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Side By Side opens Telluride store

Local pet food company expanding nationally

By Sophie Stuber, Planet Contributor Jul 4, 2018

Healthy living and whole food nutrition are popular topics, particularly in a town like Telluride, where most people recognize that all-natural, small-batch, minimally processed foods are better for both the planet and the body. A diet of vegetables, fruits and all-natural chicken, fish and beef sounds like a recipe for health, and Marney Prince, founder of Side by Side, a new emporium on West Colorado Ave., agrees — these are the ingredients she uses in all of her products. However, her clientele walks on four legs rather than two.

As a former veterinary technician and long-time animal lover, Prince believed there was a void in proper pet nutrition.

“We have known for a long time that kibble is not honoring a dog’s body,” Prince said. This concern led her to start her own, initially small-scale, pet food production facility and store.

Prince founded Side by Side Pet Nutrition, formerly Element Pet, in Mountain Village in 2014. Side by Side is a “holistic pet food store” that exclusively creates natural, whole food products for pets. The company offers freeze-dried and frozen food, treats, supplements and “tail mix” snacks. The local store even offers hemp-infused pain relief products — manufactured by Ridgway’s RxCBD — for cats and dogs.

A former Telluride Venture Accelerator participant, Prince has now expanded Side by Side to national production with help from CEO Carol Bramson, who Prince calls “the brains of the company.”

Bramson, an investor of 30 years, was introduced to Prince two years ago while vacationing in Telluride. She said she was immediately impressed by Prince’s small-scale, whole-food production company and offered to help Prince expand the brand outside of San Miguel County.

“I thought, ‘We can scale this. We can transform (Side by Side) from regional to the world,’” Bramson said. “Everyone loves their pets like family, but there is limited awareness about what is actually in their food.”

Since Bramson invested in Side by Side over a year ago, the company has moved production from Ridgway to a facility in Wisconsin. A Chicago store will open this summer, and several stores in Boston will carry Side by Side products. Before the expansion, Prince offered her clients nine different products. This year, Side by Side launched its national offerings, including 35 unique recipes.

Other Side by Side offerings have adapted to adjust for large-scale growth. Prince has always valued her one-on-one consultations with owners about nutrition to personalize their pet’s dietary plan, for example. Now, clients can complete a detailed online assessment to receive diet and serving recommendations.

Still, many aspects of Side by Side remain unchanged. All of the the photos on the products are of friends and family with their pets. To Prince, Telluride will always be an essential piece of her company’s identity, which is why she is so excited about the opening of her new Telluride store. “We feel like this is home,” she said.

Though Side by Side now has national offerings, Prince strives to maintain the values she held when she started her company. Environmental sustainability is one challenge facing a larger-scale company. When Prince was a regional supplier, she exclusively sold patties made with local ingredients and compostable packaging. Now, in order to comply with USDA regulations, her products require plastic packaging to seal and preserve each portion.

“My business went from having (essentially) no carbon footprint to having a national footprint,” Prince said. Still, environmental sustainability is a priority to Prince; she said she continues to investigate possibilities for better packaging options. Judging by the number of canines and humans at Side by Side’s grand opening on Monday, Telluride seems happy to welcome Prince to town. Both Prince and Bramson are excited to be here, and to see how Side by Side will grow in the future.

“It’s the year for fur off of clothes, and for women in business,” Prince said.

A better way to understand your pet

Side By Side’s Pet Assessment creates a thorough health picture

Humans are living in an age of food enlightenment where the quality and balance of ingredients is considered crucial to optimal health. And yet when it comes to pet food, most people, guided by little more than broad industry recommendations mixed with vague notions of nutrition, purchase bulk kibble.

At Side by Side, founder Marney Prince knows that imposing a one-size-fits-all diet on the rainbow of animals that exists in this world is to underserve pets at best and invite health problems at worst. Like each person, she says, each pet comes with a unique set of health considerations, historical circumstances, genetics and lifestyle factors. The East meets West health approach packs herbs and nutrients into whole food nutrition. The assessment, now in an easy-to-use online format, asks about age and breed, but also about the animal’s temperament, the appearance of its tongue, their body condition score. It wants to know details of the animal’s  feeding rituals, how it socializes, where it likes to sleep and how much activity and exercise it gets in day-to-day life.

The goal, Prince said, is to be able to tailor each pet’s diet to its unique needs. And as a bonus: “Our assessment is a way to learn and understand what is going on with your pet and become a little closer and more bonded too”

Side by Side CEO Carol Bramson experienced this firsthand when she underwent an assessment for her dog Wrigley.

“I felt like I was getting acquainted with my pet like I never had before,” Bramson said. “The assessment session involves an owner in a way that a vet appointment falls short of.”

And instead of just using the data to spit out a diet recommendation, Side by Side uses it as a basis of understanding to begin building the right nutritional plan for each individual animal. The company also plans to keep in touch with owners and optimize a pet’s diet if lifestyle changes call for important modifications.

“Because it only makes sense,” Bramson added, “to apply the standards we have for ourselves to the pets we love like children. Quite frankly, here at Side by Side, we’re Moms and Dads too, and we want to take good care of our babies, including our fur babies –  and we want to help you do the same,” she said.

A serendipitous start: Carol Bramson brings industry acumen, vision to Side by Side

Call it kismet.

In the summer of 2016, private equity investor Carol Bramson joined a friend to visit Telluride, Colorado, for the first time. They flew in and were greeted by a picturesque hamlet tucked into soaring mountains. And he said to her, “We can’t forget to get the dog food. My daughter will kill me if we do.”

“I was like … OK,” Bramson said. She probed him: What’s with this dog food?” He told her this wasn’t just any dog food. It was handmade and personalized with the best ingredients by a woman who knows her stuff about pet health. He had personally watched this product transform his dogs.

Bramson, who has spent her career building businesses in the healthy living sector, sensed something special. She asked her friend to set up a meeting, and soon she was sitting down with Marney Prince, who had her pitch deck and what to Bramson were the makings of a total winner.

Bramson knew from industry insight that the demand for quality ingredients is on an upward trajectory – and moving beyond the realm of people food. People want to create long and healthy lives for their pets, too. The timing for quality dog food was right; the potential huge; Marney’s product spot-on. And beyond that, Bramson – whose own life admittedly revolves around her labradoodle, Wrigley — saw something she wholeheartedly believed in.

“I felt like, this is the right story at the right time,” Bramson said.

She then threw her support behind the company, got to work on product, packaging and brand improvements, and became partner and CEO six months later.

Bramson brings high-level business acumen and deep experience to Side by Side.

After putting herself through undergrad and grad school, the Chicago native launched into the business world, becoming a partner in a private equity group and eventually starting her own firm. As a longtime investment management expert, she has years of experience advising businesses large and small.

And Bramson believes in investing with purpose.

She has always been guided by a desire to support the companies that impact people’s lives positively. That, coupled with a strong personal interest in health – she works out every day and eats a clean diet – drew her early on to the healthy living sector.

And as a pet parent, she gets it. The year before she met Prince, she had gotten Wrigley, who opened her eyes to just how much a pet can enrich a person’s life and why people go to such great lengths to ensure their dog is healthy.

“The love and companionship he gives me goes beyond words,” she said.My mom story and my business story came together at just the right time,”

As more pet owners realize that health and food are inextricably linked, she said, she’s excited to play a role in helping them change the diet of their charges.

“It feels amazing to be able to bring that message to the masses and to have the chance to make a huge positive impact on these lives, both that of the pet and their owner,” she said.