Hong Kong rugby players turn to food delivery business to support dog shelters

Mark Agnew, South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 16 2021 09:56 PM

A new dog food delivery business, set up by rugby players, is doing more than dropping bags off at your front door. They are feeding all the dogs at Catherine’s Puppies shelter and plan to support more shelters.

“We put it down as a goal of feeding all of Catherine’s Puppies, but how realistic we had no idea because it’s the first time we’ve done it and it just took off,” said Chris Lee, one of the two founders.

Buddy Bites, which donates 1kg for every 2kg sold, launched in November and by January they were donating 500kg to Sai Kung-based Catherine’s Puppies, enough to feed all their dogs. With the shelter covered, they are turning to others who are in need.

Buddy Bites is a subscription-based delivery business. You sign up and then each month all your dog food needs are dropped at your door. Lee and Ryan Black, the other founder, still do some of the deliveries themselves if someone needs a top-up or sample.

“It sounds good until we have to do a fifth-floor walk-up delivery in July,” Black said. “But that’s part of the point really – Hong Kong is very hot in summer and carrying around 10kg, 15kg or 20kg of dog food is a massive hassle. So, being able to take it off people’s plate is a help. Hong Kong is densely populated, so there’s lots of shops but they are small and not great quality, so getting dog food is a hassle.”

The idea was born out of their spare time in Covid-19. With nowhere to travel and rugby on hold, the pair had time to think up business ideas and research viability. After six months of researching a subscription business, Buddy Bites was launched. They cannot believe how well it is going.

“In Hong Kong, there’s a real affinity with the dog shelter community. I don’t remember it being like that in the UK. It wasn’t a big thing about supporting the shelters,” said Lee, who adopted two dogs from Catherine’s Puppies. Nacho, his first dog, is the model for the business’ logo.

“It’s extremely rewarding, especially as we know what a difference it’s made for Catherine as she tells us in no uncertain terms. It means she can spend money on vet bills which are never-ending,” Lee said. “Having adopted two from there, it’s really rewarding. Having the confidence now that we can do this for other shelters is really exciting.”

Recently, Sai Kung Stray Friends Foundation, another dog shelter, reported it was close to financial collapse under mounting vet bills.

“What’s interesting from the inside out is these things go in peaks and troughs in terms of the attention on them,” Black said. “But what we’ve realised is these vet bills are an ongoing struggle. It’s ongoing so we are trying to help in an ongoing manner with this model. We are trying to help so that people can adopt dogs.”

Even as they work weekends, nights and early mornings to fit Buddy Bites around their day jobs, they have fun.

Black and Lee’s business relationship is based on a friendship built on the rugby field – they were the half-back pairing at the Hong Kong Football Club second, sometimes first, XV. They steered the second XV to multiple cup victories in the Hong Kong Premiership A competition.

“We both knew each other well, knew the other was competitive,” said Black. “It was easy to go into business knowing we could both work well together, and that wasn’t learned in the office but on the pitch.
“We knew we’d both be hard working, we knew we could work together, we knew we were on the same page.”

For now, they are focused less on winning cups and more on feeding pups.

“We wanted to go the extra mile at every stage,” Lee said. “Hong Kong is pretty lax on dog food, what’s in it, where it comes from. We’re up against big companies, so we want to make sure people trust our product.

“We’ve got the highest upper levels of regulations with our supplies, done third party testing once it arrived, we brought on two vets full-time to consult us. We’re trying to go above and beyond to make sure the dogs are in safe hands.”

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