Deborah Godfrey started making treats for her dog when she was living in Melbourne before thinking it could be a good business idea. Godfrey talks to Aimee Shaw about what's next for her pet-friendly brand Snoop Inspired

A brief description of your business.
Snoop Inspired was created in January this year. The whole concept of the business was to create delectable treats based on human ingredients so that dogs and their owners can eat them. There were two reasons for not making straight dog food; one was because, at the time, I was pregnant and babies love to eat everything. The second was, why not share the calories?

We make the cakes and cupcakes based on any food allergies the dogs may have and the idea is to celebrate your furbaby's birthday, or special occasions.

What sparked the idea?

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My partner and I moved to Melbourne three years ago and while we were there we decided to get a dog. We searched the web for months for a dog that we both loved, and ran into the most beautiful beagle crossed with a cavalier king spaniel.

Three months later we bought home the cutest tri-coloured puppy, who we ironically named Snoop, and he became our world.

During the week Snoop went to doggy day care while we were at work, and we celebrated his first birthday at our local dog park with his doggy day care buddies. We even gave out doggy bags full of toys and treats for attending his party, and just like every other birthday, the dogs each enjoyed a slice of cake. It looked like all the dogs had a ball, us owners definitely had a ball, and that's really what inspired me to bring the idea back to New Zealand and start it.

How big is your team?

It's just me and a casual helper, but I'm in the process of hiring two others.

What's been the general reaction to your business and what you do?

It's been mixed. When I first bought the idea home I took it to my partner's father, he's the guy who'll tell you if your idea is bad or not, and he just looked at me and said, 'That's actually not a bad idea'. I then spoke to my Dad and he said, 'Oh, I don't know if it will work out for you, Deb'.
We've been to a couple of dog shows and have had good feedback, and some negative feedback as to how we can make the cakes better. In general though, the response has been really positive - there are more of us [avid dog lovers] out there than you'd think.

Do you make the cakes yourself?

Yes, all the cakes are made by me each morning before they are delivered in the afternoon. I don't have a background in baking but I love doing it. It can be quite time consuming, but seeing the end product and having photos sent back to us from our customers is very rewarding.

Snoop Inspired's yoghurt and carob birthday cake.
Snoop Inspired's yoghurt and carob birthday cake.

How much do your doggy treats cost?

We have five different ranges - maple-bacon, carob (chocolate for dogs), spiced pumpkin, peanut butter and salted caramel cheesecakes, which can all be modified for allergies. Cupcakes are $22 for six and the 4-6 inch birthday cakes cost between $30 and $45. The maple bacon cupcakes are our most popular purchase.

What are your long-term plans for Snoop Inspired?

Long term I would actually like to have a dog cafe opened where you can actually bring your dog and have a dog party and a run around of the back lawn.

It would be nice to have an indoor-outdoor option too, giving people a nice place to have a cake and coffee with their dog. Once we've hired two employees then I can sit down and start looking at it all, so hopefully we'll have a cafe by the end of next year - depending on what the Council says. It needs to be in an area where there's a lot of land, so we can have dogs off the lead.

A dog eating a Snoop Inspired cake.
A dog eating a Snoop Inspired cake.

What's the most challenging part of running Snoop Inspired?

Since I'm a one-man band, it's having so many things to do and not enough time to do them, and taking on constructive criticism and turning it into something positive. Another challenge is finding ingredients that are digestible, smell and taste good to a dog.

Are you inspired as you are doing something not many people are?

Definitely. I came back [from Melbourne] in January thinking, 'Oh, I don't know how people in New Zealand will take this', but I've actually found a few companies that do it in Auckland. It's really nice to see that an idea I had really wasn't a bad idea, as other people are actually doing it too, now. For me, it is now about maintaining the business, and keeping it at a standard where I know I'm doing a better job.

What advice do you give others thinking of starting a business?

Be prepared to back your idea 100 per cent, if you don't whole-heartedly think it's a good idea then no one will. There's no time like the present to get started.