Shadow and B.B. Gault didn’t have birthday parties last year.
But, doggonit, they’re gonna party this year.
Shadow’s birthday is in November. The miniature greyhound might scarf down a pupcake — a dog cupcake that humans can enjoy as well — and sport an aloha shirt.
B.B.’s birthday is in February. The miniature pinscher will probably get a new dress and might also have some of her favorite apple-banana cake.
The treats, attire and dog-themed decorations will come from owner Shannon Gault’s new business, Pupcake Pooch Parties, pupcakepoochparties.com, which provides all the treats humans and dogs need to party together.
“Anything that humans can have a party for can include dogs,” Gault said.
There’s no reason not to include a dog in something like a football party, according to Gault. Why wouldn’t man’s best friend get a party invite?
Plus, canine-centered events such as dog birthday parties, weddings and even puppy showers to show off the new dog in the family, have become popular in recent years.
Gault, 66, who spent 10 years as director of marketing at Sea World, first came up with the business idea in February. She was looking for a business to generate extra income because “no one ever goes into retirement with twice as much money as they need.”
She had started baking Shadow and B.B. treats using recipes she found online using healthy ingredients such as apples, banana and pumpkin because they didn’t like the treats from chain pet-supply stores.
She thought of just selling dog treats, but the profit margin would have only been $1 or $2 per package.
Last February, during a drive to Orlando, Gault thought up a business plan that would allow dogs to share the entire party experience with their owners — not just with treats, but with clothing, balloons and confetti, along with dog-themed paper plates, napkins and cups for human partygoers.
The website, pupcakepoochparties.com, recently launched and will soon be taking online orders. She recruited some of the island’s most prominent pooches to model with B.B. and Shadow: Commissioner Lynn Larson’s Yorkshire terrier, Muffin; outgoing Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key President John Wild’s beagle, Ripley; and Realtor Marnie Matarese’s doberman Elvis Hovis.
Pupcakes are available for about what you would pay for human-only cupcakes: $8.95 for six mini cupcakes and $11.95 for four regular size pupcakes. Dog cakes are priced from $8.95 for two mini cakes to $26.95 for the largest dog cake.
Other treats are available such as fresh-baked Squirrelz — “Just once a dog’s gotta catch a squirrel!” the website states about the squirrel-shaped treats — and fresh-baked Gatorz (because Gault is a University of Florida Gator), priced at $6.95 and $7.95, respectively, for a half-dozen.
Doggy dresses and aloha shirts are priced at about what you would pay for a casual human shirt: $24.95.
For Gault, the venture combines several longtime interests.
Her first foray into business came at age 10 when she used Bisquick mix to bake cupcakes and sell them around her neighborhood — the start of her lifelong love of cooking.
She’s also a self-described “fabric junkie.”
She also learned a lot about animal behavior during her time at Sea World.
How do you market to a dog?
Well, the treats have a secret ingredient that dogs can quickly sniff out: peanut butter.
“For a dog, it’s all about the nose,” Gault said.
Plus, dogs don’t like to have their heads covered or have long costumes in which their legs or tails can become tangled. That’s why none of the costumes will have hats, wigs or any other dog dressings that might appeal to humans but not so much to dogs.
Gault is learning about Internet marketing and plans to start a direct mail campaign to Florida dog clubs.
Still, this business is just as much about the humans as the dogs.
“It’s kind of an emotional product,” said Gault’s husband, Bob.
“I’m not selling a product,” Gault said, “I’m selling fun.”