Petstuff on the Go is one of our newest Buy Social Certified Social Enterprise suppliers! Learn more about them below and learn about Buy Social Canada here.
Petstuff on the Go is a non-profit social enterprise, one of many social enterprises created through Affirmative Ventures. Petstuff on the Go sells pet food, toys, treats, beds, pets and so much more. But more importantly, it’s an employment-training centre that helps people gain the employment skills they need to move on to more permanent paid employment. In other words, their purpose is to help people find great employment, and the vehicle they use to get there is selling pet goods. In the words of Lori Edgar, Director of Operations for Petstuff on the Go, “the quality of the service we provide to the clients is our number 1 service!”
Lori Edger has been with Petstuff on the Go since the beginning, and was happy to chat with us about her recent Buy Social Canada certification and the organization: “We’ve recently celebrated 23 years in business - it feels like forever ago that we started! Right now we have six staff people who are trainers, managers, etc., and we work with 80 clients who work in the shop and receive training each year."
And it doesn’t stop at Petstuff on the Go - that’s just where it all started! They now have a ten unit apartment building, home delivery business and grooming service as well as the pet store. These things were added over time as Lori and her team saw the need and interest not only from customers but from the clients they served.
As Lori says, “some [clients] wanted their license and driving experience, others needed housing; we help clients move forward in their lives through our various work programs.” Petstuff on the Go’s motto is: Helping people work makes a difference.
When asked how Petstuff on the Go’s programming has helped change lives, Lori had a hard time picking just one example; with 80 clients a year spanning over 23 years, she certainly has touched a lot of lives.
“We had one young man who started working here just after getting out of the hospital, and his dream was to work at a movie theatre. That was a real passion for him, and he wanted to do anything he could to make that happen. His social skills were fairly low but through the work program here he really built up his confidence and skill set. We helped him secure his job at the theatre, and it’s been almost a year now since he started working there! Management there really values him and he’s planning on working hard to move up to management himself one day."
Lori couldn’t ask for a better success story. “Success for us is when people move on and get paid employment in an area that they want, or they choose to go back to school to pursue their passion”. And this isn’t a one-off example, either. Petstuff’s major success is in getting people into jobs that work for them through their training and employment program.
“We have a 89% job maintenance success rate here,” says Lori, “which means of the people who move on to other employment after us, 89% of them keep that job and continue working there on a permanent basis.” And that’s not all Petstuff on the Go does, believe it or not! Through the passion of Lori Edgar and the staff there, they’ve even opened an Entrepreneurial Corner to help sell the products made by other employment agencies in the area including goods from clients of the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network, NS Autism Society’s Promise of a Pearl, and Always Us.
It’s really great, Lori beams: “someone brought in dog beds for sale in the Entrepreneurial Corner this week, and they’re really nice - very neat actually! We also sell jewellery, and hand-knitted things as an example. Some entrepreneurs from the Common Values store that used to be on the Halifax Commons sell their items here. This gives people a venue that helps them sell and grow their business over time - and there are some really neat things that come in."
Petstuff also mentors 24 youth each year through the Acee Program, to help build strong work skills and character. “First jobs are really formative in building a strong work ethic and building mutual respect for employees.” says Lori. “We all remember our first jobs and how lost we were in trying to figure it all out. It’s important to have good support and training at that time. Through our regular training and Acee, clients are part of the success and failure of our store; they get to be part of business and understand how it all works from the employers’ perspective. If more employers could do that from the beginning I think many young employees would be in a better place.”
Lori was asked how she currently buys social, in light of her new Buy Social Canada certification: “We buy as much as we can locally. We have to buy some food from outside the province but leashes and dog biscuits are purchased locally. Signage and advertising is done with local businesses.”
And by enforcing these purchasing habits at work, it has really encouraged staff to change their personal shopping habits. “When you buy local and social at work, it impacts personal choices,” says Lori. “We renovated our house and my husband and I shopped completely local. Even where we go to eat and get coffee - we have to know the product protects and supports workers and that the owners are living in and contributing to local communities. It’s second nature to us now. We know it’s something you have to do to keep our communities strong. We try to teach clients these value of social purchasing during financial literacy training.”
The opportunity and challenge, says Lori, lies in marketing, especially with their closest partners and clients. “We work with 80 clients a year, says Lori. “Probably only about 10% of their families shop here right now - so there’s a big opportunity for growth there. There’s no reason not to shop here - it’s convenient and our prices are on par with other stores and sometimes better, like in the case of our food.” Partnership with other non-profits for the sale of goods is also something Petstuff on the Go wishes to tap into in the future.
In terms of the Buy Social Certification, Lori is excited. “I think [Buy Social] will make the concept of buying to support social impact more front of mind for people. Like we talk about fair trade coffee and local shopping, buying to support people getting jobs and living more independently is something people would support if they knew that’s what we did. Buy Social gives us membership to a group and brand that people can ask about and that we can put on brochure and website.”
“It’s kind of like when you have a milk sign in your window that tells others what you’re buying. By putting Buy Social on our materials, people will start to understand that we’re doing much more than selling pet goods here.”