Taking a leap of faith to start my own business making dog treats was exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Why did I do it?
Born deaf, I’ve always had an entrepreneur spirit of an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It's a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.
When I met my husband and 4Legz co-founder, John, we were both at a cross road with our lives and jobs.
We were looking for something new and exciting—something and that was born out of our love for our pets. Making dog treats sprung to mind.
Why dog treats?
You see, I had a service dog name Odie who was allergic to just about every food and treat out there on the market. Odie came from the Dog for the Deaf Non-Profit Organization that trains Hearing Service Dogs. He had already been placed in two homes prior to living with me. I received a message from them asking if I would take Odie as he needed someone who would be able to care for his special diet needs as much as I needed him to be my ears.
After Odie’s passing, I was debating if I would get another service dog or just simply adopt a dog in need of a home. I opted for the latter. You see, I love dogs—they are my babies and I want the very best for them.
Odie set the tone of what I wanted to do to honor him and many other dogs in need of healthier food and treats. So many pet food products and treats are full of preservatives, chemicals, by-products and fillers so we set out to make dog treats from ingredients you can pronounce. And in the process, we’re able to do much more!
It’s very important to me to be able to employ others who are differently abled. I’ve had to overcome a lot in my life and wanted to give back to hearing impaired children in other wayslike our annual Signing Santa event as well.
To keep up with the increased demand, we recently invested in new equipment for our in-house bakery in Centralia, Washington, that will result in a quadrupling of our production. We must admit that the pressure to "outsource" production of our product has been very tempting, but we chose to keep the production method and recipes unchanged. You will notice the many different shapes of our treats. Each treat also has a story behind them to keep the consumer “begging for more”!
None of this would have been possible without Odie, and without the support of so many along the way. Who knew that my hearing dog would help lead me to one of the greatest achievements in my life and help me find ways to continue to help other differently abled people like me.
To read more about my journey, check out FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS.
Thank you for taking time to check out 4Legz!
Establishing and running a small business as a dog treats manufacturer, while incredibly rewarding, has its share of pitfalls and traps along the way. We consider ourselves very blessed to have met some great people along the way! Not only are they concerned about the health and well being of their customer's pets, they also have the same attitude towards us!
That type of feedback, along with numerous comments from our customer's keeps us focused. To keep up with the increased demand we've just invested in new equipment for our in-house bakery that will result in a quadrupling of our production. We must admit that the pressure to "outsource" production of our product has been very tempting, but we choose to keep the production method and recipes unchanged.
Cookies or Biscuits
There are three primary methods of mass producing treats today: wire cut, depositor and extruder:
- The wire cut method basically forces the dough through a shaped die, with a wire sweeping underneath cutting the cookie. Up until now we have been using a 30 year old machine that was made in Portland Oregon. We now a brand new Kook-e-king machine to replace the old. Wire cut machines are inherently limited in output - think cookies or biscotti
- Depositors on the other hand forces the dough into pockets embedded on a large drum, then drop out as the drum rotates. Depositors are picky about the dough used - think shortbread
- Extruders offer the highest possible output, exact proportion of ingredients is completely dependent on passing through the extreme pressures of the machine - think kibble
How can you Tell?
The shape of the treat is your best clue, high volume machines are extremely expensive to retool. The same basic shape over and over...
Why should you care about this?
Our recipes result in a very sticky, heavy (and yummy) dough; it is simply not compatible with high volume depositor or extruder methods. If we were to outsource production, our recipes would have to be heavily modified (more filler). We decided to stay with the lower volume wire cut method - choosing an automated machine that has been modified to use the same tooling (dies) that our trusty old hand crank and air stroke machines used. We now use high volume rack ovens to gently bake them to perfection.
Result? more cookies! and most importantly - same cookies! Smell the difference!!!