When homebrewing hobbyist Scott Beaudry started looking for a way to reuse the leftover grain from his craft beer projects, he had to look no further than his black lab Barley for the solution: dog treats.
Beaudry researched the treat idea and played around with recipes, and within a years time, he and his girlfriend Theresa Chu, who share a home with Barley in Durham, had turned their dog treat experiment into a business.
But while the inspiration for Barley Labs is credited to the dog, the execution of the idea benefited from the friendly cooperation in the Durham small business community.
I thought we could really scale up the business, Beaudry said. I f we could use grain from a brewery.
Thats when Chu sent an email to Sean Wilson, the chief executive optimist for the Durham-based Fullsteam Brewery, asking what the company did with their spent grain. Turns out they donate much of it to local farmers to feed their livestock, but they were happy to give some to Chu and Beaudry in exchange for a mention on the dog treat packaging.
Chu said that co-marketing strategy has worked well. Fullsteam gives them grain and sells the Barley Labs treats at their bar (which welcomes dogs), and in turn, each Barley Labs bag has a sticker bearing the Fullsteam logo and information about the brewery.
Beaudry, a data analyst for the state, is the treat baker. He uses grain from Fullsteams Southern Lager because it contains 100 percent barley and has a lighter color than other grains, which means the treats dont get too dark when theyre baked.
Right now, the Barley line features a peanut butter treat and a pumpkin flavor treat. The treats are all-natural and contain no preservatives.
We wanted the ingredient list to be foods people recognized, Chu said. The crunchy treats do not contain alcohol.
Beaudry spent a lot of time perfecting the recipe they and Barley preferred.
Barley, who is a very lucky dog, got to test and approve all the treats. But Chu said they also sought out the opinions of other dogs to ensure the wide appeal of their recipe.
By the time theyd hit on a winning recipe, Chu, a communications manager for a medical devices company in Durham, had enlisted the aid of a graphic designer friend to help create the company logo and packaging.
Chu is in charge of the companys website, running their social media, reaching out to retailers and handling all other marketing.
The whole dog treat operation takes place in the couples Durham home.
Treat sales are good, they say, but the baking takes up all of Beaudrys free time. Im baking every day just to meet demand, he said.
Beaudry gets six 8-ounce bags of treats from each batch.
The treats are sold online at barleylabs.com and in Durham at Fullsteam Brewery, Parker and Otis, Bean Traders, Bull Street Gourmet and Market and at all three locations of Weaver Street Market in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough. This week, they begin selling at Mimosa Home & Gift in Wake Forest. The bags cost $6.49.
Chu has also reached out to several local independent pet shops in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, and hopes Barley Labs can expand soon.
Beaudry and Chu, who moved here two years ago from Chicago, used their own savings about $5,000 for startup money. Most of that went toward administrative fees, incorporation fees, trademarking the logo and business name, packaging and getting a business license in Durham.
But with the grain deal with Fullsteam, the company enjoys a pretty low overhead.
The couple is glad they were able to use their own money instead of having to seek out loans.
We talked about looking for investors when we first started, Chu said. But we said if we can start out lean and do it on our own, that would be better.
And if excitement and enthusiasm count for much, a larger scale operation may be in their future. And they owe it all to Barley, who they adopted from a Chicago animal shelter in 2009.
We were inspired by her, Chu said.
Barley is the voice behind the companys Twitter feed (@barleylabs) and Facebook page (facebook.com/barleylabs). And in a nod to the pups humble shelter beginnings, Barley Labs donates ten cents from every bag of treats sold to the Animal Protection Society in Durham.
And for her 4th birthday Wednesday, Beaudry and Chu are throwing Barley a big party at Fullsteam, which is open to humans and dogs alike.
Lucky dog, indeed.