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Side Hustle Test: Homemade Dog Food

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Thank for you all the feedback on my ideas for side hustle. I have decided to pursue a couple of them, beginning with homemade dog food.

The Plan

I will make batches of dog food over the next two weeks, and freeze it.

In July, I will set up shop at the local Farmer’s Market. It is open Tuesday evening and Saturday mornings.

Before then, I must come up with some sort of labeling and pricing.

The Investment

  • Time –  I will work the cooking and crockpot-ing around my other work.
  • Money  – I have budgeted $100 in start up costs. This money will have to cover food supplies, labeling, containers.
    • Label stickers including ingredient list will be printed on my home printer.
    • Ingredients and packaged food will be weighed on the scale I use for making soap.
    • Containers – maybe these? I’m thinking long term I would charge a deposit for the containers and request they be cleaned and returned. This will keep it economical and more green. Or I can sell it in Ziploc bags?
    • Food – meat, zucchini, apples to start. I have everything else in my pantry – oats, rice, frozen vegetables.

The Risk

There is limited risk with this investment. Since the food is frozen, and I will transport in a cooler, if it doesn’t sell, I can put it back in the freezer.

our recsue dogs
If no one buys it, I can feed it to our dogs or donate it to the local shelters. I believe I will find a steady client base here locally. The idea of the social aspect of the Farmer’s Market is appealing.

I am excited about this new venture. It’s nice to be doing something outside of my day to day job.

What am I missing? Any guidance on pricing would be great? Have you ever ventured out on a small side hustle like this? How’d it go?

 

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17 Comments

  • Reply Lisa |

    Good for you! I started the same way, but cooking for kiddo’s teachers and DH’s coworkers during crunch time. (Filled my own freezer, shared some meals and worked in the take/make industry, and was suggested to offer mine for sale.) I did very well for about two years. I actually changed to the deposit/return cleaned container model, and that was the beginning of the end. I would not recommend it. I thought it would save my cost, therefore end user cost in the long run, but it was quite a hassle, and the customers did not like it. They just wanted to toss the packaging after using. So, I would suggest finding the least expensive packaging that also provides the best freezer protection for your dog food. Don’t even hint at passing that cost along to your customers. Yes, build it into the cost, but keep that to yourself, as part of the product cost. You’re selling for a PROFIT, after all, and customers don’t need to know your cost. They just need to know how good it is for the dogs, how the dogs love it, how healthy your own dogs are for eating it, etc. My two cents.

  • Reply margann34 |

    I agree. Just find the cheapest disposable packaging you can. If you get steady customers that are concerned about the packaging, maybe you can offer alternative packaging to them. Otherwise, I fear you will invest in a bunch of packaging that never gets returned because of one time customers or forgetful customers. Have You projected costs and profit including ingredients, packaging and time to make/sell? What is your projected profit per unit?

    • Reply Lisa |

      But make sure it isn’t “cheap.” It has to do the job, or you’ll run risk of ruining all your product! Also, yes, as someone mentioned below, get the regs! I thought you already did that, But that would be job #1!

    • Reply Hope |

      Holy Cow! Maybe I won’t be able to do this. The start up costs just to get the guidelines are hundreds of dollars.

      • Reply Laura |

        Regulations probably vary a lot from state to state. Whoever is in charge of your Farmer’s Market might have more info. Finding this out should really be your first step though, before thinking about packaging and pricing.

        • Reply M.V. |

          I agree that the legal implications could be a concern here. I have a friend that is a vet and she recently posted an article about “gourmet” dog food pop up shops and how it was creating waves in veterinary circles because the food didn’t include all the minerals, protein, etc. dogs/cats needed. I know you have the best of intentions, but this may not be a good idea.

          • Hope |

            I am actually inclined to agree about the regulatory issues being brought up in these comments.
            It makes me sad as I was quite excited about the possibility and it’s just so different from everything else I do.

    • Reply drmaddog2020 |

      This. I would also consider what liability you have, and possible insurance protection that would require, from selling food commercially. Food poisoning is a more common reason restaurants are sued, and commercial pet food companies have faced lawsuits as well when their products are tainted or make animals sick. Be sure to do your research. Even driving your own car for uber/lyft requires special riders on insurance.

  • Reply Jenna |

    I’m sorry.
    There was no where in the May budget that included pets & pet expenses – so did I miss something somewhere?

    • Reply JP |

      Its so maddening – and easy to see why Hope is still in debt after all these years. Manicures, lawn service.. we never get the full story or a complete budget. The last animals were given up and supposedly they were “fostering” but you dont permanently foster animals

      • Reply Hope |

        We have been fostering dogs since last fall. Because we have only taken old and ED dogs, they have been with us since then. We are quite bonded with them.
        We have three:

        • Murphy, 9 years old, 6 lbs, he has grand mal seizures and skin irritations that require regular care;
        • Sophie, 8 years old, 7 lobs, she was pregnant when she arrived, but lost all the puppies. She is extremely fearful of people. She is just now coming out around people who come into our home, and has only been out of the house a dozen times since arriving. (She uses a puppy pad.) She will likely never be adopted because of her extreme timidness.
        • Cali, 4 years old, 25 lbs, was a rescue as part of a court seizure of 60+ dogs, and was not adoptable until recently due to court proceedings. She has just now become house trained.

        Because the county shelters around us are so over-run and fosters are so few, it is quite normal to have “permanent” fosters when you take in less adoptable dogs.

    • Reply Walnut |

      Also really confused by the pets. Hope, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first!!

      • Reply Hope |

        We have been fostering dogs since last fall. Because the costs are paid by the shelters, it doesn’t really come into my budget at all. I revealed this course of action last fall.

        • Reply Laura |

          They are really cute, and that sounds like a good way to get your pet fix without spending money you can’t afford.

  • Reply Mindy |

    I would strongly caution against this – $100 is a lot to invest upfront in your current situation, the farmers market likely requires fees and/or licensing and there’s the regulaton/liability issues to consider. Have you considered some sort of online work that requires no upfront investment? I have a friend that just started teaching English with vipkid. Though the pay isn’t amazing ($15 per hr/10-15 hours a week), it does seem legitimate and a steady source of extra income.

    • Reply Hope |

      I have looked at VIPKids, but I do not have the personality for this type of work.
      And I’m trying to do something that is not tied to my every day work, computer based work.

So, what do you think ?