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WestFair Business Publications Writes ‘Dog treat company helps employ people with disabilities’

By Frank Pagani, WestFair Business Publications – There have been a lot of tails wagging since Good Reasons LLC, a new dog treat company in North Salem, launched July 1. But this is not just another producer of tasty morsels for “man’s best friend.” Rather, it’s a not-for-profit venture with a unique mission: to create and market a line of all-natural, tasty snacks for canines — the proceeds of which to be used to provide employment opportunities for people with autism and other disabilities.

In the first three months of operation, the results were very promising, said Vicki M. Sylvester, the founder of Good Reasons. “We have created a full line of dog treats to please any pooch’s palate and have sold more than 1,500 bags of our biscuits via online orders as well as through a network of 21 locations that we have created by leveraging our contacts and pounding the pavement.”

That network of outlets is diverse, ranging from Shampooch in Mamaroneck and the SPCA of Westchester County in Briarcliff Manor to Linda Rich Salon in New Milford, Conn., and Adams Fairacre Farms in Lake Katrine, Newburgh, Wappingers Falls and Poughkeepsie.

Sylvester is the inspiration behind Good Reasons’ value proposition. For more than 30 years she has been a highly effective advocate for the disabled and has served as CEO of Community Based Services since 1998. The nonprofit organization, established in 1981, was one of the first to provide a high level of individualized care for people with autism and other developmental disabilities through residential and community-based programs.

Initially, that company was called Three Brown Dog Barkery LLC, named after Sylvester’s canine trio. But the name was changed to Good Reasons to better reflect the company’s overall mission.

There are 20 people, under Sylvester’s direction, who are actively involved in helping to assure that Good Reasons will thrive. In addition to production, marketing and sales, the team assesses and prepares candidates for employment by developing their skills. Currently, there is one full-time and five part-time developmentally disabled salaried individuals on staff. Sylvester’s aim is to create 10 full-time positions by January.

The key to increased employment is significantly boosting sales. There are three varieties of dog treat flavors — peanut butter, cheddar and pumpkin — that are the creation of chef Allan Katz, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America who has served as head of the commissary at CBS with the responsibility of developing the dietary plans for the disabled community it serves. A dog lover, Katz is busy working his culinary canine magic to create five additional varieties of dog treats by year’s end.

The treats are baked and packaged at facilities in Poughkeepsie and Brewster. Sylvester said that on some days as many as 12 people participate in the production. “Some are employed and others are in our pre-vocational program, learning soft skills necessary for future employment, while others are volunteers.”

Consumers can purchase the treats online at goodreasons.com at $7.99 per 7-ounce package (there is a flat $5 shipping fee on orders of $20 or more). The company also leverages its Facebook and Twitter pages to increase sales. Plans are also underway to create a product line comprising T-shirts, hats and others items showcasing the Good Reasons brand. Sylvester said she hopes that by forming partnerships with other agencies in the Hudson Valley, new outlets will be added to the distribution network as well.

“We have the potential of becoming a role model throughout the state and beyond that will inspire other companies to provide jobs to people with disabilities. That is the long-term goal we are striving for,” she added.

Sylvester has assembled a highly attractive and remarkably young management team to assure that Good Reasons will succeed. They are Gracie, age 6, who serves as CEO (chief eating officer) and her brothers — Tucker, 6 (COO, chief “odorable” officer) and Hudson, 3 (CFO, chief finicky officer).

With so much on their plates (primarily promoting the brand, serving as the company’s cutest ambassadors and sampling the treats before they are shipped), they hardly epitomize the “dog’s life” often associated with so many of their peers. As part of the team, they are simply too busy with the task at hand, as succinctly stated in the company’s tagline: “Unleashing Pawtential.”

Click here to view the full WestFair Business Publications article.