Fun fact: I absolutely love dogs, cats and pretty much any animal that can be cuddled and wants to be cuddled. Every dog is a “puppy” or “doggo” and every cat is a “kitten” or “kitty”. The look on senior dogs/cats when they hear this and their whole back end moves (or you swear they smile)- be still, my beating heart! I’d have one in a heart beat if I could properly afford to take care of them.
Ok. Enough with my obsession with doggos and kitties! When I was researching companies and sending out emails for participation in the “My Day” series last year, I checked out Wilder Harrier and reached out to their Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) and Co-founder Paul Shenouda. Paul had just been named as the 2017 EY Young Entrepreneur Of The Year for the Quebec Region, so I figured it would be a no-go and would never hear back. To my delighted surprise he agreed, even sending me some of their products upon learning about my family’s two rescued senior doggos (Winston and Abbey) and how I’d requested a sample to try with them. It was such an awesome surprise to have that kind of generosity, especially because Abbey passed away from old age not long after and they got to enjoy some delicious treats together!
Please welcome Paul Shenouda!
Question 1: Describe yourself in 3 words only.
Crazy about innovation.
Question 2: Tell me more about your business(es)? What kind are they?
I’m one of the co-founders of Wilder Harrier, a Montreal startup that develops nutritious pet food products with alternative and sustainable proteins. We currently have 3 hypoallergenic, nutrient-packed dog treat lines made with novel proteins such as crickets and seaweed.
Where does your entrepreneurial drive come from? What are your sources of inspiration?
My entrepreneurial drive comes from my profound love of innovation and novelty. I’ve always wondered how things come to be, how they change continuously, how the past morphs into the future, and how ideas arise and become part of our everyday lives. I decided to study engineering to get the tools to deconstruct the world around me and put it back together to make objects, products, and systems that are more efficient, adapted, and sustainable for us all.
Considering how fierce competition is among your industry, what are your business(es) competitive advantages? What makes you stand out in the crowd?
For Wilder Harrier, our competitive advantage definitely comes from our willingness to question and challenge everything. We did not start this company to make just another pet food product, but to shake things up. We are outsiders, we are young, we have a detached view and we don’t take for granted how products should be, how the industry should be, what quality we should aim for. We’ve been surprising a lot of people since we launched by using “crazy” ingredients like cricket powder, but also by bypassing the traditional marketing methods by reaching our customers in a different way, in different places.
No two days are often the same for an entrepreneur, but what does a typical day look like for you?
My day typically includes planification of upcoming productions and day-to-day operations, working on R&D for new products by doing research on new ingredients, and holding meetings with the team to strategize on the company’s next big moves and projects.
What do you do daily to grow as a person?
I am an avid learner and extreme audiobook and podcast consumer. Whenever I am driving, doing the dishes, or doing routine tasks, I am listening to diverse content on psychology, physics, business or innovation. I write down my reflections to keep track of my progress and try to challenge myself with different content that lay outside my comfort zones.
What tricks have you discovered to keep you focused, productive and achieve a decent work/life balance?
Personally, being a introvert, finding alone time in a cafe or at home to do some deep work has been extremely beneficial to boost my productivity on more complex projects. This helps me because it maximizes my energy level by minimizing interactions and distractions.
Day-to-day, the task management app Trello has been of great help to me to centralize all my tasks. Plus, I have access to it anywhere, on my computer or smartphone. Finally, meditation is a key component of getting my mind straight when I am overwhelmed.
What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/disagree with?
- Agree: “find a complementary team and co-founders with whom you get along very well”. This is crucial! You will be spending probably more time with your co-founders then your close friends, family or partner in the first years of business; you need to have a very strong respect and bond within the team to get though the hard times, and have skillsets that are complementary.
- Disagree: “no time for down time – got to maximize the number of hours you work each week”. This one is tricky, because many people confuse the crucial importance of putting the hours as an entrepreneur and pushing your work with the quest to show off the number of hours one has put in with your peers. Of course, as an entrepreneur, you will work more; you need to. But one should not confuse this as the only metric of progress. Sometimes, taking a moment to read, reflect, go for a drive, rest, or have a drink with friends will act as a release valve for your stress and will help you get some detachment about what your priorities. The market will not grant you more points for putting more hours. 3 hours of pure focus are better then 6 hours half asleep.
What’s your favourite metaphor to describe entrepreneurship?
Elon Musk’s quote: “Running a start-up is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends.” This may seem quite extreme, and indeed is very metaphoric. But it basically captures the feeling of always needing to improvise your next move while being scared of how your decisions will turn out. I also like it because it’s particularly vulnerable, franc and utterly funny.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed in getting over it and moving forward?
Last year, we were waiting on a investment round to be closed and we were running very, very low on cash. It was a do or die situation, but we managed to turn things around. We decided in the span of 1 week to launch 2 new completely new product lines and setup a pre-order campaign to keep us afloat. The campaign video we made cost barely $200 to make and was launched in days, resulting in a viral video that now has reached over 200k views and generated the boost of we needed to make it. We transformed a dire situation into an opportunity with barely no resources; it was a good lesson to never give up and to use pressure to our advantage. It’s in these moments that creativity and productivity are pushed to their limits.
Not included in the question count: if someone wants more information, what is the best way to contact you?
Huge thanks to Paul for agreeing to participate and for the yummy doggo treats!
Do you want to be featured in an interview series that mixes local and national entrepreneurs who provide words of wisdom to the entrepreneurs and community builders that follow my blog? Send me a message via the Contact page! This series is getting more popular with every post & share!