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Innovators in the News

8/22/12 - Portland Veterinary Pharmacy Named to Inc. 500 list

Vets First Choice, an online service, is ranked as the 30th-fastest growing company in the country.

(Reprint from the Portland Press Herald 8/21/12) - Portland - Not many people have heard of Vets First Choice, and that's by design, said Benjamin Shaw, the company's chief executive officer.   

But it's something that's likely to change, now that the company has been named the nation's 30th-fastest growing company by Inc., a business magazine.

"We normally have kept a low profile," Shaw said of the online veterinary pharmacy, which works to put its partner veterinarians first in the relationship with their customers.

That business model apparently works quite well. In issuing its annual list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies, Inc. noted that Vets First Choice grew by 6,133 percent from 2008 to the end of 2011, with revenue shooting from $120,534 to $7.5 million.

Its work force has grown likewise, from just three employees in 2008 to 41 at the end of last year.

The company now has about 100 employees, Shaw said, partly because of the acquisition of another online veterinary pharmacy, VetCentric, based in Maryland, earlier this year.  

He said revenue during the first six months of this year surpassed what the company took in during all of 2011.

"These are complex service offerings and we've been able to pull together a lot of the key pieces for veterinarians and pet owners to make this work," Shaw said.

Shaw said Vets First Choice works with veterinarians to fill prescriptions and provide products to pet owners.

When a pet owner needs a prescription filled or needs another product, like one for flea and tick prevention, the vet's office can offer to have the product shipped to the customer's home. But it's really Vets Choice that sends the product. Vets Choice can also send out reminders to customers when a prescription needs to be refilled or another product is due to be purchased, Shaw said. The email reminders appear to come from the vet's office.

Having all purchases go through Vets First Choice allows a veterinarian to keep track of what a pet is being given, to make sure the health care is appropriate, he said.

Vets First Choice was spun off last year from its parent company, FetchDog, and recently announced it had landed $4 million in venture capital. FetchDog's core business – online and catalog sales of dog accessories – was sold to the Potpourri Group catalog company in June.  

Shaw said Vets First Choice has had trouble finding qualified employees to take care of functions ranging from pharmacy to veterinary medicine, as well as marketing and logistics. He said the recognition from Inc. might help the company to recruit employees who can help maintain the momentum.  

"We're an unknown company, and for us, this is a way to raise awareness that we exist," Shaw said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy

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