By Pet Age Staff//October 1, 2023//
By: Pet Age Staff//October 1, 2023//
When K9 Granola launched its first creation, which was a grain-free dog granola consisting of vitamin-rich rolled oats and honey, the company’s founder, Janie Smyser, wanted its products to be drool-worthy, but packed with high-quality, nutritious ingredients to support pets’ health. Read on to learn more about Smyser and her Pennsylvania-based treat brand.
What are the benefits to operating as a family-owned business?
I believe the family-owned element of our business distinguishes us within the industry. We work well together, and each member is committed to building on the success of the company. Our close-knit family also vacations together, spends free time together and we are that large family on the sidelines loudly cheering on each other’s kids. Our cohesiveness is felt throughout our business with customers receiving steady service from a team that truly cares about their pet family.
Currently, seven of our children (including two sons-in-law) are active in a full-time role within our corporation. Our daughter, Amy, is the creative mind behind K9 Granola Factory and is always looking for unique products to bring to market or seasonal ideas for the ever-popular Gourmet Donut line. Our daughter, Lori, recently shifted her role from leading the bakery to becoming an integral part of our inside sales team. Our daughter, Brandy, works with several aspects of the business and is known as one of the sweet and caring voices on the customer service side. Her husband, Todd, is instrumental in the internal management of the company and has a strong relationship with vendors and manufacturers. Our daughter, Libby, manages the accounting piece and facilitates legal elements when necessary. Her husband, Duane, is active in sales and product education and is loved by all who meet him. Our son, Thad, is a true people-person and a dynamic salesman. He travels to independent stores within our region, interacting with owners and introducing them to new products.
And finally, Chuck and I continue to work hard for our family’s future, as well as for our employees, customers, stores and, of course, the thousands of pets that enjoy the fruit of our labor.
Why are independent pet retailers the sole focus of your distribution focus?
Independent retailers are the bread and butter of the industry. When customers are searching for answers, they want to talk to someone they can trust. Independent retailers know and use their products, and care about their customers. They provide a level of service that mirrors our family-owned business, which is why we are committed to supporting them and doing our part to ensure their viability.
You’re known for your dog treats, but what can you tell us about your human product lines?
We introduced human apparel items in 2020 when we formally launched our donut shop. Initially, this line included t-shirts, tank tops, and sweatshirts featuring our donut shop dog, Tipper, and our “Eat More Donuts” slogan. Since then, it has expanded to include more colors and designs, as well as hats, mugs, vacuum sealed water bottles and stickers.
What would donuts be without coffee? In 2021, we introduced human coffee to go with our dog donuts. Shoppers can choose from traditional flavors found in our Doghouse Blend and The Fire Hydrant, or they can opt for the sweet flavors in our Bitch’s Blend such as caramel pecan and pumpkin spice. We also offer pet odor eliminating candles, and a Bed & Bath line featuring products safe for both pets and their humans. Specifically, our shampoo bars have grown in popularity and are often purchased by people for use in their own shower or tub.
After 30 years in the pet industry, what do you feel has been the key to K9 Granola’s success?
Our team. I mentioned earlier how our family contributes to the success of our business, but it goes further to include our staff. We currently retain 32 full- and part-time employees and we feel like each of them is part of our family too.
We would not be successful without committed individuals, like Brandon, who started with us as a driver and worked his way to a management role within the warehouse and e-commerce areas. And Dylan, an enthusiastic young employee who is slated to step into a logistical and warehouse management slot.
Employees such as Diana and Benita have been with us for over 20 years and possess valuable internal wisdom; and Cher, who moved from the bakery to the office, has become a solid member of our order entry and invoicing process.
From our donut decorators to our warehouse crew, our dedicated staff pours their heart into this company.
K9 Granola has a reputation for being innovative, so what is the next big thing that pets can expect from you?
You can expect 2024 to include an expansion of a few of our current product lines. This year, we introduced our popular single/limited ingredient Chips Collection. Customers are now requesting more flavor options, which we hope to bring them in the new year. Additionally, we will continue to create fun seasonal donut flavors.