Russell Gibbons: A Thriving Dog Food Taster
Not many would consider it possible to thrive as a dog food taster, but for Russell Gibbons, life is indeed thriving. The Australian native tastes dog food as one small component of the quality control process for ‘Huds and Toke,’ his internationally recognized gourmet pet treats company.
Primarily, Gibbons is a family man who has made a career out of the passions he shares with his wife, Emma-Louise, and their two children, Arthur and Barkeley. There’s also plenty of tender love left over for their two pet dragons whose names are, you guessed it, ‘Huds’ and ‘Toke’. Luckily for the Gibbons these dragons were imaginary, but Arthur and Barkeley loved and cared for them nonetheless. Inspired by their devotion for their imaginary pets, Gibbons embarked on a journey to create a business that embodied what mattered most in his life – his love for his family and his family’s love for animals.
With a Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness, a Masters in Professional Accounting, and an Associate Diploma in Applied Science (with a concentration in Stock Feed Manufacturing), Gibbons’ extensive training has enabled him to succeed in his uniquely chosen field. When he began, the only missing element to an even bigger vision was a business partner with an Associate Diploma in Applied Science (with a concentration in Animal Nutrition and Production). So he married one. Together, the Gibbons’ combined knowledge and passion make them an unstoppable team as they continue to flourish in this field.
Today, ‘Huds and Toke’ designs and creates ‘highly-targeted, world-class, premium gourmet animal treats.’ They collaborate with animal nutritionists, veterinarians, and other food specialists to manufacture their treats for dogs, horses, chickens, guinea pigs, cats, rabbits, and of course, imaginary pet dragons. These are made in a purpose-built facility in Australia and distributed both across their homeland, and around the world to such countries as Japan and Germany. They also have intentions to expand into the US in the near future. The business has received numerous accolades such as a ‘Business Of The Year’ award and a ‘Businesses of the Future’ award from Westpac, one of the largest banks in Australia.
In a field as distinct as manufacturing, tasting and distributing gourmet pet treats, it is difficult to imagine what a typical day must be like. But whatever it is, we know Gibbons is having fun. He candidly states, “One thing to be clear on is I don’t see work as a chore.” He finds excitement and purpose in continually seeking new ways to excel as the company strives towards continued success.
With a happy family life, a steadily advancing business and an unparalleled passion for their field, it may appear as though the Gibbons’ have experienced only charmed lives. However, as is commonly the case, they’ve had their share of serious challenges. For instance, their grit was severely tested nearly two years ago with the tragic passing of business partner and mentor, Mark Gooley.
In dealing with such tragedy, the Gibbons family found themselves both despondent and in a serious dilemma. Gooley had been an integral source of support for their business and family, and they truly relied on his wisdom and expertise. “He encouraged us and genuinely wanted to see us succeed,” Gibbons affectionately recalls, “and he had a lot of experience both in manufacturing and in building businesses.”
At this difficult moment they were faced with two options: either shut down business, or press onwards, utilizing the skills and knowledge that Gooley had bestowed upon them. “We decided that we needed to continue” Gibbons justifies, “in part to honor his effort with us, and also to show ourselves that we had the skills and the fortitude to push through adversity regardless of the emotion it placed upon us.” Despite the unwelcomed stress that accompanied this hardship, he recalls continuing on as perhaps his family’s greatest achievement. “Our family is intact and stronger than ever and in doing well, we are paying tribute to Mark,” he says stoically.
The picturesque state of Queensland is marked by lush foliage, dotted with exotic palm trees and illuminated with brilliant sunshine, thus creating the perfect setting for the beginning of a purpose-driven day. When not creating world-class pet food, the Gibbons’ emphasize the importance of spending time with each other and their children outside of the busy workplace. They’ve implemented a daily routine to that end. Consistent with our vision of the hearty Aussies, they place significant importance in staying close to nature. Whatever the weather conditions, his day usually starts before the sun’s arrival by taking their two dogs to the beach. If he’s missing in action, Emma Louise usually knows where to look, especially when the Pacific Ocean surf is up.
We find the impressive, life-affirming Gibbons family exceptionally easy to admire and root for, and we plan on doing just that as we stay tuned to their progress. Their anticipated expansion into the US should make that an easy task, easier than tasting dog food, we’d say.