CharlieDog and Friends is leading, by a wide margin, in the final round of an online Small Business Challenge where the public votes on who will win a $25,000 prize. CharlieDog is one of only 10 national finalists in the running and, with voting to close this Friday, it has a nearly 300-point lead on the second runner up. But every vote counts.
Help the Rye-based business run by New York Times sports photographer Suzy Allman by visiting smbchallenge.com and voting for CharlieDog and Friends. Allman plans to use the money to employ several people and open a workshop in Port Chester. She currently runs the business out of her home in Rye.
The business started only three months ago when Allman came up an idea she was surprised seemed to be unprecedented- plush dog toys modeled after real life shelter dogs she helps to rescue.
“We make stuffed animals based on real life shelter pets to teach kids about adopting a family pet rather than buying. And we use the toys to raise money for shelters and rescues. For every toy we sell, we are giving one to a toy drive in Virginia," Allman said.
Allman got involved in saving rescue dogs about one year ago. Rescues and shelter release lists of dogs who will be put to sleep every night at 6 p.m. A dog owner herself, Allman got involved in Facebook groups that help find owners for dogs who will otherwise be put to sleep.
“”I saw a dog online that was going to be put to sleep and my heart broke,” Allman said. “Someone in Ithaca said she wanted the dog but couldn’t get there in time. So I drove it to her. I love the experience so I do it all the time for rescues and shelters. Sometimes it is the difference between if the dog gets saved or not.”
Since gas and time are expensive, she wanted to find a way to support the cause and cover expenses. That is when CharlieDog was created.
Over the last three months, due to the support of many online dog rescue communities, CharlieDog has taken off faster than most small businesses can hope for. Allman is running out of space in her home to run the business and needs the help of the small business prize to hire more help and store the plush toys in a workshop.
About 1200 small businesses entered the contest and now only ten are in the running to win the grand prize. Help make sure it is this Rye small business by voting here.
If they are successful, they plan to use the prize money to create a plush toy workspace in Port Chester, hire a part-time seamstress and embroiderer, and share the space with other New York plush designers who might want to mass-produce their creations.
Watch a video about the business here.