More than just business*
When I started working on Oxford Dogma, one of the first things I did was get clear on my guiding principles. These principles come from me personally, are the things I care most about, and they needed to be baked into my business as well. One of these core principles is to be conscientious -- treating animals, people, and the environment with respect, appreciation, and care.
For me, this includes is participating in social good. I'm inspired by the one-for-one business models, and wanted to find a way to contribute to society as a small-scale maker. There are countless causes and organizations I'd like to support. If I could, I'd support all of them. But I know from experience that trying to push myself in too many directions causes burnout, so it became my mission to focus on a cause that connected with me personally and was something where I could contribute my skills and talents.
Puppy-dog eyes everywhere
In the summer of 2014 I visited an animal shelter for the first time and adopted our sweet little Pipsqueak. I entered the shelter unprepared for just how many animals needed adopting. While I was very happy to be bringing our girl home with me, it was very sad to leave all of the other animals there.
Pipsqueak, looking scrawny and scraggly, in our ride home together after her adoption
Finding a way to support animal shelters would become my primary cause. Animals have always held a special place in my heart. They soften the hard edges and help my husband and me share something special and meaningful together -- something bigger than us as individuals (like kids do in many homes).
Adopting Pipsqueak opened me up to a whole new world of animal lovers. Previously, we had cats who were pretty much the center of our universe, but since cats stay home they have a different role in our lives. Dogs go in car rides, go camping with us, walk outside with us, meet (or pester, as the case may be) all the other dogs in the neighborhood…they need us in a different way and we form rituals around their daily behavior.
Losing the cats to old age and spending too many months without any pets at all made one thing clear: Pets make me happy. They make millions of people happy. For us, life without them is a little too quiet, a little too serious, even a little too selfish.
Finding my own way of doing social good
After we got Pipsqueak, the shelter sent an email checking in and suggesting ways we could continue to support them. And soon after, I caught a segment on PBS about sewing cage comforters and donating them to shelters. Cage comforters are like simple little quilts that fit in a cage and help the animals get off a cold surface and be more comfy. That was the perfect fit.
With each purchase of an Oxford Dogma product, I'll sew a cage comforter and donate it to a local shelter to help an animal waiting for their forever home be more comfortable.
Update: During my research to find shelters who'd like to receive some cage comforter donations, it's become more clear that what animal shelters need most is monetary support, followed by a list of specific items to help run the facilities. I'll still be making a donation with each purchase, but I'm going to open up my commitment for supporting them by donating that which will help them most -- likely money or wish list items. Or if their greatest need is cage comforters, great!
There are so many animals at shelters in need of rescuing. Until I had done it myself, I didn't have any idea how rewarding and life-changing it could be -- both for the pet and for us. It's neat to hear about states who are designating shelter pets as their official pets.
* For more on this idea, check out the Kindle Single Betterness: Economics for Humans by Umair Haque. It's a bold call for organizations to make the shift from business to betterness. As he puts it: "I believe it’s the next step in the evolution of prosperity and that its foundational principle is living lives that matter in human terms."