MINT HILL – Robyn Kline never thought she would actually open her own business, even though she always wanted to become a small business owner.
But Kline got her chance in January 2012, and started selling pet toys, treats and apparel from her home. A year later, Barks, Bones & Biscuits officially opened in its new home at 11300 Lawyers Road in Mint Hill. The dog-centric store, which has one full-time employee and three bakers, offers homemade treats and carefully selected toys and accessories such as dog bowls and blankets.
“We had kind of an odd start,” Kline said of her then at-home business. She and her adult daughter, Amanda, took their pug – one of three dogs and three cats – to K9 Café for treats one day, where Amanda had a brainstorm.
“I liked to bake, and my daughter just happened to turn around and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you did this?’” Kline said.
So, Kline began researching how advantageous owning her own business would be and whether she could turn owning a pet treat bakery into a career. Kline started the business very slowly, with baby steps, to make sure she wasn’t jumping in too quickly. She got her company license and registered, and had her kitchen rezoned to bake dog cookies and treats. While North Carolina doesn’t require a dog bakery to have a commercial kitchen, the state does require products that will be sold be sent to a laboratory, of the state’s choosing, for testing and for the company to be registered with the North Carolina State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Kline said.
Every edible product Kline sells, which includes more than a dozen different kinds of dog cookies, is sent to Clemson to be tested. Those results are sent back to Kline, who prints the ingredient results on the packaging.
“They’re making sure what I’m telling a customer is what is actually in a product,” she said, adding the state can decide to inspect her kitchen at any time to make sure products meet requirements.
All of Kline’s dog treats are 100 percent natural and handmade, from simple ingredients – something many pet owners are starting to look for when choosing a product. Kline will cater to dogs’ specific dietary needs such as diabetic or gluten-free. Kline said a lot of people are becoming more health conscious with their own diets, as well as their dogs’, and are looking for high quality, natural treats that aren’t available in typical stores.
“I do consult with vets here in Charlotte when I’m not certain of things that can be put in a product,” she said. “As a company, we want nothing but the best for your dog.”
Once all of the licenses were obtained and the kitchen rezoned, Kline began bringing her products to farmers’ markets and charity events. Eventually, over the course of a year, Kline was invited to bring her products to American Kennel Club dog shows and other events. By May 2013, “… we started getting invited to bigger events and were very successful,” Kline said, adding the amount of work grew and the company was booked every weekend with at least three events. Customers kept asking Kline when she was going to get a storefront, and eventually the business grew so big that a brick-and-mortar building was imperative.
Kline’s new building is the perfect size for Barks, Bones & Biscuits, she said, and is in the perfect location.
“We love Mint Hill, and we wanted to keep (the business) in Mint Hill,” she said, adding the store has serviced a lot of support from the community.
All of the items Kline makes are sold at the store and available to the public. She said a storefront is a great way to give the customers what they want and a place where they can find everything – something that was hard to do at dog shows, where Kline couldn’t pack all of her products and could potentially run out.
The new store isn’t big enough to allow for a kitchen, but that isn’t a problem for Kline, who will continue to bake items in her home and transport them to the bakery. She plans to continually update with different treats and items available for customers.
“We are a full-fledged dog bakery,” Kline said, adding the business has more than just a couple of dog treats. “Our products are completely different, and you can’t get them anywhere else.”
Barks, Bones & Biscuits Bakery is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pets are welcome in her store when the owners are shopping.
Find more information about the store and products at www.barksbones