In 2005, Annette Frey's dog, Lambchop, developed some health issues that seriously limited his diet. Finding pet food that fit his needs was difficult, so the New York City resident began making allergy-friendly recipes in her own kitchen.
Annette may have solved her immediate problem, but she still saw a gap in the dog-treat market. Every dog -- including those with allergies -- needs a reward once in a while, right? Seeing this void as an opportunity to create something special, Annette took to her kitchen. With Lambchop's help, she tested hundreds of recipe combinations. Finally, Annette developed a treat that not only met all of her pet's dietary needs but was delicious, too. With that, Biscuits by Lambchop was born.
Recently, Annette's treats were featured on The Daily Wag, Martha's pet blog. Here, Annette shares how a five-year journey has led to the business of her dreams.
When did you start your business?
In 2005: It was part-time in the beginning. I re-branded and re-launched the company in April of this year.
What inspired your business?
My dog, Lambchop, was my inspiration. After he developed kidney failure, his new nutritional needs became complicated, so I had to learn to cook and balance his dietary requirements. However, there were no treats on the market that I could give him. So I set out to make one myself. I removed the traditional elements of baking (gluten, dairy, eggs, etc.) and created a dog biscuit that was not only nutritious but also delicious!
What was your start up cost? How did you get the money and what did you use it for?
I funded everything myself. I printed labels locally in very small quantities, as needed. I developed the website myself and learned to write whatever html code I needed to get it going along the way. I had to pay for the recipes [which are free of most common food allergens] to be tested and registered with the NYS Department of Agriculture. All in all, the start-up cost was around $1,000.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
The business was supporting itself within the first year.
How did you maintain confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn’t get it or said “no”?
Connecting with other women entrepreneurs through Dreamers into Doers and other networks has provided valuable support, "a village" that has my back! I've gotten tons of support and valuable advice.
What's the hardest part of what you do?
Wearing all the hats of my company. Being responsible for all aspects of the business and producing the product at the same time is a balancing act. I'm still trying to figure out what roles can be hired out and how to go about doing so.
What's the most fun part of what you do?
Seeing my products make dogs happy and solving problems for their owners. Having worked in physical therapy for 15-plus years, I feel what I do now is very similar in that I still create solutions for a better quality of life -- only now for dogs instead of humans!
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
I have a great Facebook fan page. I love interacting on a personal level. I try to keep it light and fun while also educating my readers about various animal issues. I also connect with some amazing people on Twitter, including veterinarians. I have now partnered with a few of them to support events that aide animal shelters and rescues.
The Dreamers into Doers community has been inspiring and led to some wonderful relationships, especially after the event in January at the Martha Stewart headquarters. Forty of us had the privilege of coming together and making a difference for women from a local shelter. It was incredibly uplifting for us all. After sending Martha Stewart dog biscuits for her pups as a thank-you after that event, they were featured on her pet blog, The Daily Wag. It was a wonderful surprise!
Do you have entrepreneurial role models?
I am currently reading Tony Hsieh's book, Delivering Happiness. Tony is the CEO of Zappos.com. His commitment to company culture, as well as customer service, is something I aspire to.
Take a peek at some of Annette's photos