Must Love Dogs: How this Business Owner’s Love for Animals Led to a Booming Business

Updated on January 27, 2022
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At Fundera, there are many reasons we have the utmost respect for small business owners. Whether it’s the extra hours worked to get the job done, their ability to wear just about any “hat,” or the fact that they are America’s job creators—the list goes on. But the number one reason we love small business owners, and choose to support them every day through our own business, is their passion.

Nothing beats listening to a small business owner talk about why they started their business, and the inspiration that fuels them to keep going every day, no matter how grueling it can get.

Angela Riservato, Owner and President of Furbabies Delectable Delights, is a perfect example of that passion. In my own conversation with Angela, we both ended up in tears. She so fervently fights for the mission of her business—it’s just incredible.

Fighting for What’s Right

Riservato started off her career as an RN. Her medical background naturally led her to be a health-conscious individual, and that meant taking care not only of herself but of her family, too. And in the Riservato household, dogs are part of the family.

“I treat my dogs just like my kids. I cook for my kids. So, I cook for my dogs, too,” revealed Riservato.

Riservato took her love for healthy meals to the next level, going back to school at 40 years old to get her culinary degree and then opening a personal chef business out on Long Island.

But in 2007, something kept Riservato up at night. The pet food industry was in a pretty disastrous place—ingredients that had been coming over from China, specifically contaminated wheat gluten, were killing dogs and cats. Riservato, the definition of animal lover, couldn’t believe it.

“It’s bad enough when a dog gets sick, but this? I couldn’t stand it. When someone purposefully (or ignorantly) does something to hurt a dog or cat, it’s just absolutely devastating,” Riservato confided.

Riservato knew she needed to do her part is solving this. If she could cook for her dogs… Why not other people’s?

So in 2007, Riservato set out to makeg safe dog treats. She started her business with some in-house taste testers—her dogs—and Furbabies Delectable Delights was born.

Her focus was to put out a dog treat that was great tasting, safe (say, if a child was crawling on the floor and ate one), and had ingredients that people actually knew. Riservato laughed that “They shouldn’t need a dictionary to figure out what’s in these dog treats.’”

From Her Kitchen to Whole Foods

Little by little, she started to get things rolling, and before she knew it, business was taking off. Why? Furbabies had secured a contract with their local Whole Foods—just about the best retailer Riservato could dream of. The move into such a large store opened up a whole new chapter for the company.

Furbabies was originally based out of Riservato’s home, where they baked treats with 4 residential ovens. But Whole Foods started placing larger and larger orders for shorter time periods. Residential ovens can only cook so much at a time, and they were starting to burn out  a few of the ovens. Riservato had to have a heart-to-heart with herself and her family.

“Do we tell Whole Foods ‘No, we can’t meet this demand,’ or do we take this business to the next level?”

Looking back at the original reason she started the company—to really make a difference for pets and pet owners—Riservato had her answer. “The best part is when I have customers calling me and thanking me for doing what I do. I get emotional. Their dogs couldn’t have the treats on the shelves, and now they finally can.” For Riservato, it’s not just “Must Love Dogs,” it’s “Must Love People, too.”

The Decision to Embrace Growth

She knew it was time to grow. She had to continue serving these passionate customers. But to make this happen, she needed to move into a factory.

That move, however, comes at a cost. To make this dream a reality, it was necessary for Riservato to have more cash flow. Knowing this, she started thinking about getting a small business loan.

“I knew going to a bank would be impossible since I don’t take a paycheck. I put it all back into my company. I knew a bank wouldn’t know what to do with that. So, I started researching other ways than simply going to a bank and hearing no,” says Riservato.

“I was on Facebook one day and saw a little post about Fundera. I thought, ‘Why not?’ and decided to check it out. I started working with a Fundera Customer Success Representative, Ryan, who was awesome. And in a blink of an eye, I had the funds I needed to move into my factory.”

Riservato adds, “I never anticipated getting results as quickly as I did, with people who made me feel like they cared about me as an individual and as a business owner. I never expected to get a call that the loan was approved as quickly as it was. It was the first time I applied, and I got exactly what I needed. I cried. If I went to a bank it would have been a ton of paperwork, filing, income tax papers, and then after 30 days it would be a no, and I’d be starting all over again. It’s so nice to see that there are still places out there that have that caring sense, and you’re not just another application. It made me realize that there are companies out there looking out for the little guys.”

And Riservato now knows that taking on that financing was the right decision for her business. Furbabies is now in all 13 Whole Foods in Arizona and 4 in California. They are, of course, also in talks with many other Whole Foods locations, and the demand just keeps growing. But now she has the space and equipment to make it happen.

With her love for her customers (and their pets!) everywhere, Riservato and her team continue to make a name in the pet food world. We’re excited to see what they accomplish in the years to come, and are thankful to call such a passionate, inspiring business owner a Fundera customer. Thank you to Riservato and her team for reminding us why we do what we do.

If you’re a dog owner, you can the visit Furbabies site here.