Long journey nets business venture

Gail Hellesvig and daughter Sequana work the My Pet’s Bakery booth at a recent craft fair at North Branch Middle School. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)

Gail Hellesvig and daughter Sequana work the My Pet’s Bakery booth at a recent craft fair at North Branch Middle School. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)

Gail Hellesvig starts My Pet’s Bakery

 

Cliff Buchan
Staff Writer

Give Gail Hellesvig an idea and a double convection oven and she’ll put both to work.

A new resident to the area, Hellesvig is the founder of a start-up business: My Pet’s Bakery in Lindstrom. The home-based venture launched this fall and is selling its all-natural dog food treats at craft fairs throughout the area. The Bloomington native settled in Lindstrom late in the summer.

It was a roundabout journey that landed Hellesvig in Lindstrom. She returned to Minnesota this summer after spending the past 27 years in England and Australia. The return to her home state will allow her to address family duties and be with her father, Roy, a World War II veteran.

The journey has left her family scattered across the globe. A daughter, Jacqueline, is studying in Australia. A son, Derek, a mechanical engineer, is working in England. Her husband has also remained overseas. A second daughter, Sequana, 17, moved with her mother and is a senior at Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom.

Inner motivation

Launching a start-up business is nothing new for Hellesvig. That was her trademark during three decades of life overseas.

Her new venture is a combination of her love of animals and a belief that natural food products are good for animals as well as humans. She pooled years of study involving natural foods and personal experience into developing recipes that provide healthy treat options for dogs of all sizes.

“You can do so much with natural things,” Hellesvig said.

Hellesvig’s resume is filled with successful self-employment gigs that evolved while raising three kids.

During her years in England, she designed and made wedding gowns and ran bridal shows. Over time she became one of the largest show organizers in the southeast of England. The shows would include models and up to 100 exhibitors.

Her musical side also produced income. When she wasn’t designing gowns and running shows, Hellesvig played piano for a ballet school in Kent.

A new venture

Hellesvig’s return to Minnesota meant she would need to find a new venture.

“I had to figure out what I was going to do,” she said. “I’ve always had my own business. I scheme a lot.”

As a kid growing up in Bloomington, she was drawn to animals. She played with fox kits and once raised a skunk for a 4-H project. Snakes and reptiles did not scare her, and when it was cool to lobby to “save the whales,” she would lobby.

“I never got asked to prom; no school dances,” Hellesvig said.

Her belief in the benefits of natural foods was reinforced while living in England. A special dog, a large Newfoundland, seemed to be on the way out at a young age. The dog could not get up and began rejecting its food and water. Her calls to a local veterinarian resulted in an offer for a home visit to put the dog down.

“I didn’t want to give up that easily. She wasn’t old,” she said of the dog.

Determined to give the dog a chance, Hellesvig began a feeding regimen of raw fish and oils to provide nourishment and energy. Getting water into the dog was also key. The dog was hand fed, but the special diet and treatment worked as the dog regained its appetite and strength in her back legs.

“Three days later she stood up,” she said.

The dog lived until she was 14, which is far beyond the normal eight-to 10-year life expectancy for a Newfoundland.

It was that experience that kept popping into Hellesvig’s mind after landing in Minnesota. She would need some line of work to fill her time here.

This love of animals and belief in holistic products led to the idea of baking natural food treats for dogs. In late summer and early fall, she experimented with a host of recipes full of natural food items and oils.

Her test subject was Sabrina, Hellesvig’s energy-filled, 6-month-old Newfoundland.

“She loves them all,” Hellesvig said.

She has produced about a dozen varieties of the tiny dog biscuits that come prepackaged and labeled. A new double convection oven has enabled her to streamline and improve her kitchen production.

“I’m always thinking of different ideas,” she said of her products.

Her recipes include biscuits that address a wide range of needs in dogs. She has a biscuit for joint care. Another will address bad breath. Dogs with foggy minds or dogs that need calming can find the perfect treat, too.

Joint care biscuits, for example, are made with unbleached flour, organic olive oil, fish oil, water, turmeric, MSM, glucosamine, chondroitin, black pepper and rosemary. Another biscuit, the Tri Carrotops, is made with whole wheat flour, unbleached plain flour, carrots, water, wheat germ, organic olive oil and egg yolk for glaze.

The right mix

Hellesvig believes she is on to something with My Pet’s Bakery.

After the biscuit experimentation, she launched her home-based bakery in October. The initial reaction from customers was positive.

“They (buyers) had never seen anything like it,” she said.

It is also a family operation of sorts. Hellesvig is the main labor force in the kitchen, but daughter Sequana does her share in the production and helps run the booth at craft fairs. Her father also takes turns rolling out dough, Hellesvig said.

The effort is still a work in progress, she said. There is a learning curve to master.

“It is time consuming,” she said following a round of baking that did not end until 3 a.m.

She plans to expand her craft show appearances and will apply for space at the Minnesota State Fair in 2014. It’s tough to get in, but the uniqueness of her product may be in her favor, she said.

And then there is always brainstorming for new ideas.

She agrees that some customers buy her products simply as a special treat for their four-legged pals. But there are benefits in using her treats, she believes.

“Some are just treats, but they all have good things in them.”

To learn more

You can meet the baker and check out products at the Christmas Craft and Gift Show at the National Sports Center in Blaine this weekend.

More information can be found by writing to mypetsbakery@gmail.com. A website is also under construction. Look for www.mypetsbakery.com to be coming soon.

 

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