An entrepreneurial spirit is in full force inside the home of Tonya and Nick Rintye.
The couple started a new online business in February called The Hipster Hound, which specializes in homemade, natural, chemical-free pet treats and cleaning products. And Tonya makes everything herself in their home.
And while you’re in their home, you may get a lick or two from her friendly pups — one of which is the face of The Hipster Hound, Rex. The hound was supposed to be a foster pet but quickly turned into another rescued family member.
When asked if she was that child who would show up on the doorstep with a stray, she quickly said, “Yes, and so was my husband. … And I’m still the kid that brings home strays, and so is my husband. We love dogs.”
And Tonya also loves to bake.
“I love to get in the kitchen... So one day, I decided to make cookies for the dogs,” she said.
With the help of her 7-year-old daughter, Lucy, she made sure those cookies turned into healthy dog treats.
While loving to bake helps start a business like The Hipster Hound, Tonya also had another force push her into healthy treats.
“I noticed that the dog treats we were feeding our dogs were getting recalls and were not made in America and made with all these chemicals,” she said. “I thought, ‘How hard is it to make something good for my dogs?’ I mean, they can eat a lot of the same foods we can.”
The Rintyes gave their homemade treats to friends, and the rave reviews gave Tonya and Nick another idea. Armed with a background in marketing, Tonya made calls to see if there was a need for people wanting to feed their dogs healthier treats.
The response was a resounding yes.
“I made a call to the Wilmington Island Farmers’ Market, and they said they have been wanting to find someone who was licensed to sell pet treats,” she said.
So she began the tedious process to get her business license and to get a Georgia Department of Agriculture Feed License.
“You have to mail in the forms because they don’t do email,” she said. “I had to have all my recipes tested for a guaranteed analysis to create my labels. You are required by law to put a label on all treats. Then I had to have them tested by a third party, and I had to put in the recipes with labels for approval.”
She got her approval in February and quickly jumped into the business.
In her recipes, Tonya uses real fruit, locally sourced honey and bacon and gluten-free flour so all products are without grain and soy.
“You can eat them yourself,” she
said. “It’s all human-grade ingredients with no chemicals.”
She cuts each dog treat, bakes them and then puts them in the dehydrator, so she doesn’t have to use any chemicals to preserve the treats.
“It’s a long process,” she said with a laugh.
She has four varieties of The Hipster Hound Bites: Bushel of Bacon, which is made with fresh apples, local Savannah River Farms bacon and local honey; The Great Pumpkin, made with pumpkin and organic peanut butter and organic coconut oil; Mix’d Up Mutt, made with carob, pumpkin and organic peanut butter; and HoundDog, made with banana, organic peanut butter and local honey. The name is a tribute to Elvis Presley, who loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
“I like to try to do things that are tasty but are also good for dogs like pumpkin and coconut oil,” she said.
She also makes iced cookies in a variety of shapes and colors, and she decorates the cookies with special dog-approved icing made from dehydrated yogurt.
And if your dog likes more than just a cookie-type treat, The Hipster Hound also offers Mutt Cakes and Pup Cakes, which are similar to cupcakes. And she makes birthday cakes that local clients can order, too. She also has frozen yogurt treats that use organic Greek yogurt.
Products and sprays
Another aspect to the business is the chemical-free cleaning products and sprays for dogs.
“We went chemical-free in our home a while back,” she said. “So I make our own shampoos, cleaners, stuff like that and realized we should do this for our dogs, too. I went to a pet store the other day and there is hardly anything made in America, and the products are full of so many chemicals that I cannot even pronounce.”
Tonya uses essential oils for these products, and she researched ways to use these products for dog grooming. She has sprays and powders to help with everything from itchy spots to smelly coats and to help repel insects. She even has a spray for hyper dogs that helps calm them down.
The couple currently sells products at Canine Palace, Local Farmbag, Polk’s on the Go, Polk’s farmers’ market locations, TailsSpin, Savannah Food Coop and Wilmington Island Farmers’ Market. The online store also features dog accessories such as clothing and leashes.
And if baking treats and dog cakes, creating sprays, labeling products and shipping them wasn’t enough, the couple recently added pet-sitting to their services.
“After meeting so many customers at farmers markets, people would say they feel like they know us and would ask if I was willing to watch their dog,” she said.
So, in typical Tonya fashion, she took on her new venture by the book and she obtained her pet first-aid and safety license and added “Pet Sitter” to her resume.
“My long-term open goal is to open up a cage-free boarding facility with a boutique,” she said.