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Graduate student launches fair trade company

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Notre Dame MBA student Jordan Karcher has combined a love of coffee with a dedication to animal welfare to create Grounds and Hounds, a 100 percent fair trade and organic certified coffee brand that provides financial support to “No-Kill” Animal Shelters.

Karcher said he became interested in helping the animal community after adopting his dog in Santa Monica, Ca., which led him to become more active in animal adoption organizations.

“I’ve always been a dog person, but the reward you got from having an adopted dog and the way they looked at you was really incredible from a personal standpoint,” Karcher said. “I started spending more time with the rescue community in general, and I saw a lot of the issues going on, and a big piece of it is that there’s not enough awareness about what’s happening in the humane society.”

Karcher said he began developing this initiative three months before attending Notre Dame as an MBA student.

Grounds and Hounds currently donates 20 percent of its revenue to various partner “No-Kill” shelter organizations across the country, he said. Grounds and Hounds has already partnered with ten “No-Kill” animal shelters across the country, including Pet Refuge in South Bend.

“Fortunately, Pet Refuge in South Bend was one of our first partners, They got on board right away and they’ve been incredibly supportive of us since day one,” Karcher said.

“They [animal shelters] do a good job of trying to find homes, they’re just limited by time and money,” Karcher said. “I started working on different ways that I could create a business that was enticing and really beneficial for the community yet still financially feasible.”

Karcher said the company attempts to make sure the revenue from the coffee sales stays within the community in which the product was bought, so customers can see a direct impact in their communities versus donating money to national organizations.

“From my background in business, I was looking for a way to come up with a solution that creates a more steady stream of revenue and dependable donations versus having to rely on single events or adoption fees,” Karcher said.

Christopher Stevens, a lead investor in Grounds and Hounds, said he became interested in Karcher’s company due to his background in the coffee industry and his personal experience with dogs. Stevens said retailers have continued to contact the company during the year and hopes the company can achieve partnerships with 12 organizations by the end of the year.

“We’re really excited that by the end of this month, we’ll cut our first checks to the refuge shelter,” Steven said. “This summer we’ll take it to the next level.”

Stevens said he believes the company has been able to succeed due to both its product and its mission.

“Every brand and product you service has to have a why to it. People don’t want to just buy what you’re selling, people buy what you believe, what you stand for,” Stevens said. “2.1 million dogs are euthanized a year because you can’t feed them. Our goal is to cut that in a half within the next five years, that’s a worthy cause.”

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