Fresh Paws: Creating healthy homemade pet food for the love of animals

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. It means taking care of their well-being from food, hygiene, and playtime to showering them with your love and attention.

For pet owner and entrepreneur Felicia Wong, her interest and passion for adopting two Pomeranian dogs, Happy and Kenzo, only started a few years ago.

“We do have pets at home, but they belong to my mother. I’ve always been an animal lover, but I never thought of having my own,” she said, adding that the decision to have her furbabies came naturally as she felt a strong desire to care for them.

“They do not have anyone else, just you. It’s your responsibility to ensure that they live a long or short life. You need to check if they have any illnesses, their food and water, everything. When I come back home after a long day, they are there to greet me. It’s unconditional love,” said Felicia.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Her love for pets gets stronger each day, committed to providing the best for them to her capabilities.

Felicia was not joking when she pledged to pour her undivided care and affection. The 37-year-old prepares homemade pet food on her own – a personal dedication to creating a healthy diet for her furbabies.

“When I first had them in 2018, I fed them on kibbles and dry food. After about six months, I realised that they started showing symptoms like skin disease and pain in the joints. When I went overseas, I noticed that the shops were selling wet food and homemade ones. Then I thought why not I do my own for my pets,” said the first-time pet owner.

With no experience and limited knowledge, Felicia did a lot of research and experiments producing the food, all from her kitchen. She incorporated fresh ingredients such as chicken breast, carrots, olive oil and chicken gizzards, among others. Five years down the road, her dogs are healthier and better.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat
Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

“Their furs are soft and shiny. Not only that but their breath and faeces do not smell so bad,” said the entrepreneur.

Felicia would spend the whole day in the kitchen preparing the meals, from cutting, washing, and cooking to packing and storing.

The freshly cooked food, after cooling, will be vacuum packed while keeping the freshness intact before freezing which can be stored for up to three months.

She further said that another reason for making homemade pet food is that there is no place or shops in the local market that sells them.

Noting the gap, the owner of newly-opened retail store ‘Fresh Paws’ started to think business, catering to the needs of other pet owners who prefer to have other food alternatives.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat
Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

“At first, I did not sell the food to anyone because it takes a lot of work to make them. I would just share the recipe with my friends and make their own. At that time, I did not have the capability yet,” said Felicia.

Equipped with her passion for pets and knowledge of homemade pet food, the entrepreneur took a leap of faith.

Before the opening of the retail pet store, she took a course on pet nutrition in 2023 abroad and is now a certified pet nutritionist, further boosting her confidence to provide for the local market.

“I learned that the ingredients are key to both cats and dogs. I observed that some products sold in existing stores are processed ones that contain preservatives,” said Felicia.

Moreover, not only does she make wet homemade pet food but also frozen dried treats such as chicken breast, chicken feet, duck meat, salmon, and sweet potato, among others.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat
Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Meanwhile, preservatives-free wet food is sold in various weights; 300g, 500g and 1000g, for chicken, beef, and tuna flavours.

Catering homemade wet and frozen dried food at Fresh Paws is what makes the local store unique compared to existing stores in the country, giving a different product variant to customers.

The store also sells other canned and processed pet food brands from Malaysia, Korea, USA and Taiwan which are all made from natural ingredients.

Felicia ensures that pet owners in Brunei can provide healthier food options to their furbabies and not with food that contains agents that can be detrimental to the pets’ well-being in the long run.

The psychology graduate with experience in pharmaceuticals further said the decision to open the business was also due to the unavailability of pet insurance in Brunei.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat
Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

“They are not like us where we only need to pay $1 at the hospital. One needs to pay a hefty amount to the vets for treatment and pets are prone to have issues with the skin, coat, or kidney stones. So, I realised that I should incorporate healthy premium products for pets. You spend money now, but you can save your money long-term,” added Felicia.

Entering its three months of operations as a retail based in Batu Bersurat, the pet store has gained a positive reception from the public for its healthy homemade pet food.

Targeting health-conscious individuals, Felicia sees a trend for healthier food options in the local market.

“Naturally, when they become more health conscious of themselves, they will also be mindful towards their pets too. On wet food, I am very transparent about the ingredients, establishing trust with our customers,” she said.

The shop does not merely sell products to its customers but also provides useful tips and information on the right food and ingredients to pet owners who come to visit.

“We focus on our service. We communicate with our customers when they come into the store and ask them what their needs are. Even if they do not have, we would explain what products we have,” she said.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat
Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Felicia aims to go beyond the walls of Fresh Paws in educating the public about pet foods.

“Our next project is to give an educational talk where we will educate the public on processed and homemade food while looking at the process of how the ingredients are processed. Not all processed foods are bad so for me, knowledge is key,” shared the entrepreneur.

Touching on the brand, Fresh Paws has already established its name with a pet grooming business in Kuala Belait.

Run by her brother as a home-based in 2019, the brand is known for dog grooming and still operates now. Noting her brother single-handedly managing the service, also sparked Felicia’s interest to extend the business to selling products.

“My brother does not have so much passion for pet retail because he focuses more on pet grooming. All these concepts and ideas come from myself,” added the entrepreneur.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Although Felicia also manages the business solo while having a day job, it does not deter her entrepreneurial enthusiasm and determination.

She is a firm believer of effective time management and discipline for with a keen mindset and attitude, one is bound to a successful journey.

“You must be very disciplined to yourself. Always set very clear goals and priorities. That’s number one. Secondly, I must allocate my time efficiently. Thirdly, I will focus on delegation and that is important. I have two very talented individuals to help me to run the store,” continued the 38-year-old.

For her, being on the entrepreneurial journey is about taking a risk but it is not a road that she is afraid to travel on.

Felicia is aware that Brunei has been making a lot of efforts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the local market with the provision of initiatives and mechanisms for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

“I believe that entrepreneurship in Brunei is still developing. Like the younger startups, they bring new ideas, products, creativity, and all these contribute to the market and the growth of Brunei’s economy,” she said.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

However, she added, there are still challenges that need to be addressed such as a small market and a lack of experienced mentors.

“Having said that, nevertheless, the government’s effort and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Bruneians help to create a very vibrant start-up ecosystem,” said the business owner.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Felicia shared that before deciding to open a business, one needs to do thorough market research – understand the market, study the customers, and identify the market trend.

“You must also develop a solid business model and secure funding for short and long terms. Lastly, you must always embrace continuous learning and of course, passion, ” she concluded.


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