Grace Wang: Starting a Business That’s Gone to the Dogs

By Shelby Deering | Photography by Hillary Schave

With a shop window that says, “For dogs and their people,” shoppers can’t help but smile as soon as they spot Petphoria. With a location at Hilldale Shopping Center, the wares inspire instant joy among dog lovers, with toys that playfully resemble humans’ favorite drinks and shirts that proudly proclaim “Dog Mom.”

Grace Wang, founder and CEO, was savvy when she opened her doors in December 2020. According to Bloomberg, the global pet industry is expected to grow $500 billion by 2030, and Wang is part of that. Inspired by her love for her 9-year-old yorkie, Beni, who helps her deal with mental health conditions like anxiety and ADHD, Wang was further inspired while living in Los Angeles. She regularly attended dog-centric social events, and she was always on the lookout for the perfect dog gift.

Now that she’s back in Madison, she’s been running her business for nearly three years, with a specific focus on luxury dog treats.

“Opening our brick-and-mortar location has always been a dream for me,” Wang says, who discovered that grit is the key to becoming a successful business owner. She’s also learned that she has to be OK with failure in order to learn valuable lessons while running her business.

“Being woman-owned and AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander], it’s scary at times,” she shares. “Especially now. There is a lot of judgment in the world, and being vulnerable and showing your true self, there is a lot of backlash. So, as an owner, you must also have tough skin.”

Another of Wang’s core principles? To be successful, you must truly be passionate about what you do and be your own biggest believer.

It’s no secret that traditional brick-and-mortar stores have to compete with e-commerce websites. While Wang does sell products on the Petphoria website, her Hilldale location is the embodiment of her ideals. For Wang, it’s imperative to connect in-person with the community.

“Beni and I have built a ‘dog-obsessed’ community, and being able to meet people in person has truly been incredible,” she reflects. “I get a lot of questions on how I’m able to do this, and it’s because of the community. Beni and I want to show up for you all, each and every day.”

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