Follow Leena Chitnis in LinkedIn
How did you end up as a CEO? What was your route to this position?
I was in a bad place in my life when my parents urged me to adopt a dog, which I happily agreed to. I adopted a rescue runt – Kashi – and she completely changed my life, making it better in every way. In return, I decided I’d try to make her life better as well, and invented the ultimate dog bed, as current travel options are not only lacking in critical and/or practical features, but are also downright uncomfortable.
From chicken-scrawl sketches on past due bills, to a triple-trademarked and patent-pending product, RuffRest® is now a reality available on our store at timberdog.com.
Why are you the right person to be the CEO of your company?
Having invented and tirelessly prototyped our flagship product, the RuffRest Ultimate Pet Bed™, for five years, I am fully invested in seeing our mighty dog bed thrive in the hands of happy customers.
What gets you up in the morning?
Being an innovator in a saturated space and wowing pet pawrents every day
Who helped you get to where you are today?
No entrepreneur is an island and I’d like to thank my mentor, Ryan Mets, as well as my parents, who are early investors in Timberdog. I’d also like to thank Chris Hilberg, who has given me legal advice for over a decade. There are so many others to thank but if I did so, this interview would be several pages long!
What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?
Best advice I’ve ever gotten: Take your time, it’s ok if someone beats you to the market and comes up with the same idea.
Worst advice I’ve ever gotten: Take your time, it’s ok if someone beats you to market and comes up with the same idea.
I got this advice from an unmotivated tech pack writer who did not have the same sense of urgency I had and took months to turn around simple revisions. Needless to say, I dumped him and pantomimed (over Zoom) what I wanted to my overseas manufacturers, who helped me prototype RuffRest before creating the final version you see today. The only good part of his advice was to slow down a bit, which I’ve done…but not too much.
I will say that being first to market is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great for establishing and protecting your intellectual property. On the other, it’s a barrier to entry — people can be gun shy on spending money on items that don’t have comps. Especially if those items are priced at a premium.
If you could go back in time to when you were a teenager, what life advice would you give yourself?
Don’t give up. You’ll find your way. And life isn’t a race. Just work methodically and you’ll get everything you want in life.
And smiling happy people have problems, too. Big ones.
What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader?
Indefatigable optimism (when it comes to Timberdog), an uncanny work ethic, faith in dark hours, and second chances. Oh, and what others would consider an audacious vision for my company’s future.
How can a leader fail?
Displaying a lack of confidence — once people see that, all respect is lost. It’s better to just admit you don’t know something and be proud that you were man or woman enough to say so in a timely fashion.
What does the next five years hold for you?
My dreams are to become the official pet bed of Subaru and maybe an airline with similar ethos; get sold in brick-and-mortar shops like REI, and buy up competitor dog supply brands. Then, get acquired by Chewy or go public.
I’d also like to fall in love, get married, vastly improve my health, and get that house on the lake.
Mentorship is a big business in the west, do you have any experience with it?
I do. I currently mentor two upcoming brands — one in the healthy snack space, the other in dog wearables.
If people want to reach out to your or your business, what is the best way for them to go about doing that?
They can reach me at [email protected]. It comes right to me, and I love getting to know others and seeing how I can make their day.