Game Changers is a new series from OPEN Forum, spotlighting innovative entrepreneurs who are disrupting their industries or the business world as a whole. Know a Game Changer? Submit tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Donna Santucci
Company: Fido To Go
What she does: Donna Santucci is a canine caterer traveling Chicago in a bright yellow food truck offering up gluten-free treats, natural chews and frozen yogurt—all for dogs. Santucci's truck stops at parks, playgrounds, festivals and catered events where dogs are hanging out with the humans who want to pamper them.
"Basically we are an ice cream and bakery truck for dogs and cats," Santucci says.
How she started: Santucci is a once-upon-a-time accountant who decided to align her career with her love of animals by becoming a dog groomer. The dog treat business was added out of personal concern.
"My dog Maddie was my inspiration, as she had many allergies," Santucci says. "Being a certified canine and feline groomer, who furthered my education with training in dermatological techniques and pet nutrition, this business was a no-brainer."
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Santucci developed dog treats and dog cakes for canines with sensitive systems, like her Maddie.
"The treats we carry are all healthy, made with U.S.A. organic and natural ingredients. They are gluten-, sugar- and allergen-free, and most of our bakery goods are dairy-free," Santucci says.
Why she's a game changer: While food trucks for humans have become ubiquitous, her food truck for dogs is "the original and the first in the nation," Santucci claims. "There was a truck in Europe that did this to raise money for animal rescues, and a gentleman in California, both no longer in business. Their products were very different from ours," Santucci says.
Photo: Sparenga Photography
Her game-changing products include the likes of artisanal asiago bagel bones, sweet potato and molasses frozen treats and, since Chicago's the home of the deep-dish pizza, "puppizzas."
Santucci also delivers a pooch party on wheels, bringing bobbing for hot dogs, paw print art, puzzles for pooches and canine cakes for the honored guests.
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What's next: Santucci isn't likely to bark up a storm about her future plans for Fido To Go, but she won't rule out adding more trucks and more treats. "It's all in the works. We are not ready to discuss it yet," Santucci says. "Follow us and see what happens in the coming months, because it is very exciting."
Advice to other entrepreneurs: "Follow your passion," Santucci says, "produce a fantastic product and appreciate your customers."
Meet more game changers, in our Game Changers series.
Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who likes to break a topic down and keep her copy tight. That's why this bio is so brief!