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Pawgone Good: How a Local Black-owned Business’s Resilience is Promoting Education and Philanthropy within The Community

According to Forbes, the United States boasts over 33 million small businesses, making up 99.9% of all businesses in the country. However, of those 33 million, only about 2 million are owned by women or minority individuals. While there is a clear gap in representation for female and minority small-business owners, women like Jai Fletcher are helping to change that narrative. 


Fletcher, a Black woman from Atlanta, Georgia, is the founder of Pawgone Good, a holistic pet food company operating out of Columbus, Ohio. Pawgone Good is dedicated to producing nutritious dog treats and revolutionizing the pet care industry. As a dedicated pet parent, Fletcher began to notice the need for dog treats with human-grade, traceable ingredients, when her dog Bausyss passed away as a result of health issues that arose from intestinal problems. 


“I remember going down this rabbit hole of trying to understand what ingredients were in [Bausyss’] dog food,” she said. “I would turn around the package to read the ingredients, but you don’t know what those things actually are, which was quite embarrassing when my dog was ill.” This realization drove Fletcher to the decision to quit her current position as a Global Strategist to pursue her dreams of revolutionizing the pet food industry. She began R&D efforts and the formulation of unique recipes, but unfortunately, she ran into an obstacle: the COVID-19 pandemic. 


However, instead of letting this deter her, she took it as an opportunity to grow as a businesswoman. She explained that she “was in the position of needing more money to invest in the company, but also in need of education because the pandemic taught all of us so much about the need for more cybersecurity, and improved e-commerce systems in the event of another shutdown.” To fulfill these needs, Fletcher decided to return to work which brought her to Columbus, Ohio to work for Kellogg’s. In this role she worked directly with higher-ups at the largest grocery store chains in the Midwest, helping her understand how to align Pawgone Good with the wants of the largest grocers in the area. 


Through this experience, Fletcher has been able to sell her brand in 7 grocery stores across 3 different states as of November 2023. These stores include local establishments like Lucky’s Market and Clintonville Natural Food Store. Additionally, all of Pawgone Good’s treats, apparel, and class information can be accessed on the website, pawgonegood.com

Through this experience, she developed four sectors of Pawgone Good: an organic dog treat line, a designer apparel line, a matching pet-parent clothing line, and lastly, treat-making classes. The treat line, named Pawlicious, includes treats, each with fewer than 10 ingredients that are sourced from Midwestern farmers. The classes are broken down into two categories: youth classes for people ages 5-17 and adult classes. The youth classes include an array of all-natural ingredients labeled with their various dog health benefits that the children can choose between. The children formulate their recipes, roll out the dough, and are able to see the finished product of the treats they have created the very next day.

Similarly, the adult classes give individuals the opportunity to create nutritious treats for their pets, but they emphasize the human-grade nature of the treats. For example, Fletcher explained that one adult class they offer is a “dog sushi roll” making class. These classes, Fletcher said, have fulfilled her desire to give back to her community. “I have a strong commitment to philanthropy and community engagement,” she said. “Financially, some of the more expensive treats on the market are not affordable for some clients, so having the alternative to teach people from their homes has been incredibly fulfilling.” 


Fletcher explained that while she is proud of the growth her company has made, currently her biggest struggle is making each treat by hand without the aid of any machinery. She explained that this “has limited her ability to mass produce, which has made getting into certain retailers a challenge.” However, she is optimistic about Pawgone Good’s ability to grow over the next year, setting the goals of expanding from 7 to 25 retailers selling her products and securing one global partnership.  


While there have been both successes and setbacks in Fletcher’s time as the CEO of Pawgone Good, she explained that her business was born out of a time of great unrest. She said she started her company at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, following the death of George Floyd. 


“During that time there was a big pull on supporting Black businesses, and I realized that there was a lack of representation for African Americans in the pet industry,” she said. “I knew that a lot needed to change and that this could be a vehicle to bring me toward my purpose.” 


For Fletcher, Pawgone Good has helped her serve her purpose of unifying people. She explained that a company in the pet care industry particularly appealed to her because it was not inherently geared toward a certain demographic. More specifically, she said that her product “is not geared toward a certain race, gender, or age. Whether you are 5 or 100 years old, you can get excited about a dog, which is what is so great about Pawgone Good. It can bring together communities.” 


While Fletcher began Pawgone Good as a way to increase representation and make a change, she says that she does not mean she equates her race to her level of opportunity. In her opinion, “what separates successful people is the willingness to do what others will not.” While she says she has likely faced barriers due to race, she instead chooses to focus on her work ethic and “surrounding [herself] with people who believe in the products regardless of that.” 


Ultimately, Fletcher and Pawgone Good are a prime example of the impact one can have on their community through effort and perseverance. Although various obstacles popped up along the way, Fletcher remained resilient, and Pawgone Good’s continuing growth is a testament to that work ethic. Furthermore, Fletcher has capitalized on the unique opportunity to leverage her successes to give back to the community around her and increase representation. 


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