Startup Spotlight: Matt Gasparrini ’20

I have always had new ideas. Along with those ideas comes with the excitement of trying something new, of creating something novel. Most of my ideas (even my best ideas) … are garbage. They wouldn’t make it in the real world. They wouldn’t succeed outside of my own head. Because at the end of the day, nobody has room in their kitchen for an English muffin separator or fireplace tools with a built-in vacuum. My latest idea was the least glamorous of them all. A dog food company. The dog food idea was inspired by my own dog Gracie. Gracie had boring kibble every single day, she was also sick a lot of the time too. I fed her kibble because it’s what everyone feeds their dogs and because it was cheap. It turns out that kibble was making Gracie sick. I had heard about homemade dog food and gave it a try. On the homemade diet, Gracie had more energy, a shinier coat, and was overall healthier. I looked for similar fresh dog food on the market and found only very expensive products that used expensive ingredients. I knew that feeding a fresh, homemade dog food was simply better for the overall health of the dog. I decided to create a dog food with simple, inexpensive ingredients.  

Entering the annual Shark Tank Competition at Holy Cross last March was a little scary. Up until this point I had only shared my idea with … well anyone that would listen, but never to a panel of individuals ready to give me money. When sharing my dog food idea with people I usually got two reactions: 1) The honest people told me it was a terrible idea, and 2) the polite people silently nodded until I stopped talking. I listened to the polite people and went ahead with the dog food company. Leading up to Shark Tank I was nervous, my idea worked only in my head. I had expanded the idea in HC Launch, the student incubator on campus, working with Ja-Nae Duane, the entrepreneur-in-residence in the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society, and with my team: Ben Vesey ‘22 and Aidan Scamby ‘22. 

What if I presented this idea to knowledgeable, successful people and they decided it was a bad idea? To bring my idea to the shark tank competition meant potential failure. I needed the validation, but I also needed some cash. I had gotten to a point in the company where to continue I need to spend some money. I needed $900 for a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a recipe, and I needed to purchase some equipment to start manufacturing the food. I needed to know if the idea had a chance. Leading up to the HC shark tank competition I was nervous, my idea was at the very least strange compared to the innovative apps and other businesses people had created. But I believed in the idea, and I believed in the mission behind it. 

Feel Good Dog Food tied for first place (along with Wilox), a prize of $3,000 along with in-kind services from Bill Kelly ‘92, CFO at Exosome Diagnostics. I was thrilled to have won the three thousand dollars to bring my idea to reality. I began working with a veterinary nutritionist and contacting vitamin and mineral supplement manufacturers. I immediately started to figure out the logistics of where to make the food, and how to get the food to the customers.

There is no guarantee that this idea will take off, or even become profitable. Every minute I spend working on this project is exciting, thinking of the potential, thinking about how to make it better. And if all else fails, I have developed the useful skill of making extra-large batches of chicken and veggie rice bowls. 

Thank you to Matt Gasparrini ’20 for sharing his story and updating us on the Feel Good Dog Food journey.  We look forward to seeing it in stores soon!

Best of luck and thanks for reading! Cassie

Cassie Gevry, Associate Director of Student Engagement
Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society