“Influence to enlarge, and enlarge to influence,” is Tina Garriott’s, the executive director for Growlers Dog Bones, motto for running a social enterprise that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities and helps preserve the environment.
Growlers Dog Bones was founded in 2016 by Amy Noltemeyer as a response to her fears surrounding her son’s future. Noltemeyer’s son has a mental disability, which creates significant barriers when finding employment and vocational support. She discovered a social enterprise in Madeira, OH, that utilized whole grains from local breweries to make dog bones while employing individuals with disabilities, so she decided to take this business model to Columbus, OH.
Growlers Dog Bones hires individuals with disabilities to help bake, deliver, and sell the dog bones. Each week, the team meets three days to make dog bones and learn the basics behind running a business. The social enterprise works with “the bakers at the center of the business model,” says Garriott.
When talking with Garriott, she mentioned that many people with disabilities live their daily lives like the rest of the world lived during COVID-19 – inside with limited interactions. The mission for Growlers Dog Bones is to give individuals with disabilities the chance to gain self-sufficiency and be part of a community.
Besides baking dog bones, Growlers Dog Bones gives the employees the chance to sell products at events, deliver to local breweries, and even develop their own products. One of the bakers had the opportunity to create her product through Growlers Dog Bones called “Meowers” which is a cat-nip spray that serves “man and man’s purfect friend.” Growlers Dog Bones is doing more than teaching the employees to make the product, they are allowing them to initiate their ideas and take a lead in the business.
Garriott took over the business in March 2019 with limited experience in social entrepreneurship but extended experience with individuals with disabilities, including babysitting kids with disabilities as a teenager, coaching gymnastics in the Special Olympics, and serving as a Special Needs Instructional Assistant with Columbus City Schools. Garriott said that when she discovered Growlers Dog Bones she was “in love with the idea and saw so much potential.”
“I get through what I do by faith and passion,” says Garriott and her dedication to the business is evident in her care for the employees and the product. She says that she “prefers to be the backstage curtain person, with the baker’s center stage.”
Besides employing individuals with disabilities, Growlers Dog Bones creates its product using repurposed grains and oats from 22 local breweries, like 2 Tones Brewing Company, Grove City Brewing Company, and many more. Without Growlers Dog Bones, the oats and grains from beer production would be sent to the landfill contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming.
Growlers Dog Bones collects the grains and oats from local breweries then adds homemade peanut butter and eggs, from a local farmer, to create the dog bones. The social enterprise ensures that the local ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced. After the dog bones are created, they are delivered back to the breweries and vendors to be sold.
In February 2020, Growlers Dog Bones moved into Columbus State Community College’s new culinary building, Mitchell Hall. After only a couple of weeks in the new facility, they were forced to leave the building due to COVID-19 concerns.
For three months, Growlers Dog Bones did not have a home, which meant products could not be created and the employees could not go to work. In June 2020, Growlers Dog Bones found a temporary space at Pitabilities in Gahanna, which served as its home for 10 months.
In April 2021, Growlers Dog Bones was finally able to move back to its space at Columbus State Community College. Growlers Dog Bones was able to survive location changes, health restrictions, brewery closings, and many other challenges.
Now, Growlers Dog Bones is back in full swing as they are baking dog bones every week and selling products at an event each month. In the future, the social enterprise would like to expand its services to individuals with disabilities by owning a space that can be used for production but also socialization and community building.
Founded in 2014, SocialVentures is a non-profit organization that advances remarkably good businesses—businesses that intentionally integrate social impact as a non-negotiable component of their business model. To contact SocialVentures, send an email to [email protected] or visit socialventurescbus.com.
Be inspired by other social enterprises and turn your passion project into a business.