Goal Digger Series - Mike Halligan

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Meet Mike Halligan, one half of Scratch (the other is Doug, hi!). Mike is ex-fashion while Doug is ex-big pet food - an unlikely pair, but one that works, because together, they’re changing the world and doggy lives, one Scratch delivery at a time. 

Scratch is dog food you can feel good about - made with whole produce, ethically and locally sourced meat and 100% recyclable packaging. The idea for Scratch was born when Mike realised that were no interesting or truly trustworthy brands for dogs, which was strange, considering how much we love our four-legged pals. Being in fashion marketing, he couldn’t fathom a switch into the world of dog food and let his thoughts sit idle until he saw an eye-popping article about a huge dog food recall, where many dogs died or got sick over four months. This revealed the dirty, hard truth about pet food in Australia - it was unregulated. And it took a media leak to get the truth out. Inspired to put dogs first, Mike started plotting his plans for a better solution… Scratch. 

We’re excited to chat to Mike about how he stays inspired during this challenging time, his definition of success and why team sports gets a thumbs up from him. 

Tell us about your "aha" moment with Scratch. 

Dog food is one of those things that you’re almost afraid of digging in too deep on. I never really trusted dog food brands, but a dog’s gotta eat right? So I always just went with whatever felt least off-putting. Usually, that just meant choosing the Australian-owned brands (which are very few).

I had this question in the back of my mind about how there are no interesting or truly trustworthy brands for dogs, but I was running marketing in fashion, a long way from dogs. I couldn’t work out why, given how much we’re obsessed with them, but I left it at that. At the same time, I was so sick of selling vanity and disposable products, so I quit my job and figured I’d work it out.

Then it hit. I remember flicking through the news and seeing the words ‘Huge dog food recall’ blazed across the top of the page. It turned out that pet food was unregulated and a brand had been selling a food that they’d been told was making dogs sick for over four months before the media leak finally prompted them to take it off the shelves. Hundreds of dogs died and many more got sick. It was horrible. That set me down the rabbit hole of working out why dog food was so dodgy and how brands were able to do what they like without putting dogs first.

2020 has been challenging so far, how do you stay focused and what keeps you inspired?  

We’ve brought on three new people in the last six months, so I’ve been so lucky to be able to feed off the energy that they’re bringing and the fresh eyes that they’re looking at things. 

It’s a catch-22 though. The more enthused you are about your work, the easier it is to overwork and get life out of balance right now. We just don’t have that home/office separation, so I’ve implemented a few routines:

  1. Doing morning pages – my partner got me onto this after reading The Artist’s Way. It’s such a good habit to write whatever is floating in your head first thing after breakfast and not just dive into work.
  2. Grieve, accept the reality and acknowledge the upside – it flat-out sucks, but I also believe that the world is in pretty bad shape and needs to put us back into our place. Realising that the pandemic can remind us as a society what is truly important and push us all to think beyond sharemarket growth keeps me very optimistic.
  3. Not living the same life I was before, because this could just be a worse version of it and that isn’t fun. So I’ve challenged myself to improve my running and ability to eat without doing anything else. Two simple things that I can influence every day, and see quick results from. 

What does your morning routine look like? 

We’re a completely remote company so I live in Amsterdam these days, as my partner got an amazing career opportunity last year. I get up at 6am, go for a quick walk around the neighbourhood and come back to a bowl of granola and my notebook to do morning pages.

I usually do a bit of stretching, re-arrange our lounge room into work-mode and grind my coffee beans. Cafés here don’t open until 9am so thank god for Aeropress! Then it’s into Twist to check out what the team has been up to before we do a video catch-up.

Give us three of your best work from home tips. 

  1. Walk around the block every 1-2 hours, or do some star jumps. Just move your body. You’ll be amazed at how better you feel with the blood moving around compared to sitting in your chair.
  2. Bring 5% of newness to your day to fuel your curiosity. I’ve been enjoying discovering a different legendary artist each day. My partner and I choose someone we know, but don’t really know and let Siri do her thing. Yesterday it was Bob Dylan, and today it’s John Farnham!
  3. Ergonomics baby! After co-working for the first year of Scratch, my posture got so out of whack and I ended up riddled with muscle tension. Get some back support, a laptop stand and maybe even a proper size screen. It’s a lifesaver!

Podcast or playlist - what are you currently listening to? 

I’m loving Scott Galloway’s new podcast ‘The Prof G’ show. He’s a marketing professor but has a great care, understanding and curiosity about quality of life, economics and education. And he’s really entertaining in a bland world of professional podcasts.

What's the best advice you've received and who was it from? 

My father didn’t give me that much advice, but he really delivered one day when I was complaining about not being able to afford the travel I desperately wanted to do after high school.

He just said ‘why don’t you start something and sell it?’. Simple advice, but my mindset was comparing salaries and what I could make from other people, compared to what I could create for myself.

What's your proudest achievement? 

I was a shy kid and never the loud, charismatic type that I was so envious of. But I improved my leadership and ended up captaining my soccer club – something that taught me a lot but gave me a lot of confidence that has grown to all sorts of areas in life. Team sports are amazing for development.

What's the first book you read that changed your worldview?

I don’t know about the first, but this year I read ‘Winners Take All’ which has completely changed my worldview and taught me to understand the broader systems of power that keep the wealthy wealthy, women underrepresented and all sorts of issues that lead to a more unfair world.

The genius of the book is how he uncovers how philanthropy and the ‘win/win’ mentality that we’ve have come to believe in isn’t that at all.

How has your definition of success changed from the start of your career until now? 

It’s definitely less about money, and more about getting the opportunity to find and spend time with great people that you enjoy being around. Working on things that interests you gets you 70% there, but working on things that interests you with people you enjoy being around and learning from is a home run.

What are the three things you’re grateful for today? 

The blue sky, the cute dog I was just tagged in on Instagram and my safe home. 

Find out more at www.scratchpetfood.com.au and follow @worldofscratch on Instagram



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