Founder, Grounds & Hounds
For Jordan Karcher, love is a match made between canines and caffeine. He founded Grounds & Hounds, an online coffee company dedicated to giving back to local animal rescues, after a rescue Dalmatian named Molly fell into his life. In our Animal People interview, Jordan tells us how his brand featuring Molly’s signature spots is making a difference for animals.
How did you first meet Molly?
I was heading out to breakfast in Santa Monica with no plans to adopt a dog when I saw a Dalmatian pop-up adoption on the side of Montana Ave. It was nothing formal — maybe seven or eight Dalmatians and one woman. I came to know that she ran Dalmatian Rescue of Southern California. It was very small and grassroots and she was very passionate about it.
I grew up with Dalmatians and I just wanted to go play with a few dogs before breakfast. There was no real plan in mind, other than I love dogs and I love Dalmatians. As I went over to meet these dogs, a small, malnourished brown and white Dalmatian came over to me very sheepishly. She seemed a little scared but crawled into my lap. She was about 1 year old at the time, probably weighed about 25 pounds and had some ticks on her, but she was just so full of love. Next thing I knew I was just saying, “I don’t know what it will take, but how do I leave here today with this dog?”
She came into my life just that quickly and I left the adoption group with her that day. I never got breakfast but ended up at PetSmart six hours later with $1,000 tab on dog supplies, toys and all that stuff. Best decision I ever made. She has been with me, at my side every second, for over nine years now.
Are there any other animals in your life now?
I’m fostering a new dog, but I’ll tell you I’m probably adopting her. I've had Jasmine for about a month. She’s a pit bull from Marley's Mutts, where she was pulled from a high-kill Bakersfield shelter. Another dog I didn't plan on.
I was shooting content with the Marley’s Mutts team. She crawled in my lap and was licking my face while I was trying to shoot some videos we were working on. I’m clearly a sucker for it. I asked if it would help if I fostered her, very well knowing that I was planning on keeping her. She's integrated into the family really quickly. And it's been fun, because now I have Molly — who's like a human being or a roommate who is very easy to deal with — and we're kind of co-raising a puppy who has never been in a house before.
What has it been like having a young pup around again?
We're making progress each day. It takes me back to when I first got Molly, and I think you forget after nine years when they’re so easy to deal with. Molly is almost like an extension of me. I don’t have to think twice about it. Now we have Jasmine, who thinks everything is exciting, everything can be eaten and everything is a bathroom. We're going through all those stages right now, but it's kind of fun because Molly's getting a little bit of puppy energy in the process.
I spend so much time with rescue groups, and people always ask how I don’t have more dogs. If you’re around them a lot, you know the effort and attention it takes. Running a company, it can be very difficult to balance that out. We’re just around so many dogs and you can’t adopt your way out of a problem, so I always try to focus more on finding other people to adopt them. Jasmine just seemed like the perfect fit at the right time. It’s never a bad time to add an amazing animal to your life.
Were pets a big part of your life growing up?
I had one dog, Dottie, who we got when I was 2 years old, and she was with us until she was 16 and a half. She was there with me almost like my sister through the process of growing up, and we did everything together. She and I were very close. And then I had a menagerie of animals throughout the years — gerbils, snakes, lizards, hermit crabs. Whatever you could think of, I had as pets along the way, but Dottie was the only dog. We did everything together and that’s been a theme that's just carried with me throughout life.
How did Molly inspire you to start giving back?
I always had the entrepreneurial streak in me, but I was never exactly sure what I wanted to pursue. I started working with rescue groups and I was trying to get a feel for what are some of these real pain points and restrictions that are causing so many dogs to be euthanized in the U.S. each year.
It seemed to me at the time that there was a difficulty in consistent funding. I thought if we could create a business model that generated consistent funding for rescue groups, but wasn't directly related to going out and fundraising, that we could potentially generate a lot of small donations that would add up to big donations. When I adopted Molly, I was very into coffee and learning more about that industry. We can make a difference in Southern California by addressing spay and neuter problems or low-income food provisions, and if we support those programs, that correlates to lower shelter intakes.
What kind of values did you set for Grounds & Hounds?
Our coffees are a blend of fair trade, organic and specialty blends. We do a lot of direct trade, so we have direct farm relationships and try to maintain a sustainable supply chain. In addition to helping dogs, we wanted to be a great company. We want people to buy because the company is aligned with their views on the environment, and they’ll get good quality and experience. I want people to feel good about spending money on the site not just because it helps dogs, but because they’re going to have the best experience. If we have a strong core and do that efficiently then we have more funding to provide back to rescue. You can grow a business and raise capital, but at the same time have a core mission to help slow down or ideally stop unnecessary euthanasia.
How is it having Molly as your sidekick in business and life?
As far as she knows, we spend 99% of our time together. She comes to work with me and she’s always next to me. She’d traveled with me and lived with me everywhere in the country. I can say definitively for the last 10 years she has probably had the best experience that a dog could possibly have. She doesn’t know how good she has it. Her life would have been very different had I not stopped for breakfast that day on that street. That’s always part of the internal reward for me, even as Jasmine is peeing on the floor, she doesn’t know how good she has it. That's probably the thing that makes me happiest, is making the dogs happy. If I can do that, and I can help other dogs or help other people find dogs that make them as happy as my dogs make me, then we're doing something good.
Where do you see your work with rescues going in the future?
Early on, it was survival and then you start making donations and working with groups and know it’s actually working. There's always more to do, which is great because we care about the mission and what we do. I love seeing some of the impact from our donations, and I love seeing customers wearing our apparel around town, drinking our coffee and tagging us on social media. But we know that there's still so much more to do, so I still feel like we're in those early stages of just getting our feet under us, and my mind is typically more there versus patting myself on the back. You have to go in knowing there’s effort to be able to get to the reward.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about adopting or rescuing a pet?
My gut reaction is always to say do it. At the same time, I think you need to understand what you're committing to and what sacrifices you'll need to make. You need to make a personal commitment when you adopt that you’re willing to stay home on Friday or Saturday night because the dogs need attention. Understand that this is your responsibility, as if they were a child, and even more so because they have no ability 10 years from now to take better care of themselves. They’re still a dog who needs you just as much.
If you have the love to do it, then yeah, 100% go adopt a dog immediately. Your life will be better off and the dog’s life will be better. You’ll have new experiences, new memories and new stories. You will also meet new people and find companies like Grounds & Hounds and all these different organizations to get involved with. There are great organizations like San Diego Humane Society and resources like YouTube videos, trainers and local rescue experts that can help you with your animal, so it’s not all on your shoulders.
What would you say is the biggest thing Molly has brought to your life?
I started the company with her, so she’s changed everything about my life. But it’s also the people. Whether I'm at a dog park, walking her before breakfast, traveling, wherever it is, there’s a community of people I’ve met through her and through animal rescue who I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to encounter. It’s amazing with everything happening in the world that the commonality a lot of us have is our dogs. It’s a part of my life that is much more robust and filling than it would have been if it was just me living selfishly and doing what I wanted to do all the time. If you love animals, I think you've got a good heart and there's at least something we have in common from the very beginning.
Learn more about how Grounds & Hounds makes a difference for animals at groundsandhoundscoffee.com.
Published: July 19, 2021