Photo Credit: Timothy Buck
By: Albana Adili, David Cannal, Ryan Huang, Brian Hsu, James Kim, and Abdul Zia UW Bothell School of Business
The dull light from the fluorescent bulbs in our classroom contrasted the pleasant energy students brought in as they clamored in one by one, dodging a puzzle placement of chairs and desks. While in casual conversation with one another, we took our seats and waited for our professor to grab our attention. She welcomed us to the front to meet our interviewee, Kari Kalway and before we knew it, the big blank screen at the front of the classroom was taken up by an exuberant woman with a friendly demeanor.
Kari Kalway is the head chef and owner of a local dog barkery, Puddles Barkery. Inspired by her husky, Kora, who we had the joy of meeting, Kari decided to change her career. She had often failed to find creative and healthy dog treats for Kora so she decided to use her baking skills and build a business.
Before we exchanged any greetings, Kari gave us a charming smile, the kind that instantly makes a person feel welcomed in another’s presence. After introducing one another, Kari went on to delight us with stories of how her baking hobby turned into a successful dog treat baking business she loves. Kora, her adorable husky made certain that we could not hold Kari’s attention for too long without some interjections. The occasional bark of protest could be heard as Kari turned away from her to speak with us. Treat breaks were necessary intrusions to help incentivize her furry friend to allow us to continue our conversation.
The more we spoke with Kari, it became obvious to us that her love for dogs and baking seemed to drive not only her business passions but also her philanthropic nature. Puddles Barkery participated in NAMI Seattle’s Depressed Cake Shop event where local bakers donate goods for NAMI Seattle to raise awareness for mental health and raise money for their free mental health programs. Learning about her involvement in both NAMI Seattle and Seattle’s citywide bake sale for “Bakers Against Racism” in the summer following the death of George Floyd inspired and humbled us. Kari went on to share that when you follow your passions you can encourage positivity and healing in your own life. Although more importantly, by pursuing your passions, you may also find you have the drive to enact the kind of change you want to see in the world.
After learning more about the positive impact of the volunteer work Kari had done, we hope to encourage the same kind of charitable work amongst ourselves and our readers.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you started Puddles Barkery?
KK: I didn’t know anyone in the small business industry when I first started. For the first, maybe two, two and a half years it was really hard to try to get into events. After a few years I did start to meet folks, and then I did a lot of co-mentorships with other small business owners, whether in the pet sphere of not, it was really helpful.
I have a lot of friends now that I talk with regularly about business stuff, even if it’s not in the same industry. Oftentimes not being in the same industry is very helpful, because they come up with ideas that I might not have thought about too. Having that support network, a bunch of like-minded folks that are looking at doing their own thing and figuring out how to be in this community, is helpful.
Nowadays my biggest challenge is figuring out how to make time for myself and finding people to help me so that I don’t get burnt out.
Mental health is very important. Community centered groups, like NAMI Seattle, that have these community leaders available and services are really important. It is very important to have that support network, the same for business owners or anyone else. No matter what your support network is, you just need to have support.
What do you think is a common misconception that you think people make about mental health, that you wish was better understood?
KK: I wish that there was more understanding that happiness isn’t the only goal. It’s okay to be sad. And it’s okay to be mad. And It’s okay to go through all of these emotional changes because you can’t stay in one place. But to know that the strong negative emotions don’t have to stick around. But you shouldn’t feel bad about having those emotions either. I think there’s so much pressure to insist “Oh, everyone’s got to be happy. Everybody’s got to be content, and smiling.” But sometimes you just have to, you know, yell a little bit, or get really mad, or stomp your feet, or cry because you haven’t cried in a while. You know there’s nothing wrong with that.
What kind of an impact do you think animals have on our mental health?
KK: Animals offer unconditional love. I mean they’re companionable. You can’t negate the unconditional love that you can get from a pet. You can’t negate the walks that you get from them to get you outside and get you out of the house. If you’re not feeling like getting out of bed in the morning, a dog can help you get out of bed. Even if you don’t want to. A dog could get you motivated and help you feel like you have a purpose, and I know that sometimes purpose can be a big motivator for folks who aren’t feeling like they’ve got a lot of worth in their life. Pets know when you’re not feeling great, or you know, if you need a little pick me up. They have some intuition. There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with talking to your dog, especially if you just need to voice feelings and concerns that you have.
One of NAMI Seattle’s main goals is to fill the gaps within our local mental health system. How do you think animals specifically can help with that?
KK: You know, just being able to have another living being show you unconditional love can be good for everybody honestly. Just having access to a dog, whether that’s an actual therapy dog, or just someone else’s pet that you can have some time with, I think that’s super beneficial. Petting a dog can be very cathartic. They’re soft, and that’s another living being that you’re showing your love to. I think animals are very beneficial to mental health. Honestly, every city needs more mental health solutions, they need to be approachable, and maybe pets are a way to do it!
You can help support Kari through her website at https://www.puddlesbarkery.com/ where you can buy treats for your furry friends as well as accessories for them!
You can support mental health through NAMI Seattle’s own family & friends seminar at: https://namiseattle.org/programs/programs-for-family-friends/family-friends/. This is a free four-hour seminar that helps inform people who have loved ones with mental health conditions on how to best support them.
This interview was edited for clarity and length. This is a collaborative piece written by a group of University of Washington Bothell School of Business students in Professor Laura Umetsu’s Business Writing course.