Mary Ann Nolan and friends bake love into every dog treat
Running a business

Mary Ann Nolan and friends bake love into every dog treat

In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting entrepreneurs who play a vital role in creating inclusive and meaningful work for all.

Name: Mary Ann Nolan

Location: Wilmington, DE

Business: Waggies by Maggie and Friends


Tell us about your business: 

Waggies is a dog treat company whose mission is to employ persons with intellectual disabilities. At Waggies, they learn and become skilled in the baking, packaging, and marketing of healthy dog treats.

Why did you decide to start your own business? Where did the idea come from and how did you put it into action?

Employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities are bleak. The needed accommodations and support are not easily available. A friend and I decided to launch a dog treat business with the hopes that our daughters would have a sustainable and happy work environment. We started in a church kitchen with three bakers, a mixer, a recipe, and a desire to sell dog treats while providing meaningful employment for a population so often overlooked in the job market.

What makes your business unique in its field? 

Waggies is unique because our work force is a blend of paid workers and community volunteers. Waggies is a business that relies on sales and community engagement to keep us profitable. We are a “product with a purpose” business and we use that tag line to describe ourselves.

How does your business support people with disabilities? 

Waggies supports our employees by engaging them in all levels of the business. We adapt equipment and make accommodations to meet individual challenges. Each baker is a productive and valued employee. We give our bakers ample time to learn and perfect a skill. Their progress has been steady and, in many ways, remarkable.

What has been most rewarding about starting your business?

We are regularly rewarded with support from others who believe in our mission. The real reward comes with seeing the progress our bakers have made over the years. Our bakers love their jobs and have become experts in all the areas of baking and packaging.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

We quickly found ourselves working 24-hour days!

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it? 

We knew nothing about using social media. We engaged two volunteers who have been great with giving Waggies a presence on Facebook and Instagram. It is a work in progress, and we continue to learn more every day. 

How does running your own business make you feel? 

Exhausted at the end of the day but very fulfilled.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner?

The pandemic and the resulting inflation have proved to be major challenges for Waggies. During the pandemic, we had to reduce hours for most of our bakers and reorganize the kitchen to meet social distancing requirements. We are slowly returning to pre-pandemic schedules. The rising cost of labor continues to challenge us along with the increase in the cost of ingredients.

What are your proudest moments?

My proudest moments come when I am in the kitchen and I see our bakers totally engaged and working as a team under the kitchen manager’s direction. 

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

We are working with other groups who share our mission of employment and plan to share our model and experience.

What are three things you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?

  1. A commitment to producing an excellent product.
  2. An individualized approach to teaching our bakers how to work as team.
  3. A good sense of humor. 

 What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting their own business? 

Hire an accountant and a bookkeeper! And follow the rules.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

The bakers, of course. Their hard work, their consistent good nature, and their overall calm validates why we come to work.

 What’s your “power song” and why?” 

“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python.

Visit to support Waggies by Maggie and Friends, or find them on Instagram @waggiesde.

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