“Why I Started a Dog Treat Business”: My Tail-Wagging Chat with Jenny Jentink
Have you ever considered starting a dog treat business? If you’re thinking that there couldn’t possibly be money in that, consider these statistics from Finances Online:
- There were 471 million pet dogs in the United States in 2018, with the number growing most years.
- 38.4% of American households have at least one dog (the average is 1.6).
- That's 63.4 million households with canine companions.
- More, most dog owners give their dog 8-10 treats per day, and spend over $1200 per year on each dog.
That’s a lot of potential profit, to say nothing of the happy faces (and tails!) of excited pooches.
I recently chatted with Jenny Jentink, owner of Fuzzy Butts Dog Bakery and Diva Dog Bakery graduate, about why she became a dog treat baker, why she loves selling dog treats at farmers markets, how to start a dog bakery business at home, and what it is like to be a dog treat baker. We also talked about Miller, her bulldog, who is not only the inspiration for her business, but also the Quality Control Officer at Fuzzy Butts.
Kristen Larsen’s Diva Dog Bakery course promises to give students all the information they need to start a successful dog treat business side hustle earning between $500 – $1000 a month, whether you want to sell online or in person. You can earn much more if you decide to make your dog bakery a full-time biz.
So, what’s a day in the life of a dog treat baker like? Jenny’s here to tell us!
Baking and selling homemade dog treats as a freelance business sounds very interesting and rewarding. Can you tell us more about it?
I absolutely love it. My kids had been telling me for years that I should start my own bakery because I loved baking treats. Little did they know that 9 years later, I would have a dog bakery. It lets me bake for a whole different group. The most rewarding part of the business is getting to meet all of my furry customers. I love handing out samples and seeing the dogs' reaction to my treats. I have met a lot of great people and dogs this past year. I look forward to my weekly farmer’s markets so that I can see all my doggy customers. I love getting doggy kisses and snuggles.
What would you say are the prerequisites to succeeding with a dog treat business? Are creativity and being a good cook required? Is there anything unexpected that helps you in your business?
I really think that to be successful, you need to have a background in baking. I am not an expert but I know my way around the kitchen. I am very hard on myself and think that I am not that creative but my customers and family say otherwise based on all the treats I decorate. A lot of owning your own dog bakery is on the job training, you continue to improve every day. I think having friends who own their own dog bakeries and finding a very supportive Facebook group helps me with my business. It provides motivation seeing what others are doing but also a sounding board if I am having an issue or just need to think through my ideas.
Do you do local sales only (in person delivery/collection) – or do you ship your homemade dog treat orders nationwide?
I sell locally at my town farmers markets. I have my treats at a local pet shop on consignment. I am looking at expanding and adding in more businesses to sell my dog treats. I have a website that allows me to ship my treats across the country. My Mom lives in Arizona and places monthly orders for all of her friends. Her friends have even ordered and had my treats shipped to Texas and West Virginia. I have shipped my dog treats to Florida and Nebraska too.
Can you tell us more about your dog treat business consignment arrangement? How did this develop, and how formal is the agreement? Was it suggested as an option in the Diva Dog Bakery course?
I sell my treats on consignment at a local pet shop in my city. The pet shop focuses on natural pet supplies and food. This was actually the first pet store we ever took Miller to after we got him. I loved how helpful the owner was when we had questions.
I had been a long time customer so I approached the owner and asked if she would be willing to sell my dog treats. She agreed. We decided on consignment as the best option. She takes her percentage and every month I get a check for the items she sells.
Our arrangement is very informal. We don’t have a contract because we have known each other for three years and have a great working relationship. I sell doggy birthday cakes and an assortment of treats. I check in every couple days to see how the products are selling. They will also contact me once the items have sold out. The course does mention that you can sell treats on consignment or wholesale as an additional way to make money.
Your Shopify page says that your bulldog, Miller, inspired you to take the leap into your own dog treat business. Can you tell us more about how that happened?
I became a first time dog Mom in May of 2019 when we adopted Miller. I fell in love with Miller and can’t imagine life without him. He is extremely spoiled but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just look at that adorable face. His personality is amazing. He is so funny and provides us hours of entertainment. Miller definitely completes our family.
In March of 2020, he tore his left ACL. This was right during Covid so I was able to be home with him during his recovery. With all the extra time, I decided to expand my baking by trying out dog treats. I really enjoyed making Miller treats.
With him recovering from surgery I wanted to make sure he was getting healthy treats that wouldn’t be filled with extra calories. Wanted to keep him as lean as possible to prevent further injury. By December, he tore his right ACL. 🙁 I had been thinking about the DDB course and starting my own dog treat business.
Can you tell us more about Miller’s ACL injuries and recovery, and why it was important to be home with him (and why he might need some extra healthy treats while he was on the mend)?
The ACL injury, or actually CCL in dogs, has a long road to recovery. The recovery process takes a minimum of 12-16 weeks. During the first two weeks, they are restricted to potty breaks and nothing else. After a two week check-up, the dogs are able to start exercises and short 5 minute walks. At 8 weeks, they take x-rays to see how the bone is healing. If things look good, you can start slowly increasing activity for the next 4-8 weeks until the dog is back to normal activity level. As the dogs are recovering, they need to build their strength and muscle back up. This is why I wanted to create healthy, all-natural dog treats for Miller. Every ounce or pound that you can keep off your dog will help prevent further injuries.
How did you get started with your dog treat bakery business?
After a few months of seeing the ad for the Diva Dog Bakery, I finally was brave enough to click on the link. I ended up signing up for the workshop. It gave me a brief introduction about owning a dog bakery. After a week of thinking about it and talking to my husband. I bought the full course about how to start a dog bakery.
Can you elaborate on the decision-making process?
I have the world’s best husband. He is so supportive. I asked him what he thought about me starting my own business. He told me if that is what I want to do, go for it. He will help in any way he can. We discussed all the costs and again, he said if you are going to do this, make it legal and do it right. Matt would say the only drawback to starting my dog bakery is that we no longer have a kitchen. As my business grows, I might look into a professional kitchen co-op.
How many hours a week do you work in your dog treat business? Do you have a flexible schedule, or work set hours?
At my full-time job I have set hours. I am at work from 7am to 3:30 pm daily. I usually spend at least 20-25 a week baking, updating my website, and posting on social media platforms. That doesn’t include the 4-5 hours I will spend at the Farmer’s Markets on Saturdays.
Are there any special requirements for in-home bakery businesses for pets (do you need to post biscuit recipes on the label, for instance)?
In order to make your business legal, you need to register for a sellers permit and register with your state agriculture department. This is where it gets expensive. You have to file for your commercial feed license. In order to get your license, you need to have all of your treats registered and have a guaranteed analysis done. This is a per treat cost. This needs to be on your labels. You don’t need to put the recipe but list all of your ingredients on the label. Each state has different requirements for what they expect on your labels. I am very lucky because the cost to register my treats is very low compared to some other states where it can cost up to $200 per treat. That is a huge expense that most people are not aware of. I also bought business insurance.
Do you work with a team, or do everything for your dog treat business yourself? What do you like/dislike about this arrangement?
I do almost everything for my business myself. My husband is with me at all my farmer’s markets. He is an amazing and supportive helper. At times it can be challenging not having help with the baking and packaging of all the treats. But in the end, I know that I have been a part of the whole process.
It can’t have been easy, juggling family life, a full-time job, and trying to build your own dog treat business. Any advice for parents anxious about committing time and energy to their own business?
I have been very lucky to have such a supportive family behind me. I think it is important to show your children that it takes hard work and determination to make your dreams come true. It may not be easy, but it is worth it in the end.
You must find a nice work-life balance. Plan out an hour or two a week that is reserved just for family time. I want my family to know that they are still my #1 priority even when it seems like my business is taking up a lot of my time.
Do you have anything more you can offer in the area of work-life balance?
I have learned a lot during my first year in business. I have learned how to bake more efficiently. I try to take at least one night off a week to still make my family a home-cooked meal, where we can sit at the table and talk about life. I will also never miss my son’s choir concerts. Family is everything to me. My customers are amazing and understand that too.
Let’s chat about the Diva Dog Bakery (DDB) course. Do you feel you have “earned back” your investment in the course?
Yes, because without the course I would not have my business. I would not have made the amazing friends within the dog bakery community.
How did the course help you to achieve your goals?
The course was worth it because it gave me the tools I needed to take the leap and start my business. Without the course, I wouldn’t have started my own dog bakery. I had been baking treats on my own but never thought about selling them. The course gave me an overview on how to start my own business.
The Diva Dog Bakery Community on Facebook was very helpful. I ended up making friends with people that were starting their own businesses. It was great to have their support because we were doing the same thing, just in different states.
Can you give more insight here? Specifically, what in the course overview made it seem feasible to start your own business? What input do you (or did you) get from the community? Is Kristen active in the FB group?
I think it really was my love of baking and wanting to make treats for Miller. The course gave a basic overview of the steps needed to start a dog bakery and I thought it seemed feasible. I was in the online Facebook community for about 4 months while I was getting my business up and running. The positive feedback from your peers who were going through the same thing as you was so important. The creativity of others made me push myself to do even more.
Kristen wasn’t as active in the group as I thought she was going to be. Through the FB group, I made a few really good friends from all over the country who started their businesses around the same time as I did. I love being able to bounce ideas off of them. They will come to me and ask questions too.
Did you establish your dog bakery business before joining DDB, or during the course – or did you set it up later, once you had completed all your training with Diva Dog Bakery?
I started my business after I had completed the full course.
Can you share a list of dog treats you offer? Also, do you have a target amount you’d like to sell each month or year?
I sell doggy birthday cakes, peanut butter bones/bites, cheesy crackers, doggy donuts, S’mores, pupcakes, doggy cinnamon rolls, carob twists and seasonal flavors and treats. I have a target amount that I would like to sell at each market. I do set a goal at the beginning of the year about how much I would like to sell for the year.
We are all in business, ultimately, to make money, but often it is hard to ask financial questions. We really appreciate you sharing this aspect! How much did you budget for your business startup costs? Was that enough?
I didn’t actually make a budget. I kind of went into it blind, not really knowing what to expect. I didn’t take out a loan, I used all my personal money to start the business. I had never owned a business and didn’t really know what to expect. There were a lot of expenses that I didn’t even realize when starting a business.
Would you change this if you were starting your dog treat business with what you now know?
Honestly, I don’t know. I think part of the fun was jumping in head first and going from there. I knew how much money I had available for disposable income that could be used for starting my business. It helped me figure out where I could spend money and then figure out what supplies I already had at home and went from there.
You offer a product – dog treats – rather than a service (like marketing, website design etc.) What is your favorite part of being a small business owner with a tangible product? Why?
My favorite part of being a small business owner is that I get to see my customers' immediate reaction to my product. When an owner brings their dog to the farmers market, I give out samples and the dog immediately eats it. That makes me happy. I love when customers send me pictures of their dogs enjoying my treats. That is why I started my business – to spread my love of baking healthy gourmet dog treats to others.
Was family support important to you when you were establishing your own dog treat business? How did your family show their support?
100%. I wouldn’t have started my business without my husband’s support. My husband comes and helps me set up all of my farmer’s markets. My family and friends help me by sharing and liking my posts. My family proudly wears T-shirts with my business logo on them.
If you could go back in time on your entrepreneurial journey, what one thing would you change? How would you do it differently?
I would do more research on starting a business. I didn’t realize all of the things I needed to make my business legal before I started selling my dog treats.
What wasn’t covered in DDB that you wish had been, as regards the legality of your dog treat business?
A more in-depth list of everything that is needed to start a dog bakery business. I think more time needs to be spent on how to track expenses and getting tax advice would be beneficial. It is just briefly mentioned in the course but more in-depth discussion would be helpful.
How has your dog treat business – and the Diva Dog course – impacted your life?
Without the Diva Dog Course, I would not be the owner of Fuzzy Butts Dog Bakery. It has been such a fun ride this past year. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I have been able to meet such great people because of my business. Plus, my customers give me kisses. LOL. I am beyond thrilled to be living my dream of owning a bakery.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of owning this business?
My favorite parts of owning this business are: my customers, their human owners, baking, and becoming more involved in my community. Least favorite parts: paperwork, trying to do everything myself.
If you could give new business owners some tips, what would you share?
Prepare to put your blood, sweat, and tears into your business. It may not always be easy but it is worth it to see the final result. Give 110%. Make sure you surround yourself with people who will help you get through the tough times. Make sure you are having fun with your business. It should always be fun, not a chore.
Thank you, Jenny!
Jenny used Diva Dog Bakery as the jumping-off point for her own dog treat business. She learned more on-the-job as she built Fuzzy Butts Dog Bakery. Jenny pulled ideas from the course as she figured out how to start a dog bakery business at home. She also developed friendships in the Diva Dog Bakery online community. This gave her support and virtual companionship with other women creating dog treat businesses in other states, and has led to lasting friendships.
Wondering how you could fit a work-at-home business into your busy life? We have some ideas on how to make the best use of your time here and here.
Have you ever considered starting a dog bakery business? Diva Dog Bakery might be just what you need to get your dog treat business off the ground and those tails wagging.
Not sure baking cute dog treats is your thing? Not to worry – there are other lesser known ways of earning anywhere and anytime income. Read our post with five other options. If you’ve got ideas of other lesser-known work-from-home options, please let us know. Whether it’s having a dog treat business, scoping, SEO auditing, or something else, we’re always willing to chat!