Dog Tag Bakery, a nonprofit organization that sells baked goods and trains veterans in business, will hold a birthday celebration March 18 in honor of one of its founders, Fr. Rick Curry, S.J., who taught Catholic studies at Georgetown and passed away last December.
Hannah Carey (MSB ’16), who enjoys studying at the bakery, said visiting Dog Tag is a way for Georgetown students to honor Fr. Curry.
“A way to honor him and remember him is sticking by the great bakery he made. It makes you want to buy the sweets and baked goods to support an incredible cause. I think I’ve seen way more Georgetown students there after Fr. Curry’s passing, and that to me says a lot about the Georgetown community,” Carey said.
In a cozy storefront with a chandelier made of thousands of military dog tags, Dog Tag Bakery not only serves coffee and baked goods to the D.C. community, but also offers a fellowship program with Georgetown University that teaches veterans entrepreneurial skills for running their own businesses.
The bakery, located at 3206 Grace St., welcomes between 10 and 12 disabled veterans to participate in its fellowship program every five months. Dog Tag has had three “cohorts,” or groups of fellows, since its pilot program in June 2014. The fellowship program aims to educate veterans in four core areas of running a business: accounting, marketing, front-of-house skills like customer service and sales, and back-of-house skills such as procuring products and development.
In the 5-month fellowship program, disabled veterans take seven courses at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies and earn a Business Administration certificate at the end of the program. The fellows also participate in learning labs and workshops that aim to teach them soft skills about small business, entrepreneurship, networking, and professionalism.
In the “learning lab” on the second floor, the bakery invites guest speakers including entrepreneurs, small business owners, and representatives from corporations like BP and Starbucks to speak to the fellows. It also hosts workshops focused on networking skills, resume writing and personal branding.
The homey bakery was founded in 2014 by Connie Milstein and Curry. Curry’s family and friends who sought counsel on behalf of returning veterans inspired Curry to help with veterans and the disabled, with whom he also worked in New York before founding the bakery. Curry also previously served as the director of the Academy for Veterans at Georgetown, a program that assists disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Connie Milstein, a philanthropist in D.C. , founded “Connie’s Bakery” in Mount Kisco, N.Y., which helped women in disadvantaged situations get off welfare and obtain health care. After working with many military families in her first bakery, Milstein knew she wanted to do more for veterans. Curry teamed up with Milstein in the hopes of bringing to D.C. delicious baked goods with a cause.
CEO of Dog Tag Bakery, Meghan Ogilvie, said the program aims to educate veterans on entrepreneurship and give them firsthand experience in running a business.
“The goal of our program is to provide an opportunity for our fellows to get an amazing education through Georgetown, get work experience with small business and to understand the opportunities out there, as well as building their network,” Ogilvie said.
According to Ogilvie, the bakery tailored the certificate in Business Administration at Georgetown’s SCS to fit the needs of the veterans in the program.
“We’ve taken the certificate in Business Administration that Georgetown SCS already had and we’ve customized it. So we have classes like ‘Principles of Management’ through Dr. McCabe and ‘Principles of Marketing,’” Ogilvie said. “We’ve added entrepreneurship and finance classes to fit the small business curriculum.”
While the fellowship program mainly focuses on the professionalism of the veterans, it was also founded with the intent of encouraging personal growth and development.
“We have a class that’s called ‘Finding Your Boice’ and the goal is to get up in front of the room and tell your story,” Ogilvie said. “That can help interviews and networking, but that can also just be a realization of who you are today and where you want to be going forward.”
According to Ogilvie, in addition to supporting veterans, Dog Tag is committed to running a highly successful business. While the fellows work in part-time rotations for the duration of their program, the bakery also employs a full-time staff of chefs and corporate personnel. Dog Tag’s executive pastry chef, Rebecca Clergy has worked in five-star restaurants, at the White House and at the Fairmont Hotel. Clergy was also named “best young pastry chef” in the United Kingdom. All profits from the bakery help fund the fellowship program, covering the veterans’ education, books and supplies and a monthly stipend.
Ogilvie, who is not a veteran but comes from a Marine Corps family, worked in finance for Lehman Brothers and Barclays Bank in New York City prior to overseeing Dog Tag. She met Father Curry four years ago when he was officiating her friend’s wedding. Ogilvie said she was so inspired by his mission that she moved to D.C. to help run the bakery because she wanted to aid in the difficult transition that many military service members have to make.
“These service members and their spouses go from being affiliated solely with the military, being on base and having that support, to not having that,” Ogilvie said. “Our program does give them back a supportive network. They’re also identifying themselves as individuals, versus being in a unit.”
The fellowship program has remained flexible to fit the specific needs of its fellows. The program originally accepted wounded warriors and their spouses together, but since Ogilvie found that this made it difficult for those couples to find child care and balance their work lives, the bakery no longer accepts couples in the same cohort. The program’s length was also shortened from six months to five.
Graduates of the program have gone on to open their own businesses, earn advanced degrees, including some from Georgetown and return to the workforce. One graduate has become a motivational speaker at conferences and corporations.
According to Ogilvie, the fellowship program helped many veterans to discover who they are outside of the military.
“The main feedback that we’ve gotten from the fellows is about that self-awareness of who they are, not in the military … versus being a military spouse or being a sergeant in the Army. It’s that self-awareness and empowerment,” Ogilvie said. “Our program is not a hand out, it’s an opportunity. We say it’s fifty-fifty.”
Because of its proximity to campus and ties to the Georgetown community, the bakery attracts many Georgetown students and faculty. Samin Rai (MSB ’17) participated in a community service day at Dog Tag with the Georgetown University Alumni & Student Federal Credit Union and Students for Georgetown Inc.
“We went one Saturday and we put together boxes and helped in the kitchen,” Rai said. “I think the fellowship is a really cool program, and the food was really good too.”
Carey praised the bakery’s atmosphere as an ideal study spot.
“Whenever I think of Dog Tag, I think of the Georgetown community,” Carey said. “I love the ambiance. The music is great, and there is always an abundance of sweets and Georgetown students — not to mention that the food is delicious!”
Ogilvie said the bakery hopes to continue its ties with Georgetown and encourage the community to support veterans.
“We’re delightfully surprised by the support of the community, which has really embraced us. We have a community that comes in of Georgetown students and of residents. People have really become our biggest supporters and advocates,” Ogilvie said.