In this new series, we’ll be sharing with you our ‘Indie-stry Gurus’. These gurus are paving the way where no one previously has, walking a path much less traveled, or building a legacy totally different than the rest. They are thought leaders and provokers from all different industries - beauty, wellness and beyond. They’re the people who ask not just “How?” but “Why?”, and most of all, they’re empowering others with knowledge, education and inspiration.
This month we're talking to Marie Moody, founder of Stella and Chewy's. Her story of creating a clean pet food line shows us clean living goes beyond ourselves. Plus, it has us feeling all the puppy feels.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. My name is Marie Moody. I am a mother to both my son Charlie and to my dog Tummy. I’m also the founder of Stella and Chewy’s, a pet food brand headquartered in Wisconsin. I started Stella and Chewy’s, named after my two rescue dogs at the time, in 2003 after my dog Chewy made a remarkable recovery from severe health issues. When he was first sick, I put Chewy on a raw meat/vegetable diet upon a veterinarian’s recommendation, and it completely changed everything. Seeing this all firsthand inspired me to learn more about the benefits of less-processed food for our pets and to learn more about how to bring this solution to more pet parents who were struggling with an ailing pet.
We view you as an Indie-stry Guru of your field, which means you've paved a way no one previously had, or you're paving a way much different than the rest. What is your path or your journey, and what does it represent? My journey to where I am today has not been a straight line, and there were always challenges along the way. I have ADD, and it explains so many different things about me and what I struggled with. People with ADD do not think in a linear fashion and that has always been true in my case. I had to learn to change what other people saw as a weakness into a strength. This non-linear way of thinking combined with my love for my dogs really shaped my path. I was so much in love with my dog Chewy that I was willing to spend any amount of time, energy and money, even though I didn’t have much of any of these things at the time, to heal him because he was so sick and meant so much to me. When I put my energy into creating this product, it never once felt like work and with a different perspective coming from outside the pet industry, I was able to see how impactful this product could be.
How did becoming an animal mom change (or reinforce) your view on wellness and clean living? Becoming a dog mom to a sick rescue pup completely changed how I viewed wellness and clean eating. I always had some awareness for myself – the healthier I ate and the more time I devoted to self-care, the better I would feel, but I didn’t consider how this would translate to our pets as well. Of course it does – whatever humans or animals consume makes such a big difference for overall well-being.
What is once piece of knowledge you would share with new animal parents? What you choose to feed your pet will be the most important decision you will make as a pet parent; it will effect both their short-term health and their long-term health. Read ingredient labels!
What is the most important mission for you as a founder of a clean living brand? The most important mission for me is educating more pet parents about how improving their dog or cat’s diet can drastically change their pet’s quality of life and longevity. After switching Chewy to a raw diet, his health improved so drastically and he lived a long and happy life. A relationship with a pet is something that is so special. They truly become family and love unconditionally. I want pet parents to be empowered to give their pets the best.
What are your Top 5 Favorite Wellness products? When I first heard Indie Lee’s story, I realized that she was making a product from the heart that had to work, so I trusted it. We both started companies to solve a problem that impacted us on such a personal level, and I love supporting women-founded companies. After using the Squalane Facial Oil, the Purifying Face Wash and the Brightening Cleanser for a few months, I definitely saw a difference in my skin. These products quickly became some of my favorite wellness items to include in my skincare routine. My two other favorites are quite simple but very practical – I travel with a water bottle everywhere I go to stay hydrated and I use essential oils.
Was there a pivotal point in your life that changed the trajectory of your journey, or the path you thought you should be on? Chewy’s ill health and recovery were both huge turning points for me. I had not thought much about becoming a business owner or an entrepreneur, but seeing him struggle with his health and having to learn so much about pet nutrition for his well-being completely changed everything. It opened my eyes to a different calling and a different career path, while also extending the life of my best friend.
Can you think of a challenging time in your life and share how you overcame it? When I was first starting out with my line of frozen raw products and trying to convince local neighborhood pet stores to carry Stella and Chewy’s, many stores told me no flat out. Others gave the excuse that there were no freezers to even store my product. I decided that a lack of a freezer would not stop me, so I offered to buy the stores a freezer if it meant carrying my product and sharing it with pet parents. It was a pricey move, but something that felt worth the risk. I strongly believed that this was a food many pet parents were looking for and that I just had to make it available. Today, with Stella and Chewy’s in over 5,000 local neighborhood pet stores, it feels like that hunch was and still is accurate.
What advice that you would give your younger self? I think I would just give my younger self some words of encouragement. It can be overwhelming when you have so much before you and you aren’t sure how it’s going to work out, especially when you have a sick dog that you love so much depending on you. I’d tell her to keep going and I’d tell her to soak up every moment with Stella and Chewy, to just be present, even though she already knew.
A few just for fun - what’s your spirit animal? I honestly wasn’t sure what to answer this with, so I asked my sister. She told me my spirit animal was a snake, which took me aback and I think many right now are probably having the same reaction. It doesn’t sound very flattering at first, but she explained why she thought this – snakes stay grounded and are known as a symbol of healing and transformation. They shed the old quite literally and come out the other side stronger and whole. I’ve always been drawn to healing and try to stay as grounded as possible, so I can see why she sees this as my spirit animal.
Beverage of choice? I don’t think I can pick between the two so I am going to say both water and coffee.
What’s your mantra you’d like to share with others? Trust yourself – you’re stronger than you think.