Woofgang & Co. makes a paw-sitive impact
It’s no secret that dogs are everybody’s best friend, which inspired dog lovers and people helpers Kelly Maffei, Amy Stern and Kris Burbank to found Team Woofgang & Co., a nonprofit that provides vocational skills, lifelong learning and social opportunities to adults with disabilities through the production of artisan dog treats.
So curl up with your furry friend as we take you through 12 questions that we asked Team Woofgang’s Executive Director, Amiee Turner, about their sweet small business.
1. What is Woofgang & Co. and how did you get the idea?
In 2017, Team Woofgang & Co. began when a few like-minded moms created a business that provided an amazing place for their young adult children to learn and build a community after leaving the public school system. We created a program where adults with disabilities (we call them team members), could learn and feel fulfilled with the responsibility of producing, packaging, marketing and selling dog treats and other products.
2. What value does Woofgang & Co. add to your community?
Sadly, the support systems you receive through high school declines after you graduate and typically disappear at the age of 22. A lot of adults with disabilities watch their peers go off to college and many are left behind. Woofgang provides ongoing learning, social opportunities and a sense of independence that everyone not only seeks but deserves.
3. What are some of your team members’ responsibilities?
Our team members are a part of every aspect of our production/sales cycle. At our production site in Black Rock, CT they learn things like kitchen safety, quality control and, of course, baking. While at the retail store in downtown Fairfield, CT they learn phone skills, customer service and inventory among many other things. We pride ourselves in adapting our curriculum to the individual and love it when team members show an interest in new things.
4. If you could only get one treat for your dog, what’s the fan favorite?
Our signature product is the Pupper Nutter Patties. These nutty treats are all-natural, gluten-free and handmade right in our shop. Your pup will definitely want a Nutter!
5. Do you have any dogs on the payroll?
Well, technically they are all volunteers! We have a lot of furry fans that stop by the store to try our treats, and we are always happy to “pay” with goodies for constructive feedback. A lot of our own dogs visit but no, none are on the payroll, yet!
6. What’s the vibe you work to give in your shop?
Inclusion is our biggest focus. Our vibe is always joyful. We want everyone to feel welcome and important. We want our customers to leave feeling better than they came in.
7. Do you have any non-dog products?
For any folks who don’t have a four-legged friend, Woofgang has a lot of fun retail to explore. A few examples are our stadium blankets, our signature Fairfield Beach hoodies and a variety of gifts for people (and dogs) on the go!
8. What’s your favorite time of year for your business and why?
Any time of year is a great time to spoil your dog or yourself! We do a farmer's market in the warmer seasons which is always a fun experience to be outdoors in the community. We also love holidays for the opportunity to make themed treats.
9. How can we support Woofgang?
If you’re in Fairfield, CT, you definitely need to stop in for a treat and meet some of our workers. If you don’t have a dog, we have so many other great retail products to explore. You can also shop online or make a donation. Our mission is to provide our services free of charge to team members and their families, so your support truly changes the lives of our individuals.
10. How do you measure the success of Woofgang?
There are a few ways we measure our success. We measure it by each team member’s growing independence, by expanding our services and reaching even more applicants. We also measure it by the sense of purpose and passion that our workers develop. And we measure it by the happy dogs that stop by our store!
11. What’s in the works for Team Woofgang? Give us some spoilers!
Team Woofgang & Co. is busy growing our online store, building wholesale accounts and expanding our production site. This means we can help more adults with disabilities and find greater depth and synergy with our surrounding communities. We are also getting ready to drop some fun summer products, so keep your eyes peeled!”
12. If you could tell the readers one more thing about Team Woofgang, what would it be?
When you buy our dog treats or purchase a sweatshirt, you are providing the invaluable gift of purpose to others. We like to say it's the gift that gives twice!
Well, this nonprofit certainly deserves a round of a-paws! Find Team Woofgang & Co. on our virtual Small Business Spotlight Shop, at woofgangco.org or at 1300 Post Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Just follow the pawprints and wagging tails.