"You've got to put yourself in a situation where you're betting on yourself, that’s when you learn what you’re truly capable of."

The life hack I swear by is: Start every day with a workout My favorite city is: Sydney

Kathryn Ruhno-McCallum

Empowering a community of health-conscious dog owners

BUILDING A BUSINESS FROM RAW PASSION. Kathryn Ruhno-McCallum's enterprise blends three of her greatest passions in life: health, fitness, and dogs. Her company, Raw Paw Life, marks her first startup, an idea sparked after she became one of the 23 million Americans who adopted a dog during the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did she know that her rescue dog, Bear, would be the source of inspiration to unite a community of health-conscious dog owners.

With limited knowledge of a dog's diet, Kat fed Bear kibble as recommended by the rescue center. However, she quickly noticed Bear developing several health issues, including skin problems. “I studied the dog food label, and I was like, what is this stuff? What are all these chemicals? Surely this is not normal." As a health-conscious eater, Kat turned her focus to what natural, healthy food for a dog looks like.

The result was Raw Paw Life, pet food free of antibiotics, hormones, and preservatives, where the meat is raw, premium, and from animals raised humanely. Kat tested the appetite for her product at farmers' markets and online, and it wasn't long before Raw Paw Life attracted a passionate community of fitness-minded dog lovers.

Kat's devotion to sport, health, and wellness has been an underlying theme throughout her life, starting her career in the sector as a personal trainer. "I spent years educating my clients on nutrition and how it's not just about coming to the gym with me; you have to eat healthy as well." One of those clients was Prudential's Global CIO Barbara Koster, who saw a spark in Kat and offered to help her land a role within the company. "Looking back, I was definitely not qualified for it, but she gave me this opportunity that opened my mind to business."

After working in corporate communications for five years, she decided to pursue an MBA in finance at Rutgers Business School. Her goal wasn't to start her own business, but the need for the product and community support was overwhelming. "I'd never had the kind of passion that I feel with this, so I took it and ran with it. It definitely has its challenges, but I've learned more in the past year than I learned in the corporate world in five years."

HARNESSING THE POWER OF COMMUNITY. Kat's next step with Raw Paw Life is building out the community, utilizing its current client base to help educate more dog owners on the benefits of a raw food diet for dogs. In the long term, Kat aims to expand Raw Paw Life into a pet wellness brand. "It's not just raw food. There are many other wellness aspects we're working on, like CBD, for example. It's a huge industry."

Kat is experienced when it comes to building a loyal community. After recently relocating to Rutherford, New Jersey, she was instrumental in helping the area host its first Pride festival, in addition to launching a local running club with her wife which has grown to hundreds of members. "For me, a lot of things come back to community. Do not underestimate how powerful it can be."

Kat's natural ability to harness communities is what keeps her motivated to expand her business. "I'm not scared of failure. I’m scared of ever letting the fear of failure stop me from taking a risk. You've got to put yourself in a situation where you're betting on yourself, that’s when you learn what you’re truly capable of. Failure, to me, is simply not trying."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.