Thursday August 28, 2014

Brothers launch dog treat business

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Dominic and Dylan Lepowick have started their own dog treat business.

Sometimes business is all about recognizing an opportunity, and then grasping it.

That is certainly the case for Antler Boys Dog Chews in Yorkton.

Brothers Dylan, 12, and Dominic Lepowick, 10, might not yet be teenagers but they saw an opportunity one day at a local pet store.

"We went to the pet store one night," related Dominic.

In the store he and his brother saw someone on staff filling a shelf of dog chew treats made out of elk antler.

As it happens the boys father Darcy Lepowick raises elk on his farm near Calder.

Dylan made the connection, said Dominic.

"Dylan said 'we can sell those to you a lot cheaper'," said his younger brother, adding they looked to their father who agreed it was possible.

That was nearly two years ago now, and the brothers are indeed selling elk antler treats to the Yorkton pet store (Fins, Feathers and Fur), as well as marketing their product through other outlets as well.

Dylan said they sold some treats to someone with the Days Inn in Yorkton, and since it is a 'pet friendly' hotel, "we started selling them there." He added "we are looking for more pet friendly hotels."

Since the antlers display easily, and have a near limitless shelf life, they also think having them on the counter at veterinarian clinics would be an ideal marketing avenue.

They have also gone the trade show route, including the recent Parkland Outdoor Show & Expo, and are planning to participate in the upcoming Girl Guides sponsored show.

A website is launching ( for mail order sales as well.

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Darcy said while some elk producers market antler velvet, he has concentrated on the sale of meat, and that means he had a pile of elk antler on the farm, a ready resource for his son's enterprise.

"There was a whole bunch of sheds at the farm," he said, adding he has some 75 elk at the farm, in addition to whitetail and fallow deer.

The supply of elk antlers "will eventually run out," as the business grows, said Darcy, but added he knows where they can buy antler from other producers at that point.

While having something of a backlog of antlers stored on the farm, they have found "the older antlers are softer," especially the porous interior. It makes older antler better for some older dogs, and smaller breeds, but is less ideal for bigger dogs.

Darcy said the general density/hardness of horn also "depends on the year and what they've (the elk) have been eating."

Ideally antler is only a year, or two old, for the general chew treats, said Darcy.

While whitetail and fallow horn would work, and they have seen moose horn treats in pet stores, so far the boys have kept it simple focusing on elk horn treats.

The horn is cut into chunks from small to jumbo, suited to varying sizes of dogs. In most cases the horn is split providing access to the porous, and thus softer centres. In some cases "for more aggressive chewers" the horn is not split, added Darcy.

Darcy said he wants the business to be his sons, although when they went to register it provincially, after a week of deliberation, where told by officials the boys were too young, forcing dad's name onto the documents.

Darcy said he wants his sons to learn with the business. Dylan is doing some of the cutting, and Dominic is sanding sharp edges down.

And both are active at trade shows.

"Talking to a thousand people, they can't be shy," said Darcy.

So far the business is making the brothers money.

When asked the plans for the profits Dominic was quick to say "(buy) more snakes" as he played with a pet gecko, a lover of all things reptile.

"Putting it into college," said Dylan, a response which drew a definite smile of approval from mom.

Darcy said they are putting half the money away, the other half the boys can spend.

As an example Dylan said they both purchased new compound bows during the Parkland Expo.

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