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Meet Denise Clifton of Pupologie in North County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Denise Clifton.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Denise. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
When I was 23 years old, I took a job working for a small independent chain of pet stores, called Pet Nutrition Center. The first day of training my world was turned upside down and I was forever changed. The owner of the company taught me how to read food labels and the definitions of each ingredient according to pet food standards. I was horrified and outraged to find out what toxins and nightmare ingredients these trusted name brand companies were putting into the very “food” I had grown up feeding all my pets.

A year and a half later, in 2005, I founded Pupologie Natural Pet Market as a resource center and place where pet parents and animal lovers could come for trusted information and options. In 2007, my amazing, supportive husband joined me in helping to run the store and sharing our passion with our customers. In 2015, I joined forces and became partners with fellow alumni of Pet Nutrition Center and independent retail businesswoman to open the second Pupologie location in Oceanside.

I am committed to honesty, truth, integrity, and empowering people to be the best pet parents they can be. I have fourteen years of experience in the pet industry, and I can detect lies and sniff out deceitful marketing ploys a mile away. I know what to look for in a company and what makes some brands worthy of my trust, while others don’t stand a chance.

I am here as an ally, a teacher, and a support. I stand for change in the way we collectively perceive pet food. I stand for a shift in power from the hands of greedy, giant conglomerates, to the hands of the people. My dream is a world where animal shelters are no longer overcrowded, and factory farming is a thing of the past. Where pet food manufacturers are forced to use real ingredients because there is no longer a demand for the toxin-laden trash that has been on the shelves of stores for half a century.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been anything but smooth, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This business is truly born of passion and purpose.

When the economy screeched to a holt back in 2008, we felt it. There was a period of time we couldn’t make our lease and I recall coming to the store each morning and finding an eviction notice. It was one of the darkest times of my life. My dream to make the world a better place for animals was in danger of not making it. The uncertainty of our survival caused me to fall into a depression. This went on for months. We would scrounge enough money to pay one month of rent, but not be able to pay the previous two we were behind on.

My husband was my rock. He got me up in the morning and encouraged me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We showed up every single day, seven days a week. We thinned out our staff. We engaged our customers and let them know how much their support was valued and needed.

Eventually, we turned a corner and got back on track, thanks to our amazing supporters and a family loan.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Pupologie – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are champions of TRUTH, empowering pet parents for a world free of toxic pet brands. We say “no” to the ingredients and practices commonly used in the world’s most popular brands. We fill our shelves with products that prioritize pet-livelihood over profits. We value transparency and love sharing as much information about our offerings as you care to know. We do the investigating so you don’t have to.

We are huge proponents of feeding fresh and minimally processed food, and we have the largest selection of frozen raw, lightly cooked, dehydrated, and freeze-dried foods in southern California. These are the foods that give our pets the nutrients they need to live long, thriving, and balanced lives. When we first opened in 2005, our flagship store only had 2 freezers and a handful of customers that understood the concept of feeding fresh vs. dry. Today we have 15 freezers in Encinitas and 9 in Oceanside.

One of my proudest moments happened very recently during a routine planning meeting, Upon examining our sales numbers for the year, I noticed that our raw and raw alternative sales had grown to match the sales of dry food. This is a milestone that makes me incredibly happy. It means that we are accomplishing the mission. We are changing the way people perceive pet food.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
There is still so much work to do and so many more pet parents to reach. With the emergence of social media in recent years, we will be offering online educational seminars via live stream and YouTube. We will also open up more stores.

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