Jobless journalist opens Slovenia’s first dog bakery

Updated 04 September 2013
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Jobless journalist opens Slovenia’s first dog bakery

Who would have thought the answer to unemployment in the city worst hit by Slovenia’s economic crisis could be meat, mint and peanut butter-flavored snacks for pooches.
But that’s just what happened for Nastja Verdnik, a 26-year-old journalism graduate who has opened the Balkan country’s first bakery for dogs.
“I used to make biscuits for my dog, but never dreamt of making a career out of it,” Verdnik told AFP in her tiny shop in the northern city of Maribor, where she sells home-made biscuits, muffins and cakes, including for dogs with allergies.
After graduating from Ljubljana University last year, her hunt for a job in journalism led nowhere. She had already made biscuits for friends’ dogs and even sold small quantities to a local pet shop.
“I saw at the employment office a program for promoting entrepreneurship among young people,” she said, so put forth the idea for a dog bakery and got immediately backing .
“Hov Hov” — Slovenian for “woof woof” — was born.
“There are more dogs registered in Slovenia than children under nine. And owners, before getting a dog, know they will have the financial resources to keep it,” said Verdnik.
Her confidence was boosted by research showing during a dog’s lifetime, owners can spend the equivalent of the price of a car on their pet.
Since she opened in June, her business — strategically located at the entrance to Maribor’s main park, a favorite playground for dogs — has not stopped growing.
“In September I will open a new shop in the capital, Ljubljana, and later might do it also abroad,” she said, with eyes on neighboring Croatia or Austria.
Once a major industrial center, Maribor has struggled more than the rest of Slovenia with the economic crisis. Unemployment in June was 18.1 percent, compared with 12.6 percent in Ljubljana.
Anger over rampant corruption in city hall also prompted violent demonstrations last winter.
But dog biscuits have proven remarkably crisis-resistant, with people in and around Maribor willing to go the extra mile to indulge their pets.
“We are not from this neighborhood, we live on the outskirts of Maribor, but we care about the quality of our dogs’ food and we also like buying them home-made biscuits,” Vera, the owner of two greyhounds, told AFP.
Hov Hov’s selection ranges from the classic beef, lamb, venison, turkey and tuna to banana, peanut butter and even mint-flavored biscuits to fight bad breath.
The snacks cost three to four euros ($4-5.50) for a 150-gram (5.3-ounce) package and are available in gluten-free and no-egg versions. She makes all shapes and sizes — bones being a favorite — and will even make special birthday cakes.
“I only use healthy ingredients as I would for my own pets,” said Verdnik, who gets advice from a veterinarian friend and adds no artificial ingredients.
And it’s not just the canines who are eating Hov Hov’s biscuits, as some of their owners confess to nibbling the vegetarian treats, said Verdnik.
“This is our second visit: now we have returned with a list of orders for our neighbors and friends,” said Marija, the owner of a German shepherd.
Keeping up supplies means baking at home an average of five kilogrammes (11 pounds) of biscuits each day. To cope with increasing demand, Verdnik plans to rent a kitchen and probably hire one or two helpers in September.
“Two hands aren’t enough any longer,” she said.
She has not totally ruled out journalism. But if she did ever find a job, she would only use her skills “to write about pets, pet-food and related issues,” she said.


Startup of the Week: Protein Laboratory: Making healthy eating fun and easy

Updated 17 September 2019

Startup of the Week: Protein Laboratory: Making healthy eating fun and easy

  • And with growing health awareness, many Saudis are switching over to more nutritious dietary habits

JEDDAH: An enterprising Saudi family is aiming to take the world by storm with its scientific approach to healthy eating.

The Bogari’s newly opened Protein Laboratory restaurant in Jeddah is the brainchild of brothers Ahmed, Hussain and Hassan.

The three doctors got the inspiration for their startup from hospital laboratories while studying in medical school, and with the help of their parents set about establishing their innovative culinary venture.

In recent years the health and fitness fad has become a flourishing business sector in the Kingdom, which has witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of gyms and fitness centers.

And with growing health awareness, many Saudis are switching over to more nutritious dietary habits. However, eating clean can be a challenge for those with busy, modern lifestyles who do not have the time to prepare meals.

Enter the Protein Laboratory, opened to add fun to the idea of healthy food. “We wanted to reintroduce the concept of healthy food to the Saudi health and fitness community,” Ahmed, 27, told Arab News.

“We believe that healthy food does not have to be boring and achieving your goal of fat loss can actually satisfy your taste buds and leave you happily full at the same time.

“We are planning to expand in Jeddah and Makkah to help more people achieve their fitness targets while enjoying tasty food, and we are aiming to be recognized globally,” he said.

The trio started planning their enterprise while studying at medical college but credit their parents’ support for helping turn their vision into a successful business launch.

Their father guided them in setting up the company and their mother took responsibility for the restaurant’s kitchen, playing a major role in developing recipes and supervising operations.

The brothers’ association with the field of medicine also helped them in their efforts. Ahmed was first inspired by hospital laboratories and the way researchers worked on minor details to get the best possible results.

“The long counters, glass walls, and test tubes are what I liked the most, in addition to the complete transparency of the place. It is exactly how I wanted our restaurant to be. Everything to be prepared and cooked just in front of the customer with a high level of attention to detail,” he added.

The idea behind the name Protein Laboratory was to ensure customers had the option to select, mix and create ingredients according to their taste or preference.

“Customers can order their meals according to their nutritional needs and preferences, starting with selecting the protein base, cooking method, side dishes, the sauce and portion of the meal’s components in grams.”

Ahmed said: “We use the healthiest cooking methods possible. We don’t use frozen meat; we blend our own spices and make sure everything is always made in the healthiest way.”

The brothers and their mother work like scientists. “We spent one year testing ingredients and creating healthy recipes. We had only one goal in mind: High protein in a healthy meal and a portion that could help us and others to stay healthy while still eating the food we desired with higher quality and better taste,” Ahmed added.

Their lab salad dish includes more than 20 organic ingredients high in protein, fiber and antioxidants. The restaurant’s burger has only 396 calories, and one of their best-selling desserts is a sugar-free banana pancake.

“We aim to make our prices within everyone’s reach,” Ahmed said.

One of the services offered by the restaurant is subscription to a meal plan drawn up according to the nutritional needs of the customer and delivered to their workplace or home.

Protein Laboratory is located in Helmi Kutbi Street, in Jeddah’s Al-Zahra district and can be followed on Instagram @proteinlabsa.