Picture a beautifully decorated Batman cake, specially ordered for the birthday boy. Or a customized Hello Kitty cake for that special little girl.
Gabriella Martinez ’08 (multidisciplinary studies) makes it all—from cakes to cannolis to peanut butter cookies to hand-decorated treats for the holidays.
Her customers crave these gourmet goodies. And why wouldn’t they want dog treats that are good enough for their owners to eat?
“I have a lot of customers who will say now that their dogs have been in here, they can’t even walk past without the dog dragging them into the store,” Martinez says.
After working out of her home for four years, Martinez moved her dog treat business, A Barkers Dozen, to a storefront in Webster, N.Y., in March. Her goal is to create a coffee shop of sorts for pets and owners, where they can both come to relax and socialize.
Martinez started the business while she was a student at RIT and working part-time at Animal Behavior Specialists Inc. as a kennel attendant to make some extra money.
At the kennel was a rescue dog named Valor, who needed medical care for extreme allergies before he could be placed in a home.
Karlene Bonnes, owner of Animal Behavior Specialists Inc., says Valor’s medical bills were more than $10,000. Martinez suggested they sell dog biscuits to help pay the bills and she volunteered to make them.
“We were like, ‘You should do this full time,’ ” Bonnes says, adding that Valor was eventually adopted. “Anything she made just kept selling.”
Martinez makes treats that are wheat-, corn- and soy-free so her own yellow Labrador, Andrea, who had allergies as a puppy, could eat them.
Along with selling goods locally, Martinez fills wholesale orders to pet boutiques, grooming salons and gift shops in New Jersey and Florida. She also has hosted some nontraditional events for owners and their pooches, including a wine tasting and ’80s party.
“I look forward to going to work every day,” Martinez says. “It’s awesome because I get to play with dogs. I haven’t felt like I worked a day since I started it.”