Anne & Bryan of Pawfectly Delicious
Anne Tuccillo’s cute business name, colorful artwork and the sweet story printed on her labels caught our attention. We wanted to learn more about this business dedicated to creating meaningful work for her son Bryan and other young people with disabilities. Plus, we’re all sappy about dogs so featuring a treat business made us happy.
How did you get started making and selling dog treats?
Several years ago before my son aged-out of special education services, I was discussing my concerns about his chances of finding paid employment with one of my co-workers. My colleague Holly had been a sounding board for me over the years and was very fond of my son and wanted him to succeed. She makes these delicious ginger bread cookies each Christmas and sends them to her friends. She warned me that they were so good, her dog would eat them off her Christmas tree. Then an idea began to percolate between the two of us, could we use Holly’s recipe and start making dog treats to sell and form a business where my son could work? So about 2 years ago, before I retired from my full time job, we started baking these treats in our home kitchen for friends and family to give to their fur babies. Everyone loved them and they encouraged us to continue on this journey. My son had eight job coaches after leaving high school at age 22. He was unable to find paid employment, until he found a job on his own at Top Golf. He works as a greeter 8 hours a week. We are grateful that an employer was willing to carve out a position for him, but we knew he needed more to do. So we began trying to form a business in late 2016. We had to come up with a name, trademark the name, develop logos, and start to get the word out. We also decided that we wanted this business to be a non-profit company. I strongly believe that people gravitate to good causes and I wanted our company to be one of them. We received our non-profit status
in October 2017.
Anne with some of the crew at Pawfectly Delicious
You mention employing young adults, in addition to your son, with disabilities.
How many people do you employ and how do you reach out to find them?
When your child has special needs you tend to socialize with families just like your own. We have a community of wonderful families that we’ve met through Special Olympics, school, Boy Scouts and other community organizations. I started a special needs Boy Scout troop in 2004 and my dream was to someday provide something for my guys to do when they became grown men. Several of my former scouts are involved in our company as well as a few young women we have met through Special Olympics. Right now, until we can find additional resources and grant funding, everyone is considered a “volunteer,” but eventually they will be on our payroll. On any given day, we have 3-4 young adults with disabilities working with us in the kitchen along with 3-4 adult volunteers. We hope to grow and employ 10-12 young adults with
various disabilities in the next 1-2 years.
Does everyone lend a hand to baking, packaging, etc or are jobs specialized?
We try and capitalize on the strengths of each person when it comes to assigning tasks. Everyone has something to contribute in their own unique way. However, I know there are certain young adults who are better at cutting out biscuits and others who do a better job at packing. However, everyone is exposed to all the tasks first so that we can assess where they will be most successful.
Bryan of Pawfectly Delicious
Tell us about how a day of treat-making is organized and what your workspace/kitchen is like?
We have been fortunate to have St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia provide us with kitchen space at no cost. The kitchen has a high quality commercial convection oven that makes baking the treats a breeze. However, we must prepare our dough for baking at another location (my kitchen) which adds a little wrinkle in our process. I do not have a large capacity mixer so dough must be made in batches and that is quite time consuming. We bake and pack treats on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2. Everyone arrives at the church kitchen and we wash down everything, organize our supplies, prepare our baking sheets, as well as put up tables for treat packing. Depending on who can participate for the day, we then decide who will cut out treats and who will pack and label. We really feel like we have a good system so far and most important, everyone is smiling and feeling like they are doing something meaningful.
What do you enjoy most about your business? What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects?
In order to do well, you must do good. I truly believe that we all must look at the world and try and contribute to something bigger than ourselves. Seeing my son and his peers with special abilities find self worth and meaning when they feel a sense of accomplishment is so heartwarming and rewarding to me. The most challenging aspects for any new business is resources. Finding sources to fund your idea and to support
your cause I feel is the biggest challenge.
Do you have dogs and are they eager to help with “product testing?”
We have a four year old Whoodle (half Wheaton Terrier, half Poodle) named Friday and he is the company›s resident treat tester. Our ginger treats are made from all natural ingredients and they are actually a basic gingersnap cookie. Trust me, they are loved by both dogs and humans alike!
Where can your treats be purchased?
Right now, we sell our treats at local farm stands as well as the Pink Pony Shop on Mackinac Island in Michigan. Our plan is to branch out slowly to local retail establishments in the DC metro area. Our website also provides online purchases as well. pawfectlydelicious.org
Why did you choose Evermine for printing your labels?
I was drawn to the originality and creativity of all of your products. I wanted our labeling to stand out and to be high quality. We haven’t been disappointed.
A big thank you to Anne for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing yummy treats with us. We did a doggie taste test of our own and Umi (pictured above) definitely gives them “crunch-crunch” 5 stars! Very best wishes to Anne, Bryan and the whole treat-making team.
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