Everything changed when Katie Spies adopted a 6-month-old Italian Greyhound named George in 2014. When it came to his health, she had a million questions—around what he really needed, especially after realizing the shortcomings of nutrition products she’d been told to trust.
As an MIT engineer, she wanted George’s life to be as thoughtfully designed as her’s was. She was finally getting her footing when George had his first health scare, and she knew his nutrition was what needed fixing most.
Hundreds of trips down the pet aisle later, she still couldn’t find a brand that she felt completely confident feeding George –with clean ingredients, balanced supplements, and ease. So she started making her own raw food for George, and his health dramatically improved. People started noticing and asked Katie to make food for their pets as well.
An experienced innovator with three engineering degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School, Katie founded Maev in 2018 with the belief that the modern dog owner deserves better, and shouldn’t have to trade quality for convenience when it comes to their dogs.
As a solo founder, Katie had to get Maev off the ground on her own.
In fact, only three other people were working at Maev before sales to the public launched in March 2020. With such a lean team, Katie was responsible for product, operations, and marketing in addition to taxes, bookkeeping, financial planning and KPI analysis.
“From day one, data has been critical to building the brand, but that required me to personally pull and analyze every number - and run functions like bookkeeping and taxes, because we didn't have anybody else to do it,” Katie recalled.
By the time she secured a seed round of funding in Fall 2020, Katie knew that her DIY-approach to bookkeeping, budgeting, forecasting, financial planning, and taxes was holding her back from focusing on growth.
Without more sophisticated bookkeeping, it became difficult for her to see where money was spent and how those expenses lined up with the company’s budget. Analyzing operational and financial performance weekly became extremely time consuming for Katie, but was critical for regularly meeting aggressive growth goals.
Katie explained, “In other words, I became the bottleneck.”
At first, Katie set out to find fractional CFO services so she could get an extra pair of eyes on the company’s growth and operational metrics. Together we realized that Maev needed a comprehensive suite of services that included tax, accounting, and bookkeeping services.
Maev was hiring more employees and investing cash in inventory and marketing, so finding a solution that allowed Katie to keep tabs on everything was key.
When it all came down to it, Katie needed a partner who she could trust, work with on a monthly basis, and gain actionable insights from every meeting.
“Finding a partner to run KPIs for me was going to require trust,” Katie explained. “I need a relationship where I can be in the Excel spreadsheet with them, ask how they pulled numbers, trust the calculations they’re running, and build forecast models together.”
Because every business is unique and has different needs, Pilot worked proactively with Katie to determine what services Maev actually needed.
“Everyone I met was really on top of things,” Katie recalled. “They moved the process forward and were very clear and transparent in what services I would be getting. The pricing was straightforward, and the CFO team came with CPG (consumer packaged goods) experience, which was critical. We are a business that invests heavily in physical inventory and our cash conversion cycle on inventory will make or break us.”
With the help of Pilot’s finance and tax professionals, Katie can focus on other important tasks on her plate, such as raising money, hiring new employees, or elevating the company’s brand.
Before signing up Pilot’s services in May 2021, determining a source of truth on Maev’s books required a lot of work. The problem was that different sources of data provided insights on similar metrics but in different ways.
Within a few months, Pilot’s dedicated team of finance experts helped Katie streamline Maev’s bookkeeping and accounting workflow in QuickBooks and roll out a new inventory management system that makes it easier to keep track of Maev’s products.
When Katie needed to close a new round of funding, Pilot’s CFO Services team built a financial model that allowed her to analyze different revenue scenarios and use it as a projection model for investors.
"Pilot fueled our most recent fundraise from a financial and strategic perspective, and built data rooms that helped me secure our lead."
Once funding was secured for Maev, Pilot’s CFO Services team worked with Katie to transform this revenue forecasting tool into a robust KPI dashboard that would track the performance of everything from the company’s marketing funnels to their supply chain efforts.
This tool came to life shortly after the funding round, when Pilot’s CFO Services team mapped out different growth scenarios for Maev. Rather than following the trends of competitors that focus on unprofitable growth, Katie opted to pursue a more sustainable approach that was focused on reaching industry-leading gross margins and retention. Katie then communicated to everyone within the company and used the KPI dashboard to closely monitor gross margins, cohort retention metrics, and cashflow.
“When I started this search, I expected it to be like any other vendor partnership, where we check in regularly, but they act as outside vendors,” Katie explained. “What we’ve actually built with Pilot is so core to the rest of the team to the point that the names of Pilot team members come up in our day-to-day meetings.”
Whenever anyone on Katie’s team wants to pull specific types of data and gain insights from it, Pilot’s CFO team immediately comes to mind.
"It feels like the Pilot team are true members of the Maev team. I talk about them in our day-to-day meetings as if they sit next to me at work."
With Pilot’s CFO Services team in her corner, Katie no longer needs to crunch numbers and interpret data for hours on end.
“The main reason I’d recommend Pilot is so founders can spend less time working in the business and more time working on the business, and get strategic help to do so,” Katie said.
So, when it all comes down to it, why is Pilot the best fit for Maev or any other hyper-growth startup, for that matter?
"You get a talented suite of people who act as a part of your team and can solve these problems for you all in one fell swoop by just signing up for Pilot."
Maev creates and sells nutritious raw dog food products that are made with the help of veterinarians and food transparency in mind. Maev’s overarching goal is to make the lives of dog owners easier so they can worry less about their pet and focus on everything else that’s going on in their lives.