2013-06-08T13:52:00Z 2013-06-10T19:38:04Z SMALL-BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Black Pearl BakerySusan O’Leary Times Correspondent
June 08, 2013 1:52 pm  • 

DYER | When Michelle Vogt added to her family, she couldn’t have known the event would lead to a burgeoning home-based business.

“We weren’t looking for a dog,” Vogt said.

Yet in 2011, Vogt, her husband, Jim, and sons Max, 8, and Ethan, 13, adopted Harper, a black border collie mix, from a local farmers market.

A few months later, the family adopted Delilah, a black and white American pit bull terrier, because Harper “needed a friend.”

Vogt wanted to give her new cherished family members the best possible food and treats. Deciding that ingredients in store-bought pet food were harmful, Vogt, a fifth-grade teacher at Clark Middle School in St. John, started making homemade dog food and treats in her spare time.

“It was something for me to do for them. ... I never intended it being a business,” Vogt said. “Then people at work found out and started buying them.”

Next, Vogt started selling the treats on Etsy and created her own website. She named her new business Black Pearl Bakery for the two black “pearls” in her life: Harper and Delilah.

Loyal patrons for her 15 treat varieties and “doggie celebration” cakes hail from Northwest Indiana, as well as California, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“The whole thing has just snowballed, more than I ever thought it would in the short time it has,” Vogt said. “I never thought it would happen this quickly.”

Vogt’s treats – with playful names like Woofie-Pies, Fido Fudge, and Bow-Wow Biscotti – contain all natural ingredients, such as peanut butter, pumpkin, bananas, and carob, and have no sugar or artificial preservatives.

“They’re for people who are looking for healthy, natural treats to feed dogs every day, not just a special treat once in awhile,” Vogt said.

In April, Vogt welcomed another addition: a mobile treat truck. The Chevy Express van was custom painted royal blue, black and white with the bakery’s logo, a whimsical portrayal of Harper and Delilah.

Vogt said there are similar dog treat trucks in Chicago and New York, but she believes hers is Indiana’s first. The truck allows her to take her signature treats on the road to farmer’s markets, festivals, and dog parks.

Because the family kitchen is “getting a little crowded,” the Vogts hope to move the baking operation to the basement, but her ultimate goal is a storefront where she can make the business a full-time endeavor.

“I have so many more ideas,” Vogt said. “I have all these things swimming through my mind for a store.”

Vogt said the bakery’s sales reached $10,000 in 2011, and she hopes to double that this year.

“I never thought this would happen,” Vogt said. “I always wanted to be a teacher, but since we got the dogs, this is what I want to do. My husband was the one who wanted to open his own business, and now the tables have turned.”

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