Former Pizza Shop Manager Now Makes Organic Food for Dogs

©Melmo's Dog Treats

We here at GOBankingRates want to help get our nation’s small businesses back on their feet after the COVID-19 pandemic. To do that, we’re highlighting readers’ favorite small businesses around the country, and shining a spotlight on what makes them special to their customers and their towns.

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In this edition of our Small Business Spotlight series, we’re featuring Melmo’s Dog Treats, a woman-owned, all-natural, handmade, locally sourced dog biscuit business based in Philadelphia. Here, we chat with owner Melissa Morales about how she made the transition from people food to dog food, the advantages small businesses have over big-box stores and how she used the pandemic as an opportunity to improve her offerings.

Read More: This Alabama Baker Is Bringing a Slice of Heaven Down to Earth
Related: Small-Business Industries Hurt Most by the Pandemic

Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired you to start your business?

I was running an organic pizza shop so I understood the importance of high-quality ingredients. Most of my customers had dogs, so I started looking for an affordable organic treat and found they were expensive, ingredients were confusing and the dogs didn’t like them. [I] started doing research and four years later, I’m in 25 stores with five signature flavors and the sixth one in analysis now! [I’m also] currently working on a cat treat and a CBD treat.

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What did you take from past experiences or jobs that you knew you wanted to be a part of your new business?

For me, integrity is important. I made a commitment to provide a high-quality product for an affordable price. I invested in my employees and high-quality ingredients in order to be consistent. I think that trust and communication are key — [they’re] the distinct advantages that a small business has to beat big-box stores every time.

Discover: How Our Businesses Will Continue To Move Forward Post-Pandemic

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?

The most rewarding experience I have is when my clients find something that fits their dog’s diet, palate and budget. I feel good about providing a solution to better the lives of both pet and owner.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

The pandemic was rough on everyone! I refocused my efforts on strengthening my online presence and personalizing every interaction, and I invested in bright new packaging, which enabled me to package my treats in an air- and light-resistant bag. The result was a fresher, longer-lasting treat and greater relationships with customers!

See: A Midwest Handmade Bow Company Brings Extra Sparkle to Customers Who Helped It Through the Pandemic

How can people continue to support your business during this time?

People can support my business in many ways. If you don’t have a dog, you can buy a bag for a friend — no one has ever re-gifted a gift you got for their dog! You can share some of my Facebook and Instagram posts. You can leave me a Google review or a Facebook review, or tell your friends. Actually, tell everyone!

Check Out: Louisiana Woman Turns Her Passion for Creating Gift Baskets Into a Small Business

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?

The best advice I can give to someone starting a business is [to] be prepared to eat, sleep and breathe your business. Join a networking group and your local chapter of the Small Business Administration, read everything and treat every interaction as an opportunity. Keep excellent records and pay your taxes. Good luck!

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This interview has been edited for clarity.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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