In Indigenous worldviews, the four-legged animals are considered relatives of us two-legged humans. We are all connected within the great spiral of creation. It’s this understanding of interconnectedness and respect for all living things that motivates Keri Gray, founder of Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats.
Speciality dog treats like Elk Rolls, Beaver Rolls, and Waboose Snack Biscuits with Rabbit Meat have furry family members slobbering all over Turtle Island. A member of the Algonquin of Pikwakanagan First Nation, Gray runs her manufacturing business with four employees on the Alderville First Nation where her husband and children are members.
Founded in 2019, Gray tells Shop First Nations the story behind Shades of Gray, how sustainability goals play a big part of how her company operates, and some of the best pet stories she’s heard from customers. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What is the reason you started your business? What did you do before starting this business?
I started this business to help pets with Health and Wellbeing concerns.
Is your business online? Physical locations? Where can people buy your products? Please list all places customers can buy your products/services.
Yes, our business is online. Our Website of course Indigenoustreats.ca which offers special bundles and subscriptions. People can buy our products from online marketplaces like Walmart.ca, Amazon.ca, Loblaws.ca.
We also have a retail outlet in Alderville First Nation. And we sell in retail stores across Canada like Global Pet Foods, Tail Blazers, Pet Valu, The Pet Connection, Discover Dogs, and many more.
Tell us a major win for your business/ big accomplishment.
I worked really hard the past few years to meet my business goals and provide great paying employment and benefits in our manufacturing business. I could not have done this without our Marketing team, staff, and of course my family who have all played a part in this success.
A major win is being acknowledged by the funders that helped me build my business as a Role Model – being a part of this campaign by NACCA has allowed me to share our storey, some knowledge and my love for helping others through education, training and experiences. The world of business has room for us all and sharing with each other helps us grow in many ways.
Without these supports, people we have met and worked with the business and employment opportunities would have taken much longer to grow. Being open to learning and implementing what you can was a big accomplishment for me personally, and as a business.
Tell us about some roadblocks or challenges you have encountered during establishing your business.
COVID. We started just as the pandemic took hold. We spent the first year getting the facility ready and then we had to take our business online, direct to consumer, which helped us make it through COVID. Timeframes for implementing new software and technology to work more efficiently with the new growth was a challenge we also encountered.
Tell us about some future dreams for your business.
I would like to eventually be able to sell in the US and start exporting as we only currently sell in Canada.
How do you advertise for your business?
We use Facebook, Instagram and we advertise in a few larger magazines such as the Canadian Dogs Annual and the Pet Connection – Canada's Natural Health Magazine for Pets.
Can you share a funny or touching story about your business? Could be about starting your business or about a customer.
We always send emails out to customers asking how their experience was…. when we get reviews like this we feel honoured to have helped a four legged friend.
“When the box came my dogs followed me around the apartment like I was god ??? it may be the most attentive they have ever been. They love your treats and no doubt are thrilled we signed up for a subscription!! Plus, my super sensitive blue pitty can eat them without having to worry about a reaction!”
We laugh, smile and chat about each one as a team. People become a part of our Shades of Gray Family as they make our days at work have meaning (supporting pet parents with health concerns of their pets, plus we have helped the well being of the owners four legged friend).
Reviews like these just simply make our team proud of what we are producing.
What influence does Indigenous culture have on your business?
Our culture has a huge influence on our business. We respect the four legged and ensure that we use everything so there is no waste. We protect the environment by using a sustainable packaging option and a sustainable packaging company that is all about how we can do things better for the land.
We also ensure we don't over produce just to sell products, we make to order and use lean manufacturing practices. Waiting times are longer – sometimes for our products but customers don't mind the wait for fresh sustainable products.
We also use culture in our product names so people can learn the language and see it displayed along with our logo which respects and represents our four legged family members.
Is there a meaning behind your logo? Tell us about it.
Our logo is meant to represent our four legged family members. By using the medicine wheel to represent them to be in balance with us and our environment, the paw shows their importance and well-being in our lives.
How has your family played a part in your business?
We are a family business to the core. We start at the farm each day, work with our animals, complete our chores then off to work or school. Each day my husband and I head to our manufacturing facility and work alongside our staff to produce treats for our orders. At the end of the day our team/family working together continues back at the farm.
We love what we do and that we get to do it together. We are continually teaching each other about life, work, balance, and respect for each other, our animals and our land.
Any of your website links, videos, social media posts, or marketing campaigns you’d like us to highlight (help draw attention/traffic to)?