Women and dogs has always been a winning combination. It’s especially gratifying when that reciprocal emotional bond can morph into something financially rewarding. How exciting to get paid for doing something that you love! Create a business plan that lets you combine your love of dogs with something that you’re really good at doing? It’s not that far fetched of an idea. Like everything else, it takes coming up with the idea, putting a plan together, rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. I know because I did this when I wrote my first book. My winning combination married my writing with my love for dogs, two things that I knew I could build on. What, I wondered, are other women who love dogs doing to cash in on this same winning combination? Wouldn’t it be fun to find out?
Better yet, wouldn’t it be fascinating to pull the curtain back from some of the women-owned, pet-friendly businesses that have been popping up all over the country to see what makes them work?
With this in mind, I decided to start a series of interviews within my blog – interviews with women who figured out how to combine their love of dogs with something that they could take to the bank. My hope is that this series will inspire you to follow your own dreams, to create your own plan around whatever it is that you’re good at with your love for dogs. Wouldn’t that be the best fun of all?
Let’s get started!
Healing Rescue Dogs Interviews The Owner of The Dogs Bark Bakery
What do you get when you combine your love of dogs with a love for cooking and baking? If you’re a woman named Rhonda, you take that winning combination and start a bakery … for dogs.
HRD: There’s always an inspiration for starting a business, especially one that has a dog-theme. What was your inspiration for the canine bakery and how long did it take for it to move from the “dream stage” to the physical store front?
Rhonda: The inspiration for starting The Dogs Bark Bakery was two-fold. Number one is my love of dogs and number two is my love of baking. It was three year years from the “dream” stage to the reality.
I had a fulltime job in the cosmetics industry which made it challenging for starting up a new, unrelated business. I do not, as yet, have a physical store front but that is the goal. I have been in business a little over a year at this point.
HRD: What’s been your biggest challenge and what’s been your best success so far?
Rhonda: The biggest challenge is marketing the product around my decision to bake my treats without any preservatives. That includes the Vitamin E Oil that most commercial companies use as a “natural” preservative. I choose to use NO PRESERVATIVES so there is a relatively short shelf life on my treats. They are FRESH BAKED which is what makes them less appealing to the big chain stores who want to be able to let their goods sit on the shelf.
My treats are most comparable to what a person would go into a bakery and buy for themselves. That’s the way they should be looked at and consumed. The treats will last a few weeks in the refrigerator but not long just sitting out on a counter top or stored in a cupboard or drawer. Even less time if they are stored somewhere warm. Just as bread gets moldy when sitting out too long, these treats have the propensity to do that too.
HRD: Do you have employees – is there another “canine chef?”
Rhonda: I am the only baker and I rent out of a commercial kitchen right now. In the future the plan is to have my own kitchen in the back of a retail store.
HRD: When you thought about your business model, how much of it did you want to be offline (a store front, local farmer’s markets, etc) and how much of it did you want to be online sales? Wait. Do you even have a store front?
Rhonda: When I thought of the business model the goal was to begin as an internet business and grow into a retail bakery.
HRD: Without giving away any of your culinary secrets, how did you come up with “all natural, vegetarian” dog treats? Was this a natural (excuse the pun) extension of an interest in baking for humans?
Rhonda: I have been to cooking school abroad and locally and my love and knowledge of cooking and baking is really what’s behind the recipes. As for using all natural and vegetarian ingredients, the reason is that I want to feed my dogs what I make for my friends and family because my dogs deserve the highest quality ingredients available. The only ingredients I use for the dogs are the same ingredients I use for myself and my family.
The slow food movement is important to me so I buy locally grown whenever possible. This I learned at cooking school in Italy. Use what’s local and available seasonally. Because of my love for baking, I bake all the time for humans so I thought I would put those skills to use and bake for my dogs.
HRD: Do you have one signature treat? Perhaps you’d like to talk about the “Vegan Banana Berry Delight” and the Cinnamon Rolls” treats. A couple of your Facebook fans couldn’t say enough about these two products.
Rhonda: I think my signature treat is the Breath Refreshers. I use fresh mint and fresh parley which really helps curb the “dog” breath. They actually only come in two sizes but I happen to have three size bone cookie cutters so you got samples of those. The bark size is for larger dogs and the bite size is for smaller dogs. If the dog is super small (I have a 5 pound Yorkie) then I break the small ones up.
The Vegan Blueberry Banana Delights are a good option for people who choose to feed their dogs a vegan diet. This recipe includes almond milk which compliments the fresh banana and blueberries nicely. All the treats I bake have to pass inspection with my three dogs. Two of my dogs are pretty particular so it’s a good bet if they like the treats, the masses will.
HRD: Do you find that you have to educate potential customers about the advantages of all natural dog treats or would you say that today’s pet consumers are pretty savvy?
Rhonda: Today’s pet consumers are pretty savvy as people tend to educate themselves on subjects they have an interest in. Most dog owners are interested in what’s best for their dogs.
HRD: What are you finding is the best source of advertising for your business at this stage in its development? (As a side note for my readers, The Dogs Bark Bakery is located in CA.)
Rhonda: Locally, I work with Dog Day Care, Doggie Hotel and Dog Spa-type facilities as they are the best venue for the treats. I say this because of the shelf life or lack thereof. The internet business works well for my bakery for this very same reason. (People who want the best for their dogs will order my treats on a regular basis and I supply them practically right out of the oven.) I get orders,
I bake and then ship the treats. There is no sitting around for the treats. Once the order is placed, the consumer receives the treats within 5 days and the treats are no more than a day or two old. This is true for anywhere in the country for shipping.
The best source of advertising to date has been word of mouth. People who get the treats for their dogs most often recommend them to friends who will become customers too. And, the pet spa and hotels that give out samples of the treats are another great source of advertising.
HRD: Is there anything else you’d like to say that I might not have asked you about?
Rhonda: I forgot to mention I make beautiful and delicious birthday cakes and muffins that humans would also enjoy the taste of.
HRD: As part of this interview, Rhonda sent a box of her famous Breath Refresher Cookies for my three dogs to try out. She wasn’t kidding about the time it takes her to bake, pack and ship orders out. No sooner had she emailed that the treats were on their way from CA to NY, then they showed up on my doorstep. My dogs are big fans of treats – they may not pay attention to ingredients but I do. I’m one of those savvy consumers that Rhonda talked about earlier in this interview. The treats are in different sizes: “Yorkie-sized” for tiny dogs, and then two slightly larger sizes (for medium to large-sized dogs.) All three of my dogs loved these treats and as a final taste test, I loved them too.
But don’t take my word for this. Visit The Dogs Bark Bakery online store and meet Rhonda herself by visiting her Facebook business page. While you’re doing all of this, don’t forget to place an order. Your dogs will thank you for that … and Rhonda will too.
I hope you enjoyed this in-depth interview – that you feel inspired to inventory your own unique talents in order to research a business model that will work for you. If you’ve ever thought about writing a book then you’re going to want to come back for my second interview series: Woman Authors And How They’re Getting Published Today. There’s a lot going on in the publishing world. Some people will tell you that it’s the latest wild wild west where anything goes! There’s a lot to talk about and a lot of stories to be told. I can’t wait to share the first one with you where I introduce you to a woman who’s just published her first children’s book.