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Mini-cast 162: Shopping EO and Mud Bay Pet Stores

The EsOp Podcast: Shopping Employee Owned and Mud Bay Pet Stores

Bret Keisling shines the EO Spotlight on Mud Bay, an ESOP and a top 20 US pet store chain and largest based in the Pacific Northwest and discusses the importance of shopping employee-owned businesses for holiday gift giving. Bret also gratuitously mentions his new dog Dayzi.


Mini-cast 162 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: Welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. The holiday season is upon us. As we're releasing this episode, we're coming towards the end of Hanukkah and at the end of December, of course, Christmas and Kwanza will arrive.

[00:00:28] There are many reasons to enjoy and celebrate the holidays, be it religious, cultural, or secular, but one thing is certain: no matter the holiday gifts are often a big part of it. It probably won't surprise you to know that we at the EO Podcast Network encourage you to, whenever possible, shop employee owned.

[00:00:45] There can be some challenges to shopping employee owned for the holidays; finding the companies to buy from. The NCEO and Vermont Employee Ownership Center both have gift guides on their websites, but they're not necessarily expansive, although they do provide options. In addition, there are a number of employee-owned companies that provide their own gift guides or collections or holiday specials.

[00:01:06] While we were researching this episode, we came across Mud Bay, which is a really cool chain of pet stores in the Pacific Northwest. They're one of the top 20 pet retailers in the US and the largest pet retailer headquartered in the Pacific Northwest.

[00:01:22] I'd like to think that I bring all of the information to you on this podcast objectively and without favor, but I need to disclose that I have a conflict of interest. Just two months ago, I adopted Dayzi a nine-and a-half-year-old English Springer Spaniel who's elderly owner had passed away. I'm not sure that a pet store would have really hit my radar as much as Mud Bay did prior to my adopting Dayzi. But that said, oh my goodness, what a cool company, everything about the vibe, the prices, the website, the background of the company; really cool.

[00:01:54] First of all, to the gift guide. They've assembled a great variety of gifts for the holidays. Everything you could possibly need for your pet or for your friend's pets or your family members pets, or if you want to get a gift for my pet. I'm kidding about that part. We'll include a link to Mud Bay's gift guide in our show notes.

[00:02:11] Now, let me tell you a little bit about Mud Bay. It was formed in 1988 when Elsa Wulff bought a tiny farm store and within a couple of years, her children had joined the company. Mud Bay's focus in the early days was on consumer education and healthy foods for dogs and cats. It was a successful strategy. In 2000 Seattle's largest chain of pet stores became insolvent and Mud Bay undertook the process of acquiring the stores, changing itself, implementing the best of Mud Bay with the best of the other company. And by the end of 2002, they had 85 employees.

[00:02:43] Through the years they continued to grow and in 2015, they launched an ESOP, allowing every "Muddy," which is what they call their employee owners, an opportunity to own part of the company. They were named Pet Business Pet Retailer of the Year in 2015, and they continue to carefully consider new ways of expanding to meet their customer needs.

[00:03:03] As a new dog owner. I love Mud Bay's website. I love their vibe and I love that they continue to approach their business in the best spirit of employee ownership, which is not maximizing profits, but rather how they can truly benefit their pet and human customers, as well as the hundreds of employee owners.

[00:03:21] Probably the coolest thing about Mud Bay is the fact that upon its conversion to an ESOP in 2015, all of the Muddies, the employee owners, signed a declaration of employee ownership. It's a really cool document that shows the vibe of the company and its sense of humor. And we'll include a link in our show notes to where you can find the declaration.

[00:03:40] I hope this holiday season that you'll consider shopping employee-owned companies for all of your holiday needs. I'd also respectfully suggest that a wonderful gift would be to make a donation to your favorite EO organization in the name of somebody you wish to honor or remember.

[00:03:55] Speaking just for me, I'd rather shop employee owned if at all possible. And if not, I then try to shop at small to medium sized businesses, including B Corp's or other businesses that reflect the social values of employee ownership.

[00:04:08] Regardless of what you use to consider when you shop for presents, I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season. And my hope for 2022 is that employee ownership truly becomes a movement.

[00:04:20] Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret. Keisling. Be well.


[00:04:24] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you. You can find us on Facebook at EO Podcast Network and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. This podcast has been produced by Bret Keisling for the EO Podcast Network, production assistance by Victoria Huerta, original music composed by Max Keisling, branding and marketing by BitsyPlus Design, and I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.

A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The EsOp Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


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