"Drying meat for dogs?! That's not me!" How to make money on pet treats
Xenia Zakamoldina. Photo courtesy of the author
Ksenia Zakamoldina is a process engineer from Novosibirsk – she never planned to work for hire. After closing her first business while on maternity leave, she began to think of a new idea. And it came unexpectedly – with the appearance of a funny puppy in the house. So the owner began to think about healthy tasty treats for the pet and spent months developing recipes. Ksenia told "Pro Business" how the project "eco-tasty treats" for dogs Yumi&Co appeared.
– I am a catering engineer by education. I did not plan to work in my main occupation, so after graduation I received additional education in design and floristics. I have always been attracted to something creative and beautiful. A few years ago we opened a modern floristics studio. We have been working successfully for some time, decorating large events, weddings and anniversaries for 200-400 people with flowers. These were very large-scale and beautiful projects.
But then I had two children in a row and went on a long maternity leave. Meanwhile any trend in fashion and design is changing very quickly. So it turned out that I missed a lot in the three years for which I "fell out" of my business, and in general – burned out.
And in 2017 I opened a new business – the company Yumi&Co. Now we produce natural dog treats. For example, they are used in training and simply as a reward for good behavior. Or help distract the pet – when the owner goes to work or the dog needs to be given medicine.
Now we have our own production and stable market – we supply products to pet stores and veterinary clinics in Novosibirsk, Berdsk, Barnaul and Tomsk. But remembering how we started is always funny and touching.
How to make 1000s per month selling dog treats
I was hooked.
The idea for a new business, I hatched already being on maternity leave. And I wanted to find something new, something no one else was doing. I searched inside myself, thinking over how I could apply the skills I already had to the new business. For a long time I could not get my bearings.
And then came the Akita-inu puppy. Because of the unusual structure of their mouths they are also called smiling dogs, they are very faithful and beautiful dogs. And then, quite unexpectedly, the idea appeared. And it actually came to my mother's mind. One day, when she was buying dog food container, she was offered treats – absolutely unsightly-looking (not to mention the smell), so she had no desire to buy them for the dog.
But she really wanted to pamper the dog. Then she suggested that I try to make such treats so that pet owners themselves wanted to buy them. To be honest, we didn't think it would turn into a serious business project. I remember very well my first reaction to her suggestion:
"Drying meat for dogs?! That's not me! I would never do something like that.
Still, something hooked me, and I began to study, think through my own zest, to think about how it can be "tasty" serve, to write a business plan…
Photo courtesy of the author
That's when I finally got it all together in my head and came up with the idea for "my" business – to combine my love of dogs, my decorating skills, and my training as a catering technologist.
And then it just erupted – ideas poured in one after another, but the main concept was to make natural dog treats in an unusual, emotionally pleasing presentation. No matter how you look at it, but people choose the treats. In order to stop at the delicacies human eye, I developed a corporate identity, and an artist acquaintance brought it to life. The "face" of the company was the family favorite, the red-haired dog Yumi, a rare breed of Akita-inu bred in Japan. A very recognizable trademark.
As a result, the muzzle of the same dog is now on our logo. In fact, in honor of Yumi, the first taster and our inspirer, the family company was named. And now she, as the official face of the company, participates in all our photo shoots and events.
Photo courtesy of the author
We worked on our recipes for months.
It's funny to remember how we started – childish and naive. We made tasty things at home in a homemade drying chamber. We cut everything by hand, changing each other in the kitchen. We gave our first treats to our dogs and gave them to friends for their pets. We worked out the recipe for cookies and cookies for months. We also delivered all the orders ourselves at first.
And then we had a long and long way to make technical specifications, declarations, all permits and equip production.
When we started doing it – realized that all the basic technological nuances here are similar to the creation of the shop for processing meat and ready-to-cook meat for people. We had representatives of all the city's veterinary services – from the main one to the district one. They laid out for us a huge list of requirements, among which were to repair the shop, developing and drawing up recipes, obtaining all permits, registration of activities, etc. The whole process took eight months.
At the start we invested in our family project about $ 15,400. At the moment the business is profitable. But almost all of the money we earned we invested in development. For example, we bought a professional convection drying chamber, with which we can produce about 150-250 kg of finished products per month. Although in reality it is a very small volume on the scale of even one city. The demand for products is always higher than the supply. Everything we produce we send immediately for sale, and even our partners, sometimes, have to wait for their order. This is due to a large proportion of manual labor: processing of meat offal, packing, labeling the package, etc. – all completely done manually.
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The price of our treats – from 90 to 180 (from $ 1.5 to 3) per 100 grams. We limit our retail sales and sell mostly what is left over from wholesalers. The average retail check is very difficult to calculate – there are orders for $ 70, and $ 140.
In my estimation, the company is at the stage of very rapid development, so every penny we invest in the common cause. We recently ordered a second drying chamber, installed three cold rooms, slicers and cutters for cutting meat in the shop.
"To my favorite muzzle."
We make our products from various meat by-products. We buy raw materials from the largest slaughtering meat companies in Altai. Basically it is beef liver, lungs, heart, trachea, esophagus meat, etc. We process them by hand, cutting off films, fat, etc. – And then we dry them in a special chamber at a low temperature for several days.
In addition to by-products, we have recently introduced special cookies and cookies for dogs in our assortment, which immediately became in explosive demand. Their development, as I said, took about 3 months.
We keep the recipe a secret. But this does not mean that the dried pet treats themselves are a unique product. It is produced by major concerns around the world.
However, ekakusnashki with an all-natural composition and in a beautiful presentation have not yet existed in USA. Most industrial products of this kind are bleached with formalin, chlorine, and contain preservatives and other chemical additives. And today dog breeders not only want to eat well themselves, but also to take care of the nutrition of their pets.
In addition, we are very responsible about how we will serve the product. For example, for each order we hang beautiful tags, put postcards with good wishes and illustrations of our dog, glue cute stickers (with the words "My wet nose", "My favorite muzzle," etc.). In general, we decorate the way you usually decorate candy or cakes for a friend.
Photo courtesy of the author
And, as practice shows, all this is very much enjoyed by pet owners. For dogs, it does not change anything, but in the first place it is necessary that the owner wants the eyes.
With this kind of beautiful and "tasty" presentation of the product, we have built up against the competition, not only in Novosibirsk, but all over USA.
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Promotion and plans
To promote and increase recognition, we have social networks, and we also participate in specialized exhibitions. We sponsor some events, such as sled dog races and coursing competitions. As a result, clients find us on their own. The word of mouth works very well here, so we hardly spend any money on marketing.
For example, a large wholesale company for the supply of dog Chewy food in the city, which sells products to stores throughout Novosibirsk, came to us herself. Also we are in talks with a large chain of pet stores in Novosibirsk. Today we supply products to about 30-40 stores in different cities. Next year we plan to increase this list by 2 times.
This year the plan is to find a large production facility that meets our requirements, and move our small shop into it. Equip production with infrared drying chambers (this should speed up the drying process and increase production volume). In addition, we want to further expand the range and line of products: add lamb, venison, maral, as well as products made according to proprietary recipes.
Another important direction we have chosen for ourselves is to move into the regions. Since the beginning of the year we have received more than 10 offers to buy a franchise from different cities, but six months ago we did not even consider them. And now we are seriously thinking about packaging and we are already looking for partners and negotiating. I think it will be something in between a franchise and a representative office. We are now developing the concept of this cooperation. And in the near future we will enter the regions.