While summer boredom set in for many children, Hoover’s Angelina Muscarella was busy building a business: Bena’s Bones.
Twelve-year-old Muscarella started baking dog treats last year, sharing them with friends to give to their pets. When trying to come up with a name for her company, Muscarella and her family kept coming back to one idea.
“My uncle started calling me Angelina Bena when I was younger, and the nickname stuck,” she says. So, she decided to incorporate it into her business, calling it Bena’s Bones.
With a name and several treat recipes, Muscarella also began selling them to her neighbors in Ross Bridge, including Tim and Lyndsi Hughes.
“Tim and I are very impressed at how motivated and professional Angelina is with Bena’s Bones,” Lyndsi says.
Tim and Lyndsi started the Ross Bridge Farmers Market this year, so they invited Muscarella to sell her dog treats at the weekly event.
“We are lucky to have her as a dog bone vendor at our market,” Lyndsi says. “I have not come across a pup yet that doesn’t love Bena’s Bones, including our very own fur son, Griffin.”
The market is on Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. and will run until Aug. 14 in front of the Ross Bridge Welcome Center.
“Mr. Tim and Mrs. Lyndsi gave me a great opportunity,” says Muscarella, who is going into the seventh grade at Bumpus Middle School.
After pet owners buy her treats once, they come back the next week for more, she says. But, the treats aren’t the only things about Bena’s Bones that have attracted attention.
“When people see me, they ask if it’s my business,” Muscarella says with a smile. “They are surprised at how young I am.”
She’s met a lot of new people and grown her business at the farmers market, but her No. 1 customer is still her 6-year-old dog, Chelsea. A Yorkie bichon, Chelsea is actually the reason Muscarella started Bena’s Bones.
“I love my dog a lot, and I wanted her to have a healthier option,” Muscarella says. “With treats from the store, you don’t know what’s in them.”
So, she started looking on Pinterest for dog treat recipe ideas. She would bake ones that looked good, making tweaks along the way. To see if the treats would be a success, she turned to her four-legged taste tester.
“If Chelsea won’t eat them, I won’t give them to any other dog,” Muscarella says. “She doesn’t eat store-bought treats anymore.”
Muscarella now bakes about 10 flavors, including pumpkin-peanut butter, butternut squash and sweet potato. She also makes grain-free treats using coconut flower like blueberry-banana and apple-peanut butter. Customers can buy a certain flavor or a bag with an assortment.
“They’re homemade, and there’s nothing bad in them,” she says. “I’ve never heard of dogs not liking them, and people keep coming back for more.”
When asked if she will start selling cat treats, Muscarella isn’t sure of the logistics just yet.
“I don’t have a cat to try the treats out on,” she says. “I’ve thought about trying friends’ cats to see what they like.”
This young entrepreneur is still trying to figure out the different elements of running a business, but she has a lot of support from her parents, Sean and Tasha, and older sister, Gabby.
She says her mother helped her with the baking at the beginning, but now she is handling it all by herself. “My mom helped me start this,” she says. “I wouldn’t be here without her.”
Not even a teenager yet, Muscarella understands she still has a long way to go, but she’s up for the challenge.
“I want people to know I’m young — if it doesn’t look as professional,” she says. “But, I’m trying hard.”
Muscarella encourages other children and teens to follow their ideas and dreams of starting a business, too.
“It is work, but I think they should try it,” she says. “I would just tell them they might not be able to hang out with their friends as much.”
Right now, she is only selling the treats at the Ross Bridge Farmers Market, but she may expand to other venues in the future.
“I really want it to grow,” Muscarella says of Bena’s Bones. “I want to give dogs treats that have good ingredients. I also make grain-free treats, and there’s not a lot of those on the market.”
The article originally ran in the August issue of Hoover’s Magazine.