When personal passion is the fuel behind a person's new business, oftentimes it's someone—or something—very near and dear that ignites the flame for entrepreneurship in the first place. Ledfoot's Pet Bakery is just such a story.
Susan Weitzel can remember the day she met Ledfoot more than 20 years ago, though to her it seems just like yesterday.
Her best friend was at work when she heard cries coming from the bushes. Behind the meow was a black cat with a very empty stomach, so she took the little guy home and called Weitzel, who couldn't wait to meet him.
"He was real shy and wanted to hide under the bed," Weitzel recalls.
But as soon as he finished eating his first meal in his new home, Ledfoot came out of hiding and jumped on her lap with a purr.
The only way to get away from preservatives, animal byproducts, and artificial coloring and flavoring was to make her own dog treats
"This is when he realized he was home, and I was his new mommy," she says. "I will never forget this day when my new best friend became my family."
Dietary needs stir up business idea
For 20 years, Weitzel and Ledfoot were best friends up until the day he died in 2009, the same year Weitzel began selling online. Naming the business after Ledfoot was a "no brainer," she notes.
While the business name keeps her cat in memory, the bakery itself began because of her two dogs, Daisy and Scooby. Weitzel describes Scooby as a sweet boy with a playful spirit, and Daisy is the dominant one who needs to be reminded now and again who's boss.
"Our eldest dog, Daisy, has a sensitive stomach," Weitzel says. "After she kept getting sick from different store-bought treats, I realized how bad they are because of the ingredients they use."
The only way for Weitzel to get away from preservatives, animal byproducts, and artificial coloring and flavoring was to make her own dog treats. The now-entrepreneur became passionate about healthy pet treats and believes the public needs to learn more about the subject. It seemed to her selling her treats online would be the best way to reach a large audience.
Recipe for success takes shape
Ledfoot's Pet Bakery sells healthy homemade pet treats made from human-grade ingredients, Weitzel reports. She also offers other pet products made from natural ingredients, like shampoos, supplements and toys.
Any product Ledfoot's Pet Bakery sells is first tested by the Weitzel family, the owner says. Some of the bakery's most popular pet treats include Bad Breath Mints, Peanut Butter and Gourmet Pumpkin treats for dogs, and Happy Cat Pumpkin and Savory Cheese treats for cats.
Auctiva Commerce allows sellers to set up a professional store by providing store templates and marketing tools
Daisy's stomach issues have improved since receiving Ledfoot treats, Weitzel reports.
"Our treats are great for dogs with sensitive stomachs," she says. "Not using additives, your pets can digest our treats real easy."
Weitzel considered using eBay as a marketplace for her pet products, but others were already selling specialty treats at a "deep discount." With all the fees they have to pay, Weitzel says she doesn't understand how those sellers are making any profit.
Instead, Weitzel set up a booth on Bonanza, but she concentrates most of her efforts on her website, which is hosted by Auctiva Commerce. The platform allows sellers to set up a professional store by providing store templates and marketing tools.
"They have everything you need to get your store up and running," Weitzel notes. "The best part [is] it's easy to use, and I had our store online in one day."
Dedication, hard work key ingredients
Those who are considering expanding or taking their business to their own website should simply "do it," Weitzel says.
Read and learn everything you can, and keep on top of search engine optimization, she adds. SEO is important, and you are responsible for it when you have your own site.
Learn everything you can about online selling. There are no hidden secrets; just dedication and hard work
"Learn everything you can about online selling," the online entrepreneur says. "There are no hidden secrets; just dedication and hard work."
To help drive traffic to her website, Weitzel markets through Facebook and Twitter, and sets up booths at local events. Ledfoot's Pet Bakery also hosts a blog to share events and keep connected with fans. Weitzel finds that these networking tools help her stay engaged with customers, and stay connected "on a personal level."
For other budding entrepreneurs out there who want to sell homemade pet products, it may be easy to find that the market is insatiable for quality animal treats. There are hundreds of consumers out there looking for quality food and accessories for their furry family members.
Following Weitzel's example to connect with likeminded people is a smart move. Plus, blog content as a marketing strategy is easy to employ because of the innumerable topics and stories you can share with consumers who want to know more about the baker behind the browser.
But perhaps the most important element behind a successful online business is the passion that gives it reason to be. Ledfoot's Pet Bakery is grounded in a 20-year relationship between a woman and a stray cat, and now blooms because of a dog named Daisy.
Visit Ledfoot's Pet Bakery.