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Community Highlights: Meet Tina Garriott of Organization-Growlers Dog Bones

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tina Garriott. 

Hi Tina, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
There are many stories inside the story I am about to share but I will explain our small beginnings. I had the pleasure to work with the 1st executive director in the 1st month of Growlers production in mid-2016 through a special needs student I served at Columbus City School. For 19 years I had been a Special Needs Instructional Assistant. The classroom taught real-life job skills at 7 different companies such as Jo Anns, Ronald McDonald, and Mount Carmel Hospital. Growlers was the first social enterprise I had been introduced to. Growlers takes spent grains from local Microbrewers and handcrafts dog treats. What a business… environmentally helpful, serving the population I have spent my whole life with and DOGS! I gladly accepted the co-founder position. We worked side by side and I soon learned we did not see the same future. I bailed from my title and my responsibilities but kept tabs as we made Growlers a new company for our job skills for the students. I felt Life would work itself out. Fast forward to Oct 2018 I received a call and was given the option to take over Growlers. This turned my world on end. I felt this was an opportunity that would require all of me (and then some) if the mission was going to be fulfilled. I asked God if indeed this was to become more …..could I do more? His answer was interesting.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Struggles are more than real they are daily and then I go bake with the bakers and struggles fade. As I have one baker telling me he loves me… another saying I am the best boss ever, how can I live with burdens pressuring me and changing my outlook. The initial takeover was rough and sometimes it is hard giving away Organizations you have birthed! There is a truth to founders’ remorse. 

We started with less than $8000 in our bank account and no real direction for the last three quarters of 2019… 

Growing did not seem an option due to paying per hour for kitchen use in the commissary kitchen we started in. The more we baked the more it cost.

In February 2020 we landed free kitchen space at Columbus State Community College. This was not only an amazing new facility, centrally located, on the bus line. I did not do more, we were blessed with more!

The people impacted by Growlers prior to me taking over was in the hundreds. After I took over, I canceled all volunteers and all vocational training (no paid employees at the time). Now we have 6 paid bakers. You can have 100s of volunteers that help and take away from paid employment. Not to mention quality control becomes hard to manage. What social enterprise are you trying to create? I wanted to see individual impact first! We aren’t making bones for just the fun of, we are making bones for a living. Our Mission Statement is somewhat more accomplished now but there is so much more to do.

We had 12 partnering breweries in 2019. I canceled 1/3 of those partnerships. If the brewery (who donated grains) would not purchase their bags of bones to sell in their taprooms it was a one way street with no support on their end to promote our product made from their grains. We now serve 30 breweries and are shipping to three other states. We are doing so much more than I could have imagined.

Lastly, since I quit my 19-year job, I lost insurance. It is amazing that we don’t have any big health insurance companies partnering with the folks that try to make a difference in the world that carry a 501c3 status. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Organization-Growlers Dog Bones?
My history is truly employment. There has always been a creative side too, but I always seem to inspire others not only to dream but tell them they only die once! I do not care to say I am known for anything but I heard I don’t let grass grow under my feet. I am so glad I walked out of my comfort zone and am choosing to make changes. 

There is so much enjoyment figuring out how to make people comfortable in work situations. We don’t always learn the same or process information alike. It truly is rewarding to find a way of seeing and grasping ideas and tasks that allow success.

Our moto is to serve man and man’s best Friend and I tell folks we influence to enlarge and enlarge to influence, 

Our mission is Helping/serving Individuals with disabilities, through employment, vocational training and volunteerism. Helping the environment is a bonus. Growlers bakers are all part of the business they help with baking, event sales, deliveries, artwork, and development of new products to name a few everyday business responsibilities. 

Please understand there is still the lack of social and spiritual aspects not being met that needs to be addressed. Can you remember how things felt being isolated from friends and events? Our plans are to accomplish MORE with Growlers so that our bakers and others get to live a more meaningful, well-balanced life in their work, social and spiritual world.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
At this point, I do not network my time is limited. The previous Director was great at this and had established many connections. I am not fine-tuned. 

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