Back in 2011, after returning from a summer baking at Quisisana Resort in Maine, I decided I was going to start a dog treat business. I had thought it would be the perfect stepping stone to that big dream of mine to open a dog park cafe/wine bar and it was something that didn't require a ton of capital. I was still working a day job, but I thought it made sense - combining my love for dogs and dream of opening a dog business with all the skills I had just gained from pastry school and working as a baker for three months. So, I got started. I met with my accountant who helped me set up the company, figured out what insurance I needed to get, purchased a dehydrator, read up on so many stories about shelf life, dog-safe ingredients, and dog nutrition and soon, came up with two flavors to launch nesbits dog treats - bacon and egg with bits of cheddar and peanut butter with bits of carob. For the two years or so, I worked on this business off and on, selling at the Jersey City Farmer's Market and at different events throughout the tri-state area and eventually slowing down in March 2013 when I started a new position for a restaurant group in NYC, a role that I thought was my dream job.
After less than half a year working that job, I decided I had to quit. The decision made no sense, on paper. It was the position I thought I had always wanted (HR Manager) in an industry I loved (food and hospitality) for a really great and well-known chef (Daniel Boulud). The salary and benefits were also a lot better than my previous position and that just added to it not making sense.
Looking back, however, there were a few things happening that contributed to me putting my notice in at my three-month check-in. The most obvious one to me, since I often found myself crying on the bus home, was that I absolutely hated commuting from Rutherford, NJ, through Port Authority down 40th to Fifth Avenue. I felt like it was a legit rat race, and I was right in the middle of it, not wanting any part of it. The other thing, that I didn't realize as it was happening, was that I was being inspired, not necessarily by or for the job I was hired to do but by the Chef that created this empire of exquisite French food and service throughout the world. I loved sitting in meetings with him and not just hearing or seeing, but feeling his passion. I don't remember the last time I felt passion like his, and it sparked something in me. Then one day when I was checking Facebook, I saw that one of my former NYC neighbor's dog passed away. I remember being on a walk with Nessa and meeting that dog, Moxie, for the first time on Cornelia Street. Moxie was smart and sweet, and it was clear that the relationship with her Mama, my neighbor, was a strong one. The news crushed me, harder than I could have ever imagined. I immediately thought of Nessa who, at the time, was 11. I was crying so hard and realized that in addition to the sadness I felt thinking about one day saying goodbye to Nessa, what I was scared of is that I would not open that dog park cafe/wine bar, a concept inspired by my experience of "raising" Nessa, in time.
I left that job and jumped back into nesbits dog treats, still feeling like it was the stepping stone to that bigger dream. I was living between my parent's house and my aunt's house, working on new recipes that were grain- and gluten-free and successfully came up with a total of six flavors. My cousin helped me with graphic design and my mom and godmother would spend long nights with me in the kitchen cutting bones and hearts from dough. When I would get my treats into a new store or receive an order, it felt amazing but it wasn't enough money-wise. After seven months of not having a steady paycheck, I went back to the full-time day job, where I still remain.
I'm not sure how this is all going to go - my current day job, my dog treat business, the bigger business - but that is part of this process, for sure. One thing I'm going to reflect upon further is something else that wonderful woman, Kendra Wright, said at the WDS conference nearly two weeks ago. She challenged us, in those moments of doubt or indecision, when you're not sure what to do, ask yourself: "What excites you?" Because really, why should you continue to do things that don't excite you?
I guess what is especially scary and hard for me is knowing that nesbits dog treats, in its current state, does not excite me. At this very moment, I have five orders from wholesale clients, some from over a week ago, and I'm not excited about it. It's just something I know I need to do, and as my own business (or as the Sharks would say, my hobby), this is not good. I don't want to feel that way about something that I, myself, created. And I hate even putting the words into the world, but it's true, and I need to find a way to either shift the business to something that aligns more closely with who I am or be willing to say goodbye to it.