, participating in over 50 pop-up events and tradeshows, and working with over 12 rescue organizations in less than two years.  Hearing from retailers that a customer came into their store specifically asking for Happy Hounds truly makes me proud. Creating brand awareness is my number one goal this year, and I am on my way to doing so. Last month, I won second place in my first pitch competition. It was such an exhilarating experience. Out of 250 applicants, the 35 expert judges saw our vision and value—a boost of confidence that is priceless. 

Has your definition of success evolved throughout your journey as a founder?

My definition of success is constantly evolving, from what an employee looks like to how to approach a retailer. People are individuals and life is not a straight line. Learning more about my industry on the job does not mean I am ignorant, but that I am expanding and learning every day. 

What resources or people have contributed the most to your successes?

The resources that have contributed greatly to my success were mentors from SCORE, WEALF, Our Academy, Dreamers and Doers, and other entrepreneurs. Bouncing ideas off one another about what works and how to avoid similar pitfalls is extremely useful. 

What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

A lot of women assume certain industries, positions, or knowledge is too difficult for them, even in 2023. I would tell my younger self to learn and enter every space you can—because thinking someone will not help or care for your concerns is not always valid. 

I would also tell my younger self to stay curious, call double the amount of retailers per day, and to let go of certain things earlier on in my business. If you can afford for someone to do it, then it is worth exploring and expanding your ability to do more. 

When I started the business, I thought, “CBD is legal and I can ship domestically and internationally. There should be none of the issues that come with the more psychoactive, flower-touching aspects of cannabis.” This was completely misguided. We are still in a gap where regulations have not caught up with industry. This has real consequences for the businesses that want to honestly serve their customers. If I had known this, I may have had some trepidations, but I think that’s what can propel many novices. As my grandmother used to say, “Nothing worth having is easy and nothing easy is worth having.” I keep her words in the back of my mind when things get tough because I know she faced much more than I have. 

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