October 9, 2023

2021 was a whirlwind of a year for 14 year-old entrepreneur Ava Dorsey. She launched Ava’s Pet Palace when she was just eight and grew her organic pet food brand slowly through craft shows and word of mouth. But things kicked into high gear starting in 2020, and by the end of 2021, she had achieved her goal on Kickstarter, gotten USDA certification, done a brand redesign and capped it all off with having her dog treats added to all PetPeople stores nationwide – and at TheWMarketplace! Pretty heady stuff for an 8th grader! Now Ava’s in high school, and in a recent conversation, she reflects on what all of this means.

Diana Oyaga, founder of Wico Lab

 I started receiving compliments from family and friends on how good my skin looked, and they wanted to know what I was using.

How did you decide to start your own business?

I've always loved animals and had a passion for helping them. When I was a little girl, my mom made sure I was eating organic, natural foods. One day I asked: what about Rock (our dog at the time), doesn’t he get organic, natural foods, too? And from that moment, I started dreaming of a better world for pets, where all pets are royalty. My purpose is to make the world better for pets, people and our planet. My start is to make sure all pets and pet parents have access to healthy organic, natural pet treats.

Wico Lab Banner that says "Re branding Re energizing"

What motivates you or gives you joy in life or in business?

I'm super motivated by all of the amazing pets and their families that support me! My family and little sisters truly motivate me to do my best! I'm self-motivated too. I understand that as a young black woman the odds may not always be in my favor. And that's why I find a great sense of joy and fulfillment in being a role model to young black girls, including my two little sisters. Maybe someone will see me and think, I can do that too.

What are your hopes for the future?

As I continue to grow my business, I realize my voice is more important and bigger than I once believed. As a business owner in this industry, which doesn't include many people of color, I am honored to be one of the voices that can make a difference. I ultimately want to be an advocate and funnel for minority pet industry professionals.

Have you had to overcome any significant barriers, and how did you manage to conquer them?

I think the biggest barrier I've had to overcome is being a young entrepreneur. I think it can sometimes be hard for people to take a child or teen seriously when it comes to their business. I used to feel like this a lot when I was just starting. As the years have passed and I've gained more confidence and found my voice, I don't really feel like this anymore. This was something that I had to overcome myself. Even though my parents and family and customers were always very supportive, I had to believe that I was made to be an entrepreneur and change-maker too!

...[Do] not allow others’ negativity to stop you from pursuing your dreams. I want to keep growing. I’ll never give up on my dreams.

What does the next year look like for you?

I'm really excited about the future of Ava's Pet Palace! This is going to be a big year full of growth. I have so many great things happening this year and it really excites me. I can't talk about them just yet, but they're coming! Also, being a freshman in high school has been a new challenge. Sometimes I can get a little anxious, but my parents and their support really help me keep everything in perspective.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My family has motivated me so much! I would not have this business and be as successful if it wasn't for their constant support and motivation. It's really important for people to have family or friends in their corner when starting a business. It's not always easy and there will be bumps in the road. Don’t let a bump stop you. If it’s something you’re truly passionate its worth moving past that bump! Hard and smart work always pays off!

Thank you, Ava, for sharing your advice and journey with the WMarketplace!

SHOP Ava's pet palace

Launched in 2020, TheWMarketplace is a nationwide e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses to sell their products and professional and personal services. Offering favorable terms to its sellers, it also is a supportive community of women entrepreneurs that have access to learning opportunities through the trademarked HER-Commerce™ programs. With over 500 women-owned businesses selling 4000+ products and services ranging from home goods to coaching, in over 35 states, TheWMarketplace empowers shoppers with a new way to find the communities they want to support, including Black-woman owned, Latina-owned, AAPI-owned, Veteran woman-owned, and more. The Her Story Q&A is one benefit ThWMarketplace provides to sellers.

Her Story: Ava Dorsey of Ava's Pet Palace