A novel pet food business in Northampton is ready to branch out after four years of growth in the feeding raw pet food market.
Northampton Raw Dog Food, currently found in Blisworth, was founded by life-long pet lover Zena Taylor, who owns two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
The business provides dog owners with raw, unprocessed meats for our canine companions to enjoy.
It is reportedly a much better, species-specific diet that is purported to lead to better health for the animals, as well as some better breath. But it took a great deal of inconvenience before Zena finally decided to start her business.
The home-grown entrepreneur began her raw feeding journey in 2017, when she was really struggling to find a decent supplier, or indeed, anyone that had good feeding advice.
She described having to 'wing it' as there was no one she could ask about it and courses on the subject were few and far between.
Supply was also pretty sporadic, with Zena describing a shopping trip for the dogs taking her to multiple places for raw food and then for all the extras, like wings, fish and so on. In all it was costing her £200 per month just to feed her dogs.
So, finally, Zena set up her first two freezers in the back of her husbands carpet showroom and filled them with human-quality meats, meaning it is of a quality that people could safely eat.
Zena said: "I researched some good dog food that would not cost the earth and ordered my first batch to fill my two freezers. I then put a little post on Facebook on the Friday, just to my friends, saying that I have got some raw dog food and if anyone wants to pop down then I am selling it for much less than anywhere else.
"Saturday morning I walked into my husband's showroom and there was about 20 people stood around my two freezers and I said to my husband 'I think I need to buy a few more freezers'.”
Now after four years of growth, the business has gained ten times the freezers, blooming from three to thirty, offering just as many different brands of meat. On top of this, the company offers various treats, toys and other pet paraphernalia, making it a one-stop-shop for any raw feeding pet's needs.
The meats are stored in sealed containers not too dissimilar from supermarket meats for humans. There is no mess and, most importantly, no smell either. They also offer next-day refrigerated delivery across the UK for those furry friends who can't make it into the store, with deliveries going as far as Cornwall.
This has earned the company the nickname of the 'Iceland for dogs'.
Zena added: "I employ local people and we offer help and advice to customers feeding raw.
"Over the years we have built up a large customer base and seen some amazing transformations in dogs.
"We have built up a real community of people and its so lovely to be able to watch the dogs grow and be healthy.
"We also do fundraising for dog charities like Animals In Needs and Nanna Dog Rescue."
But success has been a double-edged sword for the locally-grown business. With demand now outstripping the limits of their current premises, Zena is seeking new premises to expand to, where she intends to hire yet more local staff. The plan is to use a larger premises to store more meats, ordered in bulk so as to keep costs and the impact on the environment down.
Given the image raw food can conjure for some, Zena has had trouble finding someone who will sign on.
Zena continued: "I have applied at absolutely loads and loads of warehouses and landlords to rent and I constantly knocked back. The landlords don’t want dogs on their premises.
"Most don’t seem to understand my business. They think I am slaughtering animals or something like that, rather than an 'Iceland for Dogs'.
"I feel so upset as I have worked so hard to build this brand and this family and we have helped so many people that I just don’t want to have to close down as I cant find somewhere to go.
"I feel disheartened and very upset that I have been forced into the situation and no where seems to understand that although dogs will come onto the property, I keep a tidy and clean shop."
Zena is looking for a 5000 square feet, only requiring parking. She has a budget of approximately £40,000 and hopes that she will find a willing host soon.