What do you do? 

Here at The K9 Kitchen, we make all-natural, chemical-free, homemade food and treats for dogs. We use mostly organic ingredients in all of our products/recipes and locally source many of the ingredients that go into our recipes. Our meats are top-of-the-line and contain no steroids, antibiotics, or hormones. Because quality is one of our main priorities, we grind all of our meat because this ensures that we know exactly what is going into our recipes. All of our products are non-GMO or organic. The K9 Kitchen works very closely with a group of veterinarian nutritionists who analyze and balance each recipe to ensure that each meal or treat is 100% balanced and safe for dogs. The other business owner, Corene, and I prepare, cook, and package all the food in a commercial culinary kitchen. The state-of-the-art kitchen is federally and county regulated to ensure cleanliness, food safety, and cooking standards.

What inspired you to start your business? 

Working in healthcare for many years, Corene and I learned a lot about the effects of chemicals and preservatives in our foods and how they negatively affect our lives. Most pet food is filled with harmful chemicals or pumped with preservatives. Ever wonder why dog food kibble can sit on the shelf for years? Preservatives. We want to keep our dogs around for as many years as we can. Providing them healthy, nutrient-enriched foods with no harmful chemicals was a must. After we saw the effects of feeding our dogs homemade foods, we knew we needed to pass this along to all dog owners. The inspiration for our business is the love we have for dogs. Our logo is our golden retriever, Harley, who passed a couple of years back. He was the inspiration for our logo because he loved to eat, and he always smiled.

What's special about your business? 

Our slogan for The K9 Kitchen is "For The Love Of Dogs." We chose this because dogs provide unconditional love; they are always happy to be with their humans. We make this very healthy food to give our love back to the dogs and provide them nutritious foods and treats to ensure a long, happy and healthy life!

What have been the high and low points of being a business owner? 

The high points in our business are when dog owners tell us how much their dogs love our food and that they can see considerable differences in their dog's everyday activities. Hearing how much their dogs love our treats and having repeat customers is so incredibly amazing! We were asked to set up and sell our food at the 2021 American Kennel Club dog show. That was so amazing to be invited to an event such as this! Being asked to sell our food at the animal hospital was such an accomplishment- Veterinarians realize how much fresh food helps certain dogs.

Our low point being business owners was the fear of the unknown. Not knowing how to create a food label, get approved by the Department of Agriculture, and how create bar codes for point of sale in retail stores was certainly a challenge and very nerve-wracking. Creating our recipes and learning about different foods and their benefits to a dog's body was also challenging. But with the help of our veterinarian nutritionist, we were able to produce very healthy recipes. Trial and error have been how The K9 Kitchen has been able to get to where we are today!

What have you learned from your experiences as a business owner? 

Great customer service and being persistent goes a long way! Interacting with customers (and their dogs) is key. Additionally, getting feedback from customers is some of the most helpful advice you can receive. Without our customers, we would have no business.

What is your relationship with SCORE? 
SCORE client
What influenced you to seek help from SCORE? 

Never having owned a business, we reached out to SCORE right at the opening of The K9 Kitchen. We knew we needed a lot of guidance in several areas with owning and operating a successful business.

How SCORE helped. 

Our mentor, Jim, was a tremendous help! He would meet with us weekly (through Zoom) for about an hour. He would give us weekly assignments to complete before our next meeting and send us lots and lots of literature on the particular topics we discussed and were learning about. Jim took a huge passion for our business which made us have a great business relationship. One of the most beneficial roles Jim played in being our mentor was the extra time he gave us in going over sales. He coached us and role-played with us to make sure we felt comfortable approaching retail stores to pitch our products. We are now in 8 high-end pet stores and an animal hospital, with more stores and clinics to come! We are so excited when a new store takes on our products and always call Jim to tell him the great news!

What's great about my mentor? 

Jim is an animal lover, just like ourselves. So right off the bat, we had a connection. He has a very strong passion for helping new businesses grow. He was very professional and extremely knowledgeable in the areas where we needed him the most. He was our biggest cheerleader!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business? 

Don't try to get too big too fast! Always ask for help or advice when needed, and listen and interact with others in your field. Think outside the box - creativity is essential. Today's customers like new and different things or ideas.

Healthy Dogs are Happy Dogs