Booze Dogs: Bringing a Brand Story to Life

Booze Dogs food

How a Family Dog and a Grandfather Inspired a Line of Unusual Bratwurst

Wholesaler and online retailer of liquor-infused bratwurst

2018 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Bronze Prize Winner
Booze Dogs
Greenville, NC

Booze Owner Joe McGowen and his dog

For Joe McGowen, running his own business was always in the back of his mind, but the path to getting started wasn’t always clear. His idea came, as ideas often do, from a conversation with a friend.

“He was interested in opening a hot dog stand,” said Joe. “And while we were talking about toppings, I suggested infusing the hot dogs with liquor for a unique experience.” What began as years of trial and error in his own kitchen landed him with a food chemist developing a product that would begin his pursuit of a dream.

Joe has worked in the banking industry and managed operations for a nonprofit in Haiti, but starting his own company has been an entirely new experience. “I never worked in the food or marketing industries before Booze Dogs,” said Joe. “But I came from a family of entrepreneurs, and I always knew I wanted to create something of my own.”

Joe felt entrepreneurship was in his blood thanks to his great-grandfather, who was a Hungarian immigrant. “He had a third-grade education and helped create one of the original box ratchets,” said Joe. “He never met a stranger. As a child, I would watch him make friends with everyone he met, and I was inspired by his gift with people and business, especially for someone without a formal education. He figured everything out on his own. Booze Dogs is a legacy to him.”

In addition to his family history, Joe found inspiration from another unlikely source — the family dog, Mr. Hughes. Mr. Hughes is a boxer and also acts as the company mascot. When Joe and his family rescued Mr. Hughes, they realized he had a friendly personality, one very similar to Joe’s great-grandfather.

The company uses Mr. Hughes’ likeness to bring the brand story to life in their marketing. Traveling the world, just like Joe’s great-grandfather, Mr. Hughes’ character never meets a stranger. All product shipments include a letter from Mr. Hughes. “Our products’ flavoring, and the liquor infused to each bratwurst, is inspired by the characters whom Mr. Hughes meets on his journey,” explained Joe.

Joe realized early on consumers today want a different kind of experience, and a chance to be part of a company’s story as opposed to simply making a transaction. “Of course, we provide a good product with quality ingredients and delicious taste, but Booze Dogs also allows customers to do good by buying our product,” said Joe.

A portion of all online orders goes toward supporting the Best Friends Animal Society. “This partnership means so much to me because I want to help rescue animals find homes,” said Joe. “I love that this business allows me to continue to support that cause.”

While there have been some challenges, finding inspiration to keep going hasn’t been one of them. “I have a passion for connecting with people, problem-solving and creating something new, and my business allows me to do all of that and more,” said Joe.

Find out more about our yearly contest and our past winners here.

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