On the up · 22 August 2016

Four Legged Fancies: The healthy dog treat now stocked nationwide by Pets at Home

Victoria Stent
Victoria Stent set up Four Legged Fancies four years ago

Victoria Stent left her career in marketing behind in 2012 to set up bespoke dog bakery Four Legged Fancies.

As a dog-lover, Stent had grown increasingly concerned about the poor ingredients in most dog food and snacks on the market – starting her venture to specialise in handmade, natural and wheat-free treats for dogs.

Her signature product – the bangers and mash “pupcake” – has attracted an army of loyal fans and customers from across the UK, including famous celebrity dog-owners Georgia May Jagger and Danielle Linekar, and won Stent a number of awards as well as an appearance on ITV’s This Morning.

Business Advice caught up with Stent to find out how the entrepreneur went from making £50 a day at local farmer’s markets to being stocked nationwide by Pets at Home.

(1)     Who are you and what’s your business?

We are Four Legged Fancies and we make healthy, wheat free treats for dogs with a fun twist. Our products include “pupcakes” (cupcakes for dogs), piggy liver cake, beef hotpot, lamb terrier biscuits, doggy doughnuts, and more.

(2)    How long have you been around for?

We have been running for just over four years.

(3)    How do you make money?

We do not have a physical shop so we move around agricultural shows, food festivals, and pet care shows, with our trade stand and products, to sell direct to the public.

We have a large online mail order business where people can order all of our treats via the website including personalised birthday cakes. We also supply a range of shops and stores with biscuits, including Barkers Boutiques – a subsidiary of Pets at Home.

(4)     What makes you different and why should people take notice?

Our products are healthy for your dog. All are our treats are wheat-free with no colours, preservatives or any other ‘nasties’. Also, we put a lot of effort into making things fun for dog owners. We hand cut all our biscuits in to funny shapes, such as our ‘chicken labrador’, biscuits in the shape of a Labrador, and our ‘magical marmite reindeer’ biscuits in the shape of jumping Reindeers. Our biscuits are designed to make owners smile.

(5)     What’s your biggest achievement to date?

We were pleased to partner with pet care giant Pets at Home last year, supplying their boutique stores, called Barkers. The agreement continues to go from strength to strength and we have created a range of Christmas gifts unique to Pets at Home.

Signature dish – the bangers and mash “pupcake”

(6)     What setbacks have you had along the way?

A big issue has been copycats. People see my business and think it looks easy, so my ideas have been copied, as have my products. It used to really bother me, now I see it as an opportunity to up my game.

I simply try not to focus on what other people are doing now. We have to continue to evolve and grow and make sure our customers always have something new and fun to see from ourselves.

(7)     In five years’ time, I will be…

A household name! I would like our products to be in many more stores across the UK and I would like to have another team that can visit trade shows nationwide. So far we’ve traded around the South West of England, but we know there are thousands of dogs across the country that would like to taste our biscuits.

(8)     What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Be prepared to work very hard! This business has consumed my life and all my spare time but it’s a success because I love what I do. You can’t just reach 5pm and switch off, you will never really switch off again so make sure it is something you are passionate about.

(9)  Who are your business heroes and why?

In one of my first jobs I worked for Rob Law, the boss of suitcase brand Trunki. There was only three of us on the team, and Law was one of kindest most generous bosses I have ever had – if I end up anything like him I would be pretty chuffed.

He involved us in every step of the way with developing Trunki, and the staff really felt part of the journey. We felt valued and like we could approach him with anything.

He worked hard and put everything he had into that business. He was rejected from Dragons Den (which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened), had health issues, and a bad experience with a Chinese manufacturer ripping him off. Yet despite these challenges, he maintained his cool and his humour.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.