Employee All-Stars: West Paw Design
Our B the Change campaign is about celebrating everyone who uses business as a force for good. We’ll be sitting down with a series of all-star B Corp employees to highlight their accomplishments and contributions to the movement.
West Paw Design, a manufacturer of pet toys, bedding, and apparel, was certified as a B Corporation in 2013. Located in Bozeman, Montana, West Paw Design manufactures 100% of its products in the United States, with 98% being produced right in Bozeman. West Paw is also committed to the environment, whether they’re using 100% recycled materials to fill their stuffed dog beds, offering organic catnip, or minimizing the waste produced by their factories.
This B Corp goes beyond incorporating good practices into their products, however. They’re also a positive force in the lives of their employees and their community. B Lab sat down with a special group of West Paw Design employees: the Donations Committee. West Paw Design donates both products and funds to various causes and events, and we wanted to talk to the employees who make that happen (left to right in above photo): Stacey Scott, Krystal Guasp, Karen Bender, Christin Swaim, Tom Grace, Damon Ortego, Kate Olson, Amy Schumann, and Sarah Craig.
B Lab: First things first: introduce yourselves and tell us what your role is at West Paw and why you wanted to get involved with the Donations Committee!
Stacey Scott: I do accounting and business analysis here at West Paw. The Donations Committee was Spencer [Williams, President of West Paw]’s idea, and I was interested right away. I had a personal interest in being part of the community. Volunteering was something I did before I was at West Paw.
Kate Olson: I work in shipping and packaging. I wanted to see what West Paw did out in the community. I knew that we already donated a lot, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Karen Bender: I work in production. I’m part of the donations committee because I think we should be able to give back to people.
Tom Grace: I work in production and toy assembly. I decided relatively recently that I was going to be in Bozeman for a while, so it seemed like a good opportunity to help. West Paw does a lot in the community, and I just wanted to be a part of that and steering it.
Christin Swaim: I work in injection molding. I joined the donations committee because I wanted to see what it was we actually did!
Krystal Guasp: I work in production as well, making plush toys. I wanted to be a part of giving back to the community and have some influence on that.
Amy Schumann: I work in public relations and marketing. I joined the donations committee because part of my job is spreading the word about the great work that the donations committee does, so it made sense to be involved.
Sarah Craig: I’m an account manager with corporate and international accounts. I’ve been on donations committee for seven years. For a while it was just me, and then we had the opportunity to make it a committee. I’ve been involved in donations from the beginning, but I stayed involved because I really do enjoy it, and I enjoy seeing who we donate to and seeing the joy from people we donate to.
BL: Walk us through the process of how you give out donations.
Sarah: In terms of donating products like toys, we have a link on our website to a donation page. There’s a small survey that people fill out and comes to us by email. Everyone has a chance to review the submissions on their own and give a yes or no answer. We meet once a month as a committee and review them again and see where the budget stands. Then we reply to each person individually.
Stacey: We get requests for money in all sorts of ways. We bring those to the committee, and as a group we talk them through and decide how we want to distribute the money. With the request for products, we really just do a yes/no vote, but when people request funds, it’s a discussion. We talk about if it’s local, if it’s pet-related. If it’s an organization an employee has recommended or suggested, we look closely at that. We want to support our employees.
Krystal: We like to do local things that will support the community. Personally, I lean more toward pet-oriented or animal-oriented causes, so if we can give toys out to shelters, or money on occasion, that’s great.
Stacey: Products that come out of the factory that are slightly damaged or defective are also set aside to give to Humane Societies in Montana and across the country. Those are definitely some of the most thrilled recipients, because they think maybe they might get something when they ask, and then these huge boxes full of toys show up.
BL: What are some of your favorite projects or organizations that you’ve supported over the years?
Amy: About a year and a half ago, we sponsored a play area at our local pet shelter called the West Paw Play Area, and we provided toys for the dogs to play with. Local people could take their dogs there, but it was also a place for the shelter to take their dogs and let them play.
Kate: I believe we partnered with Reach, Inc for a while, a local organization for people with disabilities. We employ someone from Reach and we also support their fundraisers every year.
Karen: One of the things we sponsor the K9 9k, which is a nine-kilometer run that you can bring your dog to.
Krystal: I actually ran the K9 9k a while back, and West Paw was giving out surveys at the end of the race. They were hiring, and that’s how I got on board!
BL: Do the social and environmental commitments that West Paw has affect how you feel about your job?
Tom: On the occasions when local people find out I work for West Paw, they always have personal experience with the toys or the work West Paw has done. So it’s hard to not have that affect how I feel about the job, because it’s kind of more than just a job. It’s a unique experience to work somewhere that has the reputation West Paw does in the community.
Kate: I’d never worked in manufacturing before coming to West Paw. I was in education for many years, and I’m amazed and inspired by the decisions made here. The commitment to employees was way more than I ever expected I would find working in this field.
Krystal: It does definitely affect how I feel about this place. When I tell people I make dog toys, it doesn’t ever stop at that. It’s a great company, it has benefits that not every company does anymore, it’s green, and we make a great product. I definitely have pride in what I do.
BL: How has West Paw becoming a B Corp affected you, at work or outside of work? Do you find yourself talking about B Corps more now that you work at one?
Amy: I’d say for sure! We’re always looking at different B Corps to use as retailers and seeing how they’re spreading the message through their products and their communications. I think there are are a lot of great B Corps, and it’s cool to be in their company. I think it helps us, especially when we’re explaining our B Corp status, to share how these other companies you love and support are B Corps too.
Karen: Before Spencer brought up the idea of becoming a B Corp, i’d never heard of a B Corporation before, so it’s opened my eyes to something I didn’t know before.
Stacey: If I pick up something at the store and see something with the B Corp logo, I’m like, “Oh! A B Corp! Cool!” And it’s kind of fun—yesterday we had forty people come to take a tour, businesspeople from Bozeman, and a big part of the introduction to the tour was talking about being a B Corp. It’s a really nice way to summarize who West Paw is. West Paw didn’t have to become someone different to be a B Corp: it’s who we are. The certification is a nice way to put a really great bow on describing who we are.
BL: What are your hopes for West Paw and the Donations Committee in the next five years?
Krystal: In terms of the growth of the company, I’d like to see it keep growing—which would mean more money for the Donations Committee! I’m really excited to go a different way this year in terms of doing more big projects locally. I’m excited that I get to be a part of that and that West Paw can do something like that for the community.
Tom: This might be a little fanciful, but we’re trying to lead by example. I would find satisfaction in finding out that some other company has decided to become a B Corp because of what West Paw does. I think a lot of people might look at the process of being a B Corp as being a hindrance, and I’d like to feel like we were responsible for proving that isn’t the case, that you succeed because of these things, not in spite of them.