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Last Update: Wednesday March 20, 2019

Key Idea: Bypass the Traditional Supply Chain

Lucky Southern California dog owners can go straight to Sissy's shop to purchase and to get plenty of advice and tender loving care from the master nutritionist.

Key Question:


You can sell a product by going straight to the consumer. As a school teacher, Sissy didn't know anything about business. She tried the German dog food on her animals, and when she found it to be so effective, she sold it to her friends.

If most dog food is sold in grocery stores, warehouse retailers, and pet shops, how did Sissy expand her sales beyond her friends?

She took the food to the consumer. She loaded up the trunk of her car and made the rounds to all the dog shows. She handed out fliers which turned out to be a perfect marketing strategy because the dog owners have plenty of reading time on their hands at these shows. This was low-cost marketing and it got her business off the ground.

Think about it

Where do your customers go for information and to buy products?  Are you where they are?  Do you get close and stay close to the grassroots level of your core customer?

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

Bypass the Traditional Supply Chain

HATTIE: How did you get your first pet shop to put your product...

SISSY: Well...

HATTIE: their store?

SISSY: ...many people that do dog shows are pet groomers or own pet stores, and they say, `Can I put it in my store?' And then when people call up, as a response to these ads, they say, `I live in Redondo Beach, I live in Anaheim.' `Oh, I've got somebody there.' And then eventually you get distributors. Now that's the way to go.

HATTIE: When do you think this stopped being your hobby and started being a business?

SISSY: When I moved out of the house in 1984.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Customers buy from all over the world and include the rich and famous.

SISSY: Rich people--they're so rich they want to live a long time, I guess, to spend their money, and they want their dogs to live a long time.

I'll tell you a quick story about Zsa Zsa Gabor. This is many years ago. She would call up, and we would send product to her. And one lady, and I won't mention her name, called up and she wanted to buy some of the dog food for her dogs. And I said, `Oh'--I always say, `How'd you hear about us?'

She said, `Zsa Zsa told me.' I said, `You're a friend of Zsa Zsa's?' She says, `Not at all.' `OK. Well, what's going on?' `Well, I was sitting at a restaurant, and I was telling my friend that I was having lunch with that my dog had terrible skin problems. And Zsa Zsa was at the next table, and she jumped up and ran over and said, `You have to feed the Solid Gold Hund-N-Flocken.'

HATTIE: (Voiceover) In 1994, the Small Business Administration named Solid Gold Exporter of the Year from California. One-third of Sissy's $7.5 million in sales go to Japan.

MANNY ROSILLO: In the past few years...

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Manny Rosillo has been Sissy's sales manager for 10 years.

And something just happened. You just came in and said...

MANNY: Yeah.

HATTIE: ...`Something good just happened.' What happened?

MANNY: I'm very happy because I sent a fax to my main account in Japan, and they sent me a projection. They do that every year. And they sent me my projection for this year, which is very, very good, you know?

SISSY: The Japanese, because of the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima, don't like any chemicals, don't like anything that may weaken the body. And artificial preservatives tend to weaken the body, particularly the kidneys and the liver. So they are very much in favor of natural products in Japan.

HATTIE: So they're one of your big marketplaces?

SISSY: They're our biggest account.

HATTIE: You sell more products, Solid Gold, to Japan than you do in the US?

SISSY: Absolutely. Many times, many times over.

HATTIE: How did you get your first sale in Japan?

SISSY: I took an ad in Dog World magazine, and the woman wanted us to air mail a 40-pound sack of dog food, which cost her $63 to send a 20-pound sack of dog food to Japan. Her name is Yoko Suzuki and she established this dog food company. And we're now, if not the top, we're the only natural dog food over there. I know there's other dog foods, but we're the top.

HATTIE: Is she your distributor?

SISSY: She is Solid Gold of Japan.

HATTIE: And then she disseminates it throughout the country.

SISSY: And also to Singapore, to Hong Kong, to Taiwan, and various parts of New Zealand and Australia.
HATTIE: (Voiceover) Even though she's enjoying success, Sissy still looks to the customer to test new ideas.

SISSY: Now I don't have to do dog shows anymore. I have other people that do them, but I do them because I want to hear what the people say. And I do trade shows. And they'll say to me, `Well, this worked out very well and that didn't work worth a darn.' I'd say, `Tell me why it didn't work.'

HATTIE: And you're not just going to the pet shops, either. You're going to the owners of the dogs.

SISSY: Yep. For example, the canned dog food that isn't even on the market yet, we had a whole shipment that had come in. It was too soupy. So that didn't work out, so we had to change that around.

HATTIE: So it's constant tweaking.

SISSY: It's constant testing things.


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