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Pet foodie

By MARTIN HINTZ

Stacy LaPoint isnít barking up the wrong tree in her business by producing a quality, raw, grain-free, natural pet food. Her dream was to make the product available to pet owners interested in using diet and nutrition to improve and maintain their animalís health.

As a confirmed pet lover, LaPoint launched her firm when her 6-year-old German shepherd, Jade, was stricken with Addisonís disease, an adrenal gland failure. To relieve the suffering of her furry pal, LaPoint began researching how nutrition could affect the dogís health and longevity.

She read some existing pet food recipes, then made her own for Jadeís meals before branching out to friends and family. It wasnít long before she had a waiting list for her doggie-licious preparations.

Partnering with friend Bill Conroy, LaPoint then started Companion Natural Pet Food. She tapped the expertise of Dr. Keith Cummins, a noted animal nutritionist at Auburn University, to develop product that met the standards of the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials.

In their two-person operation, LaPoint is president and product developer, while Conroy acts as financial officer and handles area deliveries. They recently qualified for a Small Business Administration education program that helps urban firms stay viable and expand. Their manufacturing plant is located on National Avenue, turning out about 100,000 pounds of product each year.

"A diet including raw whole foods, served in variation over time, will help give your pet a healthy immune system, as well as healthy bones, teeth, coat and skin," LaPoint explains. That, with plenty of exercise and sunshine, helps pets avoid numerous diseases and digestive disorders, she says. The use of cooked grains and food industry by-products for commercial pet food began to be marketed about 50 years ago, being touted for the convenience of the animalsí owners, she says.

Her ingredients include real chicken, turkey, beef, duck and fish, along with vitamins and some vegetables such as yams, apples, collard greens and parsnips, depending on whether the food is for dogs or cats.

Locally, her food is sold at The Natural Pet in Bay View, Janís Grooming in Brookfield, the Riverwest Co-op, and other area outlets, as well as throughout the Midwest, Massuschetts and Kentucky. More outlets are coming in regularly. "Am I a pet food mogul?" LaPoint, 37, laughs. "Not by a long shot. Iím just a pet advocate and entrepreneur."

Companion Natural Pet Food
3720 N. Fratney St., Milwaukee 53212;
(414) 961-5433, (866) 617-7735 and www.companionnaturalpetfood.com