Portland Pet Food Company
Maggie McCarron admits the name of her business is something of a misnomer. "We're not a 'pet food' company," she says. "We're a food company that happens to be formulated for dogs." Four years ago, McCarron's mom, Katie, began cooking meals at home for her dog, Rosie. It was partly out of exasperation: A finicky eater even in her younger years, the 14-year-old poodle had lost interest in canned food, and her health was in decline. But once she started looking more closely at what was in those cans, Katie, a health communications consultant, was appalled by the amount of unnatural supplements she found. Serving her the same meat and vegetables she'd eat herself, Rosie ended up living two more years. The McCarrons started Portland Pet Food Company to give others the chance to extend the life of their pets, and to challenge the status quo of the pet food industry. All their products contain entirely natural ingredients, and more of them—up to 11 in each package. Meals include pork and potato, beef and rice, and turkey and yams, and each comes in a microwavable pouch rather than a can, allowing the contents to be cooked at lower temperatures and retain more of their nutritional value. Without using supplements, McCarron says the company comes right up to the threshold of what can technically be marketed as "dog food." Their slogan is "feed your dog like you feed yourself," and it's not just a tagline—they mean it. "You can put it in your disaster kit. You can eat it and your dog can eat it," she says. Well, with one caveat: "You'll probably need some salt and pepper on it."
It's hard to imagine a small business that's more quintessentially Portland than Cycle Dog. Started in 2009 by Lanette Fidrych, a former Nike employee, the company manages to fuse some of the city's biggest interests—pets, bicycling, the outdoors and recycling—into a single brand. As an avid cyclist and environmentalist, Fidrych wanted to find some other use for all the tire tubes she would go through each year. She started by converting the rubber into collars for her dogs. An instant hit at Portland Saturday Market, Fidrych soon quit her corporate job to focus on Cycle Dog full time. For the past decade, the product line has grown to include beds, toys and travel bowls, all of which are still made from upcycled bike-tire tubes. But the collars remain its signature item—and as if they weren't definitively Portland enough, they all come with a bottle opener attached.
Not every dog is built to handle the outdoors. River, a 30-pound rescue hound from Virginia with terrier genes, certainly thought he was. When his owner, University of Oregon grad Rachel Bauman, took him for his first fall backpacking trip in Oregon, on the Timberline Trail near Mount Hood, he was "super-excited," Bauman says. Then, as night fell, he got his first taste of Pacific Northwest chill. "He froze his butt off," Bauman says. "We had to come back off the trail, and he was shivering in the car for an hour." The old sleeping bag she'd brought for him didn't cut it, and the products she could find online were cheaply made and overpriced. So she decided to put her degree in sports product management to use. In 2018, she launched the Whyld River brand with the appropriately named DoggyBag, a canine-specific sleeping bag designed with shorthaired mutts like River in mind. Made with ultra-durable ripstop nylon, it's untearable even for an insatiable gnawer, and using plastic snaps rather than zippers ensures more skittish pups won't feel trapped. Most importantly, it swaps low-grade polyester cushioning for high-quality box-baffle that better traps warm air. Bauman started shipping the bags in October, and she looks to broaden her product line in 2019—she's even considering expanding into adventure gear for cats. "With pet products, people just put stuff out there and want you to buy it, and there's tons of good gear already," she says. "With Whyld, I want to identify what's out there, and what's not done well. That's where we come in."
When John Acree was a kid, his family's dogs slept on a blanket in the garage. Times have changed, of course, and pets are afforded more luxurious accommodations now. But that doesn't mean all luxuries are created equal. A few years ago, Acree and his wife, Kadee, bought a dog bed for their two pups, a wheaten terrier named Zoe and Ginger, an English bulldog. It quickly fell apart. With his background in drapery, Acree figured he could do better. "As I've gotten older and progressed through different businesses, I've realized I love to work with my hands," he says. "I said, 'I'm gonna deconstruct this, figure out how it's made and make it myself.'" Using leftover materials from his custom window coverings business, and Ginger and Zoe as product testers—the latter has since passed on—Acree eventually arrived at the design that would turn Ginger Beds from a preoccupation into a full-time gig. He uses bonded polyester, which is typically found in car upholstery, and fills the pillows with plastic from recycled root beer bottles, making the cushion denser. Aside from their durability, the beds are also much more attractive than the basic brown eyesores on the market, with fabrics that humans would want for their own bedding. It might sound like an extravagance for an animal that probably would be happy curling up on an old blanket in a garage. But the success of the company so far has proven to Acree that modern owners want to give their pets something above the bare minimum, and expect businesses to do the same. "There's a growing population of people who want to know where they're buying stuff from," he says, "who want to know the story behind it and know the company is doing good things."
An entire business dedicated to bow ties for cats might sound silly and superfluous. But in the age of Instagram fame, when aspirational pet owners are clamoring for anything that could help turn their fuzzball into a viral star, the niche Business Catual is filling is a lot wider than it may seem. But Becca Priddy wasn't aiming for fame, fortune or virality when she slipped a homemade hair bow around her cat Scotty's neck six years ago—she just thought it'd make for a cute picture. Her roommate showed it to the owner of downtown craft store Crafty Wonderland, who immediately put in an order for a product that, at that point, didn't even exist. Now, the mini-neckwear is found in stores all across Portland, plus Colorado, Washington and Texas. Each bow tie is made from repurposed fabric, whether from curtains or boxer shorts. (On the Business Catual website, you'll also find a tiny cat yarmulke.) But while Priddy may have stumbled upon her corner of the pet accessory market, she's trying to make it count for something other than extra cash and a flood of digital likes: A percentage of proceeds from sales go to animal welfare organizations.