This guest post is by Allison, a young woman with Down Syndrome who started her own dog treat business. Allison is applying for our Supporting Small Businesses That Hire People With Disabilities Grant Opportunity ran by my nonprofit KFM Making A Difference. You can learn more about the grant opportunity here.
I hope you can support my nonprofit like I’m trying to support our community. I also produce educational videos to celebrate neurodiversity by spotlighting individuals impacted by a diagnosis. Learn more on how you can help our cause with a small donation (just asking for $3 today, equal to your daily cup of coffee) here.
My name is Allison Fogarty, and I am CEO and Dog Treat Chef for my business called Doggy Delights by Allison LLC. I have known that I wanted to be a chef since I was 11 years old. I had a rough life because of medical problems, and when I was 11 years old I was told that I needed a g-tube in my stomach. I would not be able to eat or drink until I had several surgeries. It ended up taking two years before I could eat and drink by mouth again. It was torture for me and hard for my family. Instead of staying away from food, I started watching Rachael Ray and other chefs on the food channel. It feels like Rachael Ray saved my life. She is my hero because she made me feel like I could cook like her. When I was finished with high school and my mom retired from teaching, I said that I wanted to have a job cooking like Rachael Ray. We started making lunch for the teachers at my mom’s school and that is how I learned so much about cooking.
Three years ago, we moved from Illinois to Florida. I was not at all happy to move, but it turned out great in the end. The Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida was just starting their Entrepreneur Academy when we moved. Before it even started, my parents and I figured out that I could make dog treats by myself. The Academy helped me and my parents a lot with how to start a business. They gave me many opportunities to sell my treats and see how dogs like them.
Everyone says, “Allison, do you have a dog?” and the answer is no. (Actually I was afraid of dogs when I started my company; I do have 4 cats who don’t care about treats.) Before the COVID virus I sold treats at the Clermont Farmers Market. Meeting all of the dogs and their owners was awesome. I realized that I really do love dogs. After we bought a freeze dryer I started selling freeze dried treats online. We just bought our third freeze dryer!
The very best part of having my own business is meeting my dog customers and their owners (at the market and other events), doing interviews and talking about my business, and getting emails from my customers with pictures of their adorable dogs. I love seeing how happy my treats make them.
I have been so lucky! So many people are interested in my business and my story. I was on The Rachael Ray Show on FaceTime and then she invited me to New York to be on the show in person. It was the BEST!! I was so excited! She invited me to come back on the show again! I have also been in Women’s World magazine and I was just named as one of Orlando’s 40 Under 40 Professionals Class of 2020!
I have big dreams for my business. I want to hire people with disabilities because it is hard to find a job. People with disabilities may have issues that make it hard to find and keep a job. For example, I still have many days when I feel too sick to work. Being the boss is perfect because I can usually take a day off and then work harder other days.
I work very hard to make the best dog treats. I found recipes for dog treats online and then found out what ingredients are good for dogs and what ingredients are not good for dogs. I changed the recipes to be healthier and tastier for dogs. Then I tested them on dogs. Now I make six different kinds of treats: Peanut Butter Delights, Pumpkin Delights, Grain Free Sweet Potato Delights, Chicken & Rice Delights, Yogurt & Berry Delights, and Salmon Training Treats for Dogs and Cats. I know that most dogs love treats and they really love my healthy treats!
Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education.
Have Kerry, one of the only professionally accredited speakers on the spectrum in the country, speak at your next event by sending him an inquiry here. If you have a referral for someone who many want him to speak please reach out as well! Kerry speaks with schools, businesses, government agencies, colleges, nonprofit organizations, parent groups and other special events on topics ranging from employment, how to succeed in college with a learning disability, internal communication, living with autism, bullying prevention, social media best practices, innovation, presentation best practices and much more!