What began as a dog owner’s desire to give better food to her beloved German Shepherds has turned into a company that is manufacturing pet health foods for sale in stores right across Canada.
Roxanne Esseltine’s company, called Raw For Pets, has settled into a new location in Aylmer, where it manufactures treats for dogs and cats that are designed to be the healthiest food available – no artificial flavours or colours, preservatives, fillers or gluten, just raw dehydrated meat.
“You’ll see the difference in their eyes,” the company declares on its website, www.rawforpetz.com.
There is a big difference in Esseltine’s life now, too. Her story illustrates how business successes in Elgin County can have surprising origins.
“I had no intention of walking into a business,” she exclaims. “I’ve been a nurse all my life, not a business person!”
Esseltine loves the dogs that she and her husband Jeff have raised and bred for many years while raising their five children in the Aylmer area. Over time she grew increasingly concerned about their health and the quality of commercial food available.
“One day in the spring of 2008 I switched all the dogs over to raw food,” she relates. “It only took three days for me to decide that I would never switch them back.”
Neighbours started inquiring about the raw meat that brought such shine to the German Shepherds’ eyes and coats. Esseltine started manufacturing raw-meat products and selling them from home, and in 2010 opened a small store in the village of Springfield north of Aylmer to sell kibble and dehydrated products along with frozen raw meat.
Word spread and Raw For Pets attracted the attention of two pet food distribution companies: Nothing Added, based in Cambridge, and Companion Pet Products of Guelph.
Today those two companies between them distribute private-label dehydrated pet treats made by Esseltine’s company to pet food stores in every province. All of the products are made from 100-per-cent beef, chicken or lamb from government-inspected meat processors.
Raw For Pets now specializes in manufacturing. Esseltine closed the Springfield store October 1 of this year and moved into the Elgin Innovation Centre at 516 John Street North in Aylmer. With help from her daughter Melissa Robertson, she plans to have eight employees there in a year’s time.
The Innovation Centre is also the location of the Aylmer branch of the Elgin Business Resource Centre, which Esseltine credits for helping her to become an entrepreneur.
“I work closely with the Business Centre here in Aylmer as well as the one in St. Thomas,” she says. “They have provided a great wealth of information to me over the years.
“Without my family’s help and support from the Business Centre, a place I could go to for all the answers I needed about financing and permits and business plans, I could never have done this.”
*This article first appeared in the December 2012 Elgin County Economic Development Newsletter.