You may have heard the business cliché: Eating your own dog food. Basically, it means that, as a company, we use what we sell. For example, you wouldn’t see an Apple employee using an Android device.
Well, Sharyn Vallante takes eating one’s own dog food to a whole new level. Her company, Bone Bons, prepares artisan-style, 100% organic dog treats that are tasty enough to tempt humans as well. “People tell us all the time that they eat our treats,” Sharyn says. “It always makes us smile!”
We recently exchanged emails with Sharyn to discuss her entrepreneurial journey and get her recommendations on the perfect holiday gifts for Fido.
The DRIVE: What inspired you to start your business?
Sharyn: While looking for treats for my new pup, I was shocked at the incredibly poor quality of commercial pet food on the market today. The marketing information on the front of the package did not always correspond to the ingredient list on the back of the package. In the process of researching pet food, I realized that human food could no longer be trusted either.
So our family changed to an all-organic diet and I began cooking for our dogs as well. Every ingredient in our treats has health benefits for dogs. There are no empty calories or questionable additives.
The DRIVE: That was three years ago. How’s business been since then?
Sharyn: This is my first business. I was an executive for an educational travel company for 25 years and decided I wanted to do something new that I believed in. So I followed my passion! I love hearing how much customers’ dogs love our treats. We get so much joy from our dogs that I find it so rewarding making other dogs happy too!
But it hasn’t all been easy. It took a very long time to become known and start building a consistent customer base. 90% of owning a business is sales and marketing! It’s not easy for a small company to compete with the giant corporations who spend most of their money on marketing, rather than on their product. Having never owned a company before, this was a big revelation for me and a high hurdle to climb.
The DRIVE: I imagine that’s where Scott’s Marketplace came in?
Sharyn: Yes! I received an email inviting me to join. The additional exposure has been great! It’s so hard for a small company with a limited marketing budget to become known to a larger audience. People shopping on Scott’s are a good fit for our company.
Personally, I LOVE the concept. I try to buy local as much as possible these days. It seems like a handful of huge corporations are taking over the U.S. and the majority of products are cheap, cheap, cheap. I’d like to keep mom-and-pop shops and diversity alive.
The DRIVE: You have a special product for the holidays, is that right?
Sharyn: Our Bone Bons treat-filled Christmas stockings are a great gift for dogs or cats. We make the flannel stockings ourselves. Each one is unique and filled with chicken jerky. There’s a lot of love that goes into making these and we’ve priced them affordable for the holidays. Our pets bring us so much happiness and we love offering them special treats to make them happy too!
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Sharyn! It looks like I know what I’m getting my parents’ black lab this year. And if the product lives up to the tagline – Irresistible to canines. Tempting to humans. – I may have to double my order!