An Interview with Founder Michelle Turnbull of The Barking Bakery

Michelle Turnbull Founder of The Barking Bakery

Meet Michelle of The Barking Bakery

Michelle Turnbull is the owner and founder of The Barking Bakery, in Lancashire.

Barking Bakery creates hand-baked and decorated cupcakes, cheesey biscuits and pupcorn alongside its signature personalised “pawty” cakes exclusively for dogs.  

Established in 2012, Michelle’s vision was in response to the rise in the trend for upmarket and bespoke canine treats. She has built her business with a strong, fun and identifiable brand and her products are stocked by Pets at Home, Booths, Ocado and The Range to name a few. 

Together with her team and chief taster; her dog Angus, the company is experiencing organic growth, fuelled by the boom in the purchase of over 2.2 million pandemic puppies.

1.Can you explain to us how the idea for your business came to you and how the whole process kicked off?

It all started in the supermarket aisles when I was looking for treats for my dog, Spot. When I was treating myself to a takeaway and a G&T at the weekend, I wanted Spot to be able to have a treat too. I felt guilty that I was treating myself and he couldn’t join in! I searched the supermarkets and all I could find was chews and products that didn’t feel like treats. It all felt really boring and safe! So right there in the supermarket aisles, I decided I would make my own dog cakes, and create my own brand. The Barking Bakery was created in 2012 and  we’re now a family business baking thousands of dog treats each week.

There’s been a definite rise in the trend towards upmarket and bespoke treats. Owners love to treat their dogs and as a society we are becoming increasingly aware of giving them the right treats. This may be a valentine’s cake or personalised birthday cake or iced woofins and even flavoured popcorn….all  ours are made from human grade ingredients. 

2.What were the biggest challenges you faced when bringing the idea to market?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was getting companies to believe in me and my products. A dog-cake and woofins treat concept is not exactly mainstream and it was difficult for some to imagine or to see the opportunity. 

But I wasn’t deterred, I believed in my products, and my brand.

After 2 years, I presented my idea at a Pets at Home Innovation Day; I would agonise over ingredients, design and shelf life.  I must have tried every mixture of ingredients to yield the best results, ….to look good, taste good and to last! And I’m delighted that the Barking Bakery treats have a shelf-life of 9-12 months which has made my products appealing for the large high street stores as well as hundreds of independent stores.

3.Where do you think good ideas come from and what inspires you?

My inspiration definitely comes from my love of dogs. Angus, my dog now, is chief tester and together we’re an invincible team. 

I feel very lucky that I am blessed with a creative gene. Creativity comes naturally to me, and I am always having creative thoughts and ideas. My challenge is to keep those ideas in some structure. 

Oddly it’s a safe approach that scares me most.

4.What are your company’s values and why are these things important to the business?

My two passions are dogs and baking! 

We are a family run bakery specialising only in nutritious and tasty baked dog food treats.  My dog Angus is one of my best friends, and he comes to the bakery with me each day where he holds the very important role of Chief Taster.

Angus and my team are hugely important to me. My goal is to employ a happy workforce, create an environment where the staff feel admired, have the freedom to be creative and feel appreciated. We currently have a team of 20 and we’ll be recruiting again this year.

It’s also important to me that as a company we give back and do our bit for the community. We are sponsoring Guide Dogs for the Blind and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, and regularly raise money to support these valuable causes.

5.What is next for your brand?

I have invested a lot in my brand; it was fundamental for me that it had its own personality, that it spoke from the heart and made people smile. 

Last Christmas we created a socially-distanced grotto, where owners could bring their dogs to meet Santa Paws. Each got a Barking Bakery Yappy Woofmas treat. It was free to attend and any voluntary donations were given to Charity. It was fully-booked within hours.

We’ll be doing that again this year.

My big dream is that The Barking Bakery and our woofins, pawty cakes and pupcorn become a household name. That’s incredibly exciting and drives and inspires me every day.

6.What one piece of advice would you have for someone just starting out on their business journey or currently going through a setback?

Align with your passion. You’ll know what lights you up.  I trusted my instincts and I believed in my vision. I launched my luxury brand onto the high street after a lot of research, testing and knocks. It was important for me to have a brand that was different, one that made people smile. I was really clear and focussed on what I wanted, and allowed my instinctive creativity to shine.

In short, LOVE and believe in yourself and your business.

7.What resources and tools do you use to remain productive or up-to-date on industry trends etc?

I like to think that Barking Bakery is setting its own trends, and that we lead the way in creativity. We’re constantly thinking of new recipes and ideas to keep the brand fresh. The Barking team and I are really creative so we constantly come up with new ideas for treats for Halloween, Christmas, Easter and celebrations.

All our products are made in-house, we have our own ovens, and mixers and it’s important to me that we manufacture in an energy efficient way, and that our packaging is made from recyclable materials.

Instagram is a go-to platform for us and helps us keep up to date with popular culture, and what’s trending with influencers.

More info on The Barking Bakery

Brand Name: The Barking Bakery
LinkedIn handle:
Twitter handle: @BarkingBakery
Facebook handle: TheBarkingBakery1
Instagram handle: @thebarkingbakery