“With 2.1 million dog euthanized in the U.S each year, 90% of which are deemed adoptable, I felt compelled to take a deep dive into the systemic issues and trends that were contributing to these staggering numbers.”
What if for every pound of Coffee you bought, a dog was saved? Well, lucky for us, and thanks to an amazing man, this is a real thing! Soul Shaper Jordan Karcher has built a company called Grounds & Hounds, that combines two of many people's favorite things— puppies and coffee.
He developed a business model that provides delicious, certified organic coffee, AND saves a dog for every pound of coffee sold. His heart and tastebuds are in all the right places.
Read his full story below and discover how the magic works.
SOUL SHAPERS: WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
JORDAN: Over the previous thirty years (weird to see “30” in writing), my life has taken the scenic, and at times off-road, route from birth in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to now operating my business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Growing up, I moved often. Primarily through the east coast.
We had a tightknit family, with two hard working parents (dad working hard in the wine and spirits industry, mom working hard to keep my brother and I from injuring ourselves doing something dumb, unnecessary…and fun). I can’t forget to mention my sidekick and littermate, Dottie the Dalmatian, who served as my four-legged sister and best friend for 17 years. For a brief anecdote, when I began dating as a teenager, I quickly learned that Dottie took exception to any girl spending too much time with her big brother. One multiple occasions, if our visitor got too close to me, I’d hear a deep, rumbling growl from my spotted supervisor, accompanied by a cold, dead stare into our guest’s eyes…
Eventually I worked my way south to play baseball and attend college (in that order) in Miami, Florida at Florida International University. As an 18-year-old, my only “business plan” was to play professional baseball, so I guess you can say I was an entrepreneur before I knew that it was an actual career path. Unfortunately, during in my junior and senior years of college, two elbow injuries derailed my plan and forced me to face the reality of becoming a productive member of the workforce. To make matters worse, I was graduating college in the spring of 2009, at the apex of the Great Recession. Jobs were scarce, starting pay was low, and every news outlet in the country was highlighting stories about the huge number of unemployed “Millennials Moving in With Mom & Dad” …
"As an 18-year-old, my only “business plan” was to play professional baseball, so I guess you can say I was an entrepreneur before I knew that it was an actual career path."
Fortunately, through a chance encounter, I was offered a role as a “Market and Analyst Intern” for Korbel Champagne Cellars and Kenwood Wines in Sonoma, CA. The offer was accompanied by a low hourly wage, vague job description, and a cross country relocation… I accepted on the spot. Though cash was tight, this unique opportunity opened my eyes to the various moving parts, functions, and set the stage for acquiring skills needed to build and operate a successful beverage company.
After five years of work in the wine and spirits industry, I decided that to take a second crack at college as a student rather than an athlete. I made the move from Sun and Palms in Southern California to Snow and Parkas to attend graduate business school at the University of Notre Dame, where Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. transitioned from a vague idea into what you can see today.
THE MOLLY STORY:
Molly the Dalmatian came into my life in at an unexpected time, and in an unplanned manner in the spring of 2012. I was simply heading to breakfast on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, CA while taking a break from packing boxes (I was in the middle of a move when I met Molly), and I noticed a small herd of miniature cows off to the side of the road (turns out they were actually Dalmatians). Naturally, with a strong affinity to dogs, and fondness for Dalmatians, I made a beeline straight to the pups. Within 45 seconds, a skinny, brown and white Dalmatian creeped over, crawled into my lap, and buried her cold brown nose into my jacket… 10 hours later I was leaving PetCo with a trunk full of dog supplies, had a new best friend, and never did eat breakfast.
Meeting Molly opened my eyes to a whole new world of social activities (I’m now a frequent attendee of dog birthday parties), people (95% of my friends today are pet parents), and most importantly, the world of animal rescue. She provided the tangible touch point and the emotional reminder that she could have just as easily ended up as a shelter statistic… still makes me cringe writing it 5 years later.
I had familiarity with the work undertaken by rescue organizations and shelters prior to Molly, but I never truly knew the urgency and magnitude of the animal overpopulation and animal welfare issues in our country (as well as abroad). With 2.1 million dog euthanized in the U.S each year, 90% of which are deemed adoptable, I felt compelled to take a deep dive into the systemic issues and trends that were contributing to these staggering numbers. Upon learning about the vast, dedicated system of rescue organizations throughout the country, I decided to create a new type of social systems business model that would provide necessary funding for key issues as identified by the rescue organizations closest to the ground.
When asked about Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co., that's often the first question I hear. And to be honest, I could give you a whole stack of data, or refer to qualitative research to support my reasoning, but more simply, for the first two years that I had Molly, every morning began with two things; hot coffee and my happy pup. Eventually, a thought began to percolate in my head, “if I wake up with this combination each day, there must be others who start their day with the same routine…”.
Then, one night while lying in bed reading “Self-Reliance” by Emerson before bed, I read a line from the essay that truly transformed Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. from an idea to my purpose:
“There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
I didn’t sleep that night. I had an urge to pop out of bed and launch the company immediately (though I didn’t know what was needed to do so…). Create an amazing coffee. Change the world… There is really no way to describe the feeling and I think it’s what allows entrepreneurs to disregard rationality and probability to take on the world.
Simply put, I am a believer that true innovation and impact in entrepreneurship need to come from within. If you can analyze your way to the outcome, there are whole teams of smart people in large organizations who are analyzing the same data. More importantly, I believe you need to observe, process, and connect large amounts of experiential and qualitative information to create something that is simply missing from the planet.
With nothing more than an idea, a mission, and a passion to do something great, I set out to create an amazing portfolio of coffees that catalyzed sustainable change at the ground level, while also serving as a reminder to enjoy 15 more minutes with your best friend.
“However, once I learned to embrace the uncertainty and struggle tied to bootstrapping a company, I realized that stress and pressure (and survival) can generate more creative energy than you would ever knew you had.”
I’ll be the first one to tell you that I am not your model example for peace, tranquility, and balance, though I love the idea of being centered and clear headed. But, the truth of my entrepreneurial experience is much more tumultuous. There are extreme highs, rock bottom lows, and rarely too much time spent in between. However, once I learned to embrace the uncertainty and struggle tied to bootstrapping a company, I realized that stress and pressure (and survival) can generate more creative energy than you would ever knew you had. I believe all business owners/CEOs/leaders all encounter similar emotional highs and lows daily, but learning to grit your teeth and move forward is the true trait that allows a business to survive and eventually thrive.
The one thing we always keep front and center within the company is that while our mission is to eradicate unnecessary animal euthanasia and improve animal welfare, our purpose as a company is to provide and amazing coffee experience for our supporters every time they brew a cup of Grounds & Hounds coffee. Our beans are 100% Fair trade and 100% Organic certified, sourced from the best growing regions throughout the world. We roast using a traditional European style, focusing on savory, full-bodied blends, ranging from light roast (Sunny Spot) to dark roast (Alpha Blend). We also offer a line of seasonal Single Origin coffees, roasted to highlight each growing region’s uniqueness.
Great coffee will always be at the core of our company and will determine our ability to generate lasting social impact in the animal welfare space. We hope every coffee sipping, rescue loving, pet parent give our coffee a try and joins us in changing the world one cup and on pup at a time!
VIEW GROUNDS & HOUNDS RESCUE PARTNERS HERE!