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 Mitchner, 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.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

JIO ALCAIDE: Our business name is Smart Bitch Modern Dog Training.

TAYLOR BARCONEY: We are a progressive female owned dog training company here to educate the New Orleans community on the best and most effective ways to train your dog without putting a hole in your pocket.

We are also a minority-owned business. I am Black, Jio is Puerto Rican.

JIO ALCAIDE: It’s beyond our ethnicity, or the fact that we are a minority–and I apologize, my dog is barking in the background–but our training style is also pretty rare. A little bit more progressive.

TAYLOR BARCONEY: Some still may think that they have to dominate their dogs, they have to be alpha over their dogs. Our goal as modern dog trainers is to really focus on the roots of issues, and not just the symptoms.

The dog training world–it’s a white dominated space. It’s kind of male dominated, too. On our profile on Instagram we have Black Lives Matter, it’s been there for a year now. Before 2020, we would have not felt comfortable to put that at risk of losing our business cause people would have blacklisted us. But now, we started to become more outspoken, less shy about hiding our beliefs from our clients.

JIO ALCAIDE: Yeah, we’re smart bitches, what’s up?

VO – DAVIA INTRO: Twilight, February 9. I’m running errands in the neighborhood when a sign in the pet shop window catches my eye, on a blackboard in beautiful white chalk cursive handwriting: Spotlight on Black entrepreneurs. Wait a minute; do they mean spotlight on all Black entrepreneurs, or are we talking Black pet business entrepreneurs?

DAVIA NELSON: I wondered if we could talk at the table for a second? Thanks, I’m Davia.

VO – DAVIA INTRO: There before me is another sign on a table laden with pet products that are in fact all made by Black-owned pet businesses across the country.

SACOYA: My name is Sacoya. I work at Cole Valley Pets.

VO – DAVIA INTRO: Sacoya has been working here a month. It’s the owner who created the blackboard and the display, who turned on the spotlight.

SACOYA: The Kenyan collection…

VO – DAVIA INTRO: The table is an impressive one. Gorgeous, beaded dog collars from the Kenya collection

SACOYA: …Hand beaded by the people of the Maasai tribe…

Trill paws…

VO – DAVIA INTRO: Hip hop dog tags from Trill Paws: straight out of rescuer; cute but I fuck things up. Lick You Silly dog treats–knockout orange packaging with a cartoon face of a puppy that cracks me up and flavors like yams, chicken bits. I immediately want to sample the yams myself.

MUSIC: OUT

VO – DAVIA INTRO: It’s 7 o’clock in San Francisco, 10 o’clock in Jersey where Lick You Silly is manufactured. I figure I’ll leave a message introducing myself; instead, someone picks up the phone at 10 o’clock. It’s the owner. She’s there filling orders, doing what needs to be done, living the life of a Black pet business entrepreneur.

DAVIA NELSON: Hang on one second, Barbara, before you start. Could you put it in voice memo and record yourself?

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: Okay, so I just press the red dot?

VO – DAVIA INTRO: Yeah, press the red dot, exactly. Today, the Kitchen Sisters present “Spotlight on Black-Owned Pet Business Entrepreneurs.” Okay great, so what were you starting to say?

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: In December, we did a dog dance party on Zoom. We had a DJ, people came to Zoom and we danced for like 15 minutes and then I gave away dog treats.

My name is Barbara Clarke Ruiz, my company is Lick You Silly Pet Products, I live in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: These are called Nutter Doodles. It’s a peanut butter and honey dog treat. We have our Happy Doodles, our Licker Doodles…All of our products, it’s a doodle family…I created the Doodles during the pandemic and along with the seasonings…

This brand, I started it because my yorkies couldn’t eat dog treats from the store. I decided to bake it. With my busy schedule, it just wasn’t conducive to me baking dog treats.

I was a consultant for like 20 years with brands like Nike and Adidas and New Balance. At the time, I was working with Venus Williams, and I was like, you know, ‘Hey, V, I’m thinking about starting a dog treat company,’ and she was like, ‘What? You should do it!’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’ You know, sometimes you just need that little push.

ARCHIVAL-CHANDRA-YouTube: Hello everybody! My name is Chandra, Chandra Gore consulting YouTube page. This is Boston, he is here with me to talk about Lick You Silly. You liked those, didn’t you?! Yes, look at the tail!

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: Everybody has a dog. I mean, if I’m talking to 10 people, 8 of them have dogs.

ARCHIVAL-CHANDRA-YouTube: Yes! He really liked the chicken bites. He is a very, very picky dog.

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: It’s all natural, it has no preservatives, like on the back of this bag, there’s a lot of no’s. No artificial flavors, no preservatives, no dyes, no byproducts, grains, glutens, chemicals, hormones, synthetics, antibiotics…

The meat that is in my product is a piece of meat that I would eat. I don’t eat meat, but it would be a piece of meat that I would eat.

ARCHIVAL: “Welcome to the 16th annual global pet expo, the pet industry’s premier event. The largest showcase of new products and your first look at the latest trends of this year. Over 1,000 companies from around the world are here to showcase…”

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: Two years ago, when I went to the global expo, one of the largest trade shows for my industry, and I’m like, ‘Where’s all the Black people?’ I kid you not, I might have seen 10 in the three days I was there.

BRIAN TAYLOR: When I go to these shows, there’s not enough of us. I don’t know a lot of African American male that own a doggy daycare services. There’ll be like 3-5,000 people there and most of the time I am so alone and I would have to like look in the crowd and I’ll see ‘Oh, here’s an African American person, here’s an African American person…’

MELISSA MITCHNER: I noticed when I went to the grooming expo there wasn’t a lot of people that looked like me, like I could literally count on one hand how many people in the room were Black. And then I started speaking to people at the expos and they’re like, ‘Well, you know, we’re just groomers, we don’t own salons, like we work at a Petco, we work for a company,’ which made me dive even deeper to find out that less than 5% of businesses within the pet care industry is owned by a person of color, particularly a Black person.

When I went to grooming school, it was about $8,000. I don’t know many people that have access to $8,000 offhand that could pay to learn how to go groom a dog, right? Or if you tell your parents, they’re like, ‘What do you mean? Like, you need to go to college,’ not understanding that as a great groomer, you can make upwards of $100,000 a year.

ARCHIVAL – CHICAGOLICIOUS INTRO: Chicagolicious! In the glamorous world of Chicago salons, only one has the reputation…

MELISSA MITCHNER: I was actually inspired by a reality human hair show called Chicagolicious about a hair salon. This woman was speaking about where she took her dog and how much she loved it, and immediately a lightbulb went off and I was like, ‘Hm, Harlem needs something like this.’

MELISSA MITCHNER: My name is Melissa Mitchner, I’m the CEO and founder of the Bark Shoppe. We are a premier pet care company specializing in pet grooming located in Harlem.

I knew that the neighborhood was changing. I thought about in New York, every other block, there’s like a grooming salon or some type of pet care something. I said “Huh, like, people are really paying for these things.’ I never really did anything within my community, I always went to the upper east side or upper west side, and that’s inconvenient, right, like why do I have to leave my community for the level of service that I know I deserve and have come to expect?

And I remember it was the last day of my semester at Lehman College and I spent that whole class just looking up the industry, you know, and I was like, ‘Wow, there’s so much growth within this industry.’

MELISSA MITCHENER: I grew up in the South Bronx, Mitchel Projects, which is actually the poorest congressional district in the nation. It couldn’t get any worse than that, if anyone that, like, lived in New York City housing, you know the conditions of that. What could actually be worse than what I grew up around?

MELISSA MITCHNER: It was never the idea that I couldn’t make it happen, it was just like, how do I make this happen?

I opened within 90 days. Simultaneously I was like building a business, in grooming school, at the same time construction was happening. I did have people saying like, ‘Are you crazy? You’re emptying your savings. You could buy a house. You’re gonna finish your degree, you could be an administrator.’ So I was like, ‘Hm, I think I can do this, like I did this for Best Buy,’ you know, for 9 years, forecasting budgets, supply chain management.

I envisioned opening this high-end pet spa and boutique. Where I’m located in Harlem, I’m in a very mixed demographic. I can go one block east and there are people in the projects, one to two blocks west, and there are people that live in high-end luxury condos. Having the luxury on the window of the boutique, the chandelier, that was deterring people from wanting to come into the establishment. That it wasn’t established for them. So, flipped the store, right, did a full remodel, created a minimalist vibe.

I was like literally walking to Central Park, I would walk in the projects, walk up to people with dogs, like ‘Hey, I have a dog grooming salon!’ you know, like guerilla marketing.

Not a lot of people are aware how much people actually spend on their pet–pet food, services.

CHAZ OLAJIDE: We have these little fleece zip ups that come in like kind of these candy colors. Fleece has been really big for us, people really like to wear their own fleece and then match with their dog. Huge trend.

On kind of like the luxe end of things, there is a gorgeous sweater, it’s like a powder puff, and it comes in hot pink and light blue, and it’s just this feathery confection of deliciousness. It’s like, not practical, but it’s just a beautiful work of art and I love it so much.

My name is Chaz Olajide. My company is called Sir Dogwood and it is based in Chicago.

Sir Dogwood is an online pet store. I decided to launch it after bringing home Winston, our first furry new member of the family. I started googling pet companies, modern dog wear, modern dog accessories, and obsessively checking to find the coolest collars and leashes and anything else I could buy to spoil him. I found that I didn’t really see anything that was exciting to me or unique or different.

CHAZ OLAJIDE: Not only that, but I wanted to shop local, avoid kind of like, bigger box stores, and I just wasn’t finding what I was looking for.

The second reason I decided to start Sir Dogwood was that the pet industry, to be quite frank, is very, very white.

CHAZ OLAJIDE: I wasn’t really finding communities of pet owners of color or businesses owned by, you know, people of color. I sort of did a deep dive into the statistics of pet ownership in America. I just wanted to kind of see, well maybe I was an outlier, like maybe the reason why I’m not seeing more diversity in these companies is because maybe the demand isn’t out there. Actually, you know, that’s not really the case. The current data that I’m seeing shows that the number of pet owners in America, among people of color, those numbers are rising much more quickly with white pet ownership. The data wasn’t matching up, my own personal experience wasn’t matching up, and so I thought maybe this is something that I can sort of address with Sir Dogwood.

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: One of the things that we did early on when creating Lick You Silly is I reached out to hotels because I realized that a lot of hotels were becoming pet friendly. I created special packaging for them and I made a little book all about what that experience must be like to a dog in a hotel — going to the spa and eating too much food and going to the gym…

CHAZ OLAJIDE: Pet ownership in the past used to be you have a dog, the dog might have a doghouse, sometimes he comes in, sometimes he gets walks, the end. Now what we’re seeing is restaurants now allow in dogs. Stores now allow in dogs. All of a sudden, maybe your dog does need more than one collar–a waterproof one and then one that’s a little bit fancier when he goes into the office. I had somebody write me, ‘My dog is the only dog in our apartment building that doesn’t have a coat.’ 25 years ago, you were a pet owner. Now it’s much more about being a pet parent. That includes things like spoiling your dog.

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: When I went into this business, my biggest concern was am I gonna have enough capital to get it right. You know, cause this is my second startup. Why I think my first startup took so long is because we just couldn’t get to the funding, primarily because I was a woman of color. And I’ve had people who say that to me, to my face, believe it or not. I’ve walked out of investor meetings. You know, a woman, she came out and she said, ‘You know, you guys did an awesome job but I can tell you right now, these guys are not gonna give you their money cause you’re, you’re two women of color.’ It was disturbing, but we were like, ‘Okay, fine, there’s other ways to be able to get to where we need to go.

For this brand, I’ve been bootstrapping it from day 1, you know, creative ways, collaborations.

CHAZ OLAJIDE: I think there’s like a trust issue, too, that I try to tackle on the front end. I make sure to put as much social proof as I can at the forefront of my website. Sir Dogwood is legit. She’s established (music fades out). Maybe they’ve never bought from a Black-owned company before. They might not trust as much a Black owned company than another company. And that’s something that I think a lot of Black companies have to deal with, I mean I’ve definitely seen some Facebook groups, the idea of how open do I want to be that this business is Black-owned. Like that is a huge topic among Black entrepreneurs, and it’s something that I definitely thought about a lot and struggled with with Sir Dogwood. Do I kind of want to bury my “About Me” page, do I want to not include a photo, or do I want to do what I actually did, which was put it at the forefront?

TAYLOR BARCONEY: I made sure that we had pictures of ourselves, everywhere.

My name is Taylor Dominique Alana Barconey, Smart Bitch Modern Dog Training. I wanted to make sure people knew exactly how we looked–I have a big afro–exactly how we talked, so we wouldn’t get hit with that really awkward moment of someone uh, I hate to say it, somebody potentially being racist towards us when we meet them. We haven’t had any direct weirdness.

BRIAN TAYLOR: My name is Brian Taylor, dog father of Harlem. I have a small business called Harlem Doggie Day Spa, which I’ve been owning for the last 10 years. We do day care, dog walking, boarding services. I created the “no poop left behind” campaign and I also created the Pup Relief Tour.

I actually started off as a banker for J.P. Morgan Chase. My job was to help small businesses. 2009, I challenged my friend, I was like, ‘Hey, I have this idea, I wanna open a pet business.’ He was like, ‘Black people don’t love dogs like the way white people do.’ I’m like, ‘That’s not true, cause every time I walk around in Harlem, I’m like, I see all these Black people with their dogs and their dogs look freshly groomed, I wanna know where they get these dogs groomed at.’

It just didn’t make sense for someone to jump on the train and go to 96th Street, which is a whole new different community, for a service that they can get in Harlem. So I was like, you know what, let me create a unique service. Cage-free boarding, we have a backyard, I would do FaceTime, I would send pictures, custom things to tell pet parents like, ‘Hey, while your dog’s with me is like staying with a friend, it’s not in a kennel,’ and my business just boomed.

RACHEL JONES: I always sort of knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur so I did a deep dive, my fiancé and I went to our favorite coffee shop. We just hashed it out. We were just so caffeinated and really just feeling it. We’re like, ‘what is it,’ you know, it’s like, ‘what do you love the absolute most?’ I’m like, dogs.

My name is Rachel Jones, I live in Los Angeles, I own a pet product company called Trill Paws. Trill! Real, it means true.

I am a millennial, I just grew up absolutely obsessed with hip hop, with rap music.

RACHEL JONES: I was born into a home of dog lovers. We were always rescuing, you know, always adopting, and I thought about all of the times I went to like the big box pet stores and picked up ID tags for my dogs. I thought about how exciting that process was but how underwhelming that product was. I mean we landed on dogs and I like to say that an hour later we were at pet tags.

Growing up we always had the fun enamel pins that we would put on our backpacks and our hats and, you know, I thought okay, what if I could combine those two worlds, the fun, you know, pop art, enamel pins, but pet tags for millennials.

Early on, I just thought it would be hilarious to, you know, create a Drake face, or a Tupac face, Biggie Smalls. And it was really a gamble. I wasn’t sure how well they would do, but I just knew how much I loved them.

I can’t tell you how many dogs are named Biggie, you know, and that’s nothing that I sort of thought about initially, but I think when a dog owner, you know, is looking for a pet tag, and their dog’s name happens to be Biggie and they see that tag, it’s like they have struck gold.

The tags are pet ID tags: their dog’s name, their telephone number. Many dogs these days are microchipped–God forbid the dog gets out and gets lost.

RACHEL JONES: The first few concepts were emojis. The poop emoji, um, the skull emoji. And fastforward, they were the poorest performing tags that I’ve released (music fades out). 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 collection: burger tag, the taco, the ramen. So of course I’m thinking about the next munchie collection, I’m thinking is it brunch edition (music comes in) do we need a waffle tag. Another very popular tag is ‘Have your people call my people.’ It sort of works for any dog; a male dog, female dog, it’s just great across the board.

RACHEL JONES: It’s great to see how one person will come back and purchase 6, 7, or 8 tags for their dog. And they’ll swap it out, you know, Tuesday’s this day, Wednesday’s that day. I have also seen dogs that wear several at the same time, so it’s more of a look, you know, more of a charm bracelet. One of the customers, they created a video–this dog had on 5 tags at the same time. That was an eye opener.

ARCHIVAL – ACCESS LIVE-DARIUS BROWN-2019: Okay, y’all are gonna love this story–just 12 years old, Darius Brown is helping shelter animals get adopted with his bow ties. So he started this organization called Beaux & Paws, it helps dress up your shelter pets. So Darius has even caught the attention of President Obama. Oh, hello! He’s joining us now from New Jersey with his sister, Dejay. How are y’all doing?! How did you come up with the idea of, of the bow ties? How did this start?

ARCHIVAL – DARIUS: I started making bow ties because my sister used to make hair bows and at the time, I was diagnosed with a speech delay, a comprehension delay, and a fine motor skills delay. My sister thought that if I helped my sister cut the fabric, then it could also develop my fine motor skills. I just made the fabric like into a bow tie.

ARCHIVAL – ACCESS LIVE: When was the first time you put it on a pet and realized it would help them get adopted?

ARCHIVAL – DeJay: Yeah, so the first time was when Hurricane Harvey and Irma first happened. A lot of the animals was being transported from Texas to New York and he decided he wanted to donate some bow ties to the ASPCA in New York.

ARCHIVAL – ACCESS LIVE : It definitely, it definitely works man, you’re onto something in a major, major way, but I, I have to tell you, I’m moved by this story in particular because some, some, some delays, as far as your speech and motor skills, how are you doing now?

ARCHIVAL – DARIUS BROWN-2019: I’m doing much, much better. I have actually overcame it because I’m now able to do more things I couldn’t when I was younger.

ARCHIVAL – ACCESS LIVE- : This incredible letter from President Obama, what was that like, Darius?

ARCHIVAL – DARIUS: That was just amazing. I couldn’t, I was just out of words. I couldn’t even…At the time, he was really feeling defeated and he was almost at a point of giving up, so that letter helped him boost positivity in himself, get him determined to, you know, succeed.

BRIAN TAYLOR: March is my birthday month, I’m gonna be honest with you, I love March. But my business cycle, in the wintertime, we tank in dog grooming services cause no one wants to get their dog groomed. So in February of last year, I did a whole fire sale, you can buy all these packages, all this membership. I had 10 employees because it was year 10 and like, yes, we bout to reach new numbers and all that, so–

March 7th came. March 7 is a day where I actually felt like I had signs of COVID. I’m afraid and, you know, everywhere everyone’s talking about COVID and all that, it’s like, so I shut down for like 14 days. April 5th, my mentor, like she’s been like a mother to me, her name is Julia Butler, she’s been in business for over 30 years as a Black vet in Harlem, she died from COVID.

And then my uncle died of COVID and it just really mentally messed me up cause I was going insane. At the same time, I had lost 80% of my business. But my pet parents paid for the grooming, would give me a nice tip, and then they will give me a donation, and say, ‘Hey Brian, if you know anybody that needs grooming, that can’t afford it, you know, I’m paying it forward.’ So I was like, you know what, with the donations I received, I’m just gonna offer grooming services to anyone who says, ‘Brian, my unemployment isn’t coming through,’ or ‘This is going on, I need my dog groomed.’ I posted out like, ‘Hey, I just created the, the pandemic relief fund.’

MELISSA MITCHNER: I would definitely say that was just a really overwhelming time for me. I’m fighting for my company, we were closed, we were going through a pandemic. They had the Black Lives Matter movement. And then I’m seeing on TV that the life of a Black person, it wasn’t valued. It really made me sit down and say, ‘What am I doing this for?’ Breonna Taylor, right? I’m a woman. She was gunned down in her home.

Is the American dream possible for people of color? Like all this work that I’ve been doing for 9 years, I, I could have been Breonna Taylor. I’m not, I’m not even able to grieve or understand what I’m actually feeling because on the flip side of that, there’s so many people that wanna highlight Black businesses and my DMs are getting bombarded, and my emails are getting bombarded. Because they wanna feature me. And my friends that were not Black reaching out to me and saying “I wanna understand,’ you know, ‘Let’s have these conversations.’

I took a moment where I was just like so overwhelmed and you know, I cried, and then I got back up and I was like no, this is, this is not how this ends. I have to do something. I have to go even harder now because I’m in an industry where the people that make the decisions don’t necessarily look like me. I have a company that allows for me to hire more people that may or may not look like me.

TAYLOR BARCONEY: The murder of Geroge Floyd. That was a really hard time for us to focus on the business cause we were just so um, angry about a lot of things going on. Our first clients, the majority of them were white and they were affluent. I was taught growing up to kind of keep my mouth shut about my personal feelings and personal beliefs and just, oh, just work.

TAYLOR BARCONEY: I truly felt–Jio as well–we truly felt as if we can finally breathe and be open about, you know, you can finally be outspoken about things that really matter to us, speaking out against racism and not feeling shy about it.

BRIAN TAYLOR – SOCIAL MEDIA: Hey, what’s up? My name is Brian Taylor and I’m the dog father of Harlem. These last six months has been challenges for a lot of people, so when I decided that I wanted to get on the road and offer my pet grooming services at no cost, and then I reached out to a lot of African American groomers, from New York to LA, and they also got on board. Some people just couldn’t afford grooming cause things were really tight, they’ve been impacted by so many different pandemics, from the financial pandemics to the COVID-19, and all of the emotional and mental stress that was going on in the last 6 months. We have groomed over 829 dogs…

BRIAN TAYLOR – SOCIAL MEDIA: (cooing to dogs, electric shaver) I’m just literally going in and I’m just trying to clean up and just shave all of this down. Normally I would like to save some of this hair so I can do a nice, fancy style on the face, but this is just beyond saving, and this hair is just so dirty right now…

BRIAN TAYLOR – SOCIAL MEDIA: This is what a lot of pets are experiencing during this pandemic and I’m hoping to continue to give him a relief, (cooing to dogs), we’re gonna give him a really good bath, we’re gonna finish off the legs…

BRIAN TAYLOR – SOCIAL MEDIA: (electric shaver) There’s a weight being taken off…Taking back all that whole half a year of frustration that we all have been facing. All the drama (electric shaver). And I gotta just slowly work my way through this…All the pandemics are coming off this pup. He’s just sitting there being a good boy (cooing to dog). All this stress, all this issues, all this frustration (dog coughing), all of 2020 off this pup. Okay!

BRIAN TAYLOR – SOCIAL MEDIA: I bet this is such a relief for him. I know he feels a lot better (electric shaver), right? Right? Huh, buddy, you feel a lot better? You look a lot better!

BRIAN TAYLOR: The Pup Relief Tour, I first posted in all the other groups that there’s mostly Caucasians, and unfortunately none of them really got my back, and they say, ‘Hey, listen, I wanna come and support.’ They came on later, but it was such a pushback in the beginning. But when I posted it in the African American groups that are dog groomers, they all was like, ‘Hey, I wanna come, I wanna help, I wanna help.’ And all together we had about 63 African Americans that went on tour with us and we groomed over 829 dogs.

BRIAN TAYLOR – IG, 08.01.2020: This is the dog father of Harlem, I traveled all the way from New York and I’m in Atlanta at Chateau Paws…

BRIAN TAYLOR’S SOCIAL MEDIA: In Atlanta we had 18 groomers who came to help. We, we used a whole parking lot, we had like four or five dog grooming vans.

BRIAN TAYLOR – FB LIVE, 08.06.2020: I’m in Texas! And I’m at the pup relief tour!

BRIAN TAYLOR – SOCIAL MEDIA: Good friend Juanita who worked for me, she flew to LA. Another young lady from Indiana, she flew to LA to help, and they groomed dogs at Skid Row. Dogs are homeless, and they groomed dogs there.

JUANITA – FB LIVE, 08.14.2020: Since LA has one of the highest homelessness rates in the country, we really just wanna give back and really really really help dogs that need it, so stay tuned.

RACHEL JONES: I’ve been in business for 3 years and I have to say this is the first February where I’ve been acknowledged for being an entrepreneur. 2020 and, you know, going into 2021, has been sort of amazing for a Black entrepreneur. We are getting recognition, and we are getting support. I mean there are so many Black entrepreneurs that are doing amazing things, especially in the pet space.

RACHEL JONES: Over the summer, Pharrell collaborated with Jay-Z and created a song called “Entrepreneur.” The director of the video reached out to me and Trill Paws was featured in the video.

Keep working, keep working, until you find it that you are working for yourself. You know, I wanted to be an entrepreneur just based on stories that someone like Jay-Z would share, you know, stepping out on his own and making it happen for himself. He’s speaking to a whole race of people that, that need to hear these words.

BRIAN TAYLOR: In April, we’re gonna do our (nitra?) Pup Relief Tour. Public housing buildings. New York has the biggest public housing in the country. We’re gonna get a bunch of groomers together and we’re gonna do a 5 borough (nitra?) tour. We’re gonna be in…

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: Right after Goerge Floyd, because of that movement, empowering people of color with their businesses, I think that it’s really brought attention to smaller brands and shopping local. And supporting not only Black-owned businesses but just supporting small businesses.

MELISSA MITCHNER: It was a lot of spotlights which in turn allowed us to make a lot of connections, figuring out how we could collaborate with each other.

BARBARA CLARKE RUIZ: I feel like now it’s becoming more of an even playing field. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted. Just give me the same opportunities that everyone else has, and I can figure out the rest.

BRIAN TAYLOR: New York City has a really good program called Summer Youth Employment and works with a lot of at-risk kids. So I brought those kids along and I started working with…I was offered a job…

MELISSA MITCHNER: It’s been a vision of mine, I’ve always wanted to open a school. Now I’m opening an actual pet grooming school where we’re going to help people become their own owners and operators of a pet grooming company. Within this $100 billion industry, there’s time for some change.

VO – DAVIA OUTRO: Spotlight on Black-Owned Pet Business Entrepreneurs was produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, in collaboration with Nathan Dalton, Brandi Howell, and Grace Rubin. Mixed by Jim McKee.
Thanks to all the owners you heard who took the time to tell their stories and are working their brains out to care for your dogs and cats, though mostly dogs. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Black pet business entrepreneurs; there’s tons more across American and you can support their businesses and services.

House Dogge in LA, an eco-conscious lifestyle brand with dog’s toys, textiles, dog tees, hoodies, plus they give a bunch of their money to help rescue dogs and healing health challenged, homeless, unwanted, and neglected and abused dogs.

Then there’s Ava Dorsey of Ava’s Pet Palace

ARCHIVAL – AVA DORSEY: Hello everyone, my name is Ava Dorsey. I’m an animal lover, animal enthusiast, and the founder and chief officer of Ava’s Pet Palace.

VO – DAVIA OUTRO: She’s been baking dog treats in her family kitchen since she was 7.

ARCHIVAL – AVA DORSEY: We actually are still making all the treats in our kitchen. This is actually the banana treat right here. I did a lot of research, I had to look up what was good for dogs…

VO – DAVIA OUTRO: Pardo Paws in Georgia. When your dog gets a dry nose and paws, just rub this lotion bar in the shape of a dog paw onto the dry areas of their paws and nose for relief. It’s made of cocoa butter and olive oil and coconut oil and beeswax…

PRECIOUS HILL: My name is Precious Hill. Precious Paw Prints Pet grooming. My storefront is an open window so you can pretty much see everything that’s going on. It’s cage-free, there’s no closed doors, there’s no hidden walls. I have like a fan club outside when I’m grooming, everyone’s just sitting there watching, in their cars at the red light. It’s awesome.

ARCHIVAL – KWANE STEWART: My name is Dr. Kwane Stewart, I’m a veterinarian. I have a normal, full-time veterinary job. In my free time, I walk areas that have a pretty dense homeless population. When I go out in the streets, I bring with me a small bag.

Hi baby! I’m sorry I don’t have any treats!

I’m able to treat about 80% of the pets I see on the street, so in this tiny bag I usually have vaccines, anti inflammatories, medicine for ear infections, flea preventatives…

VO – DAVIA OUTRO: For more links into this world, come to our website, KitchenSisters.org, where you can see everyone you just heard, and their products, and you can get lists of Black-owned pet businesses around the country.