Colleen Markwood worked in corporate America for 25 years, first in the television industry, then as a sales manager. In January of 2021, she was ready to switch gears and do something that made a difference in her community. When she stumbled upon Pet Wants, a business devoted to improving the nutrition, health, vitality and well-being of pets, something resonated.
“I love to offer people suggestions and solutions,” says Markwood, who in a matter of four days decided to quit her job, buy into the franchise and adopt a puppy. “If we’re talking about dogs, even better.”
Pet Wants, which originated in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been around for 10 years, is not set up as a distribution model per se. The company is focused on cooking in small batches on low temperatures. Many big brands create food in large quantities, then send it to hubs to be distributed to stores. This means that by the time you grab a bag of food off a shelf, it’s likely eight to 12 months old.
“The whole concept behind Pet Wants is to deliver the freshest kibble we can,” Markwood says.
While feeding your pooch old food isn’t going to harm them, it’s not doing much good either, as food loses nutritional value over time.
At Pet Wants the food, which is sold by the pound, is made in the U.S. eight times per year, then shipped directly to the franchise owners. Markwood places her orders based on her customers’ needs. Clients can choose to get a delivery every two, four, six, eight, 10 or 12 weeks.
Markwood operates her business as a mobile concept, rather than renting a brick-and-mortar store. She’s accessible via email, and can be found each week with her daughter Maggie, a veterinary technician, at the Noblesville and Westfield farmers markets.
The mother-daughter duo also takes part in other fun events. For example, Pet Wants sponsors the Clay Terrace Dog Park, and every third Friday of the month they participate in Pups and Pints from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., where community members and their canines are invited to “Yappy Hour.” There are beer vendors on site, and Markwood sells treats and chews. Folks can shop and sip beer while their pups run around and socialize.
Markwood is open to thinking outside the box when it comes to hosting events. For instance, last summer a friend told her that she wanted to throw a small party for her human friends and their canines. She asked Markwood to bring some doggie cakes and other treats.
“Imagine a Pampered Chef party with dogs,” Markwood says.
Every item Markwood sells is organic, of top quality, and made from a single-sourced ingredient. She also has a spa line for dogs with mosquito, flea and tick spray, anti-itch skin spray, healing salve, calming balm, and paw wax. She offers free delivery, free samples and free consultation.
“If you have dogs who pick at their food, it’s because they don’t like it,” says Markwood, whose customers attest that their pooches have a palate for nutritional cuisine.
“I just got a text from someone who said, ‘My dog won’t eat his old food now. He knows the difference,’” adds Markwood, who has heard from countless customers about how good nutrition has changed their pet’s life.
For instance, a woman approached Markwood at a farmers market to say that her dog had a bunch of allergies and was inflamed, scratching and itching incessantly. After switching to the Pet Wants food, however, her issues cleared right up. Markwood has also helped pets with anxiety and sensitive stomachs.
“People tell me all the time, ‘I wish I’d found you years ago,’” Markwood says.
Markwood herself wishes she had learned of Pet Wants sooner, so that she could have been more educated about how to feed her beloved 120-pound chocolate lab Jeffrey, who died at age 11.
“I fed him Milk Bones because I didn’t realize all the stuff that goes into a Milk Bone that he shouldn’t eat,” Markwood says.
He used to chase after rabbits, and as a result tore one ACL, then the other, and finally his Achilles tendon. After the third injury, he couldn’t walk or get up. When he stopped eating, the family had to put him down. Markwood can’t help but wonder if Jeffrey’s joints would have responded differently had she put more omegas in his diet.
“What if I had introduced salmon, white fish or duck?” she wonders. “What if I’d given him beef trachea treats full of chondroitin and glucosamine?”
With Gus, a 10-month-old yellow Lab, she’s doing things differently, feeding him lamb, trachea and fish eyes.
Top-selling items include beef tracheas, chicken feet and beef cheek chews (which look like rawhide but are highly digestible). Also popular are hickory-smoked antlers, water buffalo horns and Himalayan yaky charms. She also sells doggie ice cream, supplements, cat food and catnip.
Recently Markwood received an email from a customer who had purchased 25 beef cheek chews.
“I’m so glad I found you,” the customer wrote. “These are the only thing that help my dog with anxiety, especially during fireworks.”
Markwood is thrilled with the feedback.
“We all love and care about our pets,” she says. “We want to give them the best life we can.”