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Meet the vendor: PawsAbilities

Meet the vendor: PawsAbilities
Posted on 07/08/2020
Jessika Hamrick with PawsAbilities pet productsDebbie Horn is the mother of a son with special needs. Six years ago, she realized there were few options for him after high school. With her son and his friends, Debbie began offering fitness, arts and life skills programming for individuals with developmental disabilities. This turned into a nonprofit called Inclusion Connections.

The growing organization launched a much-needed job training program two years ago to teach skills and provide job placement for young adults with disabilities as they age out of school. PawsAbilities trainees design, make and sell dog treats and other pet products. 

Initially, trainees made the dog treats with hand mixers and rolled out everything by hand. Through the help of a grant from the Kansas City Royals, PawsAbilities was able to open a bakery in Olathe. Now they have an industrial kitchen with large stand mixers and rolling machines that allow them to scale up production. PawsAbilities operates a small retail store in Olathe and can be found at Lenexa Farmers Market every Tuesday. 

In the beginning, to meet customer demand the PawsAbilities team did a lot of resale in their store. Today, 90% of what they sell is handmade by adults with special needs, and 100% of what they sell at Lenexa Farmers Market is made by these individuals. They make gourmet dog treats, dog and cat toys, pet bandanas, and they embroider hats and tea towels with fun pet-related sayings.

Marketing Leader Jessika Hamrick says the special ingredient is their people. Folks buy items for their pets because they are passionate about them. They return to buy more because they appreciate the value of PawsAbilities’ mission.

PawsAbilities offers job training for adults with special needs and helps the students get paid jobs in the community. They provide classes on healthy living, nutrition, art, customer service, résumé and interview skills and transport students to and from their jobs. PawsAbilities looks at the interest of each person in their program to find the right employment fit for them using PawsAbilities as the training ground.



Published July 8, 2020