Making a difference with your small business: Cause-driven marketing

Posted June 07, 2012, at 4:31 p.m.

On a hot August day two years ago, Jenna Spear started her business in her home in Wiscasset. She wanted to combine her passion for dogs and baking, so she came up with the idea of making dog treats.

Jenna’s business, Zelda’s Biscuit Bakery, produces grain-free dog treats which are undoubtedly loved by all canine companions, and sold at stores across the midcoast. Zelda’s mission is clear and concise: to promote pit bulls in a positive light; provide healthy treats to dogs using as many local sources as possible; and to support the Dog Rehabilitation Center and Sanctuary of Maine (10 percent of all proceeds go to support them).

Eliminating the stereotypes of the pit bull breed is inherent in the Zelda brand. Zelda, her now-8-year-old shelter dog that is a pit bull mix, makes that easy. With help from smiling Zelda, Jenna created a business brand that is fun and whimsical. As Jenna says, “When you see Zelda’s happy face on our packaging, it is hard not to smile.”

Jenna’s business mission guides her on a daily basis. She describes her typical day: “Some days I bake, others I make phone calls or travel to work obtaining more wholesale accounts, others I work on design elements associated with new products or travel to one of our local sources for our quality ingredients. We source many of our ingredients locally including the following: buckwheat flour from Bouchard Family Farms in Fort Kent, honey from Beth’s Farm Market in Warren, eggs from Bowden’s Eggs in Waldoboro, and labels from The Copy Shop in Wiscasset.”

Part of Zelda’s Biscuit Bakery mission statement is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Dog Rehabilitation Center of Maine. The decision to use that business model is extremely relevant. Jenna explains, “DRCM is an organization that I hold near and dear to my heart. About five years ago, I moved to Maine from upstate New York. At that time, I had two dogs, both of whom had negative pasts and were a challenge to handle. Zelda was rescued from a drug raid when she was 6 months old. She was kept in a crate in a back room, afraid of other animals, fearful of men and unsure how to behave. In Oliver’s case, I was his eighth owner. While surfing the Internet, I came upon a Craigslist post that talked about dog rehabilitation. I called the number on the post. Sergei Bachkovsky and his wife Lisa, who run DRCM, are some of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met. Sergei, along with his large pack, helped me and my dogs have better lives.”

The concept of donating a portion of business proceeds to charity is called cause-driven marketing. It is a great option for businesses that can’t necessarily write a big check but want to help a charity and, at the same time, generate good will for the company. For Zelda’s Biscuit Bakery, adopting that business model was a no-brainer.

Jenna explains, “I decided to give a portion of my business proceeds to the [DRCM] because they help so many dogs that others won’t. There are so many owners like me who desperately need guidance and DRCM gave me and my dogs that guidance. In fact, with Sergei’s help, I was able to expand my pack to include Sadie. Sergei shares my love of pit bulls and he and his pack demonstrate how great these dogs can really be. I was trying to think of a way to raise money to help support them in an effort to raise awareness, give back and say thank you. This was one of the many reasons Zelda’s Biscuit Bakery was created.”

Recently, Zelda’s Biscuit Bakery has undergone a big growth spurt. A recent layoff from full-time employment has allowed Jenna to spend more time on her business. While working on new products and participating in the Boothbay Farmers Market, Jenna also has started an online fundraising campaign through Go Fund Me. The funds raised will convert an unused space in her basement to a more functional business space. Jenna says, “Go Fund me is a great platform for raising money to help Zelda’s grow.” The campaign lasts until June 15.

Of the perks: Jenna says, “I love being my own boss and Zelda especially loves that I’m home with her. Having a lunch break that includes a game of fetch is a great reminder of why I’m self-employed.”

Jenn Dobransky is the microenterprise coordinator for the midcoast for the Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community. She can be reached at jenn.dobransky@maine.edu.

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