When graphic-designer Ann Choong decided to leave her full-time job in advertising for a career in petcare in 2016, it was all to do with helping her dog Happy overcome his severe allergy problems.
Losing nearly all his fur due to incessant itching and scratching, Happy’s skin problems seemed to show no signs of easing up despite Ann’s numerous attempts at medical treatment from veterinarian care.
“We went to the vets so many times, yet after countless scrapes and checks and eliminating certain food types, he still couldn’t heal,” Ann said. “He lost his appetite, developed a low-grade fever from a secondary infection caused by his wounds, and was basically wasting away.”
The problem exacerbated to the point where Happy altogether refused to eat regular manufactured pet food, and at wits end, Ann decided to try the option of raw-feeding which he responded positively to.
“Shortly after, his condition improved and he soon started to heal,” she said. “And from then on I researched a lot into a more natural approach for food and health for Happy.”
Combining her research info and prior expertise gained from working in garden-care, Ann then began creating her own treats and began sharing recipes on how to make them, eventually going on to sell some every time she made large batches.
And then beyond food allergies, Ann also saw how Happy seemed to react negatively to chemical anti-tick and flea formulations, and again decided to create some solutions of her own.
“The area where I’d apply these drops would always flare up and become red,” she explained. “So I enrolled into courses and researched on Animal Aromatherapy, which led to the formulation of Happy Fluff’s Natural Pet Care range.”
Made With Love
Two years on, Ann now runs Happy Fluff as a part-time business alongside her husband Jason who handles marketing while she continues to focus on branding, product sourcing, and the creation of natural pet products.
“We no longer sell treats as there are many alternatives out there—I bake treats only for my furkids and only concentrate on petcare products.”
Her petcare products now include items such as paw balms, shampoos, and anti-pest sprays for dogs, with a product line for cats in the pipeline, all of these using all-natural ingredients such as beeswax, coconut oil, peppermint, and aloe vera among others.
“Only natural ingredients are used in our products, and they’re safe enough to be licked as dogs usually do,” Ann explained. “I make them by the batches by hand—sprays and balms take a day, while soaps take longer.”
So far, business has been pretty decent for Happy Fluff considering its small operating size, with Ann saying that she hopes to eventually grow the business from earning five-figures annually into something that she could do as a full-time thing.
“I’m fortunate to have so much support that I’m able to cover business expenses and make a small profit on the side for additional income,” she said. “I still have to rely on other work such as graphic design for income, but thankfully I enjoy the creative work I have to do aside from Happy Fluff.”
“Maybe someday, Happy Fluff will grow to a point that the business consumes all my time.”
Petcare While Caring For Others
Not content to just run Happy Fluff strictly for the sake of business, Ann also does as much as she possibly can to give back to the community, with Happy Fluff already having participated in two charitable initiatives since starting out.
The first of these was in 2017 where they participated in a sale that ended up helping build an animal shelter, and just this August, they engaged women refugees from Mang Tha through Sze Women of Hope to create pet collars (RM30 each) with traditional Batik and Songket motifs (the lines are aptly called Pawtik and Songcat, respectively), with a portion of the sales going back to helping the refugees and their families.
“As Merdeka day was approaching, I decided to celebrate the occasion,” Ann told us. “I wanted something that reflected both our pride as a Malaysian brand and our aspirations for a new Malaysia that is animal-compassionate.”
“Mangtha was matched to us for this project as they had the skills and resources to be able to make these items,” she continued.
“We created samples according to the size and measurements from my research, and then once it was confirmed, I sourced for suitable fabrics and the ladies of Mang Tha handmade the collars.”
“Our range of collars is as size inclusive as possible, even for the bigger breeds of pets that usually do not get much attention in the pet accessories sector.”
Teach Them New Tricks
As for what next, Ann thinks that there’s still work to do in terms of getting people to understand her products fully.
“Many people assume the products I have are one-off solutions—if their pets are itchy, they expect to use my products once and have the problems go away,” she lamented. “I think a lot of education is needed so I try and educate pet owners that improvement takes time, and that it’s vital to find out the root cause of the problem.”
Then she also talked about educating others on the suitability of certain products to different breeds and species.
“I want to be able to educate pet owners about what is biologically appropriate for their particular pets, whether it’s food or petcare or behavioural issues,” she said. “For example, cats and dogs are always categorised [together] as ‘pets’, but the fact is they’re completely different and need significantly different care in all aspects.”
“The best way to do this is to go into a discussion with pet owners to help them figure out what the problem may be,” she added. “This also makes Happy Fluff a little different—the personal touch; we genuinely care for your pet and hope that it can get better, and we hope to find the solution together with you.”
But on the positive side, Ann is just as excited to be able to have the chance to make a difference as far as petcare is concerned, and hopes she can continue serving pet owners and animal-loving community for years to come.
“I’d say my biggest achievement is building Happy Fluff into a trustworthy resource for pet lovers,” she said. “I get excited when asked for petcare advice even if it isn’t related to my products.”
“I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned about nutrition and petcare, and I’m proud to be able to help pet owners with whatever allergies or issues their pets may have.”
Feature Image Credit: Happy Fluff