Meet Natalie Asseraf, the managing director of Gummi, a family-owned business passionate about fashionable pet products.
In many ways, Natalie’s career has been the perfect inspiration and motivation for launching the Gummi brand as it is today. So was her childhood. The greatest influences in her life have been strong, creative, eccentric women – her mother, Suzie, and grandmother, Barbara.
As a little girl, Natalie always loved fashion and dressing up. Her mother was a fashion designer for the kids’ brand, HangAbout, and she was very non-traditional. Natalie found herself surrounded by visual inspiration – lots of lots of color, art, and quite eccentric things for the time – like leather-print couches and avant-garde paintings. So when Natalie left school, she was naturally drawn to pursuing a career in fashion.
And as a retailer and worker, her grandmother, Barbara, was also a huge inspiration. She was a gemmologist and had several jewelry stores, so Natalie would spend Christmas holidays helping out in the stores, learning how to work independently, learning how good retail functioned, and learning how much work it really takes.
She started in fashion wholesale, progressing to product planning and buying, and then opening her own retail space. She opened an invite-only styling studio from home, but that small community grew so quickly that she outgrew that space.
Natalie also worked with her father, Monte, in the Gummi pet product business, which he originally founded in 2003. When her father passed away, she found herself prepared to take on Gummi. Her experience, skills, and passion were all aligned, and in 2020, she relaunched the brand – completely reimagined from what it had been.
Throwing herself into something her father had created and keeping it going, in her own way, was part of the grieving and healing process for Natalie. She was able to continue his legacy, which was incredibly important for her.
The other wonderful thing her father had given her was her dog, Wally, two years ago. Wally has been an amazing, beautiful bundle of joy and definitely a big part of Natalie’s healing process.
Gummi 2020 is built on the idea that pets are at the center of our families, whatever shape they are, and Wally helped teach Natalie that. He also helped show her how important animals are in our lives – for mental and physical health and well-being.
Learn more in our interview with her below!
Our Interview with Natalie Asseraf, Managing Director of Gummi
When you took over Gummi, walk us through your decision of “why” it was important to reinvent the company and what you wanted to accomplish?
The legacy that my father left me was a solid base for creating something really exciting. It was an established brand in the market for 15 years.
I really wanted to give the brand my edge and vision and to be able to use the rebrand project as an opportunity to harness my grief and turn it into a positive. You can see that in the brand colors, they’re just so bright, happy, and fun. That’s how I want them to make people – and dogs- feel!.
I also wanted to look at the strong connection with an animal, that unconditional love that pet ownership gives you, and create a brand that pays homage to that.
If there’s a message behind the brand, a driving philosophy, it’s about connecting with animals (we focus on dogs at the moment) and all the benefits that it brings.
Why are you passionate about Gummi? And what should people know about the company?
I love what I do every day, to know that I am creating products for our four-legged furry friends, which brings me such real joy.
I love that I can put a smile on people’s faces when they make a connection with my product. There’s that instant community and connection that having a pet brings. I experience it every day. I love the stories people share about their dogs, I love that people’s face light up when they talk about their dogs, and that I can be a part of that process and offer them products to complement their lives. We get puppy stories, and puppy cuddles every day at work, and that’s genuinely who we are.
Tell us about your product development and how you decide what products go into production?
Our philosophy is that we don’t just put a product into the marketplace for no reason. We are always looking at ways to innovate a product and elevate its offering. Our first and foremost is the dog’s comfort, the experience, and then adding our unique Gummi spin to it. We always want to ensure that the product that goes to market is the most considered, optimal, functional, and on-brand. And that takes time, research, development, and production. It is also essential to consider how a product fits into the Gummi brand and suite of products.
Has the COVID-19 climate affected Gummi? And how have you had to pivot during this time?
We have been really lucky that the pet industry has been buoyant during Covid-19. It could be something to do with people going crazy with puppies during the pandemic. Dog adoption and sales have soared internationally during the pandemic.
With people working at home, they spend more time with their furry friends and reinforce their connections with their pets. A walk to the dog park has become such an important part of lockdown life.
We had always planned to launch at this time, and the pandemic hasn’t damaged the launch at all. In fact, quite the opposite, which is strange to consider.
What does your day-to-day look like? What you love most about what you do?
My day is about being a mum and business owner, so, like everyone, I’m busy, and it can be anything at any time. I could be doing a Pilates class on Zoom, walking the dog, dropping the kids at school, creating new ranges, working in our newly opened retail space, visiting our majors, data entering, and cooking … all in one day. It’s the variety and the juggle that I love … okay, some days more than others!
What does success mean to you?
For me, success means finding peace – peace in where you are at with your life and truly living your authentic life. It’s knowing you’re doing what you love, even on the difficult days.
How do you practice self-care?
This is something I definitely need to get better at. I’m doing a lot of juggling, and I’m putting a lot of things before myself, which is part of being a parent and business owner. But I know I have to work to set aside time to stop, breathe, and look after myself. This has made me try to find some time for myself in my diary!
If you could go back and give yourself some advice when you first started your career – what would you tell yourself?
Save more money and don’t shop so much! Believe in yourself so you understand your own worth.
What single word or saying do you identify most with? Why?
Resilience is my word – I think you have to be resilient in your personal and business life. Shit happens. We just lived through a pandemic. But you have to pick yourself up, and honor, understand, and learn from what you have gone through and keep moving forward.
What’s next for you and Gummi?
Next year is going to be such an exciting year for Gummi. The launch is the first phase, but once we’re established in the market, the brand can grow. A great brand can be anything! And managing that growth is going to be exciting.
I can’t give away any secrets, but I’m delighted with how the new Gummi has been embraced by the market already, and it means we’re positioned to grow Gummi in bold and unexpected ways that I know would make my father proud.
Be sure to follow Natalie Asseraf and Gummi online at the following links: