DURHAM — Scott Beaudry and Theresa Chu said they were disappointed when they found out their dog-treat company didn’t win a Super Bowl commercial in Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest. Their main concern, however, was how to break it to their supporters.
“The immediate thing that entered our minds, ‘How do we tell all of these amazing people who have been fighting for us and voting and trying to get the word out?’ ” said Chu, who along with Beaudry founded Barley Labs, named for the couple’s 5-year-old rescued mutt Barley, in September 2012.
The Durham company, which makes all-natural dog treats out of Fullsteam Brewery’s spent grain, beat out nearly 15,000 businesses and nonprofits to become one of four contest finalists in November.
On Thursday, Intuit announced GoldieBlox, an Oakland, Calif., company that makes construction toys for girls, won the grand prize, which includes a commercial that will air during the third quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The other two finalists were POOP - Natural Dairy Compost in Nampa, Idaho, and Locally Laid Egg Co. in Duluth, Minn.
Barley Labs posted about the loss on Barley’s blog Thursday night.
“We thought maybe it might hurt a little, but less coming from the face of our dog,” said Chu, 33, a part-time communications coordinator at Genesis Home, which provides housing and services for families with children. Beaudry, 39, works full time as a data analyst at N.C. State University.
The blog includes pictures of the black 5-year-old Labrador retriever mix happy, sad and then happy again as she realizes what the company has gained from the contest.
Since the couple entered Small Business Big Game in August, Barley Labs’ total sales have increased by 128 percent, Chu said. The company went from selling in 14 retailers in North Carolina and Virginia to 21 retailers in six states, and national online company Wag.com started selling Barley Labs’ cheese, peanut butter and pumpkin-flavored treats on Friday.
“That has been great for us,” Chu said.
The growth has accelerated the couple’s business plan, which called for making the treats in their home for three to five years. In December, they moved production to The Cookery, a Durham commercial kitchen incubator, and started looking for their own space.
Chu and Beaudry’s contest prize package includes $25,000 and a commercial and airtime on national television. The money will help cover the transition to the new space, the couple said. The Barley Labs ad will air after the Super Bowl.
Since Wednesday, the couple have been in New York City, spending time with the other finalists, Intuit executives and celebrity entrepreneur Bill Rancic, the first winner of NBC reality show “The Apprentice.” On Monday morning, the four finalists will accompany Intuit Chief Executive Officer Bill Smith to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ MarketSite.
“We are excited about that one,” Chu said.
Between the meetings, media interviews and rooftop parties, the owners are checking in with a friend, who is fulfilling online orders in Durham. They will also visit an animal shelter, donate some treats and highlight adoptable dogs on their blog.
“As a small business, you are still hustling, even while you are having some fun in New York,” Chu said.
As for Barley, she is lying low and running with her doggy day care friends at a Raleigh boarding facility.
“She is probably a lot of happier there than she would be trying to deal with New York City,” Beaudry said.
Bridges: 919-829-8917; Twitter: @virginiabridges