Aug. 26—Mankato East High School alumni Tally Ponce whips up gourmet treats not for herself, but for dogs.
"I love my dogs," she said, referring to them as her babies. "I want to treat them well because they deserve to be."
By making them fresh treats filled with ingredients that are meant to be both tasty and beneficial to their health, Ponce does just that.
She does it for other dogs as well through Treat Me Too Dog Treats, her small family-run business that celebrated its one-year anniversary this month.
"I'm a big advocate for pets and families. I think it's very important to help our pets, just like we would help a family member," Ponce said about the idea behind her business. "We need to feed them the right things and treat them the best we can."
It all started when the COVID-19 pandemic did. Ponce began working from home and needed something to occupy her time and distract her from a chaotic world.
After spending a good amount of time outdoors with her dogs, Ponce began learning more about canine behavior and their eating habits. That's when inspiration struck.
She wanted to take a little extra care of her beloved dogs by making them something from scratch. She hopped online and began researching.
"It started with one recipe," Ponce said. "Then I did more research on what's good for dogs, what they can and can't eat."
As she tinkered away in the kitchen, her dogs watched with their tails wagging, ready to taste test whatever she made.
After some trial and error, Ponce learned exactly what her dogs love to eat. She then took it a step further and began talking to other dog owners about their pets' preferences.
"I'm a volunteer outreach coordinator for a North Minneapolis Pet Resource Center and I help people get supplies and food for their dogs," Ponce said. "I talk to the owners and I learn what their dogs like and don't like so I can incorporate it into my treat-making."
Knowing that dogs have different wants and needs when it comes to food, Ponce began making a variety of treats to suit them all. Some even come in the form of cupcakes, cookies and doughnuts.
To be able to actually distribute the treats, she created a website for dog owners to order from. Ponce also vendors at various locations and events to sell the treats in person.
To promote her business, Ponce utilizes social media.
That's how Laurie Moore, owner of three dogs and a foster mother of one, found out about Treat Me Too Do Treats. She stumbled upon an ad for them on Facebook in April and has been a loyal customer ever since.
"All my dogs and my two grand-pups love all her homemade treats," she said, adding that the cheddar and bacon biscuits are her dogs' favorite. "The company's committed to high-quality, all natural dog treats for puppers."
On the website, customers can even put in a request for a custom order.
"I meet dog owners who say, 'Oh, do you make that in that flavor?' Or 'My dog doesn't eat that, can you substitute this ingredient for that ingredient?' We certainly can," Ponce said. "If there's something they want but there's an ingredient that their dog can't eat, we can substitute that so it fits their dog's diet. The main thing is making sure people are able to find treats that their dog can eat and enjoy."
Ponce's passion has turned into her full-time job and her family members have become her coworkers.
"It's run by me, my kids and my husband," she said. "My mom comes up (from Mankato) to help us out at events when she can." Her mom is Sophia Ponce.
The crew will be in North Mankato as vendors Sunday during the Running for Rescues 5K, the pet-friendly event that benefits BENCHS, Mending Spirits and Brown County Humane Society. The event starts at 8:30 a.m. in the Dakota Meadows Middle School parking lot.
"I'm super excited," Ponce said about returning to the area. "It's always good to go back to where you grew up. I hope to see some familiar faces and be able to connect with Mankato dog owners."