Doggie treats bring to mind a box of dry biscuits from a grocery store
shelf or pet store. But along with an increased awareness of human health
issues came a need for special bakeries for our canine friends. These bakeries
-- touting all-natural, sugar- and fat-free snacks for pets -- are catering
to pet lovers all over North America.
A Biscuit Cutter and a Vision
It all started in 1990 when a pair of entrepreneurial spirits scraped up
59 cents to purchase a biscuit cutter. "We didn't have any savings or baking
experience, just a vision," says Dan Dye, co-owner of the Kansas City-based
Three Dog Bakery, in The Columbian. That vision was inspired by a trio of
dogs -- Gracie the Great Dane, Dottie the Dalmatian and Sarah the black lab
mix -- rescued from the pound.
"I couldn't pronounce 40 of the 50 ingredients in the biscuits we were
buying for them," says Mark Beckloff, the other half of the Three Dog team.
"I wanted treats with ingredients I could identify." The duo's lifelong love
for dogs led them to set out on a mission: to develop the world's best dog
biscuit and get them to as many dogs as possible.
"It's a very rewarding business for us," says Beckloff, who began selling
biscuits on lunch breaks and weekends from his "real" job. "The greatest thing
is that we have about 70 employees who we're providing for. That really is
the most rewarding aspect of running our company."
The menu at Three Dog Bakery includes delicacies like Mutt Muffins, Scotty
Biscottis, St. Bernard Bars (peanut butter squares with yogurt frosting),
Collie Flowers and 50 other kinds of sugar-free pooch pastries. The goodies
are all low fat, made from wheat flour dough baked with garlic, peanut butter
or honey cinnamon. Some are dipped in unsweetened carob or sprinkled with
spices and cheese.
On the downside, Beckloff says that unlike his past job at a pharmaceutical
firm, there's no such thing as punching out at 5 p.m. "There are constant
pressures and it's very stressful. You can't just leave at 5 and not be thinking
about the business. We're working and creating jobs for other people, so there's
a lot more responsibility involved."
When Beckloff and Dye interview people who want licenses to run their own
Three Dog Bakeries, the pair looks for certain qualities.
"We look for people who love dogs. No cat people allowed!" jokes Beckloff.
"People going into this emerging field need to be creative and definitely
possess an entrepreneurial spirit. If you don't have the inner drive to succeed,
then there's no way to overcome the bleak and dark times, when throwing in
the towel is the easiest way to go."
Other Three Doggers
The mother-daughter team of Anne and Jane Rogers recently opened a Three
Dog Bakery in New Orleans' French Quarter. "Business is good," says Anne,
who got the idea from a magazine article about the Three Dog team. "We've
had a tremendous response thus far." Anne and Jane add a special touch to
their store by hosting dog parties, weddings and "yappy" hours.
For anyone looking to start their own doggie bakery, Beckloff has a warning.
"In the beginning, we were totally losing money. But getting all of those
'pawsitive' reviews about our treats really kept us going. We had no business
experience whatsoever -- just a dream and a belief that we could succeed."
Going into business was a big jump for both partners. Dye worked in marketing
and copy writing. Beckloff is a former accountant.
"Our backgrounds complemented each other very well, and our pairing up
has really worked out," says Beckloff. "With one of us handling the financial
end of the business, and the other taking care of the marketing and advertising,
we couldn't lose."
The pair has written a book chronicling their entrepreneurial adventure
entitled, Short Tails and Treats from Three Dog Bakery. They've been on the
Conan O'Brien Show, the Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show, and had write-ups
in The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The New York Times.
"I think the timing was just right for us," says Beckloff. "Dogs claimed
their places as important members of the family, and pet owners finally realized
that they need the healthiest food and snacks available."
Three Dog Bakery was the original doggie bakery, but now several other
entrepreneurs have entered the all-natural treat business. With names like
Bone Appetite, Treats! and Merrick Pet Delicatessen, they too have found pet
lovers very receptive to healthy pet snacks.
Making biscuits is not the only way to bite out a piece of the doggie food
market for yourself. For example, Vancouver resident Moneca Litton wrote The
Doggie Biscuit Book. It contains recipes for dozen of healthy meals and snacks
The demand for such recipes has also been noted by Joyce and Aonghas MacLeoid.
They run the Tibetan Spaniel Network, an Internet site devoted to this exotic
breed. They say they've included the recipes simply to comply with all the
requests for them!
So whether you're looking to open your own doggie bakery or embark on a
related business endeavor, it's apparent that a real desire to succeed combined
with a keen business sense is what makes entrepreneurial dreams come true.
Read, listen, absorb advice from those who have been there (like the Three
Dog owners), and research the field before taking a bite.
Three Dog Bakery
Visit the original doggie bakery online
Merrick Pet Deli
Offering a line of all-natural pet treats and chews, delicatessen-style