CHASKA, Minn. (KMSP) - A dog treat bakery in Chaska, Minnesota, is cooking up something special for young people with disabilities. It doesn't have a store front yet, but its owners believe they have a recipe for success.
Twice a week, a rented commercial kitchen in Chaska turns into a dream factory. But this is no cookie cutter operation. All the employees have disabilities.
"It's about making some money so I can get out of my parents' place and get my own place," employee Dallas Gibbons said.
As a special education teacher, Angie Gamades believes young adults on the autism spectrum and with other intellectual disabilities have all the ingredients to be good employees.
But it can be hard for them to find jobs, so she and her husband started their own business named Finley's Barkery, named after their own dog, to hire them.
"Everyone loves dogs. I knew the tasks of making dog treats was repetitive, which is something a lot of our employees need. They need to do something repetitively in order to learn those skills over time," Gamades said.
So every Tuesday and Thursday, a half dozen employees mix, roll and cut sheet after sheet of dog biscuits They then bake, package and sell the tasty treats online and special events like dog shows and dog parks, all while earning some dough of their own.
"One of the most important jobs and one of the reasons Finley's Barkery exists is to get these people out in the community and practice some of that social interaction piece. We're more than just a dog treat. We're a social opportunity. We are a social enterprise that invests in people," Gamades' husband and fellow special education teacher, Kyle Gallus said.
From the smiles on her employees faces, Gamades is pretty sure her bakery isn't barking up the wrong tree and the greatest benefit is knowing she is helping her employees unleash their potential.
"I love it. The time flies. We have so much fun and I couldn't be more proud to be where I am," Gamades said.
The couple plans to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy their version of a food truck called a "Bark Truck."
They plan to use it to transport their employees to those special events so they can sell their treats.