Passion for Pets Leads Babson Duo to Dog Supplement Startup

Nathan Ruff MBA’24 and Anthony Gatti MBA’24 bonded over their anxious dogs, which lead them to create a dog supplement company called PetPax Co.

For Anthony Gatti MBA’24 and Nathan Ruff MBA’23, a small shift in their MBA journeys paved the way to a friendship, an ongoing collaboration, and the creation of a product meant to soothe their anxious pooches while kick-starting their entrepreneurial journeys. 

Gatti is a co-creator of PetPax Co., the company behind a functional calming dog supplement delivered using a rapidly dissolving oral film. He started at Babson as a part-time MBA student, but decided he wanted more connection to the daily Babson community.

“There felt like there was something missing a little bit. Evening students are amazing students, but a lot of them are pretty sure about their career paths,” said Gatti. “I wasn’t sure what my next steps would be, but I knew that I wanted to start something, and I knew that Babson was the best place in the world that to do that.” 

Ruff, meanwhile, was on a traditional MBA path but wanted to shake up his schedule. He signed up for a popular elective called New Venture Creation taught by Andrew Corbett, the Paul T. Babson Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies. The class not only expanded Ruff’s circle of friends, but it is also where PetPax was hatched. 

A Babson Boost 

Gatti, Ruff, and their venture creation team originally focused on a fast-acting allergy medication delivered via an oral film. But, as they learned about the pharmaceutical red-tape involved, they changed direction. 

“We realized very, very quickly that we both have dogs, and deeper than that, both of our dogs had different forms of anxiety,” Ruff said. The anxiety makes day to day life very challenging. Ruff was getting regular complaints from neighbors about his Boston Terrier Luna’s separation anxiety.  

 “When we looked into it, we realized there was a big issue here,” Ruff said, adding that many dog parents were returning to work in person after getting a puppy during the shelter-in-place days of COVID-19.  

“We realized a lot of people could benefit from this product,” Ruff said. 

ZenMelt creators Anthony Gatti and Nathan Ruff say their soothing pet supplement works faster because it’s served using an oral film.

Once they had a general sense of the product, Ruff and Gatti leveraged Babson’s community and programs to fine tune the supplement, which they named ZenMelts. They participated in Babson’s Summer Venture Program (SVP), a prestigious incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs.  

“We had some substantial shifts in our thought process around how to move the business forward through our experience at SVP,” Gatti said, emphasizing the invaluable support they received from mentors and peers. 

Gatti highlighted the pivotal role that the Babson community played in shaping their entrepreneurial journey. From mentorship sessions with industry professionals to collaborative discussions with fellow founders, Gatti and Ruff found themselves immersed in a supportive ecosystem that propelled their venture forward.

Several of their advisory committee members have come from Babson. Adi Pathak ‘19 introduced them to MBA graduates Aastha Setia ‘20, and Yash Banthia ‘18, who join Associate Professor of Marketing Dr. Kristen Getchell and others, including veterinarian Lauren Makowski, to make up their advisors. 

“The connections that were being made … really shifted the way that we moved forward from that summer program into the fall,” Ruff recalled. 

Man’s Best Friends 

Their dog-calming product, ZenMelts, born out of a desire to address the needs of pet owners, quickly gained traction, thanks in part to the guidance and resources provided by Babson. “It’s the people that you get connected with,” Gatti said, “and the institutional knowledge from folks within the Babson community that really propelled us forward.” 

As they navigated the complexities of entrepreneurship alongside their academic commitments Gatti and Ruff leaned on each other for support, leveraging their complementary skills to drive their venture forward.  

“We have a company culture of no ego,” Gatti explained. “It separates business and friendship. We’re able to still be friends.” 

“I understand why people give back so much of their time and their resources to Babson, because when you plug in, it gives right back.”
Anthony Gatti MBA’24

Their journey culminated in the development of PetPax, marking a significant milestone in their entrepreneurial endeavors. And, the company continues to grow, moving to Austin, Texas, last week after the company was accepted to a VC lead accelerator called Antler. 

Looking back on the experience, both founders expressed deep appreciation for the opportunities afforded by Babson and the supportive community it fosters.  

“I understand why people give back so much of their time and their resources to Babson, because when you plug in, it gives right back,” Gatti said. He’s looking forward to his upcoming Commencement ceremony and his continued relationship with Babson. 

“Our relationship with Babson is just starting in a big way,” Gatti said. 

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