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A life of pets

Angela DeMars, '96

On Lake Michigan about 20 miles north of Chicago sits the village of Winnetka. It's one of the wealthiest places in the nation — some residents even ranking on the Forbes 400 richest Americans list. It’s also where Colorado Mesa University alumna Angela DeMars has built a life and thriving company.

It was more than 20 years ago when DeMars, a 1996 graduate and Grand Junction native, bought a one-way ticket to Chicago. She landed in the city not knowing a soul, but she had a business marketing degree and a healthy dose of enthusiasm to help guide her way.

She first went into the corporate world and volunteered on the side for PAWS Chicago, a no-kill animal shelter.

“That took me down a path of following my passion," said DeMars.

Fearless and determined, she built Noah’s Ark Pet Supply — a pet health-focused store that promotes nutrition and consumer education.

“I had no idea what I was doing but I jumped right in,” said DeMars.

She researched and studied nutrition and packed her store with natural products she believed in. She created the Noah’s Ark happiness philosophy and let customers return items without a receipt and put in orders without any money down — all of which 17 years ago was not the normal business practice.

“The business classes I took at Mesa helped me 100%. I had great professors and they pushed me. We did a lot of case studies, and we created our own business plans and I was paying attention.”

Typically, DeMars can step away from the day-to-day operations at the store but because of COVID-19, she’s been at her business seven days a week interacting with her regulars like the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks owner. Before the virus, she spent the last 17 years balancing her time between Noah’s Ark and volunteering at PAWS. At the shelter, she works the front desk, raises money for the organization and nurses long-term foster animals back to health so they can be adopted to good homes.

That’s a big part of why her customers keep coming back — her knowledge of pet health and the experience that comes with healing some of Illinois' most unwanted animals.

“Caring for sick and dying animals, nursing them back to health and celebrating the end of their life is part of my DNA now,” said DeMars. “I go to the shelter and I adopt the oldest rabbit and I let the bunny live their life out in my store.”

Her last foster dog was a teacup poodle that had been kept in a cage and bred her entire life.

“She had never had freedom and I would take her to the park and every day she would run, run like it was the happiest day of her life,” said DeMars.

Her full-time employees have been with her for 17, 14 and 10 years, proving her business strategy and the culture she created is working.

“If you sell what you believe in, you’re going to be successful. I'm lucky I can support myself doing what I love every single day."

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Written by Kelsey Coleman