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How this St. Louis pet food startup is pushing the nascent brand nationwide — and to Disney World

The startup has partnered with Best Friends Pet Hotels to become its “exclusive nutrition partner” for dogs and cats
Credit: SLBJ
Reed Howlett, founder and CEO of Freely

ST. LOUIS — Freely, a St. Louis pet food startup, is taking a step in expanding the nascent brand's nationwide footprint with a recently inked partnership with a chain of U.S. pet hotels.

The startup has partnered with Best Friends Pet Hotels to become its “exclusive nutrition partner” for dogs and cats. Headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, Best Friends operates 31 U.S. pet boarding facilities, including one located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

This is Freely’s first partnership with a pet hotel chain and could be the first of several such deals, said Freely founder and CEO Reed Howlett. Freely’s partnership with Best Friends began Oct. 1.

Launched in 2020, Freely sells natural, limited-ingredient-diet (LID) pet foods for dogs and cats. The startup has placed an emphasis on pet nutrition and launched the Freely Nutrition Center, which is staffed by pet nutrition experts and designed to provide pet owners with the information to help take care of their pets. Howlett said the company’s focus on pet nutrition is incorporated into its partnership with Best Friends.

“Part of our objective working with Best Friends is to be a resource to provide them nutritional expertise to be able answer the tough questions that they get" from clients, he said.

Through its partnership with Best Friends, Freely’s products will become the in-house food option for dogs and cats staying at the pet hotel chain's facilities. Freely will also have products available for sale at the Best Friends locations. Howlett said Freely’s new partnership aims to expand the brand's footprint while providing another outlet to connect with consumers beyond advertising.

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