The following post is from our interview with Food Truck Empire, click here to listen to the 2019 podcast!
Today we are speaking Sarah Feoli the Founder of Rescue Chocolate, a vegan and organic chocolate bar company that donates 100% of its net profits to animal rescue. Each month, the company partners with a different rescue group to provide financial support and drive awareness for their important mission. Rescue Chocolate is also a Certified B Corporation Honoree, meaning the business meets very high standards for positive impact.
Sarah founded the company in 2010 after an inspirational morning walk with her adopted pit bull named Mocha. After enjoying a bite of chocolate, Sarah got the idea there should be a chocolate bar company that raises awareness for pets and contributes proceeds to animal shelters. On that morning, the idea for Rescue Chocolate was born.
Each chocolate bar flavor highlights a specific animal rescue issue in a fun way. Some of the most popular bars are Peanut Butter Pitbull (the top seller) and The Fix, which help raise awareness for spay and neuter.
One of the issues Sarah had when she founded the company was that while visiting and donating time to animal shelter was fulfilling, it could also be a really heavy experience. Another goal of Rescue Chocolate as a more light-hearted way to bring awareness to an issue that often leaves people feeling down.
Share this episode of the podcast on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll be automatically entered to win The Four Paw Collection Gift Box from Rescue Chocolate. This giveaway is thanks to our amazing show sponsor the payroll processor Gusto.
This doesn’t solve everything, but it’s a really fun way to think about the issues and to educate people who might not think about it.
One of the biggest lessons from Sarah’s story is that you can launch a food business without a team full-time employees, investing in equipment, and renting a longterm space to convert into a food manufacturing center. Sarah is able to operate her business as a one-woman show.
This doesn’t mean that Sarah is doing all the chocolate bar making herself either. Sarah learned early on that you can partner with a factory that’s able produce bars or other products with by following a proprietary recipe and specifications. Sarah also partnered with a chef to create these unique chocolate bar flavors. The taste testing of course is an important part of the operations to keep in house!
By going this route of partnering with a factory and chef, Sarah was able to really bootstrap and save on the startup costs. The first version of the packaging design didn’t require a designer. As a result, Sarah was able to produce her first run of a few hundred chocolate bars without taking out a loan, looking for partners, and investing in potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in overhead expenses.
Another piece of market advantage that Sarah brought to the table was experience working at a raw chocolate company. By working as an employee she was able to get an understanding of how the ins and outs of the industry works and flavor combinations that paired well together.
The lesson here is that most food businesses you could create are going to require a lot of overhead investment. But before you begin investing in infrastructure start to ask other people in the industry about alternative options to accomplishing your goal. There are often creative options that can be used to achieve the same result.
One of the super powers of Sarah’s is her ability to generate press for her company. Part of the reason Sarah is able to generate this press is because she’s got a powerful story and mission for the company that goes beyond making money.
When Sarah tells the story of walking her adopted pit bull and eating the chocolate you get an immediate visual of how the idea for the company came into the world. When she share’s the fact that the net profits go toward that’s a powerful mission that everyone can connect with.
This powerful story has helped Rescue Chocolate generate major exposure in outlets like the LA Times, CBS, Time Magazine and other outlets. To pay out of pocket for this level of reach would cost tens of thousands of dollars in advertising.
From a tactical standpoint, Sarah submits press releases regularly in an effort to get picked up by press outlets. Sarah uses the free option of PR.com and 247PressRelease.com to publish these updates.
For example, every time there’s a new partnership with an animal shelter a new press release is written and syndicated through places like . By staying consistent these continue to be picked up and create ongoing promotional opportunities.
Overtime, Sarah stays connected with people in the news industry including bloggers and writers by maintaining a list of PR contacts through MailChimp. Over the years her list of contacts has continued to grow.
The other benefit to joint venturing with different organizations each month is that it creates a cross promotional opportunity. The animal shelter will promote the partnership across social media and with local media as well. This creates a very synergistic marketing event that happens every single month.
As a takeaway from Sarah’s journey, think about how your business could pair a larger mission with your product. This does not mean that you necessary need to donate proceeds to a certain charity. Maybe your organic granola bar has a mission is to help improve overall heart health.
If you’re struggling to find a mission / story for your own product, look toward your own personal interests and passions first. If fighting homelessness is important to you, see if there’s a way that your product could help there. If mental health is important, find ways to get involved here.
At the end of the day, people connect with stories. Understanding your businesses story and mission will not only help improve the bottom line, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process too.
Getting product into store shelves is often viewed as the holy grail of food products. Sarah has also been extremely successful getting her product into retailers like natural food stores and gift shops. Most of this business was acquired by picking up the phone and making a cold call to the retailer.
Sarah describes the cold-calling process in our podcast interview. But the gist of it to find a retailer where the product could be a good fit. Then calling the business and asking to speak with the buyer. At this point, Sarah is usually referred to an email address for the buyer. Then an email pitch is made that shares the story of Rescue Chocolate and details about the product line and cost.
This is the point where having a powerful story can really help yet again to differentiate your food product from everyone else that’s contacting the buyer. Then the product itself needs to perform from a sales perspective and be really high quality to get reorders.
There’s also a wholesale business where they can produce custom labels for weddings or birthdays. This is another source of revenue and way for people to discover the brand.
Even though Sarah is someone that really understands marketing, at the end of the day she recognizes that producing a high-quality product key to a sustainable business. We’d like to sincerely thank Sarah for taking the time to join us on the podcast and sharing the story of her food business!
Animal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, no-kill animal rescue and welfare organization that has been passionately serving animals and the people they love since 1969. Its mission is to reduce animal suffering by providing assistance to abused, homeless, injured, and sick animals; find loving, dependable, and nurturing forever homes for the animals in its care; actively promote the altering of all pets to reduce overpopulation; and educate the public by promoting respect for all animals, the ethic of compassion, and the need to be kind and responsible stewards.
Animal Aid was founded in 1969 by Jack and Kathryn Hurd. A radio talk show host and animal welfare advocate, Jack spoke on air about the number of cats abandoned in Laurelhurst Park near his and Kathryn’s home. The Hurds’ direct work in animal rescue began with “Chicken Charley,” a half-dead kitten they found and nursed back to health. Chicken Charley was later accompanied by 12 more cats that the Hurds rescued from their neighborhood.
When Jack’s listeners heard about the problem, they called in to discuss their own animal-related issues. Many people told stories of their sick or injured pets and how they could not afford the necessary veterinary care. Jack and Kathryn realized that something needed to be done to help these people and their pets, and it was then that the concept of “Animal Aid” was born.
Jack’s first step to assist his listeners was enlisting the help of local veterinarians who were willing to offer reduced rates for their services. The Hurds also solicited pet stores for food and supply donations. Jack and Kathryn helped pay for some hardship cases, and eventually listeners called in to donate to other listeners. Over time, the couple acquired a team of 15-20 core volunteers who would help with fostering, adoptions, delivering food, and more.
Animal Aid officially became a non-profit organization in 1971. Its original mission was to provide food for domestic and wild animals, to provide funds for routine and emergency veterinarian care, to rehabilitate and return wildlife to its natural habitat, and to promote the humane treatment of all domestic and wild creatures. Jack and Kathryn continued to build Animal Aid until May of 1977, when Jack passed away.
The Animal Aid Cares Fund was inspired by the remarkable couple. It was created to help those who are facing urgent and overwhelming veterinary expenses without the means to pay for them. Animal Aid works in partnership with veterinarians across Portland to offer each partner clinic or hospital the ability to submit one grant request per month, at their discretion, to cover medical costs up to $500.
In 2014, the Fund was expanded to incorporate Helping Hands grants. Helping Hands grants were developed to support animals adopted from Animal Aid's shelter who have health or behavioral conditions that make their adoptions more financially challenging to their forever families. The grants can assist with medications, training, or unexpected medical treatment.
In 2015, Animal Aid began offering Synergy grants to fellow animal welfare nonprofits to assist animals in their care with needs beyond their own financial capacity. Synergy grants are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Animal Aid’s C-SNIP program is a partnership with Portland Animal Welfare (PAW) Team to provide funding for canine spay and neuter procedures to homeless and extremely low-income Portland-area residents. This program was initiated thanks to a bequest from the estate of Patricia Smith, a local animal lover who requested that her donation be allocated toward spay and neuter operations. Currently, C-SNIP funds 100% of PAW Team’s spay/neuter surgeries and, since the program’s start in May of 2015, has assisted more than 350 dogs.
The Heartstrings program is another wonderful initiative to make an impact in the lives of Animal Aid’s shelter animals. Many Heartstrings pets are long-time residents who are still waiting for their forever family. They may be senior pets getting passed by for the youngsters, formerly abused and neglected pets needing more tender loving care, shy pets requiring extra reassurance, or animals with a medical condition.
Rescue Chocolate is honored to be a fundraising partner with Animal Aid this month!
Old Man Winter is going to deliver quite a punch this year, particularly in the nation’s Northeast, which is predicted to see above average snowfall and below average temperatures. Wherever you are around the nation, though, it’s time to prepare your canine companion for the harsh winter elements Old Man Winter will be packing.
You can take some important steps to make sure your dog is not only warm and cozy, but healthy and safe during the upcoming season. Here are some tips.
Preparing for Outside Play
In general, if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog, so enjoy outdoor play time on days with milder temperatures and decreased wind. Additionally, if your dog is sensitive to cold, plan outdoor time for later afternoons when the sun has had ample time to warm things up. Other things to consider:
Before - Depending on your dog’s coat, size, and age they may need an extra layer of winter warmth in the form of a coat, and all dogs should have on proper booties before you head out. If you dog refuses to walk in booties, the ASPCA recommends massaging petroleum jelly into their pads to protect them.
During - There are some important considerations for your outdoor time: 1) keep time short if your dog is displaying signs of being too cold like shivering, whining or weakness, 2) watch where your dog is playing so that they are unable to get into chemicals or stray onto frozen surfaces like ponds and 3) watch for slick surfaces that cause slipping and injury, particularly to elderly pets.
After - When you get back inside, it’s important to do a good wipe down. A towel with some warm water will remove any potential toxic chemicals that they picked up while outside.
The cold, dry weather can wreak havoc on your dog’s skin. Eliminate bathing as much as possible during cold weather. Also, consider adding a skin and coat supplement to their food.
Your dog will utilize more energy in the winter months to stay warm, and sometimes that can lead to weight loss, but overfeeding can also be problematic. It’s best to discuss with your vet specifically what, if any, dietary changes should be made.
Preventing the Flu
Just as with humans, dogs can develop influenza, and proper veterinary treatment is required. The canine flu, referred to as H3N2, exhibits with similar symptoms to an upper respiratory disease with nasal discharge, congestion, malaise, lip smacking and excessive salivation.
You may think your dog is only at risk for dehydration in summer, but winter presents the same dehydration risks, so keep the water flowing. And if you’re headed outside for a long walk, take a bowl and a bottle of water.
Antifreeze that tastes like a sweet lemonade to your canine friend and rock salt are two poisons that pose life-threatening risks to your pup. If your dog displays symptoms of drunkenness or dysphoria, seek emergency medical treatment.
Special Consideration for Senior Pets
The cold weather can be even tougher on elderly pets, so you’ll want to take some precautions. According to Redfin, “Both cats and dogs have slightly higher resting body temperatures than humans, so when it is colder outside make sure they have a blanket in their bed and an area to sleep in the sunlight during the day. Also be sure to dress your dog in booties and a sweater when taking them outside to potty, because extreme changes in temperature increase risk of illness.”
Winter months can be stressful for your dog as they begin to feel cooped up, just like you. Make sure to get them outside on mild days, and consider adding some form of indoor exercise to keep them stimulated and happier during extended indoor periods. And when Old Man Winter is simply too much, enjoy some snuggle time and keep each other warm. Spring will be here before you know it.
Better By the Dozen
With a new year just around the corner, which rescue group has been designated as our main beneficiary? Well, we settled upon an even dozen! As we did in the first years of Rescue Chocolate, we have chosen a different partner for each month, hailing from all around the nation. Here is our 2019 roster of extraordinary rescues:
January: Animal Aid
March: No Kill Colorado
April: Associated Humane Societies/Popcorn Park
May: Bobbi and the Strays
June: Fur and Feather Animal Sanctuary
July: All Souls Connected
August: Hurricane Pets Rescue
September: Midwest Rescue of Illinois
October: Famous Fido No Kill Rescue
November: Friends for Life
December: Pets for Patriots
Enjoy another chocolate-filled year as we funnel your dollars to these great organizations!
Guest post by Jessica Brody
for ASPCA Month (April 2018)
Pets are good for you! According to the Centers for Disease Control, having a pet can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and decrease feelings of loneliness. But the benefits run both ways -- by getting a pet you’ll be helping another living being to enjoy a happier existence -- especially if you adopt from a rescue shelter. However, looking after an animal is a lot of responsibility. Read on to learn the main things you need to keep in mind.
Get the Right Pet for You
Many people already have a strong sense of which kind of pet is suitable for them, maybe due to growing up with a certain pet. If not, the stereotypes about cats and dogs hold roughly true -- cats are more independent as they can entertain themselves when left alone and get by in a smaller living space. Dogs need to be walked, need more contact with you and ideally a yard to run around in. They are better for people who are at home a lot, but enjoy getting outdoors often.
There’s also a lot of variation between breeds of cats and dogs. For example, many high-energy dogs including Irish setters or Jack Russell terriers don’t seem to have an off-switch while others such as bulldogs might have trouble keeping up with you. Ask at the shelter to make sure you’re getting a pet that suits your lifestyle.
Prepare Your Home
Whichever pet you choose, make sure there are no harmful items around that they might chew on or try to eat. Cover up electrical cables, and ideally unplug appliances when not in use. For dogs, this includes the trashcan, so get a dog-proof one.
Cats require some additional steps, because they will climb on everything, so don’t keep anything valuable or hard to clean up on a tables or shelf -- including plants. Cats will also try to play with anything string-like, including blind cords, so make sure there’s nothing like this around and secure all windows as they will try to escape.
Finally, make sure you’ve bought everything you need -- food, scratching posts, bowls, a bed, litter tray, leash, and toys.
Get Off On the Right Paw
If you’re bringing a cat home, leave her in a small room to start, which contains food, water, a litter tray and scratching post. Let her out of the carrier in the room and let her look around. She might hide and that’s okay; let her settle in naturally. If she comes to you, try playing with some cat toys, otherwise leave her to it. As she starts to look more comfortable and shows signs of wanting to explore -- which may take days or weeks -- you can let her into a larger area of the house.
For dogs, a similar principle applies -- give them their own space and let them come to you. However, when you first arrive home, take them to their toilet area first and reward them with a treat. This is the start of house training. Again, if she comes to you, play with her and teach her simple commands like “sit.” This interaction will help you to bond. Don’t forget to take her out for regular walks. If you work long hours or will otherwise struggle with this, hire a dog walker to make sure she gets the exercise she needs.
Take Care of their Health
Ask the shelter what vaccinations your pet has received. For dogs, the main vaccines you need to worry about are canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies. For cats, the main ones you need are panleukopenia, feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I and rabies. You may need other vaccines depending on where you live, so find a local vet and make an appointment to discuss this. You should also get your pet neutered or spayed, both to reduce undesirable behavior and to prevent the pitter-patter of additional tiny paws.
Being a first-time pet owner can be challenging. There’s a lot you need to know, and it can take time for your new family member to adjust. Just make sure your home is prepared, and give them time. Your new furry friends will settle in soon enough.
Rescue Chocolate is proud to announce our 2018 beneficiary: Old Dog Haven. We chose this group out of 50 applicants for their terrific work on behalf of abandoned senior pets.
Old Dog Haven--based in western Washington state--is not a single shelter but a network of foster homes which provide care for senior dogs who have been abandoned. The group has more than 300 dogs in permanent care, and it covers vet bills of almost $90,000 per month.
Founded in 2004, Old Dog Haven has so far rescued 5,000 senior dogs, and counting!
When the members hear about a dog who still has a reasonable life expectancy, they attempt to make adoption placements. If a dog-owner needs to re-home his or her own animal, they assist with referrals.
While heroic measures are never deployed to extend life, the members are devoted to keeping the dogs as healthy and comfortable as possible.
Here’s a bit more information from OldDogHaven.org:
All too many dogs of advanced years find themselves terrified and confused at shelters, where their chances of adoption are almost zero. Others are desperate for a new home because of an owner’s death, a move, owners working much longer hours, trouble with small children in the home, or bad financial circumstances. Many of these dogs are in poor physical condition as well, making them even less appealing to others. Helping them is sometimes challenging, is often expensive, but is very very rewarding. Our goal is that their last years are happy and that they die safe and at peace, knowing they are loved. Wouldn’t we all wish this for our own pets and for ourselves?
A Few of Our Contributions
We thought you might like to see what your Rescue Chocolate purchases have made possible in the way of donations to animal rescue organizations. The list below shows donations we made during the first 11 months of 2017. It contains both cash gifts as well as the value of in-kind chocolate goodies and gift certificates.
In addition to these donations, Rescue Chocolate has supported hundreds of other groups by supplying chocolate at below-wholesale prices. The groups then re-sell the bars and truffles at the regular retail prices, keeping the difference as fund-raising income. Please let us know if you or your rescue group would like more information on how that program works.
We are pleased to support the work of these wonderful organizations, see all of our rescue partners here.
Some of our 2017 contributions:
|4 Luv of Dog Rescue||$25.00|
|A Home For Every Living Pet||$6.00|
|All Shepherd Rescue||$6.00|
|Animal Friends of Westmoreland||$25.00|
|AniMall Pet Adoption||$25.00|
|Athleta Sherman Oaks||$150.00|
|Bark in the Park||$25.00|
|Best Friends: LA||$25.00|
|Best Friends: NYC||$180.00|
|Best Friends: Strut Your Mutt||$25.00|
|Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue||$25.00|
|Broome County Humane Society||$25.00|
|Butte Humane Society||$25.00|
|Catskill Animal Sanctuary||$25.00|
|Central Indiana Lab Rescue||$25.00|
|Compassion In Action||$225.00|
|Everett Animal Shelter||$25.00|
|Feline Community Network||$25.00|
|Foster Dogs Inc.||$2,087.30|
|Friends Animal Shelter (TN)||$25.00|
|Friends of Mount Vernon Shelter||$25.00|
|German Shepard Rescue of N. CA||$25.00|
|Global Sanctuary for Elephants||$25.00|
|Green Acres Farm Sanctuary||$25.00|
|Greyhound Pets Inc.||$13.00|
|H&P Animal Alliance||$25.00|
|Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary||$3.00|
|Havanese Rescue Inc.||$25.00|
|Heart Rescue Team||$25.00|
|Heartland Farm Sanctuary||$308.10|
|Ho-Bo Care Boxer Rescue||$25.00|
|It's All About the Paws||$25.00|
|Justice for Animals||$25.00|
|Karma K9 Rescue||$8.00|
|Kelly Foster Kittens||$25.00|
|Lighthouse Farm Rescue||$25.00|
|Logan County Animals||$25.00|
|Longears Mini Donkey Rescue||$25.00|
|Loveland Farm Sanctuary||$25.00|
|MarrVelous Pet Rescue||$25.00|
|Milwaukee Pug Fest||$25.00|
|My Dog is My Home||$25.00|
|Needy Paws Rescue||$50.00|
|New York Animal Care & Control||$226.00|
|North Shore Animal League||$40.00|
|NY Bully Crew||$52.90|
|One Tail at a Time||$6.00|
|Oregon Rescue Challenge||$25.00|
|Paws to People||$25.00|
|Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary||$25.00|
|Pibbles & More Animal Rescue||$8.00|
|Pit Bull Rescue Central||$45.00|
|Pit Sisters (Jacksonville Beach)||$6.00|
|Providence Animal Center||$25.00|
|Puppy Rescue Mission||$25.00|
|Quincy Animal Shelter||$25.00|
|Raising Aid for Dogs At Risk||$63.00|
|Regional Animal Shelter||$25.00|
|Rock the Rescue||$25.00|
|Rockin Pets Foundation||$15.00|
|Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue||$25.00|
|Safe Animal Shelter||$25.00|
|Save the Trailer Park Cats||$3.00|
|Shelter Animals Rescue Group||$25.00|
|Sioux Falls Area Humane Society||$25.00|
|Small Angels Rescue||$16.00|
|South Central Bloodhounds||$3.00|
|Survivor Tails Animal Rescue||$25.00|
|Tactical Team for Protection of Animals||$25.00|
|The Bunny Hutch||$25.00|
|The Humane League||$24.00|
|The Rubin Museum||$30.00|
|Three Pits & a Lady||$25.00|
|Valley River Humane Society||$25.00|
|Wags & Whiskers Pet Rescue||$25.00|