I recently met Amy Noltemeyer at the Aspire 2017 awards, where her social enterprise, Growlers Dog Bones, took first place for Emerging Social Enterprise of the Year.

Growlers Dog Bones is a nonprofit whose goal is to provide adults with disabilities viable employment and vocational opportunities.

Amy is herself a teacher, which makes her a constant life learner. Her own son, Max, is autistic, and as he was going through high school, they started exploring employment opportunities… because she new Max needed something more fulfilling than staying at home. It’s very challenging because autism spans quite a range of capabilities. How schools have adapted to meet these needs varies greatly, and opportunities are quite limited.

So, Amy decided to start her own venture to train those with disabilities, such that they could make a meaningful contribution to society. In the last year, the operation has grown, and working with local breweries to turn their spent grain into healthy premium quality dog treats has been a huge hit.

Throughout the podcast, I was in awe of Amy’s gratitude to the amount of community support — although she remarked that in the beginning, she felt like people were playing a game with her… seeing how far she’d make it with a pat on the back and a “come back once you’ve had success”. Even with that, she’s had tremendous support, and she’s emerged herself in learning about running a social enterprise — and found that many of her skills from the school district proved to be invaluable in organizing and coordinating the business, employees, and volunteers.

Her energy and enthusiasm are awesome. If you’re in Columbus this weekend, I would encourage you to attend the Festival For Good at the North Market on September 29th & 30th — a showcase of local social enterprises… Growlers Dog Bones included. Your dog will fully appreciate it.

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