West

BUSINESS PLAN

In search of healthy pet food, she decided to make it herself

Annemarie Gaebel, owner of Pet Wants Littleton.

In 2015, Annemarie Gaebel of Littleton became alarmed when her cat, Maggie, developed an unsteady gait, skin irritation, and horrible breath. After $1,000 in tests failed to produce a diagnosis, the veterinarian suggested the problem could be diet-related.

Gaebel, whose pet food buying decisions at the time were largely based on attractive packaging, took a closer look at the ingredients. Her subsequent online research led her to purchase a franchise and launch Pet Wants Littleton in July 2016. She makes and delivers all-natural food, treats, care items, and gift baskets for cats and dogs at approximately the same price as premium commercial pet products.

Q. What differentiates Pet Wants food?

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A. There is good pet food out there, but when it’s mass-produced and sits in a warehouse, it loses nutritional value over time. The kibble is made [at the franchise headquarters] in Ohio, but I cook all the other foods myself. I make as much as my customers need, package it, and deliver it so it’s as fresh as it can be. If you bite into a cookie, you can tell if it’s two days, two weeks, or two months old. So can our animals.

Q. Where do the ingredients come from?

A. All of the meats are sourced in the U.S., with no fillers, dyes, or by-products. The big thing is we use the same ingredients that you would feed your family, with nothing hidden. I tell people that if I’m willing to let my 10-year-old daughter sample it, they can be sure it’s not harmful. I also use the mosquito, flea, and tick repellent on her, which is a blend of essential oils with no chemicals.

Q. What is your territory?

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A. I deliver to customers in and around Littleton, and I pick up the costs for two-day UPS shipping. I also go to farmers markets all over Middlesex County. I get into a lot of great conversations with the people I meet at them.

Q. What is your vision for the business?

A. I’ve been a math teacher for 22 years [the last 17 at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School], and when I retire, I’d like to open a storefront to help educate more people about pet food nutrition. I want to do my part to give animals a healthier, happier life.

For more information, contact Gaebel at 617-875-7621 or agaebel@petwants.com, or visit petwantslittleton.com.

Cindy Cantrell may be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.
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