Ava’s Pet Palace: A young entrepreneur finds success in treats

Learn about 15-year-old Ava’s Pet Palace Founder Ava Dorsey and her vision for the future of her pet treats business and the pet food industry overall.

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14-year-old Ava’s Pet Palace Founder Ava Dorsey has been on a mission for years: Create a better world for pets, people and the planet. | Courtesy Ava’s Pet Palace

Ava’s Pet Palace is a pet treats company that hits all the right notes: The treats are limited ingredient with no wheat, corn, soy, fillers or synthetics; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified organic; and made in the USA. The small-batch products include baked and crunchy jerky treats for dogs in four flavors, as well as a single-ingredient (salmon) soft jerky treat for cats. E-commerce (direct from the company’s website) plays the largest role right now in the company’s sales, but the company is working hard to expand further into brick-and-mortar retail — Ava’s Pet Palace’s line can already be found in 75 Pet People stores and 64 Pet Food Express stores, as well as 60 other retail locations.

So, what sets this seven-year-old business apart?

“I would say the first thing that sets Ava’s Pet Palace apart is my age,” says Ava Dorsey, the company’s founder. “I’m 15. There aren’t many young entrepreneurs in the pet industry, and I think it’s important that more join. Actually, that’s something I love about being in this industry — I get to be an inspiration to others who want to join it.”

Passion as a driving force for pet treats

Dorsey says that Ava’s Pet Palace is based in her passion and love for animals, and that has colored every business decision she has made from the start.

Avas Pet Palace Ava With TreatsAva’s Pet Palace treats are USDA-certified organic, made in the USA and contain limited ingredients without any fillers or synthetics. | Courtesy Ava’s Pet Palace


“I actually had the idea when I was six with a picture I drew of a palace,” she says. “It had an animal shelter, and daycare — everything for animals.” Plenty of kids draw pictures, but not many of them turn those images into business plans for founding a company at eight years old, which is exactly what Dorsey did. She began by making treats at home and passing them out around the neighborhood. She attended local shows and eventually got her products into Bentley’s Pet Stuff, the first brick-and-mortar store to carry Ava’s Pet Palace treats. Business grew to the point where Dorsey’s mom, Ina Jones, quit her job in the summer of 2020 and began working full time for Ava’s as the company’s president.

“Both of my parents have helped me so much throughout everything and I’m very grateful for their support,” says Dorsey. “I’ll be a sophomore in high school, so things can get crazy sometimes. Whenever I need help, they’re there.”

Recent accomplishments: An updated look and product successes

Ava’s Pet Palace has plenty to be proud of so far. The company debuted a brand refresh, which Dorsey worked on with creative marketing studio Fenomenal. She says she wanted to focus on her mission — creating a better world for pets, people and our planet — as well as making sure her brand keeps up with her.

Avas Pet Palace Dog With TreatDorsey’s love and passion for animals started her on her business journey when she was eight years old, and today Ava’s Pet Palace is a thriving pet treats company. | Courtesy Ava’s Pet Palace


“As I started getting older, I wanted my brand to grow with me,” she says. “As my style started to change, I wanted something my target audience of millennial pet parents would love. People like what they can relate to. The brand’s colors bring people in. I wanted my customers — both direct and retailers — to love my new packaging.” The new branding has been a success so far, getting her message out with bold colors and bright, cheerful packaging that work well on store shelves and social media posts alike.

In 2021 Ava’s Pet Palace added its first single-ingredient products to its line-up, a crunchy jerky salmon treat for dogs and a soft jerky salmon treat for cats. The company also received its USDA organic certification, which Dorsey says was “a very big deal.”

“All of my bags now have the (USDA organic) stamp, and we’re very excited to have gotten it because it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time,” she says. “A lot of stores like to see organic products because customers like it, so that was really exciting.”

Her strategies must be working, because when Ava’s Pet Palace made its inaugural appearance at Global Pet Expo in March 2022, the company had already surpassed its sales for all of 2021.

Business challenges as a young entrepreneur with a growing brand

No business is without its challenges to growth, particularly in a market as robust as pet treats in the U.S., and Dorsey acknowledges that her age presents an additional layer most businesses do not have to deal with when trying to expand.

“Getting the capital to actually purchase orders can be tricky,” she says. “It’s been hard, especially recently. Things are changing, Ava’s Pet Palace is growing and it’s been a very tricky process. My age does present challenges. When I was younger, it was more [that I wasn’t always] being taken seriously. Now, when people hear my age they’re impressed with what I’ve done with my company. There are still certain things I can’t do business-wise (another area where parental support has been invaluable), which can be a bit hard, but it’s gotten better as I’ve learned to speak for myself and my brand.”

Her primary focus right now is to continue to grow her brand.

“I want to get Ava’s Pet Palace out there and connect with more people,” she says. “My online shop is where most of the sales come in right now, and I want to continue to grow it. I also want to continue to get into retailers, because that’s still a big part of how people meet and see you as a brand.”

Continuing to add products is also a part of overall brand growth, says Dorsey, who also has a line of pet (and human!) accessories on the Ava’s Pet Palace website.

“I like accessories on my animals, and I thought it would be cool to have some Ava’s Pet Palace accessories,” says Dorsey. “I don’t know that it was something I was planning to do at first, but it’s part of growing my brand. It’s reaching a different market. At first it was stuff for people — shirts and hoodies. But then we wanted to design other things.” Her current offerings include signature dog collars, leashes, tennis balls and a treat dispenser pouch on the animal side, and t-shirts, hoodies, hats, a keychain, a water bottle and totes in the “Team Ava Merch” category.

Overall, whatever Ava’s Pet Palace offers in the future has to fit the company’s mission.

“It’s important to me that anything I do to add to my product line is something I truly believe in, and something that’s good for the animals,” says Dorsey. “That’s the most important thing to me about whatever I do in my business.”

The future of Ava’s Pet Palace … and the pet food industry

Ava’s Pet Palace is in the midst of a growth period, and it’s something Dorsey hopes to carry on for some time to come.

“A very important thing for us is continuing to grow our email list and social media,” she says. “Social media is a very big thing, and whether it’s their personal lives or business, everyone is on it. My email list is for updates — new sales, events we’re going to, things like that. That keeps our customers updated on everything.

“Two other key growth areas for us are expos and larger retailers,” says Dorsey. “The expos are very helpful for getting my business out there. We meet a lot of different people, talk to a lot of people and are able to network and connect, which is important. The larger retailers — a lot of people know them, and getting into those larger retailers pushes your brand out there more.”

In fact, Ava’s Pet Palace is collaborating with PetSmart this summer to offer Ava’s products in stores across the U.S. for a limited time, from July 11 through August 28, 2022. The limited line will feature three of Ava’s dog treats: Cheeze Pleeze, Gone Bananas and Peanutty Paws.

“Like PetSmart, I will do anything for pets, and I’m excited for the opportunity to introduce my brand to even more pet parents,” says Dorsey.

As far as the future of the pet treats industry goes, Dorsey is optimistic — but she’d also like to be an inspiration for change. As a Black- and woman-owned business, she hopes Ava’s Pet Palace will become more visible as her company grows.  

“There’s not much diversity right now, so that’s something I would love to see in the future,” says Dorsey. “I would also love to see more kids in this industry. There aren’t many other teenagers [around], and I hope that I can be an inspiration to others hoping to navigate the pet industry.”

Fast Facts

Avas Pet Palace Logo

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Officers: Ava Dorsey, founder and chief pet officer; Ina Jones, president and mom; Michael Jones, general manager and dad

Brands: Ava’s Pet Palace

Website/Social Media: www.avaspetpalace.com; @avaspetpalace on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok


Ava’s Pet Palace was conceived as a drawing when Ava was just six years old and was founded when she was eight years old!

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