Organic Pet Treat Business Is Owned by a Teen With Big Dreams

Ava Dorsey hopes she's a role model for all kids, especially young Black girls.

Ava Dorsey with dog and cat

Ava's Pet Palace

When Ava Dorsey was just 6 years old, she drew a picture of an elaborate castle. But this wasn’t for princesses or imaginary unicorns. It was a detailed design for dogs and cats and she had serious plans to build it one day.

Only two years later, she was testing recipes for pet treats and now, as a young teenager, she is at the helm of Ava’s Pet Palace, a business that sells USDA-certified organic dog and cat treats.

Her small-batch pet treats are made with limited and organic ingredients with no additives or preservatives. There’s no corn, wheat, or soy and they’re grain- and gluten-free. Her packaging is made from recycled materials.

In 2020, Ava won the WDB Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition, celebrating young entrepreneurs of color. Her treats are sold online on her website and are featured at dozens of retailers across the country. She donates a portion of her sales each month to a different animal rescue organization. 

Ava talked to Treehugger about her passion for pets, why sustainability is important in her products, and how she hopes she’s a role model for every young kid with a dream.

Treehugger: What were you like when you were even younger? Did you always love pets and know you wanted to someday have a pet business?

Ava Dorsey: I have always loved animals! My mom says that all the time! You would always find me playing with my grandparents dogs or Pumpkin when I was younger. I also really love hamsters and horses! For about three years I had a hamster named Hammy and before the pandemic I was learning how to ride horses. I was really shy before I started Ava’s Pet Palace too. I was really nervous to talk to people about my business when we first started going to local shows. Having my business has totally changed me and I am now confident and have found my voice! I am still pretty quiet, but it’s not because I’m shy.

Ava's business plan
Ava's business plan.

Ava's Pet Palace

What was your business plan when you were just 6 years old?

When I was six I drew a palace but it wasn’t for a queen and king, it was for pets! My mom actually kept the picture and we have it framed now. It was a grand palace that had things like an animal restaurant, a vet, animals running free, a shop for pets and anything else that pets would love! This picture was actually the start of what turned into Ava’s Pet Palace!

How much did you beg and pester your parents to make your dream a reality?

Oh my goodness, I begged them for 2 years! I drew my business plan at 6, and when I was 8 we started trying recipes! I was soooo happy when my mom decided to start my business with me! And we haven’t looked back since.

What were your first pet products and how did you create them?

I actually started making cat treats when I first started my business. But we quickly switched to dog treats because I knew all of the dogs in my neighborhood and wanted to create something for them, along with my grandparent’s dog Rock. He was my first taste-tester. I started by researching ingredients that dogs liked and that were good for them. I went through lots of different recipes until we finally picked the three biscuit treats I have now! Last October we moved from our family’s kitchen to a commercial partner! They took my recipes and now they are USDA Organic certified too!

Why has it been important for you to use healthy, organic ingredients?

For me, healthy food has always been about organic and natural ingredients. I've been purposeful about this from the beginning. When I was baking treats in my kitchen, we only bought and used organic ingredients. Now that my business has grown, we work with bigger kitchens and they use only the best, high-quality ingredients. And we've worked super hard to finally become USDA Certified Organic!

Do you think about sustainability and the environment when creating your products?

I sure do! We used packaging made of recycled materials and we hope to make my next treats with upcycled ingredients.

Ava with dog and treats

Ava's Pet Palace

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I’m 14 years old and have two younger sisters: Marie, 6, and Jordan, 3 . I also have a cat named Pumpkin that is also 14 years old. We got him when I was just 2 years old. So he’s like my bff. And I also have a dog, Lacy, who is 6 years old. They’re both rescue pets. We also are fostering two of the cutest little lab puppies ever, Chocolate and Chip.

Why is it important for you to give back to rescue organizations?

Since I started, I’ve always given back to rescues and rescuers. Even when I was too young to volunteer, I figured out other ways to help out. I think it’s important to help animals that can’t help themselves. I have a soft spot for senior rescues and for pit bull rescues. I hope to be able to continue to donate and help them even more as my business grows!

Even though you’re so young, do you feel like you are already a role model for other young entrepreneurs?

I hope that I am a role model for you kids everywhere, especially young black girls.  I think that it’s really important to have people that look like you, to look up to and aspire to be like! I find a great sense of joy and fulfillment in being a role model to young black girls, including my two little sisters. Maybe someone will see me and think, I can do that too. Almost every time I’m interviewed I’m asked what advice would you give to other kids who have a business idea or dream and my answer is always the same: Choose something you love and GO FOR IT! Don’t let a bump in the road stop you. If it’s something you’re truly passionate it's worth moving past that bump! And hard work pays off!

What do you hope to accomplish next?

Next, I hope to be able to continue to grow Ava’s Pet Palace! I hope to get into more stores and to add a few new treats to my lineup! My long-term goals include building Ava's Pet Palace into a worldwide, pet lifestyle brand and becoming a leader in the pet industry. Personally, I am excited about finishing up my first year of high school and am looking forward to being a sophomore.