Learning New Tricks

“I had a dream. West Company made a checklist. They put me on the right path to achieve my goals."

 

 Nancy Hendricks holds up her healthy dog product with a big smile.

Mendocino Country Blessings began as a simple act of love. Having bred and shown dogs for over twenty years, Nancy Hendricks also cooked for them. She never thought of doing this commercially, she just had their health in mind. When she fed her dogs food without preservatives, they stopped dying of cancer.

Nancy was a truck driver and when she had to have both knees replaced, driving was no longer an option. Even then, it took months for her husband to convince her that she could be an entrepreneur. She thought he was crazy. She didn’t know anything about business. She didn’t want to mortgage her house or take out a loan. She consulted with Steve Lamb of West Company and he assured her that she could start without having to. That’s when the conversation changed from “You’re crazy!” to “Why not?”

She became excited, but still didn’t know how or where to start. “I had a dream. West Company made a check list. They put me on a path to achieve my goals.”

Nancy created a name for her business and a bank account. She made arrangements to rent a commercial space, acquired kitchen permits and licensing. All things she laughingly claims to know nothing about. It took her 45 minutes to post a picture of her dog on Facebook, with her friend from Wyoming telling her how. “My goal is to go the dog shows!”

Now Nancy is working with a web designer, market manager and a graphic artist. Since she is starting as an online business, the management of her website and social media are critical. Everyone on her team is a friend or family member and she feels confident. Mendocino Country Blessings is on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. “That’s marketing for you! I never would’ve had a clue how to market, other than to say, ‘Here you go! Here it is!”

She is learning as she goes and staying focused on the heart of her business, which is her dog treat recipes. She says it’s assuring to be entering such a boom industry, even thought it’s quite competitive. The market is saturated with chicken treats, but her liver recipe is quite unique and the lack of preservatives make both her recipes desirable. Her biggest challenge is getting her shelf life where she wants it and she’s achieving this through trial and error.

Her product line launched on Etsy this August and Nancy has high hopes for the future. Right now she’s cooking at the Senior Center kitchen in Ukiah and her products are stored at her home. She dreams of expansion and an in-house operation, where cooking, packaging, storage and shipping all happen in one place. To achieve this, she she will take out a loan eventually and she jokes, “I don’t think I’ll ever be done with West Company!”

She’s enjoying the freedom of working for herself and every day is different because she’s still getting all the pieces in place. Her only anxiety is keeping up. Her consulting sessions with West Company have gone from a few times a week, to a few times a month and her creative juices are flowing. She’s thinking about a third treat and how to make it great.

Nancy’s says that to leave a legacy for her children would be her idea of true success. Wether they want to continue with the business, or simply receive some income from it. A dreamer and a doer, she credits West Company with keeping her focused on her path. “I’m always moving forward!”

Torrey Douglass