In 2017, longtime friends Matt Michaelson and Calvin Bohn combined their interests in entrepreneurship, sales, and food to launch Smalls, a company making and selling what they call “Food. For Cats.”
The duo’s new cat food company was not the next Purina or Whiskas.
Smalls has the subscription model, customization, and über-engaged customer support you’d expect from an on-trend startup. The company is dedicated to providing “everything they (cats) need, cooked fresh & delivered.” Smalls makes gently cooked human-grade cat food, portions it out according to your cat’s calorie needs, and ships it to your doorstep.
After trying out and reviewing Smalls cat food, we heard the Smalls story from company co-founder and CEO Matt Michaelson.
How did Smalls start?
I was looking for something new to get started on with my friend Calvin, who’s a big foodie. We have a lot of friends with cats and it seems like cats are everywhere, especially on the internet, but it looked like they were left out of this fresh pet food movement. So we looked further into it and found that, as bad as a lot of mainstream food options were for dogs, it was even WORSE for cats. So we thought, why can’t we good cat food ourselves?
At first, we started making small batches for our friends’ cats. But as we grew, we began delivering it to people all over New York City in a ZipCar, making it in much larger kitchens, and bringing on cooks to help. It’s crazy to think how much we’ve grown from then to now.
How did you choose the name “Smalls”?
Well, our first big kitchen was right next to the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, where Biggie Smalls got his start, and, you know, cats are small. It sort of just fell into place.
What makes Smalls food different?
All our food is made with human grade, USDA-Certified ingredients from North American in a USDA kitchen in Chicago that has an inspector onsite. It’s as close as you can get to homemade food, without, you know, making it at home. We’re also in that happy median between fully cooked food and raw food. Each of our recipes is gently cooked to kill-temperature so there’s nothing like listeria, e. coli or salmonella that might make you or your cat sick, but it’s not cooked so much that the protein in the meat is denatured and the nutrients made useless. We also worked closely with a Veterinary Nutritionist to make sure our food had the perfect balance of everything cats need to be healthy.
How does the subscription service work?
Basically, we run each new customer through some questions to get more info on their cat. The answers help us determine the best meal-plan for them– like how many calories their cat needs daily to be at their perfect weight, how often we should ship, how many meals they want. Then we send a trial, so the cat can get a taste test. We know how notoriously picky cats can be, so we want to give people the opportunity to try it out and using our transition program before getting a full order.
After the trial is up, we send out a bulk order so they’ll be good to go for a couple of weeks! Before sending out any food, though, we ALWAYS check in to see how the first week went. We want our Smalls family members to feel like they can move at their own pace, have total control, and a team of cheerleaders on the Smalls team supporting them.
How do you ensure that the recipes are safe and nutritionally complete?
Like I said, we worked with a Veterinary Nutritionist, and did a lot of nutritional testing to make sure that our food was meeting our standards– which we’ve set pretty high for ourselves. All our recipes go way above and beyond AAFCO requirements for nutritious cat food, and we’re sure to test batches to make sure that standard is consistently met.
Why do you choose to include vegetables in your recipes?
That’s a great question! We get it a ton. We add veggies to mimic what cats would naturally be eating if they were in the wild. Turns out, they get some vegetables in their diet by consuming the contents of their prey’s stomach. So we just added in a few (less than 10%) to deliver important vitamins and minerals that would otherwise be added via supplements. We feel that food is better than supplements for people and for cats.
Who do you think could benefit from switching to Smalls?
Smalls cat parents are always telling us about shinier coats, less stinky breath (and poo), that their cats are more playful and vocal, tons of stuff! Also, our food is so high in protein that it helps cats feel fuller for longer, so they’re more likely to sleep through the night and less likely to meow between meals for more food. Turns out more nutritious food has some pretty real effects! Shocker 😉
What’s new and exciting at Smalls?
We’re looking into expanding our scope. Cats don’t ONLY need good food. They need quality toys, litter, treats. We’re also looking to expand our product line to include support diets for cats with things like diabetes or renal failure.
If you’d like to learn more about Smalls cat food, visit their site. Smalls offers 50% off of your first trial box and you can cancel your subscription at any time.