Local entrepreneur provides wholesome canine eats
November 06, 2013When Tasha Ardalan was 12 years old, she was already mapping out her high school academic career. By the time she reached Valley Center High, she was planning her next chapter.
She spent her lunches in the library, seeking quiet space to steady her thoughts. Self-motivated, forwardthinking, the makings of a future entrepreneur were on full display. Today, this 28-year-old, self-proclaimed Type A personality splits her time between managing the Welk and Encinitas farmers markets and running her own organic pet food company, Foxy Treats, along with her business partner, Brandon Janiss.
Tasha Ardalan is a local entrepreneur seeking to increase healthy
eating options for dogs. Photo by Lisa Rose / Valley Roadrunner
Growing up in Valley Center on a 10-acre ranch, the daughter of equestrians who emigrated from Iran, Ardalan was accustomed to hard work and independent thinking.
"My parents have always had their own business (Caspian Stables), so it was an interesting environment to be in," she said. "If I had an idea, they always encouraged me to go do something with it.
"As a kid, I was surrounded by horses and dogs. It's where my love of animals comes from," she added. "I spent a lot of time outside and was a bit of a tomboy, but my parents made sure I was well-rounded. I took ballet, played guitar and went to museums and the symphony."
A history major at UC Santa Cruz, Ardalan had planned to go to law school. Her graduation gift from her sister came in the form of an eight-pound Corgi puppy she named, "Foxy." While studying for the LSAT exam, Ardalan noticed a dearth of good, late-night food options near campus, and a cl ear business opportunity presented itself. She established a food delivery service for students and professors that operated from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. As business boomed, so did the rent on her commercial kitchen. The overhead made the business unsustainable. Yet the experience was an ideal launch pad for her next venture.
An interest in eating whol e some, l o cal lygrown food was taking greater priority in her life. Meanwhile, Foxy became sick.
"I found out she has food allergies," said Ardalan. "At the time, there was nothing on the market that she could eat that she wanted to eat."
A r d a l a n b e g a n researching symptoms and creating homemade dog food. Foxy's condition improved. She spent the next two years in research mode, testing her organic dog treat recipes made from local ly-sourced produce and human-grade ingredients. A picky eater, Foxy was her best test subject and a big fan of her creations.
I n 2 0 1 0 , A rd a l an launched her new business: Foxy Treats, a natural transition from people food to pet food. Moving back to her parent s' ranch, she began growing turmeric and other herbs on a section of the land — spices she uses in her Foxy Treats pet food line. She obtained the rest of the ingredients from local Valley Center farms such as J.R. Organics and Stehly Farms Organics. She and Janiss do everything from research and testing to the end product, including growing herbs, cooking, packaging, shipping, social media and attending events.
"I've always been aware of the connection between food and health," she said. "Most of the dog food on the market has cornmeal as the first ingredient.
Dogs can't process that. It's not nutritious. It's not protein-rich, and it lacks niacin, essential vitamins and minerals. Yeah, they're eating it. Yeah they're alive. But they're not thriving." Ardalan recommends dog food that contains meat as the first ingredient, without fillers such as wheat, corn or soy.
"A lot of dog food has these fillers along with canola oil which are usually GMO (genetically modified organisms)," she said. "We don't need their little bodies absorbing pesticides because we (humans and animals) can bio-accumulate it. This information doesn't make it to the mainstream because there is so much lobbying money to stop people from making educated food choices.
"I've always been very outspoken," she added. "I stand up for the truth." Foxy Treats is now a full line of organic products, from seven different flavors of treats to a detox tea to cleanse the liver and kidneys. Other offerings include a dental paste, an omega-3 fatty acid supplement made from avocado oil derived from Valley Center growers, Bella Vado, and her newest line, a raw dog food CSA (community supported agriculture) which features lamb, beef, chicken and ocean fish.
"I'm really interested in educating people about what good nutrition is. This is truly a labor of love. When I say I do this for the love of dog(s), I really mean it," she said, smiling.
For more information on Foxy Treats, go to: www.foxytreats.com.