116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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CORALVILLE — William Gay got the idea for his business, VetRxDirect, while watching the Super Bowl years ago.
“During halftime, I was dozing off on the couch when a commercial came on for one of our competitors and they basically bashed the veterinary profession,” he recalled.
“I’m a vet and I didn’t agree with their marketing, so I thought I’d try to do something for my colleagues to paint us in a better light.”
This occurred at a time, he said, “when many consumers were starting to look at online purchases for savings and convenience. I didn’t know anything about operating an online pharmacy or an internet business by any means, but I wanted to give it a shot.”
After taking a business class at the University of Iowa, Gay applied for his first state pharmacy license and VetRxDirect was born.
“We started out with three people back then and had just a couple orders that first day,” Gay said of that start in 2007. “Now we ship out anywhere between 500 and 900 packages a day.”
The company is an online pet pharmacy for dogs and cat offering prescription and non-prescription medicines and supplements. It has been headquartered in Coralville since the beginning — although was operating under a non-compete for the Iowa market until recently — and now employs 15 to 20 people and ships prescriptions to 49 states.
“We have a really strong line of supplements that are non-prescription if people are interested in trying that out for different situations for their pets,” Gay said.
While they work directly with consumers, Gay said they also strive to create good working relationships with veterinarians across the country when they need to get authorizations for prescriptions.
“We are smaller than huge competitors and try to answer the phone in a reasonable amount of time to help people,” he said. “We like to say we are offering good, old-fashioned service.”
Because Gay is a practicing veterinarian — as he has been for the last four decades — he is not allowed by Iowa pharmacy code to have any involvement in the day-to-day operations of the business and relies on his director and pharmacy technicians.
“Even though we work with dogs and cats, we have to follow the same rules as if it were a human pharmacy,” he explained.
Owner: William Gay
Address: 1900 James St., Suite 11, Coralville
Phone: (866) 761-6578
Business has grown steadily over the past 15 years, he said.
“It’s just a way of life for anything anymore,” Gay said of shopping online. “People just like to have things delivered to their door. They like that convenience.
“During the pandemic, when it first hit, we were running double shifts into the night because of the incredible demand. We tried our darnedest to stay open and had precautions to keep COVID out because we were just extremely busy during that time getting people the meds that pets need.”
But it comes with challenges, too.
“Being an internet business is extremely competitive,” Gay said. “We’ve had new internet pet pharmacies come on board that are cutthroat in pricing. So that keeps us on our toes daily, trying to stay in competition with companies that are much, much bigger than us.
“We are probably the smallest internet pet pharmacy in the United States.”
Bur they haven’t faced too many supply chain challenges.
“Every once in a while, we will come across something that someone has been ordering for their pet for five years, and then all of the sudden the pharmaceutical company will say it is not available. So we scramble to try to get it from wherever we can,” Gay said.
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