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Meet the Notre Dame alum who is saving dogs, one cup of coffee at a time

JORDAN,MOLLY DOG
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Grounds and Hounds sells coffee and saves dogs.

Jordan Karcher started his company, Grounds and Hounds, while still in grad school at the University of Notre Dame. But the story really began with one rescue dog: Molly.

Karcher adopted her when he was living in Los Angeles. “I fell in love with her right away, but she also opened up my world to animal rescue. She got me thinking about how many other animals aren’t as lucky to be rescued, or how many people aren’t as lucky to find their best friends.”

And there are many other animals that aren’t so lucky. Karcher says, “2.1 million dogs are euthanized each year, and 90% of them are adoptable. So we’re talking about 1.9 million Mollys, the way I look at it.”

I fell in love with her right away, but she also opened up my world to animal rescue. She got me thinking about how many other animals aren’t as lucky to be rescued, or how many people aren’t as lucky to find their best friends.

Karcher decided to do something about it. “I wanted to be able to make a systemic change. So I thought, ‘What if I can find a way to create a dependable stream of funding through another thing I’m passionate about: coffee? What if I can get enough people to drink a really great cup of coffee in the morning, who also love animals and supporting rescue organizations as much as I do? Maybe we could make a little bit of a difference.’ That was about five years ago and fortunately there are a lot of other people out there who love coffee and love dogs as much as I do. We’ve been able to expand from an idea to having a national reach and being able to impact tens of thousands of dogs a year now.”

Chicago-based Grounds and Hounds sells organic fair trade coffee, and donates 20 percent of all its profits to its rescue partners. They’ve donated $100,000 to date, which translates to around 1.5 million shelter meals, and the transfer of 2,000 dogs from high-kill to no-kill shelters. Karcher wants to do even more. The goal is to double Grounds and Hounds’ donations over the next year.

Grounds and Hounds began, Karcher says, “In my spare bedroom in grad school, with me selling furniture on Craigslist to pay for the website. I would go to class and learn as much as I could, and then I’d go work on this. I look back now and I don’t know how I did it—I was doing this 12 hours a day and I was in school for about 5 or 6, and then I’d sleep. That was all I did for about two years. But it’s all worth it if you care about something and believe in what you’re doing.”

Karcher is clearly driven, but also humble. And his faith definitely guides his life and work.  He describes himself as, “a Catholic kid from Pittsburgh.” He says, “I go to church. That’s never really changed. I think having some guidelines in faith to help you with an uncertain world is valuable. I’m proudly Catholic.” He chose Notre Dame for his MBA partly because of “the authenticity and passion of everyone on the campus … Notre Dame felt like a home and a family.” And also because “they focus beyond the bottom line, and teach how to use business for impact, not just profit. You can create a business or career that also benefits others, that makes a positive impact in the community and in areas that you believe in.”

Karcher intends to keep going with Grounds and Hounds until there are no more shelter dogs to be saved. Molly, the rescue dog that started it all, continues to inspire him. “She makes people happy everywhere she goes, and does a great job of reminding me why we started this and what the reason for this company is every day.”

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