Any dog parent will tell you the importance of providing high-quality, nutritious, and customizable food for their fur babies. They’ll also tell you how challenging it can be to find a dog food brand that hits all the marks. That’s why Wharton alumni Trey Steidle, WG’21, and CJ Gottuso, WG’21, teamed up after graduation to found Breed Science, a personalized dog nutrition startup which prioritizes dog breeds’ individual needs. “I have an English bulldog and a standard poodle,” said Trey. “They’re like the odd couple. They share the same environment but have vastly different lifestyles and dietary needs. Breed Science works with veterinarians to ensure your dog is being fed the right combination of nutrients for its overall health and longevity.”
Trey and CJ’s love of dogs is just one of many commonalities they share. Both live in the Greater Philadelphia area, have a penchant for fantasy football, and credit the Wharton MBA program for helping them get their startup off the ground. “Being surrounded by people that I considered highly successful and ambitious motivated me,” said CJ. “When I entered that environment, I realized it was something I had been searching for all along.” In addition to finding inspiration from their classmates, the co-founders also found value from the cutting-edge curriculum and the McNulty Leadership Executive Coaching and Feedback Program.
McNulty Leadership Executive Coaching and Feedback Program
When CJ enrolled in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives, he was steadily progressing through the ranks of management at Essential Utilities, Inc., a U.S. natural gas provider. “I was confident in my technical skills, but I wanted to develop more of an executive presence and hone my leadership skills,” said CJ. “The McNulty Leadership Program provided me with the tools to identify my strengths and weaknesses and improve in areas I felt I was lacking.” CJ and Trey both participated in the Wharton Leadership 360 Assessment, a self and peer appraisal process available through the Executive Coaching and Feedback Program. “It was evident that my peers at work thought highly of me, but they provided constructive criticism which I really took to heart,” CJ said. “I threw myself into the process of enhancing my leadership skills and took full accountability for my work and the work of my team. I came out of the process with a much deeper understanding of how to grow effective teams and become a leader that people want to follow.”
Connecting the Dots in the Classroom
Trey entered the Wharton MBA Program for Executives with a wealth of knowledge on supply chain management and e-commerce but was looking for the missing link to help him obtain a more senior leadership role. “As soon as I took Applied Probability Models in Marketing with Professor Peter Fader, I instantly knew this was what I had been looking for,” he said. “This course was a deep dive into how probability models affect marketing, information systems, operations research, supply chain management, and many other areas. Not many other MBA programs teach this material and delve into the math underpinning all these concepts. Now I have the analytical and empirical skills required to develop probability models and apply them to my business.”
The idea for Breed Science was initially conceived as part of a class assignment for Entrepreneurship, a course Trey and CJ took in their second year. This course is designed to be highly experiential and hands-on, combining interactive class sessions with a startup “hackathon” to reinforce concepts like venture formation, applied economics, organizational behavior, strategy, and finance. “Compounding what I learned in Professor Fader’s class with the Entrepreneurship curriculum, I started to think about my own consumer behavior,” said Trey. “The way I behave and the way most dog parents behave is, when you find a dog food that works, you don’t want to change it. Getting into the dog food business checked so many boxes for me. I wanted to be in e-commerce, I wanted to do direct to consumer products, and I’m a very passionate dog person.” Trey had his idea, but now he needed a business partner to help set the plan into motion.
On most Sundays throughout the two-year program, Trey and CJ walked their dogs together and chatted about school, work, and everything in between. “I started to talk through the business idea for Breed Science and CJ was a powerful sounding board in helping me understand where I was running into roadblocks,” Trey said. CJ, whose background is in finance, hadn’t considered exploring entrepreneurship prior to enrolling in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives. “I envied those people who felt confident taking a risk and making the jump to start a business,” said CJ. “Being surrounded by entrepreneurial minds gave me the nudge I needed to take that risk.”
Today, Breed Science is on a mission to help dogs live longer by customizing individual nutrition plans based on each dogs’ genetic factors, lifestyle, and environment. The company works with veterinarians to identify key data points which affect recommended daily caloric intake for dogs, such as age, weight, gender, and breed. Based on this information, Breed Science produces fresh, customized foods and supplements in a USDA kitchen and delivers meals directly to dog parents’ doors. The recipes are developed by an expert team of Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionists and rigorously tested to ensure the recipes exceed Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards.
“I’m lucky to have had many different breeds of dogs throughout my life, and they have brought so much joy,” Trey said. “We just really appreciate the individual personalities and nutritional needs of dogs, and we’re dedicated to helping them live longer, healthier lives.”
— Kendra King
Posted: December 2, 2022