Kelly Ison, co-founder of Einstein Pets, a Sarasota-based dog treats manufacturer, says her story starts with Abbey, the West Highland White Terrier she and her husband, Robert, adopted in 2012. Like many Westies, Abbey had a sensitive system and required a special diet. “We just wanted to give her a treat, something really good for her,” Kelly says.
Kelly, who has a background in consumer marketing with international companies such as Nielsen Holdings and Bloomin’ Brands, knew right away she wanted to launch a full-fledged business. The couple began experimenting with recipes in their kitchen to create dog treats that were healthy, flavorful and reasonably priced.
By 2013, they had developed an easy-to-digest recipe using oat flour, which could be flavored with natural ingredients to create treats such as Turkey Bacon, Cha Cha Coconut and PB’N Jelly Time.
They named their company “Einstein” as a nod to the Westies’ natural intelligence and modeled their logo on Abbey’s likeness. Marketing exclusively through social media, Einstein distributes through philanthropy-minded companies such as PupJoy, a subscription company that sells boxes of dog treats and toys, and PupScouts.org.
Annual demand exceeds 10,000 pounds (the treats start at $9.50 for a 5-ounce bag) and Kelly recently moved production from a St. Petersburg commercial kitchen to a high-volume bakery in the Midwest.
In 2016, Einstein received an Eco Excellence Award from NCW Magazine, a Family Choice Award for best dog brand and an American Choice Award.
This year, having added new distributors in Colorado and the United Kingdom, she hopes to move the company’s North Trail headquarters into a larger warehouse/office space, adding up to five employees. Abbey remains chief product tester.