Jet-black Barley has developed a taste for home-made treats made by Scott Beaudry and Theresa Chu. The couple, which lives in Durham, decided to turn those treats into a company – named in Barley’s honor. And now Barley’s Labs is a finalist for a 30-second spot in advertising’s biggest event: The Super Bowl. WRALTechWire has the story – and a video interview of the Barley team.

Intuit is sponsoring the contest, and Barley Labs is one of four finalists. Online voting continues this week to help determine who wins.

In the first of three video interviews, Chu and Beaudry talk about how their idea – based on Scott’s love of home brewing and the couple’s concern about what to do with left-over grain – became the genesis for a new company.

In a Q&A with WRALTechWire, Chu and Beaudry provide more details. The company is just the three of them – yes, Barley has his own title and tasting responsibilities – and they are funding it themselves.

  • How did the two of you meet

Theresa: We met working at a national medical association in Chicago. We were co-workers first and then became friends. We were friends long before we started dating, which I think has helped in our business. Now, we’re all three again!

  • Are you still employed elsewhere? if so where and what do you do? Did you leave other jobs to start this venture – if so, what were you doing?

Theresa: I left my full-time job last December as an internal communication manager at a medical device company in Durham. I’m still working part-time in communications with a Durham homeless shelter for families and also freelancing.

Scott: I’m still working full-time as a data analyst at NC State.

  • How did the two of you come to live in the Triangle? Why Durham?

Scott: I am a Chicago native, and we both loved it there. But we were ready for a new adventure. We were looking for warm weather and a place where we could afford to have a yard for our dog Barley. Durham gave us all of that and so much more. We immediately fell in love with the local food and beer scene here. There are just so many amazing breweries, restaurants and food trucks — we’ve been here for three years, and we still feel like we have just scratched the surface.

  • Why your devotion to shelter rescues? Is this something you both share?

Theresa: Barley is a rescue dog. We adopted her from PAWS Chicago in 2009, and she has changed our lives — and we don’t just mean with this business. Scott grew up with dogs and cats, but I had never a pet before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But from the moment we met her at the shelter, we fell in love. She didn’t have a very good first three months before she made it to PAWS, and I don’t even want to think about what would’ve happened without the amazing people there. There are so many animals that need forever homes like Barley did, and both of us want to do whatever we can to help that mission.

  • Why did you choose Barley? Was she your first shelter rescue?

Theresa: I’ve heard people say that the dog will choose you more than you choose her, and that was definitely true with Barley. We had met quite a few animals at PAWS Chicago, but when we walked into the room with Barley, it was different. I sat on the floor, and she immediately flopped into my lap, belly up. It was over after that.

  • What triggered the idea for the treats and the business?

Scott: I started home brewing beer probably 6 or 7 years ago with a buddy in his condo in Chicago. I really got into it, and the more I brewed, the more barley I had when I was finished. It seemed like such a waste to just toss it. I did some research and found I could take that barley and turn it into dog treats. It only seemed fair that if I was making treats for myself, I might as well make them for my dog, too.

  • How did you secure your two providers/partners?

Theresa: When we were serious about starting Barley Labs, we reached out to Sean Lilly Wilson, Fullsteam’s Chief Executive Optimist. Fullsteam was our first choice because when we moved to Durham, we heard about this cool brewery where you could bring your dog right up to the bar and hang out. Sean agreed to meet with us and soon we found ourselves with not just a barley supplier, but a great group of people who have done amazing things for craft beer and for making dogs in Durham very happy by letting them tag along to the bar.

With Cultured Cow Creamery, we knew we wanted our next flavor of treats to be made with a local ingredient. I did some online research, and found Cultured Cow’s website. Not only are they local, but they have an incredible mission. I met with Dr. Sam Galphin, who is a vet and monitors their herd. After touring their facility and getting to meet some really cute cows, I knew it was a good match, and they were right on board with us.

  • Are you seeking investors? have you thought about kickstarter or crowdsourcing?

Scott: We’re open to any opportunities to help grow our business. We obviously had dreams of what this business could become long term, but that dream may turn into reality much sooner than we had anticipated. Right now, we’re just focused on ensuring we can keep up with any increased demand from this contest, and we’re confident we have what we need to do that.

  • How many places are your treats sold?

We’re currently sold in 14 retailers (total of 17 locations).

  • Where are they made/cooked/manufactured?

Currently we make the treats in our home, but we have plans to move into a commercial kitchen soon.

  • Does Barley have final approval on flavors?

Scott: Yes, of course! Barley is our VP of Quality Control so she taste tests all of our treats, and she is heavily involved in R&D.

  • What happens if you win? A Super Bowl ad could mean explosive demand immediately?

Theresa: We can’t predict what will happen, but we are doing everything we can now to prepare for an increase in demand. Also, Intuit has provided so many resources and people we can talk to throughout the process to help us prepare. They’ve been really great throughout this whole contest.

  • Are you putting in place plans to scale? Are you seeking partners?

Scott: We are putting plans into place to prepare for an increase in demand. We have near-term plans to move into a commercial kitchen, but we’re also exploring other options to scale up to meet a much larger demand. We are definitely open to any opportunities that come our way from this great contest.