Dyslexia and his dog: the two things that inspired Rab’s business

“Two things inspired my business: my dyslexia and my dog. I wanted to use my dyslexia as a positive by setting up a dog food business that makes a difference.”

His four-legged friends have helped him through thick and thin so when Rab MacLeod’s beloved dog Bruce became sick, he was determined to find a solution. Rab's search for quality dog food not only led him to launch his own business but also find a way to support children with additional learning needs. Rab tells us more…

Winding back the clock somewhat, it was my childhood dog that got me through my struggles with dyslexia in a traditional school environment.

Back in the 70s and 80s being different wasn’t something that was celebrated and despite my parents working tirelessly to get me support, I still found school a traumatic experience.

So, when a switched-on doctor suggested a dog might help my school days, it kickstarted a lifelong bond. Since then, I’ve always been a dog owner and they’ve supported me through thick and thin. Because, even out of the education system, conforming to corporate life wasn’t necessarily easier.

Then along came Bruce, my faithful Bouvier de Flandres, who inspired my next chapter.

Bruce has an intolerance to wheat and became quite sick, which led us to begin researching the problem in search of a solution. The deeper we looked, the more disappointed we became by the quality of the food that’s on the market for dogs.

We decided to change that – and that’s when McDug Nutrition was born! The business gives me the chance to support other dog owners to make active and positive choices to improve and maintain the health, lifespan and wellbeing of their dogs. And by donating a percentage of my profits to therapy dog organisations, I’m helping to make sure today’s children have a very different educational experience to my own.

One of the things that makes me the proudest about McDug is our unique supply chain from farms and fisheries that we know and trust.

Some products on the market have as little as 4% meat content. Ours contains up to 65% and can be traced not only to the breed but right back to the very farm or fishery.

I simply couldn’t have started this business without Transmit.

Coming from a sales and marketing background, I know how important it is to get the brand of a business right from the outset so that’s where we needed to make an investment. Our loan of £25,000 meant we could get the brand off to the best possible start.

The first tranche of the loan was used to establish a brand which we know needs to work hard for us and needs to feel authentic. We wanted to work with likeminded suppliers who reflected our own values and we worked hard to select a team of professionals who could help us to establish the right look and feel, complete with a website, photography and copywriting.

The second tranche of money is being used for a van wrapped in our branding, which will be fantastic for raising awareness when we are out and about.

It was just as important to us to find the right funding partner as it was to find any other partner or supplier to work with.

We needed to find a funder who shared the same values and would provide the support we needed. We definitely found that in Transmit.

Our business adviser Morag was fantastic. Paperwork isn’t my strong suit but she was really flexible and understanding and helped to make it straightforward and simple. She was genuinely interested in me and my business, which made all the difference. If I can do it, anyone can!

The first order I received from someone outside of our circle of supportive friends and family was a really exciting moment.

When that sale came through the website and we had no idea who the customer was or where they were from was a moment I’ll never forget! We now have a 100% repurchase rate from all of our first customers so that’s been a real highlight too.

You could consider my dyslexia as a barrier but in this case, it’s been a motivator.

It’s a huge part of my vision to support children who have additional learning needs – to help them to have the positive learning experience at school that I didn’t have. That’s why McDug is partnering with companies that provide assistance dogs for children in schools. I would love one day to give every school in the country the chance to access a therapy dog so I’m giving 10% of my profits to support that aim.

When children learn in a relaxed environment, they take in so much more than when they’re stressed - and they become encouraged to read, write and explore more often - building a lifelong love of learning. Therapy dogs are an amazing way to foster this environment (I’m living proof of that!)

The future is full of possibilities and that’s really exciting.

Eventually, I’d love to expand the McDug core brand to include a training and adventure element. I’d like to create a physical location that could become a one-stop-shop for everything to make your canine friend a happy and healthy member of the family.

There’s been a real shift in the relationship between people and their dogs and they’ve become so much more integrated into our families. Dogs are no longer on the periphery, fed the scraps from our leftovers. They are really valued and we all feel the benefit of that. McDug will play a part in making sure that continues!

Has Rab’s story got you thinking?

Transmit Startups can take your business from a dream to a reality, with a Start Up Loan and support to get started. Find out how we can help on our Start Up Loans page.