My first "paw-poseful" business investment

Dog holding Denzel's dog snacks in his mouth
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 29 October 2020

I truly believe it’s the people that make a great business, and I’m always inspired to meet, and work with sustainably minded start-up founders.

When I first came across the three young entrepreneurs behind the innovative and sustainable dog snack start-up called Denzel’s, it wasn’t their products that interested me (we don’t even have a dog!) but the founders’ ethos, they had scaled the business without losing sight of their purpose. When I met Nathan, James and Denzel (the pup) in person, I knew that my belief in their entrepreneurial flair and sustainable drive was not misplaced and I wanted to be a part of their journey.

Holly Branson with the founders of Denzel's dog snacks

In less than two years since receiving a loan from Virgin StartUp, Denzel’s has managed to shake up the £3.2 billion UK pet food market with their healthy dog treats by combining weird and wonderful flavours to make tasty snacks and using fresh wonky fruit from local suppliers that would have otherwise gone to waste. This is something they want to build upon further in the future too. Food waste is a huge issue in the UK (and globally) with millions of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables going to landfill every year, so it’s wonderful to see companies like Denzel's helping to turn the tide. It’s also really encouraging to see the level of accountability they take for their supply chain – checking every aspect of it against a rigorous health and sustainability criteria. They also use fully recyclable packaging and hand-bake their products in the UK using sustainable wood-chip ovens and using only natural ingredients.

Holly Branson meets with the founders of Denzel's dog snacks

Within just two years, Denzel’s has scaled without cutting any corners or losing sight of their vision. This really reinforced my belief that building a purpose-driven (or a paw-pose driven) business doesn’t need to come at the expense of profit. Just 12 months after the launch in 2018, Denzel’s products were stocked in over 1,500 locations. Another year on and the business has grown by more than 500% and secured distribution in Ireland, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Dubai. The team is now well on their way to becoming Europe’s leading sustainable and healthy snack for dogs!

This young start-up is now challenging a huge and established, yet static, pet food market in the UK – encouraging producers to think about the quality of their ingredients and supply chains, and giving consumers healthier and more sustainable alternatives for their pets. All this and they have an amazing brand identity, created by Victoria Hemphill, who was brought on as a third co-founder, her vibrant illustrations, see Denzel the dog brought to life in cartoon form, so fun, simple, and clear. After meeting Denzel, I’m sure he approves!


Even in these tough and uncertain times, it’s clear the UK’s spirit of entrepreneurship is still alive and thriving. I really believe it is entrepreneurs that can help us rebuild from this current crisis and it’s businesses like Denzel’s that show us all what entrepreneurs are capable of.

I’m really excited to be a part of Denzel’s growth – maybe I should think of getting a puppy after all! Find out more about Denzel’s story here.