GRAND FORKS — The Grand Forks Herald sat down with Barktastic Bakery’s Mandee Zerr for 5 Questions this week to talk about how and why she makes dog treats.
Q: How did you get into making dog treats?
A: I am very passionate about dogs, and me and my friend, Whitney, were the two that kind of started this business. I also foster through a local rescue in town, and just seeing a lot of the dogs coming through and seeing how sick they get when we take them in and the benefits of natural organic items… It’s so important. I think a lot of people kind of overlook that, so I started thinking of even something as simple as a breath mint, and there’s half those words you can’t even pronounce. And I’m like, ‘What am I doing? I’m giving this to these dogs that already have stomach issues. This is not benefiting them in any way.’ So then, I did some research and figured out things that we could do that are not only extremely simple, but extremely beneficial to dogs, like eliminating any sugars that we can, and we just try to do anything as natural as possible.
Q: Why did you decide to turn this into a business?
A: It was just seeing the need. With me being a foster through it animal rescue in town, I see how many dogs are coming through almost on a daily basis, and there’s such a reach for people that want the best for the dogs.. I was like, ‘Hey, this is what I’m going to do: I’ll make chicken jerky that’s just chicken and sweet potato chips that are literally just sweet potatoes,’ and just kind of hearing the response from everybody like, ‘Oh, that’s great. I want those organic items, too. I want those very, very simple, healthy ingredients…’ Just from the feedback that we got, we were like, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s see how we can make it. Let’s impact not one dog or two dogs, but let’s impact as many as we can.’
Q: What are things you can and can’t put into dog treats?
A: We 100% avoid any preservatives, so all of our items we make are as fresh as possible. So when we get an order, we try to have stuff made. We have a couple orders that we’re filling today, and we made the items yesterday to avoid those preservatives. And then sugar… Sugar is a big one. Dogs don’t need it. Yeah, it’s really cool making a cookie that looks really cool with a lot of icing and making things sugary, but they don’t need it. They don’t need the sugar, so let’s find other ways to give them that natural sweetness, like through fruit. Whether it’s blueberries, strawberries or apples, let’s give them that sweetness through not using preservatives or additives or even coloring.
Q: Do you make special treats for dogs with dietary needs?
A: A lot of our items might have yogurt in it, but we can do a dairy-free version if somebody would request it. We have a March donut of the month, and it has green coloring on it, so instead of doing a food coloring, we used powdered spinach. So that way, if somebody does have an allergy to a dye or any type of food sensitivity, we’re doing it as natural as possible.
Q: Has COVID-19 affected your business?
A: As of now, no. We just started, and we’re doing everything online, because it’s out of our homes, so we don’t have a business front, so doing everything out of the house, we did have to get approved as an LLC. All of that we’ve done, but since we were going to start online anyway, COVID-19 hasn’t affected it as of yet.