At Sidewalk Dog, we not only wag for the companies that welcome pooches on the premises, we also have special ruv for orgs with doggy in their DNA. And we found one with a tail-thumper of an employment model, too: Finley’s Barkery. Creators and owners Angie Gamades and Kyle Gallus filled us in on their furbulous company in which tasty all-natural dog treats are handcrafted by young adults with special needs.
SWD: What’s a typical “day in the life” at Finley’s?
FB: We bake in the evening hours, so it’s really a “night in the life.” We head to our shared commercial kitchen in Chaska to set everything up for the team. Our employees are never late as they look forward to baking, and they always enter with a smile. They get their station assignment (rolling/cutting or packaging), put on an apron, hat, and gloves, and get right to work — but only after the music has been turned on. We sing, laugh, talk, razz each other a little, and practice our sales pitches as we mix, roll, cut, and place the treats on the pans. They go in the oven and cleanup is all hands on deck. We package up the treats and off they go, ready for shipping.
SWD: What are your favorite parts of the job?
FB: Where do we start? We love working beside dedicated, incredible individuals who are so proud of their product. They’re the face of the business and represent all of the hard work that goes into each delicious treat, so we accompany them into the community where they practice communicating and connecting with people as they share our story. It’s an honor to guide them by providing a supportive work environment. We also love providing pet owners with healthy treats, and seeing happy dogs jump on tables for our treats.
SWD: A-woof to that! Your employment of artisans with special-needs is a unique (and fantastic) business model. Can you tell us more?
FB: Angie ran a similar program at Chaska High School in order to offer a work-based opportunity to students with intellectual disabilities. That program ceased, but a few years later her former students reached out, and on Valentine’s Day 2016 they came to our home kitchen to bake biscuits. That’s when we realized we needed to start Finley’s Barkery. As young people with intellectual disabilities leave transition programs and enter adulthood, they face limited work options and income. We wanted to provide a full-wage employment opportunity in a supportive environment. [Editor’s note: Employers can legally pay disabled workers a reduced or “subminimum” wage. Boo.] Finley’s Barkery is a social enterprise that invests in potential — these young adults deserve a playing field where compensation is not based on disability but on work and dedication.
SWD: Tell us about one of your pawesome employees.
FB: The energy of our kitchen is Dallas Gibbons, age 24. He was one of the original bakers at our home kitchen. Dallas is always smiling and joking — he brings out the best in everyone around him. He loves Mt. Dew and will talk sports for hours. Dallas has a great work ethic; he keeps us all on track and working hard each night. We’re fortunate he’s on our team.
SWD: Paw bump for Dallas! So what’s next for Finley’s future?
FB: We’re excited that we are continuing to grow and provide more work opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities. Plus we have a new website, four fabulous flavors (three of which are wheat-free) and new merchandise. To top it all off, we are launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a Bark Truck. This will serve as a mobile retail and distribution vehicle. We plan to use it as a way to transport and connect our employees through selling the treats with the dog loving community in MN.
This is the kind of company that makes the whole community wag! Wanna support this sweet startup? (Res rou do!) Head to Finley’s Barkery to buy their yummy products and cute merch.
[Related: So You Wanna Start a Pet Biz]