Like a modern-day Noah, Southwest Colorado dweller, Marney Prince, has been ushering animals to safety since she was a little girl. She wasn’t raised on a farm, but Prince has always had a heart for small animals. The Baltimore, Maryland, native took in her first stray kitten when she was five years old, connecting with a rescue organization to learn how to rehab, socialize, foster and adopt out the critters that would soon follow.
“It’s always been second nature for me to care for animals and was always my goal in life to have a career that would improve the lives of our pets,” Prince said.
She fulfilled that destiny by becoming a certified vet tech in 2001. But after years of practice, Prince grew weary of the disconnect between the quality of medicine and nutritional value of food offered through traditional veterinarian services. She could pinpoint a direct correlation between these imperative tools to treat pets and the decline in their overall health and genetics.
The birth of her second son inspired Prince to move on from being a vet tech and focus more on nutrition. In 2008 when her beloved border collie mix, Habi, started showing signs of arthritis, Prince was desperate to find a way to nurture him back to health. So she did as any enterprising soul would do and started experimenting in her own kitchen with healthier food for not only her family but Habi, too.
Prince catered Habi’s homemade meals to fit his anatomical needs, keeping him away from processed dog foods. This proved to be a game changer for Habi, extending his life another four years and inspiring friends and family to want whatever it was Prince was feeding him for their own pets.
To further her knowledge, Prince became a certified holistic chef for small animals. She incorporated Traditional Chinese Food Therapy into her methods, tapping into the “energetics” of food and how the body uses it to heal. Her main focus evolved to not only balance a pet’s body back to normal but to make it stronger than it was before through customized nutrient-rich, ethically-sourced food.
“I could see it was making a lot of difference in all of the lives I was dealing with,” she said.
By 2014, Prince had enough referrals for her pet food products to open shop in Telluride’s Mountain Village. She first called it Thrive Pet Food and then changed the name to Element Pet Nutrition. Element was accepted into the Telluride Venture Accelerator Program in 2016, and Prince was immediately bolstered by the support of investors, mentors, advisors and access to resources she didn’t have before.
When Kent Curtis, CEO of First Southwest Bank of Colorado (FSWB), heard Prince’s business plan at a demo day for the accelerator program, Curtis jumped at the opportunity to support Prince’s endeavor. Curtis was able to go to the mattresses for Prince through the First Southwest Community Fund, winning a $30,000 USDA Rural Business Development Grant that opened the door for Prince to receive marketing support.
“Kent felt like we were a fantastic fit for everything that he’s doing,” said Prince. “The grant gives us a foundation for who we are and the message we bring: feed love. feed life.”
Roxanne DeMarco was Prince’s “go-to person” for the First Southwest Bank grant application process. Prince says DeMarco worked “endless hours” to get the application just right. Then the waiting began.
“It took months and months to process everything we needed to get the grant,” said Prince. “It was amazing she put in so much effort for us.”
This year, Prince changed the name from Element Pet Nutrition to Side by Side, touting a firm belief that her whole-food recipes will keep you and your pet walking, running and cuddling side by side for as long as possible.
Side by Side will always make products that are locally-sourced from farms along the Western Slope. Scraps that aren’t good for human consumption turn out to be perfect for pets, so Prince offers tasty delights, like chicken hearts, duck feet, cod skins and Colorado beef lung treats.
Not sure where to start? Walk through their online nutritional assessment tool at sidebysidepet.com, and find out how to feed your pet to thrive. This custom-designed questionnaire takes into account your pet’s age, activity level, temperament, breed and any underlying health concerns. Depending on what’s needed, Prince can prescribe nutritional supplements, flavor boosters and even bone broth.
“I really want to challenge the industry and change the way people feed their animals,” Prince said. “Side by Side feeds to heal.”
Before the grant boost, Side by Side Pet was limited to dog-friendly farmer’s markets on the Western Slope and word of mouth to sell her products. But with her growing reputation for providing optimal health for dogs and cats through nutrition, Prince is excited to expand her marketing efforts to a national level. Fast times for this true value-added agriculture manufacturing company nestled in the mountains of Southwest Colorado!
“We’re finally getting to where we can offer our food to more pets across the country and positively change so many lives,” Marney said.
For more on Side by Side, checkout Prince’s website,sidebysidepet.com. To learn how to apply for a Rural Business Development Grant, visit fswcf.org or contact Kent Curtis, First Southwest Community Fund President and First Southwest Bank CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org.