In my series of blog guest interviews, I had the pleasure of speaking to, Shona Dempster of The Pet Stop - Grampian.
I first met Shona a few years ago at a dog charity event, apart from being a lovely and kind person, I was impressed with her knowledge on the subject of dog nutrition. Her passion to help dogs and their owners really shows through in her business. From personal experience, I can say that my clients dogs love her treats! But let's go into the interview next:
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. I am local quine, born and bred in Aberdeenshire. I have lived in Fyvie for 21 years (haven’t ventured far, obviously very much a home bird)! Homelife is very peaceful and calm with my partner and 20 years old, petrol head son. Never a crossword is said in our house which is great, happy family’s springs to mind and a brilliant way to live, especially in these uncertain times when families are having to spend more time with each other than usual.
Dog walking is my favourite past-time, with Fyvie Castle/Lake, Haddo House, Newburgh Beach or Bennachie being the relaxing walks of choice (before COVID-19).
Whilst growing The Pet Stop I’m also in full-time employment until the business is established. As a result, deliveries take place evenings and weekends for now, but aim to commit fully to my own venture as soon as possible.
Q. Tell us more about your handsome dog Barney.
A. Barney is a gorgeous, 47kg, four years old Rhodesian Ridgeback who loves nothing more than to chill out and sun worship, always finding the sunny spots in the house. His favourite treat is peanut butter and cheese, but not at the same time, haha. His Kong Extreme is a firm favourite with frozen banana and peanut butter and he loves his stuffed lion toy, which is ironic with the Ridgeback’s being historically lion hunting dogs in South Africa. He can frequently be found on The Pet Stop Facebook page and Instagram (I can’t help it, he is such a handsome boy, if I say so myself).
Shona kindly sent me a photo of Barney to use in the blog.
Q. Tell us a surprising fact about yourself.
A. Hmmmm this was difficult.....but I guess some people wouldn’t know I am a qualified
reiki practitioner. I no longer practice on clients but I do carry out reiki on my family, Barney and myself when needed. Reiki led me to become interested in the Buddhist way of life and principles so you can find Buddha’s scattered throughout the house, however, I am still searching for inner peace. I believe it is a journey and not a destination.
Q. How did you become interested in dog nutrition and in becoming a dog supplies business?
A. Taking stock of my life and Barney is the short answer to this question. The longer version follows......(you might wish you’d never asked haha).
Following a challenging time, I decided to have a look at my life and decided a business of my own, something for me to enjoy and be passionate about was the way to go. It turned out Barney was the guiding force. As a result, my four-legged friend is incorporated into The Pet Stop logo along with the slogan “Delivering Pet Happiness”. I grew up around all sorts of animals and always had dogs in my life, so a pet business was really the most fitting.
When Barney was a puppy his large, soft, floppy ears constantly troubled him, including being very itchy. Unfortunately, this led to ear injuries with him using his powerful back legs to scratch when we were not around. Following vet visits he was allergy tested where results showed his allergic reactions were to beef, chicken, turkey and corn (poor doggy now has to slum it on Lamb, salmon and venison, so he’s not doing too badly). Up till this point I had looked at dog food ingredients, but never properly studied them as there had never been a need, I trusted all dog food would be suitable for my dog and that it does what it says on the bag so to speak. Our food search after receiving the allergy test results showed that often this not the case, with labelling on occasion not being as clear as I hoped. Some ingredient lists contain “derivatives”, a word that in my mind can hide a multitude of things. We had to find our special boy a special diet during our search and studying many, many, many foods, we discovered there were often inconspicuous small percentages of his allergens hidden away in a long list of ingredients. This led to me researching the dog food industry which sparked the lightbulb moment leading to my budding mobile and online pet supplies business.
As a new business, I felt something a little different would be a good move, deciding to specialise in good quality, grain-free food. During my research phase, I met with Billy and Gayle from Scoffdug, a grain-free dog food supplier from Kirkcaldy, who agreed for me to be their North of Scotland stockist. Additional discussions with a dog food manufacturer led to production of my own grain-free label complimenting Scoffdug’s Cullen Skink, Mince n Tatties and Venison Royale recipes.
Q. What do you love most about your job?
A. It’s difficult to pin it down to one thing, but I love when my products help improve a puppy, dog or senior dog’s health. Also, if you can help the pooch, you know that you are also helping to improve the owner’s happiness too, as we all want the best of our beloved pals. I know the concern and worry that surrounds food and diet issues, so if I can help it gives me a real sense of warm and fuzzy achievement.
And obviously meeting all the four-legged lovelies is a highlight of each delivery and can’t wait for that to be my full-time occupation.
Q. What top tips can you give our readers?
A. My top tips:
Avoid rawhide chews - Rawhide chews are popular, but I refuse to stock these products due to the chemicals involved in the manufacturing process and the dangers to our pets’ health eg blocking intestines by swelling up after being swallowed. There are many natural chews available, antlers, tuber roots, pigs lugs, hooves and various other animal parts that dogs absolutely love.
Always make sure you buy appropriate chews for your dogs’ teeth - for example, antlers aren’t recommended for puppy teeth as very hard and difficult to chew, so better to opt for a softer, age-appropriate option till at least 4 months old.
Take time to read food labels - In recent studies, it has been found that 44% of dog owners find dog food labels confusing or difficult to understand. A basic rule of thumb I find, is the longer the list of ingredients with long unpronounceable words, the more likely this list consists of damaging artificial additives and preservatives.
Ensure your pet has a healthy diet - In the fight against pet ageing, if you recall the saying “you are what you eat”, the same goes for our pets. Food is an ideal proactive way to ensure a pets healthy ageing. There is a strong belief that healthy eating habits can have a positive impact on lifespan, this is leading to an increase in the development of senior products.
Q. Would you like to add anything else?
A. I love attending events and meeting people, it is great fun meeting lots of interesting characters, and depending on the venue, lots of lovely doggletons too when they bring their owners to the stall.
We’re always on the lookout for events to promote the business and raise awareness of our products (after lockdown obviously as sadly most of the events/markets this year have unsurprisingly been cancelled). Farmers markets are really enjoyable, great fun and I love promoting the shop local ethos. It always amazes me to see what products/suppliers we have on our doorstep.
Small business owners helping promote each other is heartwarming and networking is so important for us to build our business and support one another (a problem shared is a problem halved). I’d like to thank Iska for inviting me to contribute to her blog, it’s been great looking back at the last few months and realising how far I’ve come, so thank you to all our lovely customers for making this possible.
Q. How can people get in touch with you?
Facebook - ThePetStopGrampian
Instagram - thepetstop_grampian
Twitter - @ThePetStop_G
Webpage - thepetstopgrampian.co.uk
Mobile - 07739 146978
Thank you, Shona, for coming onto my blog for a little insight into your business and personal life. I've found this very interesting! I'm looking forward to hopefully meeting Barney soon.
Also a big thank you to my lovely readers for visiting the blog. I hope you enjoyed it!
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Thanks a lot and lots of love,
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