Fairfield dog treat company that provides work experience for youth with disabilities looks to grow
FAIRFIELD — Since starting in December with dog treats it sold at other stores, Woofgang & Co. has its own storefront on the Post Road, where they sell not only dog treats, but toys, leashes, blankets and T-shirts — for both human and pet.
Now, the founders of the business, which provides young adults with disabilities work experience, hope to take the next step and be able to hire a project manager and pay the employees. Right now, it is all volunteer.
To that end, they’re hosting a fundraiser, a “Beach Ball,” in September, and looking for corporate sponsors and donations for live and silent auctions.
“We’re grassroots,” said Kelly Maffei, who co-founded the nonprofit along with Kris Burbank and Amy Stern. “We don’t rely on any state or federal funding.”
The storefront, at 1300 Post Road, is donated by the Tortora Family Foundation. The employees bake the dog treats at the commercial kitchen at the Bigelow Center. Capital Photo did headshots of the employees to use on their LinkedIn pages and modeling for social media.
While teens with disabilities have options during high school, once school is done, the women said, the opportunities are limited. With Woofgang & Co., they hope to provide not just a job, but job training. They have people come in to give seminars on topics like customer service.
Woofgang & Co.
1300 Post Road, Fairfield
“Most people just assume that the government just takes care of everything,” Burbank said, and Maffei said this type of funding is “always on the chopping block.”
“We have a pretty aggressive social media effort,” Burbank said. And the store is a happy place for its employees, but “also a real picture of what they can do,” she said.
Burbank said what they are trying to do with Woofgang is create a business model for others. “We’re selling quality goods at affordable and fair prices,” Burbank said.
At the store, employees stock the shelves, take inventory, fold shirts and man the cash register. They also scour the internet for new items to carry. “Everybody has their ideas of what we should be carrying in the store,” Burbank said.
Stern said they hope the community will realize that it too has a part to play. “It’s hard to do just on our own,” she said. “We have to raise money like a typical nonprofit.
The “Beach Ball” at Penfield Pavilion will include music, food, auctions and a short video to introduce Woofgang & Co. There are six levels of sponsorship, ranging from Presenting, for $7,500, to Bronze, for $250. All sponsorship levels include a varying number of tickets to the event.
Anyone interested in corporate sponsorships or to donate goods or services for the auctions, contact Cornelia Fortier at firstname.lastname@example.org or Deb Lomma at email@example.com.