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Healthy pet food entrepreneur gets helping hand from SBDC

Healthy pet food entrepreneur gets helping hand from SBDC

We currently live in the age of the “foodie”. Being more conscientious about the healthiness of food and where it was produced have outweighed mere price points for today’s consumers, creating a marketplace for restaurants and grocery retailers who specialize in nutritious, locally-sourced food and produce.

Marney Zafian put her own unique spin on this market trend: She decided to cater to canine foodies. The result was the creation of her business, Element Pet Nutrition, which serves the health needs of its clientele and their pets through a nutrient-rich and ethically-sourced diet.

“Our passion is to bring health and wellness to pets, and to honor the earth while we are doing it,” Zafian succinctly states.

Her commitment to animals is without question. She turned this passion into a profession when she first became a certified vet tech in 2001. However, she grew disenchanted when she noticed a disconnect between the high quality medicine and the nutritional value of the food the animals were offered.

She studied natural nutrition and became a holistic chef for animals. From her home kitchen, she meticulously crafted a specialized diet, comprised of ingredients intended to enhance the overall nutritional value of each meal.

“My goal is offer the most nutritious and health conscious treats on the market.” ~Marney Zafian

Her first patient was her very own dog—an 11 year old canine companion, who seemingly was in his twilight years. With the goal of bolstering her aging pooch, Zafian started him on her hand-crafted food regimen. Despite his earlier health complications, the dog showed vast improvement after changing his diet. In fact, the new food regime extended his life for another four years without the need of medical intervention.

Zafian quickly gained new clientele when they witnessed the progress made with this one animal. She gained five consistent clients who relied upon her specialized canine cuisine to provide proper nutrition for their pets.

With this growth, she realized that she was onto something. But she also realized something else: “I need to be in a commercial kitchen,” she recalls.

Around the time she made these realizations, she happened upon a community meeting designed to provide information about resources that were available for local business owners. This is where Zafian was introduced to the Small Business Development Center.

She applied for the consultative services offered by SBDC, and was instantly connected to two highly experienced business professionals: Mary Jo Guarrero and Jan Newell. Guarrero began working to develop Zafian’s business plan. She not only helped Zafian find her first commercial kitchen, but also introduced her first business partner to invest into her vision.

Newell taught Zafian how to use QuickBooks and effectively manage her finances. As a certified bookkeeper, Newell provided a crash course in basic accounting. Zafian left the experience with a newfound understanding of PNLs and balance sheets.

The SBDC was even able to help Zafian later on down the road when her business needed to change directions. After a year of doing business, she noticed that her business partner had a different vision for the company. The need to amicably part ways became apparent.

“[SBDC has] been instrumental in everything I have accomplished and I couldn’t have done it without them.” ~Marney Zafian

Vince Fandel, SBDC Director, stepped in to lead the arbitration process. Acting as mediator for the process, Fandel “gave clarity and focus to every single issue we were experiencing,” Zafian comments. Referring to her old business partner, she adds, “We still have a great relationship, and I attribute that entirely to Vince.”

Things are looking up for Zafian. She currently has 43 clients utilizing her unique and proprietary diet, as well as a revolving door of retail customer traffic. She is also setting up shop in Ridgway in the coming months, so that we can more efficiently transport her goods to outside markets. Her “huge visions to take this nationwide” are coming to fruition as we speak.

“My goal is offer the most nutritious and health conscious treats on the market,” Zafian asserts.

And to think, this all began in her home kitchen. All it took was a little assistance from the SBDC to help her progress in her business ventures. “I love the support that I have received from the SBDC,” Zafian adds. “They have been instrumental in everything I have accomplished and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

To learn more about Element Pet Nutrition and where you can purchase their products, be sure to visit their website at www.elementpet.com. The website will soon feature both educational information and an ecommerce platform for purchasing products. Interested parties may also call 970.708.3927 for more information.

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