Rian Thiele really appreciates his pets.
In fact, that’s what motivated the 39-year-old of Woodbury, Minnesota, to leave his dream career as a police officer and co-found a pet wellness store, Pet Evolution, 10 years ago.
“I loved being a police officer. I was very involved with the community,” Thiele told FOX Business. “I really learned so much about the community and what I wanted to do was somehow bring that community feel into Pet Evolution and into the pet industry.”
‘I want to bring this to market’
Thiele told FOX Business that his childhood pets – two West Highland White Terriers named Sprinkles and Sprite – were his original inspiration to start Pet Evolution.
“They had allergies… and the allergies were so severe that they would bite at their paws and their legs, they just itched so bad,” Thiele said.
Today, Thiele has four dogs: an Australian shepherd named Oliver, a whippet named Louie, a Siberian Husky-American Eskimo mix named Heather and a Rottweiler-chocolate lab mix named Tigger.
When Thiele started to give them higher quality food, he noticed how much healthier and energetic they were.
“I saw that transition happen and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so amazing. I want to bring this to market. I want to open a store and only have the best,’” Thiele said.
“That’s really what gave us the encouragement to really start a store focused on only the best quality pet nutrition,” he added.
In 2012, Thiele and his friend Mike Osborn, decided to make their dream a reality and opened Pet Evolution, which caters to dogs, cats and smaller animals like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs.
Leaving the ‘ultimate dream’ job
When he started Pet Evolution, Thiele was a detective for the Carver County Sherriff’s Department, where he had been since he graduated from college in 2005.
“Being a police officer had been my ultimate dream when I was a child,” Thiele said.
As an officer, Thiele said he most loved that he could be there for people in their most difficult moments.
Thiele maintained that connection to his community when he and Osborn started Pet Evolution.
“What I learned a lot was the importance of the community,” Thiele said of the transition. “Being engaged in the community and really understanding people and how people look at their pets as children.”
At first, Thiele tried to follow both of his passions by continuing his day job as a detective and working on his pet business in the evenings.
“I couldn’t do both,” Thiele said. “I learned that very quickly and the reason being is because Pet Evolution was successful quickly.”
Thiele eventually decided it was time to retire his police uniform and focus full-time on his pet project.
“I knew that my passion was changing,” Thiele said. “I still have a passion for law enforcement and I appreciate all that officers do, but I knew I couldn’t do both.”
Helping pets ‘live the good life’
One of the central principles of Pet Evolution is its focus on the highest quality of ingredients for pet food.
All the pet foods sold at Pet Evolution are made with humanely sourced meats without any corn, wheat, soy, byproducts, artificial flavors and colors.
Pet Evolution also sells pet treats, toys and other pet products, which are often sourced from local businesses, Thiele said.
“When you think of grocery and wellness [stores] for humans, that’s exactly what we are, for pets,” Thiele explained.
Pet Evolution also offers a mobile nail trim service which travels to customers as well as pet grooming services and self-service dog washing stations in its stores.
“Offering a high level of pet service is very important because ultimately, it helps pets – just like for humans,” Thiele said. “The better we eat, the more exercise we get, the better we care for ourselves, the longer, healthier, happier lives that we’re going to live. It’s the same exact thing for pets.”
In fact, the Pet Evolution slogan, Thiele said, is to “help pets live the good life.”
Growing the company and giving back
Currently, Pet Evolution has two stores in Woodbury and Arden Hills, Minnesota, and about 40 employees between the locations, Thiele said.
Last year, the company decided to start franchising, with two franchise locations opening in Minnesota this summer. Other franchise locations in California and Texas are also in the works, Thiele said.
“We are launching quickly and we’re very excited about that,” Thiele said. “It just feels so amazing that we have the opportunity to do this and that other people share that same feeling of being able to help pets live the good life throughout the country.”
“It really goes to show that so many people out there have a huge passion for pets,” Thiele added.
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As Pet Evolution expands, Thiele said the company is developing even more ways to help the community.
“If the community was not here for us, we would not be in business,” Thiele said. “And that’s what I’m so passionate about in the pet industry. So we give back by donating several thousands of dollars each year to nonprofit organizations.”
One example is the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which Pet Evolution has worked with in the past to make kids’ wishes come true. That partnership will be extended to every new Pet Evolution franchise across the country, Thiele said.
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Part of Pet Evolution’s success, Thiele said, comes down to the fact that people have changed the way they treat their pets.
“People’s mindsets have changed so much from back in the day when people would just feed their pets anything and they would give them any treats and leave them outside for the day,” Thiele said.
Now, Thiele said people treat their pets like their own children.
“The care and compassion that [people] have for their pets is like no other,” Thiele said. “That’s what makes me excited.”
“The pet industry is a lot of fun,” he added. “And it’s fun seeing the difference that good quality products make for family pets.”