The Year 2020 was significant - it was the year of COVID-19, when thousands of people lost their lives in a global pandemic that brought along with it the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
It was the year that Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and numerous others were killed at the hands of police, setting off Black Lives Matter protests across the country and around the world.
It was also the year I launched my very first business. This last one seems pretty insignificant by comparison. In a world where people were losing their lives left and right, I decided I was going to sell dog treats.
To be fair, I didn't know this was how 2020 was going to turn out when I planned to launch Kono's Kitchen.
I wanted to launch Kono's Kitchen because I wanted to share the benefits of raw feeding but also understood that not everyone can afford the time or money it takes to put your dog (or dogs) on a completely raw diet. So I figured we'd start with freeze-dried dog treats and expand from there.
My cause, my primary mission, in launching Kono's Kitchen, was to give back a portion of the profits to the medical costs of a featured rescue pup each month. I wanted transparency in our donations, a face to the dog or dogs we're actually helping. So many dogs get euthanized each year due to medical conditions, and I don't want that to be what keeps them from getting adopted.
In addition, having adopted a pit bull, I'm passionate about ending BSL and educating both myself and others on the pit bull "breed". But if I'm really that passionate about injustices that pit bulls face on a daily basis, such as people crossing the street to avoid them or banning pit bull parents from living in certain apartments, why am I not more passionate about injustices that Black Americans face every single day because of a system that was rigged against them?
When I read this article on Pet Hiding in Black America, one of the things that struck me the most was a story of a woman who was on welfare in order to raise her four children. They had a dog, which they weren't allowed to have on welfare, and when the welfare lady came by, they hid the dog. This connection to our pets is something that we all have in common, despite racial and economic inequalities. Even in the Great Depression, people would sacrifice their own wellbeing to keep their pets fed.
Pets and racial inequality are more intertwined than they might seem. With that in mind, here are some primary reasons I decided to launch Kono's Kitchen with a clear stance on our support of the Black Lives Matter movement from day one:
I'm not launching a company for dogs. I'm launching a company for humans.
My initial intent behind this statement was that I believe it's incredibly important for us to take care of ourselves before taking care of our dogs. Self-care and supporting one another as pet parents is a big part of who we are as a company.
But upon more recent reflection, I realized that the more significant intent for what this means is that we stand behind the fundamental human right to live. It's heartbreaking that this is a right that people are still fighting for, but we want to keep the fight going until we achieve equality for all.
This is a company for humans and we stand behind Black Lives Matter.
What's the point in launching your own company if you can't use it to create change?
Aren't we ultimately looking for meaning in the work that we do? This is such a defining moment in history. How we move forward, how we define ourselves, is of paramount importance. I myself am guilty of not having put enough thought into what it meant to build a diverse company. I figured, until I actually start hiring people, it wasn't something I needed to really think about. Between myself and Kono, we've got one human and one dog, which is pretty diverse.
But I started reflecting on ways I could be an ally and that starts with the kind of company I want to build, not just who I hire.
Showing how we support Black Lives Matter is how we hold ourselves accountable to actionable change.
Writing down a list of things we're committing to as a company from day one is what holds us accountable. We don't presume to know best and we're constantly striving to be better and we WILL make mistakes. But we will speak up, and act, and donate, and when we mess up, we will learn.
These are the ways we are committing to promote diversity & inclusion and fight for justice:
- We're committing to supporting and partnering with POC & female-owned businesses
- We're committing to donating monthly to various organizations that are fighting for change for the Black community
- We're committing to celebrating our differences and creating an anti-racist culture
- We're committing to listening, educating ourselves and holding each other accountable
This fight is far from over and there's a long road ahead. But we believe there's a better tomorrow where Black Lives Matter to everyone, and we will put in the work until that happens.
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