CHANGING COLLARS

Written By: Robert Cocuzzo | Photography By: Brian Sager

From Facebook exec to dog food innovator.

Tom Arrix eats dog food. If he’s running late or between meetings, he’ll pop a bowl of it in the microwave, drizzle on some hot sauce, and call it lunch. But this isn’t the diet of a desperate man or a frugal frat boy. In fact, as a former Facebook executive, Arrix can probably eat filet mignon and lobster claws for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if he so pleased. Instead, his penchant for puppy chow comes from a new startup he’s launched to revolutionize how we feed our canine companions. “If I ate it all the time, I would absolutely lose weight and be healthier,” the 55-year-old Nantucket summer resident claims. “But we’re looking to create a whole new wellness experience for our dogs.”

Arrix has a proven track record of innovative thinking. After working in television under Ted Turner, he made the leap to digital media by taking a position at what was then a little-known start-up called Facebook. “Much to my wife Kathy’s shock, I made the move and took a big haircut in compensation,” remembers Arrix, who became Facebook’s 102nd employee in 2006. “For the first six months, I was working out of my house trying to establish Facebook’s New York office.” He started with the social media company right as it was beginning to branch off beyond college campuses. As Facebook’s Vice President of Sales and Global Marketing Solutions, Arrix’s job was to bring in enough revenue for Mark Zuckerberg to hire more and more engineers to scale Facebook into the global, history-making company it is today.

“You had a small group of people that all served this incredible purpose,” Arrix recalls fondly. “Everybody’s role was so clear. Everybody trusted each other. There were no egos. No sense of any politics. The culture was just palpable.” In the span of seven years, Facebook went from 8 million users to growing at a breakneck pace of 50 million users per quarter. “Once we started to inch north of 100 million users to 250 million and then 500 million users, we knew that Facebook was bringing incredible value to people’s lives,” Arrix says. “For the first time, you were connected to all those people that were important to you.”

Facebook’s success, according to Arrix, was rooted in Mark Zuckerberg, who he says had an uncompromising commitment to serving his users, hiring good people, and striving to improve the world. “Mark is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met or ever worked for,” Arrix says. “He loves to empower people. So intelligent and so smart, so focused on doing good for the entire planet—I don’t think that comes across enough.”

Arrix was no longer working at Facebook to see its co-founder in the crosshairs of Congress. In 2013, he decided to leave. “I loved the company, but the work I was doing wasn’t nearly as satisfying,” he says. “So I left at the top of my game, with the energy to do something different.” Appropriately enough, he announced his departure in a Facebook post, explaining that he planned to spend the summer enjoying time with his family. He and his wife Kathy—who is the cousin of Nantucket resident Kate Kling—purchased a home in Cisco. There they spent large amounts of time with their four kids and two golden retrievers, whom they consider their fifth and sixth children. Enter the story of Cooper.

Last summer, Arrix’s dog Cooper became sick and was diagnosed with lymphoma. He brought Cooper to see Dr. Kendra Pope, a veterinary oncologist who asked about the dog’s diet. “She said that you should feed your dog like you feed yourself,” Arrix remembers. “She told me that kibble is garbage.” Dr. Pope explained that changing Cooper’s diet could have miraculous healing properties. So with the help of veterinarian nutritionist Dr. Sarah Abood, Arrix started feeding Cooper simple recipes of turkey and beef with fresh vegetables and nutrients. Within a matter of months, the lymphoma was gone.

Arrix had also begun feeding the new recipes to his other dog, Eddie, who experienced chronic ear infections that sent him to the vet every other week. With the new food, Eddie’s ear infections not only went away, but he became leaner with a healthier coat. Arrix realized that he had found his next venture.

Earlier this year, Arrix launched the Joy Food Company, which offers high-quality, nutrient-rich dog food delivered direct-to-consumer every week by way of a subscription. Joy’s turkey and beef recipes are both complete with cauliflower, rice, broccoli, carrots, apples, flax seed, fish oil, turmeric and a slew of vitamins. Arrix says that a dog’s well-being is based on three pillars: genetics, environment, and nutrients. With Joy Food Company, he’s striving to better support at least one of those pillars. “We’re trying to unleash wellness for dogs everywhere,” Arrix says. “But this is more than creating a dog food company; we’ll also be changing the lives of the dogs’ owners.”

Much like he did with Facebook, Arrix hopes to grow his Joy Food Company into a beast of its own. He’s leveraging his years in technology and marketing to engage consumers and make the case that they must feed their dogs better. And hopefully in seeing to it that their dogs eat well, Arrix believes his customers might follow suit. There’s still a lot to dig into, but in the meantime, Tom Arrix can take comfort in knowing that while he’s in the healthy dog food business, he’ll never go hungry.

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