Hoomans of Itch – Sarah Gould (Head of Product) and Hannah Cross (Product Development Manager)
Itch’s number one priority is always to make our pet’s lives healthier and happier (and their owner’s lives easier!).
And there’s a lot more up for grabs with an Itch subscription than just flea treatments.
From parasite protection to a range of health supplements and well-being treats, Itch is on a mission to provide complete, personalised nose-to-tail petcare in one, monthly pack.
Enter Sarah Gould (Head of Product) and Hannah Cross (Product Development Manager).
Together, Sarah and Hannah are on a mission to bring best-in-class products to Itch customers, whether that’s sourcing innovative new products or developing the existing range to be the best it can be…
Tell me a little bit about your career to date, and how you came to be in your current line of work.
Sarah: We had 10 years running Monster [Pet Supplies] where I did a lot of the buying and selling of products, learning first-hand about all of the products required to keep pets happy and healthy. Then we had the idea for Itch – and the rest is history.
Hannah: I did a degree in design initially, and worked in design for four or five years. I gradually moved into a procurement role where I was developing products for a Michelin star chef licence. I then eventually found my way over to Itch about a year ago.
How did you move into your role at Itch?
Hannah: I’ve always wanted to do something creative, which was design-led, so this role is perfect because it’s a more creative side of product development. It’s also challenging keeping an eye on the commercial side of things, so it’s a really varied role.
It was also the really cool Itch brand and marketing that stood out for me. It’s making something that’s very traditional into quite a ‘sexy’ product. I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain some international experience too, thanks to the company’s international growth plans.
Sarah: I was there helping to set it up right at the beginning. I’ve been involved from day one, when Itch was still just an idea! With my experience and connections from Monster, I was able to take on the Head of Product role once the idea behind Itch started becoming a reality. It was a natural move to make the most out of where my expertise lies.
Across your whole career, what’s been one of your proudest achievements?
Sarah: Oh, launching Itch, has to be. It’s easy to forget now that there was no business two years ago. All we had was the name and that was it. So when we got our first stock through, and those first Itch packs started going out – that’s got to be one of my most exciting moments.
Hannah: Mine is seeing products that I’ve designed and developed in retail. Then seeing positive customer reactions from these is super exciting and rewarding!
Tell me about your day-to-day role at Itch, what would a typical day look like?
Sarah: It primarily involves looking at new products, what else is on the market, what our competitors are doing. Looking at what exciting new stuff is out there in the new world of making pets healthy; looking at ingredients and potions and boxes and everything that makes it up. It’s quite a fun role, really.
Hannah: Yeah, we’re looking at how we can market the products, how commercial the products will be, whether the product would be successful for our pet demographics. Thinking about how we can put an Itch ‘spin’ on new products, as obviously our brand is so distinctive.
Sarah: We also spend a lot of time thinking about what our amazing customers want from us, too. We take on board their feedback and think about that when new products are in development or existing products are being improved.
Hannah: Also thinking about what will fit through the letterbox – because that’s quite a challenge!
Sarah: We’re always looking at ways we can help improve our products from an environmental point of view, too. We’re looking at everything we do through a lens of sustainability, and providing the best wellness products for our Itch pets.
Hannah: Definitely, keeping pets happy and healthy is our main priority.
Ultimately, everything we’re doing comes down to just wanting to put the best product in front of the customer.
There’s a lot of products out there that claim to do all sorts of fancy stuff, but at Itch we want to make sure we’re picking that one product that will help dental ailments, or joint ailments, or whatever the issue may be. Just finding that one, best-in-class product that the pet should have.
What three words would you use to describe your roles?
Hannah: I’d say really innovative, ahead-of-the-trend, and disruptive.
Sarah: Yeah, caring about pets’ well-being; disruptive because we don’t want to do it the same as everybody else, and innovative.
What makes Itch stand out from other products on the market, in terms of the products themselves?
Sarah: Because they’re Itch – which means they’re the best on the market.
Hannah: Yes, there’s a quality-stamp that comes with Itch products. People know that if they’re buying products from us, they’re the best on the market and their pet will be healthier because of it.
Sarah: We don’t present our customers with a tonne of products just for the sake of it; we’ll only recommend the stuff that’s right for their pet. We do that based on the clinical and scientific knowledge we have of what’s in our products, and the information customers tell us about their pet’s lifestyle and health status when they sign up.
What are some things that other companies could learn from us?
Sarah: You don’t have to stick to the old and boring – you can do things in a fun way. Even if it’s medical, or pharmaceutical, you can still have fun.
Although our products are serious in terms of parasite prevention, we’re doing so much more than that around general pet health and pet well-being.
Pets don’t come with a handbook! Pets are crazy, and funny and sometimes gross. So when it comes to marketing these products designed for pets, it doesn’t always have to be cute and boring, and safe. There’s room for a pun or the occasional cheeky way of doing things, even if the message you’re putting out there is serious.
Hannah: Exactly, we’re questioning the way things have always been done before in the veterinary/pharmaceutical industries, and putting our own stamp on it.
What has been one of your most memorable (or favourite moments) at Itch so far?
Sarah: When Itch Flea actually started going into production, and we saw it coming off the production line.
Hannah: Yes, seeing products that you’ve developed in people’s packs (especially when customers are sharing it on social) and you see positive feedback and engagement from them, that’s always a nice moment. And you know, just seeing products sell. That’s always great, when you’ve worked so hard to get them to that stage.
What do you envision for the future of Itch; where do you think it’s going to go?
Sarah: We’re going to continue finding the best products, but also on top of that, the biggest thing is going to be making sure – and this is what we’re striving for – that everything we offer is environmentally sustainable; everything’s recyclable. That’s quite hard considering traditional manufacturing processes. There will be a lot of big changes ahead for the pharmaceutical industry in general, from an environmental point of view.
Hannah: Absolutely, even just with the packaging industry, too. The facilities they have are just not quite there yet – but they will need to be.
Sarah: Everybody’s working towards it, the manufacturers and us, to make sure that everything we do is good for the pets and for the environment.
And what about our current product range, how do you envision that will expand in the future?
Sarah: Well, I can’t tell you too much about the newest products still in development, because they’re top secret (obviously!). But we’re hard at work in our secret labs, concocting potions and ingredients to make sure that whatever we’re developing is the absolute best product it can be for your pet, and the environment.
What advice would you have for anybody who’s coming to work at Itch?
Hannah: It’s a creative and inventive company. It’s very forward-thinking, and it’s fun. I’ve really learnt loads too, especially about the petcare industry in general, and the regulations behind the products.
Sarah: You’ve got to be witty, you’ve got to have a fun side. You have to be able to come in and think, ‘if Pets at Home does it this way, we’ll do it another way.’ Your head’s got to be disruptive, and different, and you’ve got to want to be different. You’ve also got to be willing to learn, because a lot of the time the solution isn’t just there in front of you, you have to research and find it yourself.
Hannah: Yeah, you’ve got to be a problem-solver.
Sarah: Exactly, things aren’t always easy in our industry because it’s always a ‘no’ first.
Hannah: It’s always a battle, trying something new.
Sarah: Exactly, like our cat spot-on wormer [which is currently in development]. When we first started approaching that with our manufacturers, we were told ‘no’ for about a year, before we were able to change their minds and change that ‘no’ into a ‘yes!’
I guess within the petcare and veterinary sectors in general, there is a very ‘traditional’ way of doing things. It must have been quite a shock for them when we came along…
Sarah: It’s all originated from the vets, traditionally. It’s how the industry had built-up, through the vet network. And now it’s all moving online.
Hannah: As an industry, pet medicines and products are very old-school. The traditional structure for distributing and selling animal pharmaceutical products has been in place forever. And we’re the ones challenging that, modernising it and bringing it all into the 21st century.
Do you have pets?
Sarah: I have a new pet! He’s called Gucci King (Harold the 1st) – Gucci King for short. He’s a hamster! He’s so friendly, he loves us and he’s just amazing. Then we’ve got Scooby and Coco, our two dogs.
Hannah: I’ve got a kitten called Orca. She’s amazing.
And lastly, If you weren’t at Itch now, what would your dream job be?
Sarah: I wouldn’t work, I’d be in the Bahamas, sat on a beach, drinking Pina Coladas. And that’s the full truth – I would not be in the UK! Maybe I’d have a beach bar in the Bahamas…
Hannah: Oh no I think I’d want to work. I couldn’t not work. But I think maybe a job with more travel, maybe an international job, so I could go to different countries. But I think it’d be similar to what I do now effectively.
So you’re not going to be at Sarah’s beach bar in the Bahamas?
Hannah: No, I’d get bored within a day…I’m too much a busy-body!