When Julie Schroer began traveling to local farmers markets selling homemade dog treats, she never expected to grow her business as quickly as she did, let alone sell out her first day.
Then again, people love their pets and want a quality product they can trust to feed them, Schroer said, owner of the dog treat business “Breezy’s Biscuits ‘n’ Barks.”
“I bake my treats with love,” Schroer said, who began selling dog treats at farmers markets and shows in May 2018.
Schroer named her company Breezy’s Biscuits ‘n’ Barks in honor of her yellow Labrador Breezy, who died four years ago at 14 years old. Schroer calls Breezy her “heart dog.”
“She’s always on my mind, always there,” Schroer said. “When we started to think about this business, we started to think about how we could tie her into it so we could continue her memory.”
Schroer began her homemade dog treat business after moving from Houston, Texas, to Mt. Pleasant in 2017. She pet-sat when she lived in Texas but found there wasn’t as big of a demand for pet sitting in Iowa. Still wanting to work with animals, Schroer began experimenting with dog treat recipes.
As a former vet tech, Schroer has some experience with what dogs can and cannot eat and allergies many dogs have. She wanted to create a product that owners could feel safe in feeding to their dogs.
“We see so many health issues in dogs as a result of poor diet,” Schroer said. “With all the pet food and treat recalls, people are a little scared to buy some of the products out there ... People love their pets. They want a product that’s healthy and good.”
Breezy’s Biscuits is now a full-time job for Schroer. During Arts in the Park in September 2018, Schroer sold 7,000 treats.
She made 5,500 treats for the four-day event, but by Friday night, she said she knew they weren’t going to make it through the weekend.
“We were sweating it out,” Schroer said. So they went home and made an additional 1,500 treats to get them through the weekend.
Schroer has also had some non-animal clients. During Arts in the Park, a couple bought treats for their dog. On their way home, their daughters sat in the back seat of their car and ate all of the dog treats and loved them. The couple came back the next day to buy from Schroer again.
“Our dog didn’t get the treats,” the couple told Schroer.
Another client breaks off a piece of the treat and gives the dog the rest. He tells Schroer they’re like animal crackers.
Despite her occasional human clients, Schroer says animals are much easier to bake for than humans.
Schroer came up with her flavors by walking through pet stores and looking at what was already being sold.
From there, she started with organic and gluten free oat flour or organic brown rice flour and added ingredients until she found the right consistency for each treat.
All of Schroer’s dog treats have been taste-tested and approved by her dogs Aster and Prairie and certified by the Iowa Department of Agriculture.
Schroer said the most challenging part of creating dog treats was naming them. The Iowa Department of Agriculture has rules against naming a treat based off the ingredients in the treat.
For example, instead of naming her turkey and sweet potato treat with Swiss cheese and parsley “Turkey with Sweet Potato,” she calls it “Thanksgiving Feast.”
Her other flavors are pumpkin, BBQ chicken, cheddar and Parmesan, peanut butter, bacon and cheese, beef and swiss, apple and oats, and banana and oats.
In creating each treat, Schroer said she referred back to pet poison control centers to make sure her ingredients were OK for dogs.
Schroer said she has come up against some picky eaters, but they don’t stand a chance against Breezy’s Biscuits.
“I’ve had so many people say, ‘My dog is such a picky eater.” They return and say their dog devoured (my treats). It proves to me my product is good. It’s tasteful and the dogs like it. I’m coming up against some pretty tough clients.”
Schroer has purchased a second freezer to keep the treats, which can be refrigerated for seven days or frozen up to three months. She makes an average of 600 treats a week just for her regular farmers market circuit: Market on Main on Tuesdays in Mt. Pleasant from 4:30 to 6:30, the Mt. Pleasant Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays at McMillan Park, and farmers markets in Burlington, Ft. Madison and Iowa City.
Schroer’s season is March through December. She takes January and February off for some “R & R” — rest and relaxation — after the busy season.
Schroer said that her family and friends aren’t surprised she’s taken on making dog treats as a full-time job because of her love and passion for her own pets.
“I want a product that’s good. If I wouldn’t feed it to my own dog, I wouldn’t sell it or feed it to someone else’s dog,” Schroer said.