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Last Update: Wednesday June 23, 2021

Key Idea: Be the Alternative

Founder Sissy Harrington-McGill was tired of losing her beloved pets so she developed a healthy diet to extend their lives.

Key Question:


If a big business is doing something you can't come into the marketplace with a me-too product.  You may be able to beat back small competitors but you shouldn't waste your time launching a product that is already available from a big, strong brand.

Search more on the topic of product development and click on the question to see more answers.

Think about it

What are big companies doing that could be done better?  What products or services do you purchase that disappoint you?

Clip from: Solid Gold

El Cajon, California:  This is a story about how one little lady has become a leading nutritionist for animals, especially dogs and cats. Her company is Solid Gold Health Products for Pets

While the FDA tried to shut her down, the SBA recognized her as a superstar!  Exporter of the Year, Sissy sells huge volumes into Japan.  To get the FDA off her back, she did add a line – "Our products are not designed to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease" – on her packaging and advertising . 

Sissy Harrington McGill is a fighter. A Columbia University-trained nutritionist she turned her basic knowledge about health and food and directed it to the animals she loves.  Sissy has worked for over thirty years to educate us all, "You are what you eat."  She eats only the purest foods and she insists on it for animals, too!

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Solid Gold Health Products for Pets

Sissy Harrington-McGill, Founder

1483 North Cayamaca
El Cajon, CA 92020
800 364 4863

Visit our web site:

Office: 800 364 4863

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1974

Be the Alternative

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. Small Business School is a how-to program about starting, running and growing a business. And if you've had a chance to watch us every week, you've met many small-business owners here doing fascinating things. But this may be the most pioneering and adventuresome soul we've ever introduced you to. Sissy Harrington McGill makes healthy dog food. But she's always been up against the status quo, so its never been easy.

In our Master Class at Small Business School, we have no journalists, no gurus and no academics. And most of the small-business owners who teach in our Master Class have very little formal education. That's not the case with Sissy. She has a master's degree in nutrition. However, everything she knows about business, she's learned from experience. So join us now in Southern California. Step into the Master Class with Sissy Harrington McGill.

SISSY HARRINGTON McGILL (Solid Gold): `Oh, she's always kissing me. She always kisses me.'

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The company is Solid Gold Health Products for Pets in El Cajon, just a few miles east of San Diego, California. Today there are 45 items in the catalog, all for the purpose of keeping animals healthy. Founder Sissy Harrington McGill has a master's degree in nutrition from Columbia, and was a schoolteacher when she became the owner of a Great Dane in 1958.

SISSY: I have no children. My Great Danes are my babies. And when I have a dog that dies at a very young age, and I've taken supremely good care of him, I still think, "It must be something that I did wrong." So I wanted to find out what happened so I don't lose another dog.

HATTIE: So, that's how it started.

SISSY: The Great Dane was originally bred for the royalty in Germany. The American Dane lives to be seven to nine. The German Dane lives to be 11 to 13.

So I asked, `How come?'

Well, there are three things -- there's nutrition, there's genetics and there's care. Well, we care as much for our Danes as the Germans do. The genetics are similar because we're always importing dogs. The only thing left is nutrition. So I took samples of the German dog food, and I put them in Ziploc bags, cut the label off and put them in the bags. I brought back a fawn son of the world champion of 1974, the world champion Great Dane. And I brought back dog food.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Sissy bought $3,000 worth of the German dog food and sold it quickly back in the US.

Who made it for you? How did you get your first sale? Who bought your first bag of dog food?

SISSY: Other Great Dane breeders, other breeders of large dogs: German shepherds, Irish setters, Dobermans, Rottweilers.

HATTIE: But how did you get to these people? Did you go to shows, did you just know these people?

SISSY: Well, I did go to dog shows all the time. I was showing my Danes.

HATTIE: OK, you're showing your Danes, and did you have it in your trunk, and you open the trunk... and ask, `Does anybody want to buy some dog food?'

SISSY: No. No, you have papers. And, you know, when people go to dog shows, they're sitting around at the edge and they're so bored, they'll read a tomato soup can. So you give them flyers. And `This is the product we have.' So the first dog show I was a vendor was in 1978. And I had set up there. Well, people say, `Oh, is this the stuff you've been telling us about?' I sold everything that I had, and then I had six people follow me to my garage to buy this dog food because they care about their dogs, too.

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