Chris and Natasha Ashton, both Wharton MBA ’03
SAVING PETS & BUILDING AN INDUSTRY
When their beloved cat, Bodey got sick, requiring more than $5,000 in treatment, Chris and Natasha saw a gap and began exploring the pet insurance industry.
They introduced the concept into a number of classes, profiting from the expertise and efforts of both classmates and professors; built their network through the Entrepreneur in Residence Program; were accepted into the Venture Initiation Program; and finally connected with the Vet School at Penn, giving them access to their target market.
The idea for Petplan took the Grand Prize in the 2003 Wharton Business Plan Competition (now the Startup Challenge).
They graduated the same year and stayed in Philadelphia to continue to build their business and leverage Wharton connections.
A partnership with the UK gave them the data they needed.
Pet insurance is common in the UK, but in the early 2000s it was almost unknown in the US. The Ashtons licensed the Petplan US brand from Petplan UK, which had been selling pet insurance for over 35 years and was the largest UK pet insurer, giving them access to decades of actuarial data.
In 2006, Petplan USA began selling its first policies.
Wharton connections help Petplan grow intelligently.
A serendipitous introduction at Wharton brought the Ashtons together with Vernon Hill W’67, founder and CEO of Metro Bank, who became the Chairman of Petplan. Hill added Petplan as an employee benefit at his company, and many others, including Travelocity and S.C. Johnson & Son, soon followed suit. Petplan is now also the exclusive pet insurance provider to the more than 38 million members of the AARP.
Plaudits for the nation’s fastest growing pet insurance provider go on and on.
Petplan is #59 on Forbes’ 2015 list of America’s Most Promising Companies, their third year on the list, and the only pet company represented; Natasha Ashton also made the 2014 Forbes list of “women who built outstanding companies”. The company is #55 on the 2013 Philly 100, which celebrates the fastest growing companies in the region. The Ashtons were named Entrepreneur of the Year in the Greater Philadelphia region by Ernst & Young.