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On the Podcast: Spotlight on Black-Owned Pet Businesses

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San Francisco. Twilight, February 9. A sign in the neighborhood pet shop window catches our eye — Spotlight on Black Entrepreneurs — and lures us in. There before us, a table laden with pet products made by black-owned pet businesses across the country.

Rainbow beaded dog collars from The Kenya Collection, a collaboration with Maasai women. Pet tags from Trill Paws, a kind of hip hop dog tag company with sayings like Straight Outta Rescue or Cute, But I Fuck Shit Up on enamel tags with free engraving for your pet’s name and number. Lick You Silly dog treats — knock-out orange packaging with a cartoon face of a puppy and flavors like Sweet Potato, Chicken Bites, Savory Beef, Peanut Butter… no fillers, no preservatives, no coloring.

We went home, picked up our microphone and followed the spotlight.

Smart Bitch Modern Dog Training, Taylor & Jio, New Orleans 
“Yeah, we’re smart bitches, what’s up?”

Sir Dogwood, Chaz Olajide, Chicago
“Sir Dogwood is an online pet store. I decided to launch it after bringing home Winston. I started googling pet companies, obsessively checking to find the coolest collars and leashes and anything else I could buy to spoil him. I didn’t really see anything that was exciting to me or unique or different.”

Trill Paws, Rachel Jones, Los Angeles
“Talking to customers, I became inspired by the many dogs named Sushi. The amount of dogs named Boba, Bubble Tea, Pizza, it will blow your mind. And I’m like, okay, that’s it, it’s perfect. So what was incredibly successful was our munchie dog tag collection: the burger tag, the taco, the ramen.”

“Trill Paws. Trill! It means true, real. I’m a millennial, I grew up absolutely obsessed with hip hop, with rap music.”

The Barke Shoppe Dog Grooming, Melissa Mitchener, Harlem
“It was never the idea that I couldn’t make it happen, it was just like, how do I make this happen?”

Barbara Clark Ruiz, Lick You Silly Dog Treats, New Jersey
“This brand, I started it because my yorkies couldn’t eat dog treats from the store. I decided to bake them instead. But with my busy schedule, it just wasn’t conducive to me baking dog treats at home.”

Harlem Doggie Day Spa, Brian Taylor, The Dog Father of Harlem
“We do day care, dog walking, boarding services. I created the No Poop Left Behind campaign and I also created the Covid 2020 Pup Relief Tour with dog groomers from across the United States.”

Beaux & Paws, Sir Darius Brown, Newark
“Fourteen year-old Darius Brown is helping shelter animals get adopted with his hand-made, stylish bow ties.”

Dr. Kwane Stewart, Los Angeles
“Dr. Kwane Stewart, a veterinarian, walks skid row in downtown LA tending the unhoused dogs and cats of unhoused people.”

Ava’s Pet Palace, Ava Dorsey, Chicago
“We actually make all the treats in our kitchen. I started Ava’s Pet Palace when I was 8. I did a lot of research, I had to look up what was good for dogs.”

Spotlight on Black Owned Pet Business was produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva with Nathan Dalton, Brandi Howell and Grace Rubin. Mixed by Jim McKee. Special thanks to all the owners who took the time to tell their stories and are working their brains out to care for your dogs and cats, though mostly dogs.

Most everyone we’re telling you about is giving back in some way — working with at-risk youth, taking them in with mentorships and internships that hopefully lead to jobs, and donating generously to shelters and rescues and neighborhood food banks in their communities and making their products out of organic ingredients and biodegradable materials.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to black pet business entrepreneurs. There are many more across America and you can support their businesses and services. House Dogge in Portland — artisanal dog tees, hoodies, toys — committed to animal rescue and helping unwanted, neglected and abused dogs. Fresh Paws Grooming in Brooklyn, the animal advocates at Iconic Paws, a customized pet portrait gallery with flare. Pardo Paws in Georgia, an all natural company with a lotion bar in the shape of a dog paw for dogs with dry noses and paws made of cocoa butter, olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax, calendula… Paws and the City, Brooklyn, Precious Paws Dog Grooming in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Little L’s Pet Bakery and Boutique in Brooklyn. Scotch and Tea — stylish and durable dog accessories. Bark and Tumble, a luxury and contemporary brand of hand made dog garments in Britain. Pets in Mind a holistic pet supply store in Coconut Creek, Florida. Pet Plate — an online pet food delivery service. Duke the Groomer in Chicago.

Enjoy-a-Bowl by Dr. Joe Jesse Owens III, Las Vegas. Wynter the Pet Stylist, NYC. Rocky Walkers — Brandon and his brother Julius — Lower East Side, New York. Urban Dog Care — Logan Grendel — dog training and sitting, all products made in the US including biodegradable poop bags. Grooming by Juanita — cage-free, one on one, NYC & PA, Black Pet Care Professionals — also organized by Juanita.

Most everyone we’re telling you about is giving back in some way — working with at-risk youth, taking them in with mentorships and internships that hopefully lead to jobs, and donating generously to shelters and rescues and neighborhood food banks in their communities and making their products out of organic ingredients and biodegradable materials.

The Kitchen Sisters Present… is part of the Radiotopia Podcast Network from PRX, a group of independent producers telling stories that expand your world.

Support for our stories comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Robert Sillins Family Foundation, The Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation and listener contributions to The Kitchens Sisters Productions.

Episode transcript can be found here.