2017 Generational Development Finalist

Portland Pet Food provides leadership opportunities for younger generation

The job titles at Portland Pet Food Company are not what you’d expect at a business. There’s Top Dog, Star Dog, Hound Dog and Under Dog.

They might use unorthodox names to describe leadership roles, but one thing is clear, two generations of the family are engaged in building the young company.

The business got started when Top Dog Kathleen McCarron saw a business opportunity making natural dog food after restoring the family’s dog to good health with home-cooked meals.

“We have always been a spontaneous family, moving on opportunities when they present themselves,” Kathleen said.

Past professional activities, current skills, training and education are put to use in the family business. This allowed family members to find a position of responsibility that is best suited to their background and interests.

Kathleen previously worked as a health communication consultant. Under Dog Matt is a third-year medical student at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Matt uses his degree in chemistry to run the numbers and assure the formulas for the products meet industry and regulatory standards. Star Dog Maggie, graduated from New York University Tisch School of Drama, and draws on her education in the fine arts and acting to develop media material and orchestrate the company’s communication strategy. Hound Dog David McCarron, MD, was head of nephrology at Oregon Health & Science University, and is now the company’s nutritional researcher.

“Everyone has been flexible in undertaking tasks when needed,” Kathleen said.

For example, Maggie recently deferred moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and returned to Portland to help run the family business.

The company not only provides local, sustainable pet food, but it also partners with and supports other Pacific Northwest industries that do the same. One of the treats it sells is a brew biscuit made of spent grain from local breweries.

The company puts extensive efforts into research and development to create new products that are as readily available for pets as they are for people. It worked with Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center to use local, sustainable ingredients that meet the highest quality standards.

At the 2017 Global Pet Expo, Portland Pet Food Company made news with its new line of shelf-stable meal toppers that don’t need refrigeration. The innovative packaging is microwavable and sustainable.

The company’s growth has provided leadership roles for the younger generation. Everyone in the family reviewed and contributed to the final version of the operational agreement, which includes voting rights and plans for succession.

Everyone gets a chance to review marketing materials and discuss new products. Sales reports and business financials are open to all family members, so that everyone can provide input on production and distribution decisions.

Kathleen said her favorite part of working with family is seeing the unique qualities and capabilities each of them brings to the work environment.

“We drew on previous moments where each of us knew how we would bring individual talents to the business development,” said Kathleen.