Six startups inspired by dogs

Pet ownership is at an all-time high, thanks to a rush of more than 23 million pandemic adoptions, and more dogs mean a bigger market for treats, gear and accessories. In 2021, pet owners in the United States spent more than $44 billion on food and treats for their furry friends, and that demand is driving growth for industry stalwarts and Minnesota startups centered around pets. From organic treats to animal portraits, here are some local businesses to watch out for.

Project Hive Pet Co.

HQ: Minneapolis

Based: 2021

Some products: Dog treats and toys with a mission to save the bees. Owners Jim Schifman and Melissa Rappaport Schifman leverage their retail experience and passion for sustainability to incentivize “purchases with purpose.” In modern beehive-inspired designs, the toys are non-toxic, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, and made from recyclable materials. Vegetarian dog treats have no artificial flavors or colors. Give back: One percent of every purchase goes towards creating a healthy habitat for butterflies and bees. Favorite animal : Hive treats and chew sticks help clean your dog’s teeth and freshen their breath. Each treat is “kissed” with honey from local bee farms. Or buy: Major retailers and local stores like the Wedge and Bone Marche;

Luca’s dog shop

HQ: Edina

Based: 2017

Product: Organic, protein-rich dog treats made by a group of 14-year-old girls from Edina. The friends bonded over their shared love of dogs and entrepreneurship. They began selling through lemonade stands while still in elementary school, and three years later the product line was taken over by Lunds & Byerlys. With growing demand, the girls handed over the baking to a professional kitchen. They still have to attend school, after all. Give back: Luca’s donates at least 5% of its sales to Como Zoo and the Animal Humane Society. The company also hires elderly people and people with disabilities as bakers. Favorite animal : Organic peanut butter and pumpkin treats. Or buy: Select Lunds & Byerlys;

adventure barks

adventure barksHQ: Twin Towns (locations vary)

Based: 2018

Dog training beyond the classroom. With the new wave of people treating their pets like family, Sara Spevacek saw an opportunity to humanize obedience school, so to speak. Spevacek’s real-world training regimen can include paddleboarding your dog on Lake Minnetonka, skijoring on winter trails around town, or socializing at dog-friendly beer halls. One collar doesn’t fit all, nor does a training program. Give back: The company recently launched Adventure Is Barking Assistance Canines, a nonprofit program to train assistance dogs. Register:

K Schulz Photography

K Schulz PhotographyHQ: Bloomington

Based: 2012

Kelly Loeffler, a 10-year veteran, has worked with nearly every type of dog, offering a mix of posed and candid photography in a natural setting to capture the bond between animal and owner. Loeffler started out as a wedding and baby photographer, but turned to furry subjects when she started shooting at local dog shelters. Many clients recommend Loeffler for her ability to work with animals, although, as she likes to joke, it’s easier than human subjects because dogs don’t respond. Give back: Loeffler donates dog portraits to local rescue services. Favorite animal : Mini Sunflower. Planned in advance; photoshoot in August when the fields are in full bloom. Book a shoot:

Must be Ruff

Must be RuffHQ: Brooklyn Park

Based: 2021

Raised on a farm in Mississippi, Reggie Carter had animals that lived to be nearly 20 years old. When he got his first dog, a Doberman named Kirby, Carter became interested in why the breed’s lifespan was more like 10 years and how diet affected dogs’ health. He sought advice from a veterinarian and began experimenting with homemade dog treats containing oils, fats, proteins and vitamins. When he shared his treats with friends who had pets, they wanted more. This inspired Must Be Ruff, a gourmet dog bakery selling fresh treats made with local ingredients. Give back: Must Be Ruff donates treats to local dog shelters. Favorite animal : The Ruffcake, made with carrots, applesauce, and pumpkin with a little cinnamon pumpkin “bone” on top. Or buy: Available at eight Twin Cities locations, including Able Brewery;

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Cover of StartMN Spring 2022

Loon and Beau

Loon and BeauHQ: sugar bush

Based: 2019

Danica Reitzner started making bow ties and bandanas three years ago, and the puppies (or, at any rate, their owners) responded: She doubled her profits in the second year and tripled them in 2021. products are available in a wide range of whimsical designs. and vibrant colors, and Reitzner sources its materials locally. Custom designs are available. Give back: Loon and Beau donates 20% of profits to local rescues and non-profit organizations. Favorite animal : Plaid flannel bandanas, which come with a reclaimed leather clip to hold the bandana in place. Or buy: Available online and at three local stores, including Fox Run in Maple Grove and Smith + Trade Mercantile, based in Stillwater;

Copilot Dog OutfittersLOCAL SHOP: Copilot Dog Outfitters is a full-service pet boutique in Linden Hills that specializes in both functional and fashionable gear. A must-have for dog snowshoes (paw shoes?), carriers and other lifestyle accessories.

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