'He loves it': Couple starts Naperville pet food business with dog's approval

It all came down to Augie.

When Jaclynn and Evan Berna weighed options for entering the franchising space, they gravitated toward Pet Wants because they loved animals and appreciated the idea of a company offering fresh, healthy food options for dog and cat owners.

First, though, the decision had to be Augie-approved. Faced with the “Pet Wants Challenge,” their 5-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback had the final say.

“He's an angel,” Jaclynn Berna said. “A hundred-pound lap dog.”

The “Pet Wants Challenge” is simple. Put a cup of a dog's usual food next to a cup of Pet Wants food and see which one they want more.

With Augie the choice was clear.

“He went straight to the Pet Wants food and ate it,” Jaclynn Berna said. “Then he kept staring at me like he wanted more of it. We transitioned him to Pet Wants full time and he loves it.”

The Woodridge couple's transition to starting a Pet Wants franchise also moved quickly. In July they began conversations with company representatives. They got married in September, signed a franchise agreement in December, trained in January and started delivering to customers in February.

They did it all while maintaining their jobs in the logistics industry.

Their territory is technically Naperville and Warrenville, but they deliver beyond those borders because there aren't any other franchisees nearby. In May they'll open a retail shop at 630 E. Ogden Ave. in Naperville.

“Instead of going to all these big stores, you can buy from a small, locally owned business with a healthy and nutritious brand and product,” Evan Berna said. “We want it to be comfortable and enjoyable for people so they can keep their pets healthy and happy.”

Until they open the Naperville store, the primary business model is delivery. Customers can buy what they want when they want it, or they can start a subscription for food and treats at the Pet Wants website.

The food is shipped fresh from Cincinnati, and inventory is turned over within a month or two. The food starts fresh and can stay that way because customers can buy by the pound. They don't have to purchase 25-pound bags.

Pet Wants options include salmon, duck, whitefish, chicken, lamb and other primary ingredients. The Bernas said the extra protein means they're feeding Augie three cups a day instead of the four cups they served him with his previous food.

As the Bernas settle into the market, they're looking for exposure leading up to the opening of their store. They're signing up for farmers' markets, cruise nights and mall kiosks to get the word out.

“There are so many pet stores that are the same now,” Jaclynn Berna said. “To have one that's different in the type of food it has and the quality of food really was interesting to us.”

Pet Wants is a delivery service offering fresh, health-conscious food options for pet owners. Courtesy of Evan and Jaclynn Berna
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