By Ashley C. Simpson
If you could design your own version of heaven, what would be the top two non-negotiable elements of your personal utopia?
For a lot of people, those top two would be desserts and puppies. Think about how much less stress and how much more joy your world would have if you could incorporate more sweet treats and cuddly dogs in your everyday life.
Recently, Kimberly McDonald, owner of the Gainesville bakery Simply Desserts, had an idea along these lines: to combine these two important, positive aspects of her own life for the greater good.
This past January – even before celebrating the first storefront anniversary of Simply Desserts, a full-service, award-winning bakery in the Virginia Gateway Promenade shopping center – McDonald established a corporate partnership with the local non-profit organization Semper K9. Founded in 2014 by a local Marine and his wife, Christopher and Amanda Baity, Semper K9 trains and provides service dogs at no cost to veterans of the United States military.
Upon learning about Semper K9 last year, McDonald – an Air Force veteran herself and a lifelong besotted dog owner – said she knew that Simply Desserts simply had to get involved.
“When I first opened the business, we put a ‘Tip’ jar out,” McDonald explained. “I always had it in mind that the tips would go toward team dinners. However, I wanted to give back and put aside 10 percent of the tip money so that we could donate it to a charity at the end of the year. Over the months, I kept thinking about which charity to contribute the proceeds to. In December, I happened to be reading the Prince William Living magazine. There was an article about an organization that trained dogs to work with PTSD. Being a former military officer and dog lover, I felt this was the organization I wanted to give back to.”
Simply Desserts’ four-month-old partnership with Semper K9 has already evolved into something more than a worthy destination for some of Simply Desserts’ hard-earned dollars. The symbiotic relationship has also contributed to the successful young store’s culture – an important, life-changing mission that both McDonald’s team as well as the customer community can get excited about.
“We collect 10 percent of the tips each month and then I provide a check in that amount to Semper K9 at the end of each quarter,” McDonald explained. “We also started selling dog biscuits and pupcakes, as well, which are all made with wholesome, healthy, natural ingredients.”
So far, the delicious and nutritious canine edibles have contributed to the success of Simply Desserts, the business that began in McDonald’s Fairfax kitchen, but celebrates its milestone first birthday as a store this month.
And, as the demand for human treats trends upward, an increasing amount of people also keep coming in and returning for the local bakery’s spin on dog treats.
“The selling of the dog biscuits and pupcakes is taking off,” McDonald said. “So, I plan to add more items for dogs. As that variety grows, I will be able to increase the amount of money we give to Semper K9.”
While Simply Desserts is not Semper K9’s only business partner, Semper K9 co-founder Amanda Baity said the financial and other means of support is invaluable to the military community that her organization serves.
“Simply Desserts showcases our organization inside their store, which can allow us to reach local military families who perhaps have not yet heard of our programs, but need our services,” Baity said. “The monetary contributions that Simply Desserts provides help in numerous ways. It goes toward the purchase of food for the dogs, training equipment, and the list goes on.”
As Simply Desserts expands as a brand and a business, it will also grow its impact on the military community. The altruistic quest that this partnership has added to Simply Desserts further fuels McDonald’s ambition and goals for the store.
“We’ve already added classes and private decorating parties to the business model,” McDonald explained. “My next goal is to set up regular afternoon teas. I hope to increase the wedding cakes and other custom cake orders, too. The more success we have, the more we can give to great organizations like Semper K9.”
Ashley Claire Simpson ([email protected]) is a Marketing Communications professional by day, but her real passion is learning more about this community – and world – by writing for publications like Prince William Living. She has been writing features and human interest pieces since her college newspaper days at the University of Virginia.