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Gourmet Dog Food Takes Off

Marie Moody's love for her adopted mutts inspired her to launch Stella & Chewy's, a Milwaukee-based pet-food maker.

Business Partners Marie Moody and Stella

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Marie Moody's love for her adopted mutts inspired her to launch Stella & Chewy's, a Milwaukee-based pet-food maker, in 2003. Since then, the company, which uses raw meats and organic vegetables to create frozen and freeze-dried meals for dogs and cats, has grown dramatically. Stella & Chewy's had sales of more than $8 million in 2010, earning it the No. 424 spot on the 2011 Inc. 5000. —Darren Dahl

My first year, I delivered around 2,000 pounds of dog food. Last year, we produced 3.3 million pounds.

In November, we moved into a new, 50,000-square-foot plant in Milwaukee. We expect sales to top $20 million in 2012.

We are hiring a lot these days, especially in sales positions. The biggest thing I look for is a passion for pet nutrition. I've hired people who didn't have any prior experience in a particular job because they had the right passion.

One thing I do well is surround myself with good people. I have no problem delegating. I hired Jennifer Guzman to be my CEO. People are surprised I gave up the CEO title, but I feel like it's a role I don't excel in.

I don't want to control everything. I just want it done right. The company is more important than my ego.

We have never spent money on marketing or advertising. Our growth has come from word of mouth. Our success during tough economic times is a testament to the way people feel about their dogs. They are part of the family.

Chewy passed away last summer. He was 16. I don't think I could have possibly gotten more out of a relationship with a dog.

Last updated: Feb 28, 2012

DARREN DAHL is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, NC.




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