Much like hiking a new trail in the mountains, growing a small business is about exploring the unknown. With guidance from our customers, vendors, and mentors we navigate our way through the day to day, ultimately determining which path to travel. There are often many trails/paths to choose from, which can be quite interesting as some never lead to anything but a dead end, or even a steep cliff. Turning around and focusing on the lesson learned from traveling that particular path is key, as this typically leads to a final “meant to be” destination.
Throughout the last five years, Trail Dog Treats has been fortunate enough to explore many paths, pursuing a variety of business opportunities. Our first opportunity was to introduce our brand at the Highland Farmers Market, selling treats to our neighborhood customers every Saturday in the summer months. This lead to many new relationships and connections in the pet & event industry. Our next step was to promote our brand with freebies at dog rescue fundraisers, adoption events, agility shows, health & wellness fairs, canine daycare open houses, etc, again leading to new contacts all along the way. We soon discovered our first baker, Java Bites. We worked long and hard to study the science of baking, recording bake times, temperatures, ingredient measurements, and batch yields. Throughout this process the mentors who came in and out of our lives were priceless. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for endless stream of people providing advice and assistance. From everything to legal guidelines, bookkeeping, marketing, social media and business planning, we’ve always managed to find a helping hand. A photographer took our website to the next level with beautiful product pics, while an accountant friend helped set up my QuickBooks account.
Soon we were venturing out to stores, one referral after another, knocking on doors all over the Colorado Front Range. This was a particularly tedious chapter, following up with store owners on a daily basis. Although this was not the most profitable time for us, the experience of getting out there, telling my story and selling to small shops helped build the confidence needed to pursue the big boys. Our motto at the time was the more small retailers, the merrier. Unfortunately, the orders were small too. The service and maintenance very time consuming. To help increase volume we partnered up with three different Merchandise Reps. Signing one contract after another and terminating those contract just as quickly. Again, a learning experience. My thought was that I could handle this on my own and do a much better job. With that, I set a new goal; to focus on one big client, eliminate the running around and get into one large producing store. Whole Foods Market. One year later, it happened! Now Trail Dog Treats are on the shelves in five WFM locations! Since Java Bites went out of business, we took over the baking again. But, with five Whole Foods stores ordering on a regular basis, the baking piece needed to change. We contacted every kitchen commissary in the Denver Metro area in search of a baker. We now have a baker “on-call” to use as needed. And needed he will be, as a new door just opened up for us to explore another new path. Ello Pet Supply has invited us to join their very specialized, exclusive roster of vendors to distribute our product locally. A true honor to be a part of this new start up, distributing only the best quality, organic and natural pet products in Colorado. We’re ready to hike up this next new mountain …the trail is calling!
As our business path continues to wind and twist through the chaos of the wholesale world, we find peace on our hiking trails. Tatum and I have been fortunate, for as long as we’ve been together we’ve explored new mountain trails on a regular basis. The hikes give us time to process and reflect on our daily business ventures. It’s also a time for creativity, coming up with recipe ideas, marketing strategies and community involvement plans. The trails have been good to us, and so have the paths we’ve walked to build our business. We look forward to new forks in the road and mountains on the horizon.