Biting off more of the dog chew market


Elk Antlers at Dogma in Carytown. (Photo by Lena Price)

You can buy a lot of elk antlers with a quarter of a million dollars.

Blue Ridge Dog Chews, a Midlothian-based startup that makes pet toys out of deer, moose and elk antlers, secured $200,000 in capital this month from three private investors. The company is trying to raise an additional $50,000 through the crowd-funding website Indiegogo, founder Karl Hindle said.

The six-month-old company will use the money to hire two new salespeople and to buy more antlers directly from elk farms and reservations in the Midwest, Hindle said. The animals shed their antlers naturally.

“Elk antlers are only commercially available once a year, and we’ve grown to a point where that won’t meet all of our needs,” Hindle said. “So we’re going straight to the source.”

Since the company launched in November, Hindle said 19 independent retailers from Richmond to Portland, Ore., have started selling Blue Ridge Dog Chews.

They’re available at two local shops – Dogma Grooming & Pet Needs in Carytown and Dogtopia in Chesterfield – and through the company’s online store, which launched in March.

Between the wholesale business and customers who buy from the website, Hindle said, the company is shipping about 3,500 chews a month. Prices range from about $8 for a small antler to $22 for an extra-large size.

Ashley Darnell, left, Karl Hindle and Filo of Blue Ridge Dog Chews

Ashley Darnell, left, Karl Hindle and Filo of Blue Ridge Dog Chews.

“We’re finding that once customers have tried the product, they keep coming back,” Hindle said.

He said the company has added two new product lines: hemp rope toys and Himalayan dog chews, made with a combination of yak and cow milk.

The company has two employees (Hindle and co-founder Ashley Darnell), and Hindle has hired a contractor who sands down the antler pieces before they hit the market.

He said the next step is getting the product on the shelves at big-box stores such as PetSmart and Petco.


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