Kristina Guerrero and Brandon Sylvester enjoyed having their dog Dunkan along on their skiing and camping outings, but packing for the 60-pound pooch to accommodate Ziploc bags of dry petfood was another matter. That's what initially got Guerrero thinking about convenience and dog food. “It was something I wanted,” said Guerrero. “I was like, ‘why don’t we have this for our dog?’ I mean, we take him everywhere.” In short order, TurboPup, and a whole new petfood category—complete on-the-go meal bars for dogs—was born.
Guerrero and her husband, Sylvester, are pet parents to two dogs, Dunkan and Oden. "They both have a lot of energy, but it’s that energy that makes them the perfect outdoor companions," explains Guerrero. In fact, it was on a long hike in the great outdoors when Dunkan first provided Guerrero with some inspiration. “We got to the top of the mountain and we started eating our own Power Bars,” said Guerrero. “He looked at us with that face of ‘where’s mine?’” Guerrero graduated from the US Air Force Academy and flew C-130 transport planes during three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on missions in Africa. She was studying to be an occupational therapist when the idea of a meal bar for dogs kept stirring in her mind.
Realizing there was nothing like a meal-replacement concept for dogs available on store shelves, Guerrero and Sylvester decided to make their own. With her husband’s experience as a food scientist for The Dannon Co., Guerrero came up with the first TurboPup product—a pocket-sized, bacon-flavored energy bar-like meal for dogs on the go. “These are basically Power Bars for dogs,” explains Guerrero. “So what it is, is a complete meal. Whenever you take your dog on the trail or go camping with them, all you need to take is this.”
Feeding the bars to their own dogs only provides extra incentive to make sure the products are good for pets, with high-quality ingredients and a complete nutrition profile. It took Guerrero and Sylvester about a year and a half after founding the company in July 2011 to create the kind of food their dogs liked best.
In March 2012, they wrapped up the recipe for the bacon-flavored bar, and by late April were competing in Count Me In, a Virginia nonprofit that helps accelerate women-owned microbusinesses. Guerrero won US$1,000 and nine months of coaching from established entrepreneurs. In 2014 they launched sleek new packaging and now offer the grain-free bars in Bacon and Peanut Butter. With an initial seed funding budget of less than US$30,000, TurboPup now has national distribution—they signed with Backcountry K-9 distribution in 2013—and sales of well over 100,000 bars.
Initially, Guerrero and Sylvester believed their audience would be active, outdoor enthusiasts such as themselves who might want to carry TurboPup bars on a long hike or short camping trip. "So far, we've found out that a lot of women are buying the bar, and people who take their dogs out for morning walks," Guerrero said.
According to the company, an 80- to 100-pound dog would need four servings of the complete meal bar over the course of a day. TurboPup bars exceeds the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials and has added vitamins, minerals and omega-3s, they claim. The bars are also 100% grain-free, made from all-natural, American-sourced ingredients and are interchangeable with regular dog food since they are safe for sensitive stomachs, says TurboPup. Five percent of the company's profits are also donated to organizations supporting veteran and canine causes, and just this year TurboPup became the official dog food of the National Association for Search and Rescue.
"Our company's vision is to promote outdoor adventure between pup and person," says Guerrero. "We are committed to representing socially responsible entrepreneurship. As a company, we believe we are all connected and make every effort to ensure product excellence."