Lindy and Company is a gourmet pet treat bakery with a mission: provide a transitional jobs program where homeless youth can master the basic work skills needed to secure and maintain employment.
The idea stemmed from Daybreak, a nonprofit agency in Dayton, Ohio, USA, that has been providing emergency shelter, housing and support for homeless youth since 1975. “After seeing so many of our older youth losing job after job, we created Lindy and Company,” says Linda Kramer, CEO of Daybreak. “We toyed with a lot of different business ideas, from jewelry making to landscaping, but decided on a pet treat bakery after talking with a donor who was willing to provide us with the start-up capital if we named the business after his beloved dog, ‘Lindy.’”
One hundred percent of Lindy and Company proceeds are used to support homeless children and youth.
From idea to execution and beyond: Lindy’s growth
Lindy began by partnering with a local bakery, Ashley’s Pastry Shoppe. “They let us use their bakery for a full year, connected us with suppliers, and then helped us to open our own bakery and store in 2012,” says Kramer. “Our first recipes were developed by a local ‘human bakery’ and our shelter cook.”
The company’s treats are oven-baked with all human-grade ingredients and no artificial preservatives. Lindy uses more than 100 local four-legged “taste testers” to determine viability of new products and, in August 2016, the company launched Lindy’s Bakery, a new product line of 10 treats. “The Lindy’s Bakery line includes five of our most popular original recipes, like ‘Cheddar Chompers’ and ‘Peanut Butter and Bacon,’ and five new grain-free, gluten-free and vegan recipes, like ‘Pumpkin Pie’ and ‘Carrot Cake,'” says Kramer. “In addition, we are currently testing two new grain-free recipes and hope to develop a line of soft treats in the future.”
The community has been vital in helping Lindy expand, according to Kramer. “The support from our local community has been overwhelming, and when they learned that we were growing out of our space and needed a larger facility, individuals, foundations and corporations provided funding to make it possible,” she says. “We are now under construction and expect to open the community’s first Employment and Education Center for homeless and disconnected youth. The Center will accommodate a new, 8,000-square-foot Lindy and Company bakery, a full-service employment support center, and partner agencies that offer complimentary educational and employment training programs.”
Making a difference and improving the bottom line
“As a true social enterprise, we have to operate with a double bottom line: a ‘program’ line and a ‘business’ line,” says Kramer. “So far we’ve been focused on the program line, which is providing homeless youth with work experience so they can secure and maintain long-term employment.”
That focus has been Lindy’s greatest source of pride, according to Kramer. “If you were to ask me what we were most proud of, I’d have to say that in 2015, Lindy and Company was able to provide 44 homeless youth with paid work experience and that 37 of them were subsequently hired by outside employers,” she says. “I like to say that we know we’re making a financial impact when our youth get their first paycheck and demand to know, ‘Who is FICA is why is he taking my money?' It’s important for people to understand that we’re not training our youth to work in a bakery. We are teaching them how to be good employees. Our youth experience every part of the business, from mixing and baking to shipping and customer service. They are discovering the types of work that they like and that they don’t like while learning the importance of being on time, working as part of a team, and doing a task well—even if it’s a task that they don’t like.”
The new Lindy’s Bakery line of gourmet dog treats has jump-started what CEO Linda Kramer is expecting to be significant company growth in the next year. | Courtesy Lindy and Company
As Lindy continues to grow, the other half of running a company is coming into play more. “Now we’re beginning to focus more on the business line,” says Kramer. “We sell our product online and have a few partner vendors in other states, but we are now working with a marketing firm and have contracted with a few representatives to help us expand our reach nationally.”
Lindy’s launch of the Lindy’s Bakery line, in addition to a new lineup of treat flavors, included a total redesign of the company’s packaging and the addition of a new point-of-purchase display designed to help partner vendors sell more treats. “Up until now we’ve pretty much been selling locally at farmers’ markets and with local vendors,” says Kramer. “The initial response to our new Lindy’s Bakery line is very promising and we’re anticipating seeing significant growth over the next year.”
Expansion plans and the future of Lindy and Company
Lindy’s greatest challenge, according to Kramer, is balancing the program’s needs against business goals. But opportunities are presenting themselves as the company grows, and Lindy has big plans. “Our short-term goal is to earn enough revenue to support Daybreak’s emergency shelter, housing and street outreach programs so that we can reduce our dependence on government funding,” says Kramer. “Our long-term dream is to earn enough revenue so that we can provide support to other agencies like ours that are working to help the hundreds of thousands of homeless youth living in our country.”
Just the Facts
Headquarters: Daybreak, Dayton, Ohio, USA
Facilities: Bakery in Dayton, Ohio, USA; recently relocated to new facility
Officers: Daybreak CEO Linda L. Kramer; Board Chair Steven C. Mason; Board Vice Chair Barbara Mills; Treasurer Paul R. Jones, CPA; Secretary Timothy G. Rice
Sales: We have been operating as a small start-up company and are looking to see significant growth with the launch of our new Lindy’s Bakery line of treats.
Brands: Lindy’s Bakery Gourmet Dog Treats
Distribution: Currently launching a national distribution effort.
Employees: Daybreak: 100 employees
First-hand account: Ariel, Lindy and Company alumna
How/why did you get involved in the program?
I was unfulfilled in the job I was in. Working at Lindy and Company was an opportunity that afforded me a chance to enhance my skills and expand my resume while I searched for another, more self-sustaining competitive-wage job. After I began, I recognized how much I was giving back to Daybreak and this made the job even more empowering.
How has the program impacted your life?
I increased my work skills and found that I was more employable. I learned how to manage workloads and different types of people on the job. I have always hated to be late and I found and recognized how important it is to be on time and how much it falls on co-workers when someone is late or absent. It made me want to work harder to be punctual and accountable while on the job.
What would you like other companies in the pet industry to know?
Lindy and Company showed me how this particular business and its mission went beyond just making pet treats. I was able to be a part of something that contributed to the economic development of the community. I guess what I’m saying is that other pet industries have this opportunity, too. When you contribute to your community, it helps people to invest their time and energy toward building economic growth. Also, when people have jobs, they are more likely to invest in owning a pet.