Feeding Fido: An entrepreneurial adventure

March 28, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Sophomore Aidan Fealy starts dog treat business

Culture | Amanda Ahlm

Feeding Fido: An entrepreneurial adventure

Fealy and his two partners from St. Thomas, Wenjun Huo and William Peckels, work to provide a healthy alternative to dog treats. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of howellpetproducts.com

Juggling classes, homework and friends, sophomore Aidan Fealy seems no different than any other student at Bethel. However, on top of the normal responsibilities that come with college life, Fealy is a co-owner of a new pet treat business called Howell Pet Products.

This summer, along with two students from St. Thomas, Fealy found a connection in China where he and his friends could purchase a mass quantity of healthy dog treats for a cheap price. The men saw this as an opportunity.

From there, they pooled their money and took care of the logistics that came with starting a company, including correspondence with the government, branding, production and more. After they officially became a company and figured out most of the logistics, the Howell men contacted an investor in Texas who agreed to give them $10,000 to start up in exchange for a share in the company.

With this money, they were able to continue with their business plan. Their treats were shipped and held to be approved by the FDA. It wasn’t until about a month ago that Fealy and his colleagues actually received the 20,000 treats they ordered. In the waiting period, they were talking with potential buyers, including stores and websites who may want to take on their product.

In January the trio spent four days passing out treats and getting their name out at one of Minnesota’s largest dog shows, put on by the Land O’Lakes Kennel Club.

The company sells four different treats: the Triple Treat, the Flippy Floppy, the T-Bone and the Slugger. The treats are corn- or wheat-based dog chews. According to Fealy, they last longer than normal dog treats, are easier for dogs to digest and are healthier than greasy, over-processed treats like rawhides and jerky.

“We do care for our consumers, and we wanted to find a dog treat that is healthy for dogs, and we had access to a dog treat that isn’t sold in the continental U.S.,” Fealy said. “Because we have the corner of the market for our treats, people have been interested.” Hawaii is currently the only other state that sells these treats.

Fealy’s specific role in the company has included taking on the marketing plan, designing their brand and figuring out the best ways to get their product to their target consumer.

For Fealy, the most exciting part of the process has been the networking. He said the experience has provided him with outlets for conversations and connections that he could not otherwise make with people.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in dog food, for sure, or pets in general, and all of a sudden I was talking to as many people as I would need to,” Fealy said. “I get to network like crazy, and it has been one of my favorite things.”

However, starting up a business can be tough, especially as a college student. According to Fealy, the hardest thing has been collaborating with the other owners.

“Our weekly meetings turned into monthly meetings because we were in school and we didn’t have time to do the things we wanted to do,” he said.

Sales also suffered as the owners had to dedicate more and more time to school and less to the company. However, Fealy said that sales have been going well overall, even at the beginning stages of just getting their product out into the market.

“I just think that if anyone is interested in buying dog treats, I should be the person they should get a hold of, because I know a guy who has got 20,000,” Fealy said, laughing.

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