Finley’s Barkery Empowers the Community
Dog treat company employs adults with intellectual disabilities
I first learned about Finley’s about a year and a half ago while traveling to Minneapolis. Having just launched my dog blog, I was inspired to learn more about the company and the positive impact they’ve had on their community. Finley’s is an incredible company and one that I want to see succeed and grow in the future. Their mission, which is paramount to their company culture, is to embolden those in the community. Their mission leads them forward to create quality and tasty treats for our furry friends while also supporting others in the community.
Let me tell you more about Finley’s…
Finely’s Barkery is a Minneapolis based dog treat company founded in 2016 by Angie Gamades and Kyle Gallus. Angie and Kyle, both special education teachers, realized that there was a systematic issue in their community: those with intellectual disabilities struggle to find stable employment. Angie explained, “When I taught at the high school level, I developed a work skills class where my students made dog treats to sell to staff in the district. They needed to one day hold a job to be a contributing part of the community. A couple former students reached out to me years after they graduated and had attended my class and said that they would like to bake again.”
On Valentine’s Day, Angie told me that her students came over and baked all evening. The evening was full of fun, laughter, and lots of dog treats. Angie went on to elaborate, “Kyle and I were talking about the unemployment and underemployment of these amazing individuals with disabilities. We decided we wanted to find a way to change the statistics. We also wanted to show how adults with disabilities can be an asset to any business. We wanted to show how a business can be successful while employing a demographic that faces 80-90% unemployment. At that moment we decided to move forward and Finley’s Barkery was created.”
Both Angie and Kyle wanted to create a company that employed adults with intellectual disabilities to manage all parts of the manufacturing, baking, packaging, and selling of the dog treats. Kyle listed out their goals to me, “When we launched Finley’s, we wanted our employees to get out into the community and we wanted to empower them to grow their independence.” Finley’s also created ‘The Bark Truck,’ which allows Finley’s employees to interact one-on-one with the community and sell their dog treats at corporate events, farmer’s markets, and festivals.
Finley’s has 11 employees since its creation in 2016. One of the most commendable parts of this story is that Finley’s has already exceeded the mission it set out to solve in just two years. “When Finley’s recent rebrand was complete,” Kyle explained, “it opened doors for us to be considered for retail. With retail, comes larger purchase orders. We are no longer able to produce the treats by hand in our commercial kitchen. It just isn’t physically possible. This has forced us to take a look at how we can continue to provide jobs without continuing to manufacture on our own. Our focus has shifted from bakers to ambassadors.” Due to their overwhelming success, this shift has allowed their employees to be at the front-of-house and more engaging with the community. – explained Kyle and Angie
How does it feel that you only created Finley’s Barkery in 2016 and you’ve already had to edit and pivot your business due to the popularity of Finley’s? (It is a two part answer - one as owner and our impact on our employees lives.)
As business owners, Kyle and Angie explained, “It is pretty incredible! So much has happened over the last two years. We have met some amazing people and pets, been a part of so many unique marketing opportunities and have been able to see growth in our team members as they gain confidence and independence as an individual and employee.” Finley’s employees earn a wage that allows them financial freedom as an adult, but more importantly, focuses on involving these individuals more in the community where they might not have been able to previously. The impact Finely’s has had on their lives is simply incredible.
As an employer of an impressive staff and making significant difference in peoples’ lives, “We’ve seen people receive their first job offer, first paychecks which propel them to participate in more activities they enjoy with friends like sporting events, concerts, saving for college, or a trip. That makes it all worth it to constantly battle growth, communicating the changes to our fans, and still running a business that has to compete in an extremely challenging market where consumer trends can keep us on our toes. We are disrupting an industry that has focused on margins and profits before people and pets.” – Kyle said.
With their tremendous success, and how the market has responded to Finley’s mission, they’ve seen such an impact to their employees across many areas of their lives… not simply their ability to hold a job. Some of their favorite success stories feature two of their employees who have thrived with the opportunity to grow thanks to their jobs at Finley’s. Angie and Kyle share two of their favorite stories:
“Brooke’s only job was working at the local library. Much like many of her friends with disabilities, they were volunteering at local churches and libraries without pay. When Brooke started working for Finley’s she was quiet, shy and afraid to be around the dogs. Brooke has worked many events with us as an ambassador. Each time she works, she becomes more and more confident in her skills to communicate who we are and what our product stands for. She is happy to report that she has started a second job and is making more money than her sisters! Nothing is more rewarding than seeing our team members grow in their confidence and begin to gain financial independence.“
“Maddie is one of our original employees. Maddie loves her job at Finley’s and helps out as much as she can. She has been able to use some of her money towards attending college classes and is now working full time at a daycare center during the work day as she continues to work toward her higher education degree.”
Finley’s supports the community in a number of ways with its employee programs which are continuing to evolve the lives of their brand ambassadors. Finley’s also partners with local nonprofits who employs their team members. They go out to dog parks, dog friendly events, and businesses to pass out free samples of their products. Their hope is that in the future, as they break into retail, that they will be able to be brand ambassadors for Finley’s products in the stores to meet and educate others on Finley’s mission. Also partnering with an organization called Soldiers 6, Finley’s supports and gives back to military troops. They give dog treats for life to all dogs who are paired with their battle buddies each month.
Finley’s is rooted in community-focused social responsibility. With the tremendous growth that they’ve seen, they will have the ability to employ even more adults with intellectual disabilities and impact even more lives. It is such a powerful business model and one that I wholeheartedly support. Kyle and Angie believe that by, “offering a premium treat that represents an elevated mission, it allows our supporters to treat their dog at the same time, elevate people.”
Finley’s dog treats are all free of wheat, corn, and soy and are made small batch and oven-baked in Minnesota. You can buy Finley’s products online here!
Their tasty dog treats are available in the following flavors: Apple & Cinnamon, Blueberry, Peanut Butter & Pumpkin, and Peanut Butter & Banana. My dog Pixie’s favorites are the Peanut Butter & Pumpkin. Your pups will love them!
Finley’s, I wish you nothing but success as you move into this next phase with your business empowering peoples’ lives one dog treat at a time! There are very few businesses with this much social equity and I want to encourage my followers to support this incredible small business.